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L L A N T A.


O L L A N T A. '^^.




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The literature of the Yncas of Peru consisted of love -songs,
elegies, allegoric hymns, and dramatic compositions. Un-
fortunately, most of these evidences of ancient civilisation
have disappeared, or are still in manuscript. The earliest
writers knew little or nothing of them. They were preserved
as traditions in the families of the conquered and fallen
Yncas, and were not communicated to the Spaniards ; who,
indeed, took little pains to seek for them.

Garcilasso Ynca de la Vega* was the only author, coif^
temporary with the first conquerors, who had a correct
knowledge of the language of the Yncas ; and the only one,
therefore, whose testimony has any real value. He tells us
little, but that little is important. We learn from his pages
that the A mautas or philosophers of the Ynca court composed
dramas relating to the deeds of former sovereigns and heroes,
which were performed by persons of rank, f They also com-
posed poems and love-songs with alternate long and short
verses, having the right number of syllables in each ; and

* All the references to Garcilasso, in this introduction, are to my
Enghsh translation, printed for the Hakluyt Society,
t See my translation, vol. i. p. 19i.



Garcilasso describes tliem as resembling the Spanish com-
positions called redondillas* They had many other metres
for these songs, and for the elegies recited by their Tlarahuicus
or Trouveres. The Ynca poets also treated of the secondary
causes, by means of which God acts in the region of the air
to cause lightning, rain, and snow. Bias Valera preserved
some verses of this kind, which he calls spondaics, and which
are certainly of undoubted antiquity. f

These verses, and four lines of a love-song in Garcilasso,:}:
are the only fragments of ancient Ynca literature that were
preserved in the writings of early Spanish authors. Garci-
lasso also mentions a class of songs called haylli, in which
the deeds of valiant warriors, and the hopes and fears of
lovers, were celebrated. The word haylli, or " triumph," was
used as a refrain or chorus; and the songs were chanted
by the people when engaged in ploughing, and other field
labours. §

The means of preserving ancient songs and dramas were
rude, but not altogether ineffectual. They consisted of oral
transmission, the same means by which, as Max Miiller
believes, the whole Vedic literature was preserved for cen-
turies ; and the system of quipus or knots. In his own
account of the quipus, Garcilasso nowhere says that songs
and traditions were preserved by their means alone. He
merely states that the Amautas put the narratives of the

* Eight syllable lines broken into stanzas of four lines, and thence
called rcdondilhis or roundelays. See Tichior, i. p. 102.

+ G. dc la Veya, i. p. 197. See also my Quichua Grammar and
Dictionary (Triibuer, 1804), p. 10.

^ Hid. § II'UI. ii. p. S.


historical events into the form of brief and easily remem-
bered sentences, while the Harahuicus'^ condensed them
into pithy verses, both forms being prepared with a view to
their being learnt by heart, and handed down by the people.
But the Quipu-camayocs, or "keepers of knots," appear to
have combined the duties of preserving and deciphering the
knot records, with those of remembering and transmitting
the historical narratives and songs ; and Garcilasso implies
that their memories, in some way which he does not explain,
were assisted by the knots. "Each thread and knot," he
says, "brought to the mind that which it was arranged it
should suggest ; just as the commandments and articles of
our holy Catholic faith are remembered by the numbers under
which they are placed." In giving the verses preserved by
Bias Yalera, however, the Ynca quotes from that writer, who
says that he found the verses in knots of different colours,
whicli recorded certain ancient annals, f

Such is all that is to be gathered from the writers who
flourished in the century which witnessed the conquest of the
Ynca empire by the Spaniards. We come next to the inquiry
whether songs and dramatic compositions of prae-Spanish
times were likely to be preserved, orally or in writing, by
the Ynca chiefs and people. It was the policy of the
Spaniards to treat the native chiefs with some consideration ;
they were allowed to retain the ancient insignia of their rank,
and to appear in them in public religious processions, % and

* G. de la Vega, ii. p. 125. f Ihid. i. p. 196.

