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Rabinal Achi

A Mayan Drama of War and Sacrifice

Dennis Tedlock

Publication Date - March 2005

ISBN: 9780195139754

382 pages
5-11/16 x 8-15/16 inches

In Stock

The first English translation of the Beowulf of pre-Columbian civilization


Here is one of the most important surviving works of pre-Columbian civilization, Rabinal Achi, a Mayan drama set a century before the arrival of the Spanish, produced by the translator of the best selling Popol Vuh.

The first direct translation into English from Quiché Maya, based on the original text, Rabinal Achi is the story of city-states, war, and nobility, of diplomacy, mysticism, and psychic journeys. Dennis Tedlock's translation is clear and vivid; more than that, it is rooted in an understanding of how the play is actually performed. Despite being banned for centuries by Spanish authorities, it survived in actual practice, and is still performed in the town of Rabinal today. Tedlock provides an introduction and commentary that explain the historical events compressed into the play, the Spanish influence on the Mayan dramatic tradition, and the cultural and religious world preserved in this remarkable play.

About the Author(s)

Dennis Tedlock is Distinguished Professor of English and Anthropology at the State University of New York, Buffalo.


"This translation of Rabinal Achi is poetry. What is even more remarkable is the accessibility...the time travel, if you will, through a scholar's work to hear the poetic voices and the poetry from another time."--The Santa Fe New Mexican

"I am struck, as always with Tedlock's work, by the extraordinary nature of what he's done. This isn't a mere translation but an entirely new way of presenting an ancient text. And the text itself opens the theater and the literature of the Americas as never before."--Jerome Rothenberg, Poet

"Dennis Tedlock brings both the authority of a scholar and the perception of a poet to this primal text of human imagination and conflict. In Professor Tedlock's exceptionally sensitive translation, together with his extensive notes and commentary, Rabinal Achi, a surviving drama of Mayan culture prior to the advent of the Europeans, is given a timeless witness and actuality."--Robert Creeley, Poet

"Man of Rabinal, Lord Five Thunder, Eagle, Jaguar, and Cawek dance and speak in lightening and thunder! Listen, hear, see without and within Sky and Earth! The Mayan voice is always its own and, yet, too your voice and my voice is OUR voice in the voice of Rabinal Achi."--Simon J. Ortiz, Writer, Poet, Author of Out There Somewhere, Woven Stone