"the Story of the Lizard Who Had the Habit of Dining on His Wives"
"The Story of the Lizard Who Had the Habit of Dining on His Wives" seems to be a short, simple, strange story at first. But if a person looks into Eduardo Galeano's biography, the story makes much more sense and seems to say a lot more than just lizard-eats-women/woman-eats-lizard. The story actually says a lot about "be careful what you wish for," "what goes around comes around," the relationships between men and women, and political symbolism about South America. Maybe even most important is the theme of "rich against poor" because of Galeano's background and Marxist political beliefs.
Analysis of a short story is sometimes helped by studying the author, so this analysis will begin with a look at Eduardo Galeano. Galeano was born in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1940. His family was middle-class, Catholic and four nationalities: "Welsh, German, Spanish and Italian ancestry" (ABC Radio National - Australia). He received his education in his native country until he was 16 (ABC Radio National - Australia). When he was 14 years old and still in school, he began sending cartoons and articles to "left-wing" publications (Sherman). According to Galeano, he began his leftist beliefs early in his life: "I had a Catholic infancy and a Marxist adolescence" (Raskin). Also during his young years, Galeano did many kinds of work; he was "a factory worker, a bill collector, a sign painter, a messenger, a typist, and a bank teller" (Sherman). When he was 20 years old, he became a writer (ABC Radio National - Australia).
Galeano's "left-wing" beliefs sometimes caused difficulty for him. During a military coup in Uruguay in 1973, he was sent to jail, and then escaped Uruguay (ABC Radio National - Australia). He ran to Argentina but when Argentina has its own military coup in 1976, Galeano ran to Barcelona, Spain. When Uruguay went back to civilian rule in 1985, Galeano returned to Uruguay to live (Sherman). Through it all, Galeano has stayed a left-wing writer, saying, "I think writers should be honest, honest in what they are doing. They shouldn't sell themselves" (Sherman). Because of his honesty, Galeano is known as "one of Latin America's fiercest voices of social conscience" (Sherman). His most famous works are books entitled Open Veins of Latin America and Memory of Fire Trilogy: Genesis, Faces & Masks, and Century of the Wind (Sherman) but he also writes short stories, such as "The Story of the Lizard Who Had the Habit of Dining on His Wives."
Even though his left-wing beliefs have caused difficulty for him, they have also caused him to be recognized and rewarded. In 1999, the Lannan Foundation started giving the "Cultural Freedom Award" and Galeano received the first award for his writing about injustice in systems and his work for human freedom (ABC Radio National - Australia). In 2006, Galeano was awarded the "International Human Rights Award" by Global Exchange, which is a human rights organization in San Francisco, California because, "For decades he has been one of Latin America's clearest and most critical voices, using his mastery of the written word to advocate for the defense of human and economic rights for the poor and to expose the historical and contemporary exploitation of Latin America's lands and peoples" (Global Exchange). Finally, in 2010, he received the "Stig Dagerman Prize," which is an award named after a Swedish writer and given to important supporters of Freedom of Speech (Dagerman). As any researcher can see, Galeano is recognized far outside of Latin America for his contributions and his attitude that
"Reality is not destiny, it's a challenge" (Sherman). The last important piece to understanding his short story may be the fact that Galeano has been married three times as of 2008 (Liukkonen and Kuusankosken kaupunginkirjasto).
"The Story of the Lizard Who Had the Habit of Dining on His Wives" is about a boy-lizard who was created by God to answer a rich woman's prayers for a son. God got tired of the woman's prayers, so He sent her the son but the boy has the face of a human and the body of a lizard (Galeano 291). The lizard-boy, who is named Dulcidio, reaches the age of 18 and wants to get married, so his parents find a human bride for him. He marries the girl but eats her on their wedding night and in the morning all that's left of her are her bones (Galeano 291). From that point on, the lizard-man marries and eats many human brides because, "In the households of the poor, there was always some spare girl" (Galeano 291). One day while the lizard-man is resting by the water, he sees a mysterious girl who is reading. The lizard-man becomes interested in the girl and tells her, "Everything you see and don't see, it's all mine" (Galeano 292) but the girl does not look or speak. The lizard-man keeps trying to impress the girl by saying that he is "rich but humble, studious, a worker and above all a gentleman who wishes to make a home but has been doomed to widowerhood by the cruelties of fate" (Galeano 292). The lizard-man does not tell the girl that he is a widower because he eats his brides. The girl thinks about what the lizard-man said but does not say anything. The Lizard-man asks her to scratch his back, which she does, and the lizard-man "feels as he has never felt" (Galeano 292). After that day, the lizard-man looks for the girl but she is gone, nobody can find her and nobody knows who she is (Galeano 293), so he is pining for her. One Sunday, the lizard-man has a premonition, goes to the riverbank and the girl is there. He says he loves her and "showers her with compliments and caresses" (Galeano 293). They get married and when they are alone, the lizard-man says, "I give you my heart, for you to tread on" (Galeano 293). The girl blows out the candle, takes off her wedding gown and says, "Don't be an asshole. Knock off the bullshit," pulls off his skin and throws it on the floor, pulls his naked body close to her and "sets him on fire" (Galeano 294). Then the lizard-man sleeps, dreaming for the first time in his life. While he is sleeping and dreaming, the girl eats him "in small bites, from head to tail, making little sound and chewing as gently as possible, taking care not to wake him, so that he will not carry away a bad impression" (Galeano 294).
It is difficult to find scholarly writing about this story, maybe because it is not Galeano's most famous work and maybe because he is not an Ernest Hemingway, a Nobel prizewinner who has been completely discussed for decades. The reviews of this story say that it is a fable (Goodreads, Inc.; Malan). A "fable" is "a narration intended to enforce a useful truth; especially: one in which animals speak and act like human beings" (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated). The reviews also say that this is an allegory. An "allegory" is "the expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence; also: an instance (as in a story or painting) of such expression" (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated). This story fits those definitions because it uses a fictional lizard-man and humans to tell a truth about human existence.
The reviewers believe that this fable/allegory uses a lizard-man and human women to show four themes: "be careful what you wish for"; "what goes around comes around"; the relationships between men and women; political symbolism. According to the reviews, the story shows "be careful what you wish for" because the mother wished and prayed for a son and got a lizard-boy, plus the lizard-man wished for the love of the girl and she ate him (Goodreads, Inc.; Malan). In both cases, they wished and wished (and the mother even prayed), then got what they wanted but the mother got a boy who was not even half-boy and the lizard -- who was a killer, got the love of his life and she killed him. The reviewers also say that this short story has the theme of "what goes around comes around" because the lizard-man who ate women was eventually eaten by a woman (Goodreads, Inc.). Perhaps it could be called some kind of "karma" but this is another story that says that what you do to others will eventually come back around and be done to you. The reviewers also believe that this is about "relationships between men and women" (Malan) because "men feel naked when they feel emotions like we have stripped them of their armor, and they rest contented buy have this underlying suspicion that by allowing themselves to be defenseless, we will devour them…