J They are so represented in the pictures in the church of Santa
Ana, at Cuzco.


they were placed in authority over their vassals as agents of
the Spanish Corregidores.* They wore their peculiar dresses
down to the time of the rebellion of Tupac Amaru f in 1780,
after which their use was prohibited. It is thus clear that
the Ynca chiefs were permitted by the Spaniards to retain
a portion of their authority, that they were encouraged to
continue the use of their costumes in order to increase the
magnificence of religious processions, and that some at least
of the old Ynca customs were preserved by special enact-
ments. Under these favourable circumstances, the chiefs
would almost certainly preserve the memory of the former
grandeur of their country, and encourage the people to
recite the ancient songs and dramas, some of which would

* ** Onlenanzas del Peru, por Don Francisco de Toledo, recogklas j)or
el Lie. Don Tomas de Ballesteros" (Lima, 1685).

Titulo VI. " De los Caciques Principales." By Ordenanza xix. the
Caciques and principal people were ordered to dine in the plazas of the
villages where their vassals were accustomed to assemble, because it
was considered right that, in this, the ancient customs of the Yncas
should be preserved, and that the chiefs should eat publicly with the
poor Indians. By other Ordenanzas, in the same Titulo, the native
chiefs were charged with the superintendence of the morals of the
people, of the repair of andenes (terraces) and tavibos (rest-houses on
the roads), and with other similar duties.

f In the sentence of death on Tupac Amaru, pronounced by the
Visitador Areche at Cuzco, on May 15th, 1781, all dresses used by the
Yncas and chiefs were thenceforth prohibited, including the uncu or
mantle, and the mascapaicka or head-dress. All documents relating
to the descent of the Yncas were ordered to be burnt, the representa-
tion of Quichua dramas was prohibited, all pictures of the Yncas were
to be destroyed as well as musical instruments, and the Indians were
ordered to give up their national dress, and to clothe themselves in the
Spanish fashion.— MS. penes C. li. M. Also printed in Angelis.


eventually be committed to writing. The dramatic aptitude
of the people was discovered by the Spanish priests almost
immediately after the conquest, and they endeavoured, with
notable success, to turn this talent to account, as a means
of conveying religious instruction. Garcilasso tells us that
the Jesuits composed dramas for the Indians to act, because
they knew that this was the custom in the time of the Yncas,
and because they saw that the Indians were so ready to
receive instruction through that means. He adds that one
of the Jesuits in a village near the shores of lake Titicaca,
called Juli, composed a play in the dialect spoken in that
part of the country,""" on the enmity between the serpent
and the seed of the woman, which was acted by Indian
lads. Other plays on religious subjects were acted in the
Quichua language at Potosi, Cuzco, and Lima; and Garci-
lasso assures us that the lads repeated the dialogues with so
much grace, feeling, and correct action, that they gave universal
satisfaction and pleasure, and with so much plaintive softness
in the songs, that many Spaniards shed tears of joy at seeing
the ability and skill of the little Indians, f One of these
dramas, composed by priests in the Quichua language, is in
my possession, and is a most valuable relic of those early
efforts to introduce the miracle plays of Spain into Peru. %

* This dialect was called Aymara by the Jesuits at Juli, a blunder
which is carelessly repeated by Garcilasso, The nature and origin of
the mistake has been explained by me elsewhere.

t G. de la Vega, i. p. 204.

+ The MS. was kindly presented to me by a Cura at Paucar-tambo
in 1853. (See Cuzco and Lima, p. 190.) It is entitled, " Usca Paucar,
A uto Sacramental el Patrocinio de Maria, Scuora Nuestra en Copacabana."


In his monstrous sentence in 1781, the Judge Areche
prohibited "the representation of dramas, as well as all other
festivals which the Indians celebrated in memory of their
Yncas." * This proves that the ancient dramas of the Yncas
were remembered and actually performed down to the year
1781; for those composed by Spanish priests 'cannot be
intended, as they would not be prohibited by a Spanish

These considerations will enable us to form an opinion of
the anticpiity of the drama of Ollanta ; which is now, for
the first time, translated from Quichua into English.

The first printed mention of this most important relic of
early American civilisation is to be found in a periodical
published at Cuzco in 1837.t It is there stated that the
drama was handed down by immemorial tradition, and that
it was first committed to writing by Don Antonio Valdez, the
Cura of Tinta, an intimate friend of the ill-fated Ynca Tupac
Amaru, whose formidable insurrection was with difficulty sup-
pressed by the Spaniards in 1780-81. The drama was fre-
quently performed in presence of the Ynca Tupac Amaru. This
account exactly coincides with the information I received in
1853 from Dr Don Pablo Justiniani, a descendant of the Yncas.
He told me that the Cura of Tinta first reduced the drama to
writing, and that the original manuscript was then in posses-

* " Sentencia promaiciada en el Cuzco j)or el Visitador Don Josh
Antonio de Areche, contra Josh Gabriel Tupac Amaru." This revolting
but most curious and important state paper is published iu vol. v. of
the Coleccion de obras y'documoitos, by Don Pedro de Angelis. (Buenos
Ayres, 1836-37.)

t " Museo Erudito" Nos. 5 to 9. Edited by Don Jose Palacios.


sion of bis nephew and heir, Don Narciso Cuentas of Tinta.
Dr Valdez, the Cura of Tinta, died at a great age in 1816.

