Lion, scarecrow, tin man... mine demon?
August 5, 2013 7:09 PM   Subscribe

The song is a catchy summer jam by British producer Naughty Boy, which topped the charts in the UK and Italy (though got little airplay in the US). The video, shot in Bolivia by British director Ian Pons Jewell, is a little more complicated: for 90% of viewers, it's a pretty obvious (if rather bizarre) urban retelling of the Wizard of Oz. For the rare viewer acquainted with Bolivian folklore, however, the video is a bit more: a retelling of a traditional folktale about a deaf boy with an abusive stepfather who sacrifices himself to stop a demon who rules over silver mines...

...or is it an elaborate hoax?

While belief in the demon El Tio among miners has been documented by sources from PBS to UCLA to more scholarly works, every reference to the story of the deaf boy on the internet seems to post-date the music video, and uses the same Wikipedia page as a reference. Additionally, the first version of the Wikipedia page to mention the legend does so without any source, and a later revision adds as the sole reference a Spanish-language journal article about El Tio... which doesn't actually mention the legend of the deaf boy. In fact, the only blogger attempting to corroborate the folktale reports that a casual poll of his Bolivian host family reveals that nobody has ever actually heard of the story.

Is this a misunderstanding, a hoax, or just an example of the kind of oral cultural snippet that would never have made it online were it not for a music video?
posted by Itaxpica (3 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't be too surprised if Bolivian miner myths aren't that well documented on the internet. But my guess would be it's a mash of some Bolivian folklore, with other ideas the director had. From a CNN interview with the diretor:

CNN: Speaking of the story, we’ve heard everything from it’s a take on a Bolivian legend about the demon El Tio and a little boy fleeing an abusive home to a reboot of "The Wizard of Oz."

Pons Jewell: It's "The Wizard of Oz" for sure, but twisted into Bolivian mythology and urban legends.

A little bit of everything?
posted by Metro Gnome at 12:06 AM on August 6, 2013

This reminds me of The Laughing Man plot from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
posted by mikelieman at 5:11 AM on August 6, 2013

The song itself didn't do much for me, but nice to see Bolivia featured. The abandoned railyard and the salt flats are in Uyuni and which are the most amazing places you will ever visit. The mountain at the end is the Cerro Rico (Rich Mountain - legend has it it's filled with silver) in nearby Potosi, one of the highest cities in the world at over 4,000m above sea level.

Thanks for the post.
posted by jontyjago at 6:29 AM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

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