To fully understand Jun Batz' and Jun Chowen, we must know what it means to be an artisan. In general, Mayanists agree that "artisan knowledge" must be defined on its own terms. Rafael Girard argues in particular that artisans, or artists who transform raw matter into a higher order of culture, represent a key stage in the development of a civilization.
Yet, the Popol Wuj suggests a deeper meaning: to have been given patronage over the arts also constitutes a life that falls under a desirable order, since all arts are an imitation of reality. The transformation of Jun Batz' and Jun Chowen from human forms into monkeys is indicative of this complex interplay between art and life. As Miguel Rivera Dorado explains: “Los monos están tan cerca de los hombres auténticos que han producido el miedo, el terror, de la más profunda otredad, la que se sitúa fuera de la especie sin ubicarse claramente en la naturaleza, entre los animales” (61).
In other words, the punishment of the artisan brothers originates in their exclusive focus on the arts. In doing so, Jun Batz' and Jun Chowen resort to the individualism and idleness of the primitive order of the first magic war. Their interest lies solely in their individual satisfaction, rather than in a collaborative effort, even though they do everything together. Their idleness, envy, cruelty, and arrogance merits them due punishment.
In contrast to Wuqub Kak'ix, Sipakna and Kabraqan, whose arrogance is tied to their physical attributes, Jun Batz' and Jun Chowen pride themselves on the false wisdom from having been the first born to Jun Junajpu and Wuqub Junajpu, from having inherited the knowledge of the arts from their fathers, and lastly from the envy they harbor towards Junajpu and Xbalanke/Ixbalanqué. On this regard, Girard states that “La discordia entere hermanos o primos, que traerá fatales consecuencias para los mayores, es uno de los vicios que se anatematizan en este episodio, porque la perfecta armonía fraternal debe regir las relaciones entre hermanos y primos dentro de la familia maya-quiché” (138). Yet, the punishment of Jun Batz' and Jun Chowen is in the end, similar to that of the figures of the first magic war: it follows the lex talionis, where punishment corresponds in kinds and degree to the injury received.
Their transformation is in tune with the progression towards civilization. As Girard puts it, “Hun Bátz y Hun Chouén personifican la cultura de la tercera Edad, son grandes sabios, pero desde el punto de vista de la ética maya, adolecen de muchos vicios, los cuales son puestos en relieve en el curso la narración; por esto sufrían un castigo ejemplar” (137).
In this way, especially when compared with the first magic war, this second magic war also marks an evolution in the type of punishment received by the transgressors. The punishment received by Wuqub Kak'ix, Sipakna and Kabraqan is both violent and corporeal. In spite of the ingenuity involved in their punishment, and particularly in the use of words, messages, and speech acts to deceive them and lead them to their demise, they are either torn apart, buried alive, or poisoned. In other words, “la gente de la tercera Edad, aunque bárbara en concepto de los maya-quichés, no lo es tanto como los hombres de la época precedente; esto es de gran interés para seguir el proceso evolutivo de las concepciones morales, a través de la historia maya” (Girard 137). Death is no longer the only form of punishment, or even the principal principal means of doing so. Rather, by turning their idleness into servitude, the use of labor marks a transition into what is supposed to constitute a higher order of life.
Additionally, just as Wuqub Kak'ix tried to usurp the place of the twin heroes as sun and moon, so do Jun Batz' and Jun Chowen. According to Rivera Dorado, Ba’ats means howling monkey,which symbolizes the moon, and chowén means spider monkey, which symbolizes the sun. They aim to take a place that does not belong. Because these are “figuras y sucesos de un mundo en construcción” (Rivera Dorado 64), the cycles of transgression and punishment serve to carry creation into completion, marking thus the transition into civilization.