Several copies were made from the original of Dr Yaldtz,
for the lovers of Ynca lore, who abound in Cuzco, as well as
in many a secluded town and village in the Peruvian Andes.
Some extracts from the drama appeared in Peruvian news-
l)apers, but the second notice of it (that in the Miiseo Erudito
of Cuzco being the first) will be found in the Antiguedades
Feruanas of Don Mariano Kivero and Dr Von Tschudi, which
was published at Vienna in 1851.* It is curious that these
authors should not have been acquainted with the article in
the Museo Erudito, and with the fact that the drama was first
committed to writing by Dr Valdez. They give two extracts
from the drama in Quichua. The complete text in Quichua
was first printed at the end of his Kechua Sprache, by Dr Von
Tschudi, a work which appeared at Vienna in 1853.t This
version is from a copy in the monastery of San Domingo at
Cuzco, which is exceedingly corrupt; the copyist having
modified what he could not read or understand as much as
he thought proper, and having even introduced some Spanish
words. In 18G8 Don Jose Barranca published a Spanish
translation of the Quichua drama of Ollanta.l He took the
corrupt version of Von Tschudi for his text, but corrected
many passages.

* P. 116. — Antiguedades Peruanas, por Mariano Eduardo de Rivero

y Juan Diego de Tschudi." (Vienne, 1851.)

+ "i)^e Kechua Sprache, por J. J. Von Tschudi, ii. (Wien, 1853.)
X " Ollanta 6 sea la severidad de un padre y la clemencia de un rey

drama traducido del Quichua al Castellano, con notas diversas, por Jose

S. Barranca.'^ (Lima, 1868.)


My own version of the drama was transcribed by myself,
with great care, from the copy in possession of Dr Don Pablo
Justiniani, the aged Cura of Laris, and a descendant of the
Yncas. That copy was taken by his father, Don Justo
Pastor Justiniani, from the original manuscript of Dr Valdez.
I have collated my version with a copy in possession of Dr
Rosas, Cura of Chinchero, and with the printed version in
the Kechua Spraclu of Dr Von Tschudi. The latter collation
has convinced me of the genuine antiquity of the drama, fur
in every single instance where a corrupt or Hispanicised w^ord
or phrase occurs in tlie Von Tschudi version, I find classical
Quichua in the version of Justiniani. This proves that all
the corrupt forms in the Von Tschudi version arise from the
carelessness of a copyist, and that they have no existence in
the original document. In my account of the drama in
" Cmco and Lima " I gave some translated passages, which
were made with the assistance of a young student of Cuzco,
named Bernardo Puente de la Vega.*

The all-important question is whether the drama was
handed down from the time of the Yncas, and merely
committed to writing by Dr Valdez, who divided it into
scenes, and inserted the stage directions ; or whether Dr
Valdez was the actual author, and composed the work him-
self in a classical and, in his day, almost archaic language.
If the former opinion is the true one, the drama of Ollanta
is certainly the most important relic of ancient American
civilisation ; while in the latter case, though still an interest-

Pp. 173-177, and ISG.


ing specimen of Quicliua composition, its great value and
interest will be lost.

I was told by Dr Justiniani, and by other Quichua scholars
whom I met at Cuzco in 1853, that the drama of OUanta
was undoubtedly ancient and composed before the Spanish
conquest. Rivero and Von Tschudi also appear to have had
no doubt upon tliis point, and Barranca strongly advocates
the same view. But I was led, during my visit to Peru in
1860, to think that Dr Yaldez was the author, though the
drama might contain ancient songs and speeches, and though
the plot Avas undoubtedly ancient.'"' I had not then carefully
analysed the work itself. I have since done so, and this
closer investigation has led me to revert to my earlier im-
pression, and to concur with Justiniani, Bivero, Von Tschudi,
and Barranca, that the drama is a pure relic of the ancient
literature of the Yncas.

