The True Story Of Galvarino, The Mapuche Warrior Who Had Knives For 'Hands'

They say that when life hands you lemons, you should go right ahead and make lemonade. But what about when life hands you nothing at all and instead just takes your hands away altogether? It'd probably be pretty hard to squeeze lemons without any fingers, but all the same, you might as well make the best of it, no? According to All That's Interesting, that's exactly what Mapuche warrior Galvarino did in the year 1557 after he lost his hands.

Centuries ago, high-tech prosthetic limbs were not readily available to those who lost their bodily appendages. Popular culture would have us believe that many a pirate substituted a hook for a lost hand, but if both hands are involved, that hardly serves a practical purpose for anyone, let alone a skilled warrior thirsting for vengeance. Instead, Galvarino opted to reclaim as much of his fighting spirit as he could by attaching lethal blades to the stumps at the end of his arms and turning them upon the very same men who maimed his body in the first place, as Mental Floss reports.

How did Galvarino lose his hands?

If this is starting to sound like some sort of cosmic convergence between "Edward Scissorhands" and "Wolverine," bear with us, because the story of Galvarino is true. According to Mental Floss, chieftain Galvarino and his fellow Mapuche warriors were captured by their Spanish adversaries after the Battle of Lagunillas and were subjected to heinous consequences. The foot soldiers were condemned to lose both their right hands and their noses, while military leaders like Galvarino had both of their hands severed. They were then ordered to march back to their encampment and advise surrender to their fellow tribesmen.

However, Galvarino deemed the demand unacceptable and instead prompted retaliation against the Spanish invaders. He assembled a group of Mapuche soldiers and replaced his hands with razor sharp knives that he could use in battle, likely via tactful cauterization, though historical accounts on the matter are rather sparse (via Mental Floss).

The Battle of Millarapue

"My brethren, why have you stopped fighting these Christians? The damage they have done since they entered our realm, and what they have done to me, is what they will continue to do if we are not diligent in destroying these injurious people," Galvarino reportedly declared before his fellow warriors charged with the task of exacting justice upon the Spaniards (per Mental Floss). According to All That's Interesting, less than a month after his capture and subsequent amputations, Galvarino led 3,000 of his native comrades back to the Spanish fortress with the intention of ambushing them. Unfortunately, the attack's premature timing resulted in a Mapuche defeat, and Galvarino's newly acquired blades spilled much less Spanish blood than he intended. 

In the aftermath of what was later referred to as the Battle of Millarapue, Galvarino and his Mapuche compatriots were put to death, though Mental Floss reports that he was able to reach his enemies' second in command and slay him with the knives at the ends of his arms. Galvarino's story thus became a martyr's legend that has endured throughout centuries.