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2003-12-24

Tennessee Williams
B. 3.26.11 Columbus, Mississippi / D. 2.24.83 New York City
Asphyxiation / Bottle Cap

The llama is the beast of burden of the Cordilleras, and the Indians use it to trade with the valleys. This graceful animal is very interesting to study. Of all the animals to have had dealings with man, it is the only one he has never been able to debase. The llama will not consent to being beaten or maltreated. It will make itself useful only on condition that it is asked and never ordered. Llamas always travel in flocks and the Indian who leads them walks a long way in front. If they feel tired, they stop, and so does he. If the halt is prolonged, the anxious Indian, seeing the sun declining, at last decides to get them to go on. He takes up his position fifty or sixty paces away, adopts a humble attitude, stretches out his hands affectionately towards them and gazes tenderly at them, meanwhile uttering in the softest voice imaginable and with a patience I never wearied of admiring: ic-ic-ic-ic-ic-ic. If the llamas feel inclined to resume their journey, they follow the Indian in good order and at a steady pace, covering the ground quickly as they have long legs. But when they are in a bad humour they do not even turn their heads in the direction of the voice so patiently and lovingly calling them. They remain motionless, packed close together, some standing, some lying, looking at the sky so tenderly and sadly that one would really believe these astonishing animals were conscious of another life, a better existence. Their long majestic necks, shining silky coats and timid supple movements give them an expression of nobility and sensitivity which commands respect. This must be so, as the llama is the only animal in the service of man which he dares not strike. If by some rare chance an Indian is angry and tries to obtain from the llama by force or the threat of force what the creature is unwilling to do of its own free will, the moment it realises that it has been treated roughly, it raises its head with dignity, and making no attempt to run away (for the llama is never tethered or hobbled) it lies down and turns its gaze towards the sky; big tears fall in abundance from its beautiful eyes, sighs issue from its breast, and in the space of half an hour or three-quarters of an hour at most it expires. Happy creatures, who seem to accept life only on condition that it be sweet!

Quotation from Flora Tristan, Peregrinations of a Pariah (1838), trans. Jean Hawkes

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