The tallest structure at the Uxmal Ruins is called either the Magician’s Pyramid, or the Pyramid of the Dwarf, or the Sorcerer’s Pyramid. There is a folk tale that explains the construction of this building passed down through generations. It was told to John Lloyd Stevens in the mid-1800s as an explanation as to how this majestic pyramid came to be in this magical Mayan City.
This is an excerpt from Stephen’s and Catherwoods book, Incidents of Travels in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatán Volume I . This is the legend of the tallest pyramid in Uxmal told to Stephens by a local Mayan elder.
“There was an old woman who lived in a hut that was located on the exact spot where the finished pyramid now stands. This old woman was a witch who one day went into mourning that she had no children. One day, she took an egg and wrapped it in cloth and placed it in a corner of her small hut. Every day she went to look at the egg until one day it hatched and a small creature, closely resembling a baby, came from the enchanted egg.
The old woman was delighted and called the baby her son. She provided it with a nurse and took good care of it so that within a year it was walking and talking like a man. It stopped growing after a year and the old woman was very proud of her son and told him that one day he would be a great Lord or King.
One day, she told her son to go the House of the Governor and challenge the King to a trial of strength. The dwarf didn’t want to go at first but the old woman insisted and so to see the King he went. The guards let him in and he threw down his challenge to the King. The King smiled, and told the dwarf to lift a stone that weighed three arrobas 34kg (75 pounds). At this the dwarf cried and ran back to his mother. The witch was wise, and told her son to tell the King that if the King would lift the stone first, then he would lift it also. The dwarf returned and told the King what his mother told him to say. The king lifted the stone and the dwarf did the same. The King was impressed, and a little nervous, and tested the dwarf for the rest of the day with other feats of strength. Each time the King performed an act, the dwarf was able to match it.
The King became enraged that he was being matched by a dwarf, and told the dwarf that in one night he must build a house higher than any other in the city or he would be killed. The dwarf again returned crying to his mother who told him to not lose hope, and that he should go straight to bed. The next morning the city awoke to see the Pyramid of the Dwarf in its finished state, taller than any other building in the city.
The King saw this building from his palace and was again enraged. He summoned the dwarf and ordered one final test of strength. The dwarf had to collect two bundles of Cogoil wood, a very strong and heavy wood, and the king would break the wood over the head of the dwarf, and after that the dwarf could have his turn to break the wood over the King’s head.
The dwarf again ran to his mother for help. She told him not to worry and placed an enchanted tortilla on his head for protection. The trial was to be performed in front of all the great men of the city. The King proceeded to break the whole of his bundle over the dwarf’s head, one stick at a time. The King failed to injure the dwarf and then tried to bow out of his challenge. In full view of the town’s great men, though, he knew he had no choice but to go ahead and let the dwarf have his turn.
The second stick of the dwarf’s bundle broke the Kings skull into pieces and he fell dead at the foot of the dwarf, who was hailed as the new King (Ranney 80-1).
This is how the Maya have decided to explain one of the most incredible structures found in the heart of the Yucatan. The exact height of the Pyramid of the Magician is 40 meters (131 feet) and the base measures approximately 69 by 49 meters (227 by 162 feet). It is the tallest structure in Uxmal with distinct architectural features not found at other Mayan ruin.
Read more about the history of Uxmal , how to get there and where to stay. The ruin site is magical, but you have to see it to believe it.