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from the September 2015 issue

Recording: Nguxtapax, Yoxi, and the Five Countries

The recording and transcript below make up one example of the oral storytelling traditions of Peru, this one from the Tikuna, the most numerous tribe in the Amazon. The recording is made in the Tikuna language.


José Fernando Muratú, narrator.

1Nguxtapax went out hunting; it was his second time going out hunting. When he came back from the hunt the kids were bathing in the ravine.

2“Nguxtapax tütütü ãῧbrikari tütütü, sun, sun, sun,” the kids shouted at him, and they dove into the ravine. He wondered who was calling his name. I think it is the kids, he told himself. And he looked back toward the ravine where the kids had been, but they were already gone, leaving only their tiny footprints behind.

3Nguxtapex got lost and started walking away. “Nguxtapax tütütü ãῧbrikari tütütü, sun, sun, sun,” the kids shouted at him again as he was leaving, and they dove back into the ravine. This was the second time they did it.

4He looked back and walked toward the spot they had yelled at him from. He spread his underarm odor around the area and waited, but nobody was there. It was the third time they shouted his name, saying “Nguxtapax tütütü ãῧbrikari tütütü, sun, sun, sun,” and they dove again into the ravine.

5Nguxtapax was walking back and forth and, as his knee brushed against a small leaf, a wasp stung him.

6The kids entered his knee and it started to get swollen as he went back to his wife. “I do not know what happened,” he told his wife. Nguxtapax laid down on his hammock as his wife prepared a meal with the meat he had hunted.

7After a week of being stung, the kids were still in his knee. His knee kept getting more and more swollen, and after ten days it had gotten worse. After fifteen days he asked his wife to check out his knee. “Wife, can you look at my knee? I feel as if there were something moving inside it,” he said. “The kids are inside your knee,” answered his wife as she looked at it.

8“It is all right for them to stay there,” Nguxtapax said sadly. He laid down on his hammock while the boys in his knee made a dart and the girls braided Chambira fibers. The kids in his knee looked like miniatures.

9The next day dawned and the children were been born that night. They were growing quickly. When the kids were a week old Nguxtapax went hunting. He went and came back, and the next day he went back out and came back without anything happening. He liked to go out hunting to feed his children, for Yoxí, his son.

10Again, he went hunting. It was the third time he went out hunting, but this time he ran into a tiger. Nobody knew where the tiger had come from, and the tiger caught Nguxtapax. It was about three or four or one in the afternoon and his children already knew what had happened to their father. To hide it they played and were mischievous, and their stepmother told them to stay still because there was ash scattered on their father.

11 “How so?” The kids answered. They took a basket, filled it with ash, and pushed each other toward the ash filled basket getting it all over each other. This is how it happened to dad. “Yes,” said their stepmother. They were still playing and their stepmother asked them again to please be good and she gave the broom to the kids. “Like this?” the kids asked. “Yes, like this,” she answered. After a while their stepmother told the kids the truth about what had happened to their father. “Stop playing, kids, your father was eaten by a tiger,” their stepmother said. The kids stopped playing.

12They started carving a lizard with great fangs, and it truly resembled an actual lizard. They blew on it and it became a real lizard, a very big one; then they took their sisters’ hair and tied it together, until it was long enough to reach the ends of the earth, and they moored it there.

13They started pulling on the hair, they pulled and pulled until the earth became very small and all sorts of animals appeared: tigers, every kind of snake, anacondas, every kind of devil and demon, the mother of the forests, and they all went toward the children.

14About 40 tigers appeared.“Do you know where the tiger that ate our father is?” the kids asked. “No, we do not know where it is,” they answered. More tigers arrived, and the kids asked the same question to every one of them. Then 20 or 30 tigers arrived, and they asked again. Finally, four tigers arrived, and they asked again. “It is on its way and it might be here soon,” the tigers replied. Two tigers arrived, and the children asked again, “Have you seen the tiger that ate our father?”

15“It is on its way,” the tigers replied. “Have you seen the tiger that ate our father?” they asked the tiger that finally came alone. “It is on its way,” it replied, “It comes blowing on your father’s stomach.”

16They told the lizard to open its mouth and stand on the side of the road, and soon they heard the tiger coming, blowing on their father’s stomach. “That is the tiger that took your father,” said the tiger that had come earlier. It kept blowing and saying “Nguxtapax tüé tüé, Ngux.” When the last tiger finally arrived they gave the lizard the order. The lizard was still standing with its mouth open on the side of the road, and as soon as the tiger got closer the lizard took it by the neck and threw it on the ground.

17“Do not destroy the tiger, kill it slowly, because we are going to finish it off,” the children told the lizard. Finally, the lizard let go of the tiger so Nguxtapax’s children could kill it. As soon as the tiger was dead the children opened its stomach.

18The children took the pieces of their father’s flesh out of the tiger’s stomach until no pieces were left, they put them in a basket, and wrapped it in bijao leaves. They did this the same way one puts flour in a bread basket. When all the flesh was in the basket, it was hoisted with a rope and hung from the highest point of the kitchen ceiling.

19A week later, their father’s flesh was dry. A parrot flew up, singing, until it reached where the basket was hanging. He moved the flesh in the basket around with his beek until a piece fell out. When the flesh hit the ground it became a person. He stood up and it was a Brazilian man. Other pieces fell and about 10 more people arose. As the parrot kept moving the flesh around the basket, more and more pieces kept falling, and as the parrot kept clearing space, more pieces fell, until there were about 10 more on the ground. These were the Colombians.

20After finishing with the Colombians, he separated Yoxí’s people, who is in Lima, and the Peruvians started to appear.

21The Ecuatorians also fell, and the Spaniards, and the Germans, each in their own group, and they were all spread out. More Ecuatorians fell out, and then the Chileans. This is how white people appeared from Nguxtapax’s flesh, and this is the birth of humanity.

22When all of the pieces of Nguxtapax’s flesh had fallen from the basket and had become people, they were each given a machete to start working their land and building their homes. The ones who lived upstream took their people upstream and the one left downstream took his people to Brazil, and this is the birth of humanity.

Recording by the Project for the Investigation, Preservation, and Diffusion of the Cultural Heritage of the Tikuna People. Ministry of Culture of Peru. Recorded by Paula Letts, researcher for the Department of Cultural Heritage. 2013.

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