Up Among the Eagles Summary
by Luisa Valenzuela

Start Your Free Trial

Download Up Among the Eagles Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Up Among the Eagles Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Up Among the Eagles” is told in the first person through the consciousness of a woman who journeys through a primitive indigenous world and discovers a magical dimension. The interaction with mythical characters and a series of rituals lead her to a metaphysical awakening and metamorphosis.

At the beginning, the narrator refers to the events that led her to live in a high place in the mountains, up among the eagles. She lives there because one day, after she had climbed up a path, she realized that the cliffs on the way down were too dangerous and prevented her return to the city below. In her new surroundings, she got to know hunger and misery and had to trade her material possessions for food. She kept her Polaroid camera because the villagers had no use for it.

The protagonist describes her difficult life in the village. The inhabitants seem like strange creatures to her. They use a meaningless language, full of silences and with no references to the past or the future, and they live in the immediate present, with no notion of time, verb tenses, or conjugations. In this static and quiet place, time endures and keeps the local people looking the same until they die—then their corpses are taken to a secret city and mummified.

Secretly, the woman appreciates being subject to the passage of time because it makes her feel alive. Because there are no mirrors, she takes photographs of herself so she can see her evolution as she ages. The fate of her existence after the film runs out worries her. One day, when the villagers keep dancing in the marketplace to a mournful sound and seem not to see her, the fearful protagonist decides to take the last remaining picture.

In the darkness, a sudden light and the sound of death make the protagonist trip the shutter of the camera. She sees that the photo does not contain an image of her, only a blurry vision of a stone wall. As if summoned by the light and the sound, she runs desperately to the city of the dead because she wants to leave all the images of her face to the mummies. At the end, she hopes to go down freely, with the last photo in which she sees herself as a stone.