Column: La Dientona, or the Dangers of Skepticism

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Author’s note: The legend of La Dientona contains some violent details.

Disponible en español.

Many times in the past we’ve heard someone demonstrate their skepticism, believing that this or that is impossible. Sometimes it is even we ourselves who believe that we have the last word between what is true and what is a lie, what is reality and what is fiction, and many times that’s why we end up entering the wolf’s mouth without knowing it.

There’s a very particular legend, simple but direct, that explains precisely the dangers of being skeptical, of not believing in the impossible, of thinking that our reality is reality. There is more difference between those two than we would like to admit most of the time. This is the legend of La Dientona, The Long-Teeth Woman.

Contrary to other famous figures such as El Silbón, La Llorona, or even La Sayona, La Dientona is little known even in Venezuela, but it teaches the valuable lesson of not believing that the spiritual world cannot affect the physical. There are two versions of her legend – one that is located in El Tocuyo, in the Lara state, and the other in Tovar, in the Merida state.

Merida, Venezuela [Wikimedia Commons CC 3.0, George Miquilena]

According to the first version, a man was walking late at night when he found a young, blonde woman who didn’t show her face. When he came to ask her about it, she didn’t answer, but still – perhaps because he wanted to be a good Samaritan – he asked where she lived. She walked away without looking back, replying, “Soon you will see.” It wasn’t until they reached a cemetery that the young woman turned around, revealing teeth that looked like knives. “This is my home!” she screamed.

The man ran in terror until he stumbled upon another person whom he had never met. He decided to warn him against the specter from which he had escaped. When he finished telling his story, the stranger asked about the girl’s teeth: “Would they be like these?” He had the same teeth, capable of grinding human bones. The man ran relentlessly until he reached his home, safe and sound, and vowed never to go out again at night.

When I was a child, I read a second version, much gloomier. When it is located in Tovar, legend has it that two poets and serenateros, or serenaders, René and José Jesús, walked through the streets after being at a party. When they found a pretty, blonde girl, she asked them to accompany her to her house.

René suspected that the girl was La Dientona because of her large teeth, and he whispered his suspicions to his friend, but José Jesús did not believe him, and the girl told them that whispering secrets in front of her was rude. When they arrived at the house, she asked René to accompany her to the garden to write poems under the moonlight, while she told the other to wait for them in the kitchen.

The hours passed and, tired, José Jesús decided to leave, but when he approached to say goodbye, he heard the sound of a dog eating bones. He ran away when he saw that the girl was devouring René’s corpse, and invoked the Virgen de la Candelaria while fleeing.

Laguna Blanca, Paramo de Mariño, Venezuela [Wikimedia Commons CC 3.0, Joanlink]

In both versions, the characters are in danger for believing that nothing will happen to them. I like to think that they are the same story, starting in El Tocuyo and ending in Tovar, for obvious reasons, in addition to the fact that in both versions the specter is that of a blonde girl with sharp teeth who manages to shapeshift, first becoming a man, and then being able to hide her prominent teeth with irregular success.

Many times we venture into the unknown without any precaution, believing that grandma’s tales are just that, old stories to scare the children when there really is always some truth in each one of them. That’s just what I learned when I had a bad episode with the infamous Ouija board.

I was in my third year of high school, discovering the world of magic, energy, Witchcraft, and all that goes with it. I thought that having read a couple of articles and sites on the internet, I was already competent enough to face the dead, and I decided to make a homemade Ouija board with a board, marker, super glue, and kitchen salt.

The first sessions were quiet. I always used the board in a circle of salt and with a friend, until one day my fingers went directly to “no,” and they did not move no matter how much I asked the spirit to leave. As best I could, I forced my hand to go to “goodbye.”

My friend at the time was sensitive and could see shadows where the dead were supposed to be, and she said, “There are six of them, we can’t get out of the circle.” We both froze with fear, me 14 years old and she 11. We decided to go out anyway, holding on to the salt, and do some impromptu spell to banish them, but my friend told me that my grandfather was there, that he was going to help us and that we should stay still.

The six of them left, one not to return. The other five we had to constantly send away for a month, one by one, until they finally left us alone. It was a month of nightmares, headaches, memory lapses, weakness, reluctance, and – obviously – bad grades. I have been very sensitive ever since, and have learned to use that sensitivity for good purposes, but I could have saved me the experience had I been more cautious.

It may not be a Hollywood-worthy horror story – nothing like The Conjuring – and our young minds may have magnified everything, but the fear was there, not knowing what to do because we were not really prepared for it, discovering that we still had a lot to learn and that we had been irresponsible. Since then, I have distanced myself from the Ouija, but not from the dead.

When I read the story of La Dientona, I remember that episode. I also remember all the times when I thought I was prepared, when I overestimated myself and thought I could, and it really wasn’t the time. This happens to us many times, and although experiences leave us with valuable lessons, and sometimes a gift that opens many doors for us in the future, as in my case, we would have saved ourselves the hard time of having been more prudent and not conceited.

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