The internal evidence of the antiquity of the drama of
Ollanta is, I consider, quite conclusive. We know from
Garcilasso, that dramas were performed before the Yncas,
and that the Indians had a special talent for acting ; and we
learn from the sentence of Areche that Quichua dramas
were acted as late as 1781, to preserve the memory of the
Yncas. They were performed before the ill-fated Tupac
Amaru, whose intimate friend, Dr Valdez, committed the
drama of Ollanta to writing, at about the time of the
insurrection of the Ynca.t Thus we have a chain of evidence

* See my ''Travels in Peru and India,'' p. 139 (note),
i" For a narrative of the insurrection of Tupac Amaru, the last of the
Yncas, in 1780-81, see my Travels in Peru and India, chap. ix. The


connecting the drama of Dr Valclez with the performance
enacted before Tupac Amaru, the words of which had been
orally transmitted from ancient Yncarial times. To these
considerations are to be added the far more conclusive proofs
of antiquity derived from the work itself. There is not a
single modern or Spanish word or phrase in the whole work ;
nor is there the remotest allusion to Christianity or to any-
thing Spanish. Moreover, the drama contains many words and
grammatical forms, some of which I have indicated in the
notes, that are archaic and long since disused. The only
object of a Spanish priest, in composing such a work, would
be to inculcate Catholic doctrine ; and not to preserve the
memory of ancient pagan rites in absolute purity. The
Quichua play of JJsca raucar, in my possession, which was
undoubtedly composed by a Spanish priest, contains many
words that have been introduced since the conquest ; and,
though it is written in excellent Quichua, it does not contain
one of the archaic grammatical forms that occur in Ollanta.
If the latter work had been due to the authorship of Dr
Valdez, it would have had some trace, however slight, of its
Spanish origin; and would have resembled the miracle
play of Usca Faucai^ in its general structure. Tlie fact
that Ollanta is absolutely free from any indication of a
Spanish touch, is a convincing proof that it is an ancient
Ynca drama, handed down orally in order to be performed
before the native chiefs, until 1780 ; and then committed to

texts of some of the official documents relating to the insurrection are
printed in the collectiou of Augelis. Others, still in manuscript, are
in my possession.


writing from the moutlis of Indians by Dr Valdez, the friend
and sympathiser of the last of the Yncas. The old priest
merely made the divisions into scenes, which suggest them-
selves, and introduced the stage directions in accordance
with what he had himself seen, when the play was acted by
the Indians.

A knowledge of Ynca civilisation, derived from the pages
of Prescott, is sufficient for the appreciation of the argument
of this curious drama, which is as follows. The time is
placed in the reign of Pachacutec, an Ynca who flourished in
the latter part of the fourteenth century, whose numerous
reforms and conquests caused him to be remembered as one
of the most famous of the Peruvian sovereigns.* The hero
of the drama was a warrior named Ollanta, who was not
of the blood royal, but who nevertheless entertained a sacri-
legious love for a daughter of the Ynca, named Cusi Coyllur.
Ollanta is a word without special meaning in Quichua,t but
Cusi Coyllur means '' the Joyful Star. "J The play opens
with a dialogue between Ollanta and his servant, Piqui
Chaqui, a witty and facetious lad, whose punning sallies form

* G. de la Vega, ii. pp. 127-34, 145, 201-207. For his laws and
sayings, see pp. 207-10.

t Señor Barranca remarks that the word Ollanta has the form of the
accusative case, denoting that it is an incomplete part of a sentence.
He suggests that it may be a poetic form of Ullata, accusative of TJllu,
a word meaning the physical power of masculine love. He supposes
Ccahuari to be the word understood, which means Behold ! The
name would thus be an expression of admiration for a manly lover.

X The Viceroy Toledo prohibited the Indians from giving the names
of the moon, stars, birds, ani'mals, stones, serpents, or rivers, to their
children. Ordenanzas, lib. ii., tit. viii., ord. xiii. p. 144.


