The materiality of the failed forms of humans, particularly in comparison with the description of the successful formation of humans much later in the text, is worth mentioning here in relation to the above reference to their eventual roles as providers and sustainers. One of the early attempts at creating humans results in a creature whose body “desbarataba, y estaba blando, y apelmazado, y desmadexado, y se desmoronaba, y se humedezía … aunq’ hablaba, no tenía entendimiento, sino q’se rebenía en el agua, no era fuerte” (Ximénez Folio 3 Verso).
In contrast, the first successful humans, created from yellow and white maize that Xmucane grinds nine times, are distinct in their “gordura y grosura,” as well as their innate ability to communicate intelligently (Ximénez Folio 33 Recto). As the Formers and Shapers discuss limiting the powers of their new creations, the debate returns to the initial goal of creating humans prior to the coming dawn, which Christenson interprets as “if they do not multiply or are increased, when will the first planting be?” (2003: 200).
Thus, just as the Formers and Shapers are concerned with creating beings that are capable of cultivating the land, the physical descriptions that distinguish the successful forms of humans from their earlier, failed predecessors could also be read as a reference to the perfection of processing maize for consumption. Dry, rigid, and unrefined, the earlier attempts at creation are weak and fall apart in water.
In contrast, the newly created humans are formed from water and finely-ground maize, and “able to walk and hold things with their hands” (Christenson 2003: 197). Tedlock renders this passage as “[f]ood was used, along with the water she rinsed her hands with, for the creation of grease; it became human fat when it was worked by the Bearer, Begetter, [and] Sovereign Plumed Serpent” (146). As Sophie D. Coe explains, the technical process itself is critical to the formation of workable dough: “[u]unparched, unpopped dry maize would have been next to impossible to reduce to flour or meal by pounding. Softening it up with lime soaking and boiling was a much easier way to make it into a manageable dough, as well as a more nutritious one” (147).