Updated: Jul 13
Read the original Portuguese version here.
The Five Angels of Eden
by Claudio Oliveira
translated by Katherine Cowley
“Yes, this is a land filled with history, but the Village of Grace is also a fertile field for the spreading of legends. In general, legends are born from a balanced—or unbalanced—mix of the popular imagination and the facts of an age or a place that no one can quite explain. In the case of this little city, nestled between the ranches on the north and Santa Catarina on the south, there is certainly a legend about its origin, in connection with its relationship to the Mount of Angels, as it was known anciently.” Thus began the tale of a tour guide named Peter Angel, a Chilean who had visited the city for a day and decided never to leave.
Like the director of a well-staged play, he knew how to capture the attention of his visitors. And indeed, the journalist and writer Angelo West had pulled out a pen and a notebook from his backpack; his eager eyes were fixed on the guide.
“It was twenty years ago that I came here and decided to live alone, in a cottage,” explained Peter. “I couldn’t help but become accustomed to the comings and goings of the tourists on the trails of the mount, and I became a guide. To do this, I needed to learn the ways of the mountain, or I would not be able to orient its visitors. In addition to searching through all the published information on the area, I took various hikes to determine the safest manner in which to reach the highest part of this beautiful place: the Rock of Angels. Today, before we begin the trail, I would like to tell you a little of what I have discovered in all these years.
“It is said that everything began in the age of Pangea, which is what they called the existing continent, a single block of earth surrounded on all sides by the sea. A little before the story I am about to tell, our first parents, Adam and Eve, were thrust out of the Garden of Eden, which had been prepared for them by the Creator. The couple had disobeyed the directions they had been given about what they could and could not eat. Not for lack of warning, but out of their own decision, they resolved to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and become mortal. To ensure that they could not eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life, which was also present in that place, and live forever in this fallen state, the Eternal Father commanded an angel—a cherubim—to stay by the tree and guard it. Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden and four other angels stood watch, one on each side, to prevent any other humans from dwelling there.” Throughout, the guide delivered his narrative with solemnity.
Madeleine Dubois, a French tourist who had accompanied the journalist, had taken this tour several years before, and so she listened to the story with a comfortable familiarity. Angelo could not even blink, he was so attentive and struck by the tale.
“One beautiful day, after having separated Pangea into various continents and islands, the Creator decided to remove the Garden of Eden from the map and to spread it among the new lands. As such, he called the five guardian angels to speak with them on the subject. He said that every one of them could take the piece of Eden that they had guarded and choose the appropriate place for it. The angel of the North chose a land that in that age was beyond the continents of ice that we know today. The angel of the East decided to carry his piece of the garden to Europe. The guardian angel of the Tree of Life said that his piece should stay in the Heavens, with the Father, where it would be best protected from the world of men. The angel of the West decided that something so beautiful as the part that belonged to him should reside where people could visit whenever they had a desire to do so. In that blessed piece of ground they would find peace, tranquility, rest, harmony, pure air, and a beauty so great that it would illuminate the soul. Many would like to stay there forever, living a better life. And so, at that time, the angel of the West brought that piece of ground here, to this secluded corner of the earth where we are now. It is only a legend, of course, but it explains why this place is so beautiful and inspiring,” finished Peter, as if this were the end of the story.
In this moment, in which the narrative of the legend seems to have stopped, Angelo asked, “Hey, where did the angel of the South bring his piece?”
Peter slowly sipped a maté while observing the reactions of his two visitors, and then he explained, “I deliberately saved this part for last, because from my perspective, it’s the most beautiful part of the legend. The angel of the South pondered a little and decided to scatter his portion of Eden across the hearts of the people. He told the Creator that he hoped to leave a living spark in each of them, that would bring to mind the feelings that only existed in the Garden and would lead them to search for a place or a state of mind that they could call home. And thus it was so, and thus it is to this day,” ended Peter with a touch of mystery.
“Indeed, this is one of the most beautiful legends I’ve ever heard about Eden,” praised Angelo. “I never imagined that someone would tell such a story about the origin of a place, but it makes a lot of sense. I liked it a lot.”
“I also felt that way the first time I heard this story,” said Madeleine. She then completed her thoughts: “Today I am renewed in my sentiments.”
“Good, but this is still not the end of the story. Legend has it that every morning and every evening, the five angels reunite at the top of this mount. It is a gathering of light so brilliant that the sky is illuminated by colors that do not exist anywhere else in the world. If anyone would like to confirm this, they must contemplate the sun rising or setting in this blessed land,” challenged Peter.
“In addition to the one about the five angels, the Village of Grace has many other stories. In every one of them there is a touch of Eden, certainly. Each has its own elements, so if the foundation is only a legend, they become nothing more than good stories, lived or not lived by people real and fictional. I think it’s better this way,” philosophized the guide, “because life already has too much reality that causes people suffering. Fantasy is a relief, a refuge, a plunge into the spark of the Garden of Eden that lives in the heart of every human being.”
A version of this story originally appeared in “Contos de Vila da Graça” by Claudio Oliveira, Clube de Autores, 2022.