the comic vein which runs through the piece. Their talk is of
Ollanta's love for the princess, and to them enters the High
Priest of the Sun, who endeavours, by a miracle, to dissuade
the audacious warrior from his forbidden love. In the
second scene the princess herself laments to her mother the
absence of Ollanta, and her father, the Ynca Pachacutec, ex-
presses warm affection for his child. Two songs of undoubted
antiquity are introduced \ the first being a harvest song with
a chorus threatening the birds that rob the corn, and the second
being one of those mournful love-elegies which are peculiar
to the Peruvian Indians. In the third scene Ollanta presses
his suit upon the Ynca, is scornfully repulsed, and finally
bursts out into open defiance, in a soliloquy of great force.
Then there is an amusing dialogue with Piqui Chaqui, and
another love song concludes the act. In the opening scene
of the second act the rebellion of Ollanta is announced to the
Ynca, and a general named Pumi-fiaui, or the " Stone
Eyed,"* is ordered to march against him. The rebels hail
the warrior Ollanta as their Ynca in the second scene, and
prepare to resist the armies of Pachacutec ; and in the third,
Kumi-fiaui recounts the total defeat of himself and his armies
by the rebel Ollanta. Meanwhile Cusi Coyllur had been
delivered of a daughter, and for her crime she is immured in
a dungeon of the convent of virgins, while her child, named
Yma Sumac, is brought up in the same building without
being aware of the existence of her mother. The long
speech in which the child relates to her keeper the groans she

* A general under Atahuallpa had the same name ; and it occurs,
on two or three other occasions, in Ynca annals.



had heard in the garden, and the strange feeling with which
they fill her mind, is considered by Señor Barranca to be the
finest passage in the play. Then follows an amusing dialogue
between Rumi-ñaui and the scrapegrace Piqui Chaqui, during
which the death of the Ynca is announced. Pachacutec is
succeeded by his son Ynpanqui, who had been absent for
many years, engaged in the conquest of the coast valleys, and
who is supposed to be imperfectly informed of the events
that had taken place round Cuzco. He entrusted the com-
mand against the rebel to Eumi-fiaui, who adopted a cunning
stratagem. Concealing his army in a neighbouring ravine, he
came to the stronghold of the rebels, and appeared before
Ollanta covered with blood, declaring that he had been
cruelly treated by the new Ynca, and that he desired to join
the insurrection. He encouraged Ollanta and his troops to
celebrate the festival of the Sun with drunken orgies, and,
when all were heavy with liquor, he admitted his own men
and captured the whole of the rebels. In the first scene of the
third act there is a touching dialogue between Yma Sumac and
her governess Pitu Salla, Avhich ends in the child being
allowed to visit her mother in the dungeon. In the second
scene the successful stratagem of Rumi-ñaui is related to the
Ynca by a messenger, and Ollanta, and his companions, are
brought in as prisoners, by the victorious general. . The great
rebel is not only pardoned by his magnanimous sovereign,
but restored to all his honours ; and in the midst of the
ceremonies of reconciliation, the child Yma Sumac bursts
into the presence, and entreats the Ynca Ynpanqui to save
the life of his sister and her mother. The Ynca and his


nobles are conducted to the dungeon of Cusi Coyllur, who
was supposed to have been long since dead. The unfortunate
princess is restored to the arms of her lover, and receives the
blessing of the Ynca.

I have endeavoured to give the bare literal meaning of the
original, line by line, but it abounds in puns and double
meanings which cannot be re-produced. Yet an idea will
be conveyed to the mind of the reader, of the ancient
literature of the Yncas, and of the poetic faculty to which
they had attahied, even by the present bald attempt at a
translation. The Quichua and English are given in parallel
columns. The different readings in the Yon Tschudi version,
of which there are many, are given in italics, and the passages
in my version, which are omitted by Yon Tschudi and
Barranca, are also indicated. I cannot hope that the trans-
lation is free from numerous mistakes. The value of the
present publication is that the text of an older and purer
version than that already given to the world in the Kechua
Sprache of Yon Tschudi, will be preserved. The translation
is the result of much careful study ; and it does, I believe, in
spite of many blunders which will doubtless be detected and
corrected by future students, give the general sense of the
orifñnal. Thus the purest and oldest text will now be
accessible to inquirers in this field of research, while the
translation will furnish additional material forjudging of the
sort of civilisation that was developed in this part of South
America, before its discovery by Europeans. Sucli, at least,
is my aim in this effort to give the old Ynca Drama an
Endish dress.


Tlie tradition at Cuzco in 1837, which was said to have
been handed down in the families of the Caciques of Belen
and San Bias, was that the drama was based on an historical
event j'^" but this seems more than doubtful. The strong-
hold of the rebel is placed among the magnificent ruins in

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Online LibraryClements R. (Clements Robert) MarkhamOllanta : an ancient Ynca drama → online text (page 1 of 7)