The Canaima. A man, but no only a man. Shifting freely between the skins of any animals, the Canaima has one purpose only. To kill. He is the evil that lurks in the forest, hiding in the shadows, choosing his next victim. But even in your own home you are not safe, for Canaima will simply step into the skin of a bat and fly in to see what you are up to. Nobody know who the Canaima will choose next- it could be a little child or a big man, it be one person or three.
When you walk alone in the bush, he will shake the trees to frighten you, and your fear will soon grow into a sickness. If you meet the Canaima, your only hope is to kill Him fast. But no ordinary arrow, no ordinary bullet will take Him down. You can only stand a chance if you walk with your special wax tipped arrow, ready at all times.
Few people have seen the Canaima, and lived to tell the tale. His shape-shifting form has been murdering the Amerindians, bringing suffering to them, for as long as they can remember. His exact nature is obscure, why He kills is a mystery, but one thing is certain. Everyone will meet the Canaima one day, it is only a matter of time before He catches you.
The details of the following story have been lost in translation from Patamona to Creole, Creole to English, but the basic plot remains to tell us a little more about the sinister being known as Canaima.
Once upon a time, a man was married to a woman and they went to build a house for themselves in the forest. On hearing of their plans, the man's new brother in law warned him of the Canaima, who walked in that part of the forest. Nevertheless, the warning was shrugged off and the couple settled down in their new home together.
On their first night there, they got into their hammock and were starting to drift off to sleep when the rasping bark of the Canaima echoed through the forest and jerked them awake. The man tried to stay calm and said to his wife "we must snore gently, so that the Canaima knows we are sleeping". The wife began to snore while the man came up with a plan. Again the bark of the Canaima, this time, closer. The man slipped out of the hammock silently and tied a string to it, holding the other end of the string himself. He picked up his knife and edged forward cautiously.
The Canaima's bark came again, this time loud and clear. He was coming straight for them. The man's heart was pounding, but he was brave. He came right to the door of his house, and tugged on the string, signalling for his wife to snore more loudly, so that the Canaima would be sure that they were asleep. The footsteps of the Canaima drew up to the door, paused for a moment there. The man could hear the deep breathing of his worst enemy, inches away. But this was his only chance to take him by surprise. Reaching round the door, he grabbed for the Canaima's hand, pulling it inside up chopping it clean off. The hand was his, but the Canaima escaped into the night. At least the couple could now get back into their hamomck and sleep in peace for the night.
The next day the man decided to go and see his brother in law to tell him about his encounter. He took the hand in his pocket to show him. It was a good distance away, perhaps a mile, and when he reached the place he called for his brother but there was no reply. The brother's wife came out looking weary. The man asked what had happened to his brother in law.
"He was out fishing last night and an alligator bit off his hand. He is dead now, look, his body is under that warishi."
"No" replied the man, "he was not out fishing last night. It was I who took off his hand. Look, here is the evidence. Your husband was the Canaima."