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Utca Paucar

Utca Paucar

A Latter-Day Legend from Peru

Freely translated from Lara’s “Leyendas Quechuas”.

These things happened a long time ago, how long no one knows. Some say the story goes back to the days of the Inca empire. Others believe it is even older. On the slopes of a great mountain stood the palace of an aged lord called Ahuapanti, ruler of a vast domain. Above the palace rose a mountain, crowned with snow; below ran the swift waters of a river, and across the river stretched endless hills, which in good times were covered with potato plantations and fields of corn.

Now this old lord was the father of a beautiful young woman called Yma Sumac, his only daughter, who enjoyed a secluded and most proper upbringing under the watchful care of her mother, named Chimpu Huallca.

In those days it was the custom for youths and maidens to gather in the fields on nights of the full moon to scare away animals that might ruin the crops. There the young people would sing and dance to the sound of flutes and panpipes, and love would enter their hearts. But Yma Sumac could never be seen in the fields at such a late hour. At harvest time the young men and women would meet again, and there would be singing and dancing to celebrate the bounty of the earth. But Yma Sumac would always remain in her father's palace.

She would allow herself to be seen only during the festivals of the guardian spirits, when no one could be excused from religious duties. But even on these occasions she did not take part in the dancing to the full extent that the others did, nor did she join in the merriment. Regarding the young men in particular, she was careful to keep her reserve.

In a neighboring province lived two brothers, Utca Paucar and Utca Mayta. The first was a soldier, the captain of his unit, famous for bravery and physical prowess; and the people told many stories about his deeds in war. The other brother was a farmer and herdsman. Though a fine-looking youth, he had no deeds. Yet his fields always produced a good harvest.

The first of these brothers met the young daughter of Ahuapanti at one of the sacred festivals. He had the good fortune to share the cornmeal bread and the sacrificial meat with her, and afterward he held her precious hands as they danced the huayno. Her rare beauty and gentle manner immediately captivated the young warrior's heart. Determined to make her his wife, he frequented the house of her father, pretending he heard tales of old-time warriors and to ask advice about leading troops to victory. He found it difficult to catch a glimpse of the one he desired and had to comfort himself with listening to the old man's stories.

Now Utca Mayta, had also fallen in love with Ahuapanti's daughter. With no excuse for visiting the old lord, he would anxiously walk back and forth outside the palace walls. Although like his brother he had no chance to speak with the maiden, he saw her several times filling her jar at the fountain. But the fountain was close to the palace and no sooner would he draw near than she would disappear behind the walls, without having heard his call.

One day, as Utca Mayta was making his tour of the palace walls and Utca Paucar was just leaving after a conference with the old lord, the two brothers met. Obliged to explain themselves, they confessed their love for the maiden, and each admitted that he hoped to make her his wife. Neither felt that his love had been returned, yet neither would renounce his intentions in favor of the other. In order to avoid a quarrel, they decided to visit the father and lay their case before him.

When they had done so, the old man, showing no preference, announced that he would marry his daughter to whichever of the brothers succeeded in diverting a particular stream that flowed down from the mountain, making the new channel pass directly in front of the palace gate. The challenge posed by the old man was a difficult one, perhaps impossible, yet the rivals had no choice but to accept it.

Utca Paucar placed his hopes in his authority as a captain, for he was the commander of a large army. Summoning as many soldiers as he could, he lost no time in setting to work. As for Utca Mayta, he was able to muster only a handful of friends. But being a farmer, he had some experience in building aqueducts and had taken part in irrigation projects in the neighboring valleys. Consequently, he plotted the course of the new channel with greater skill than his rival, and in barely two months' time he had succeeded in bringing the waters down to the palace gate. Meanwhile, his brother, with all his soldiers, was not even halfway there.

Ahuapanti, keeping his word, prepared to grant his daughter to the winner. But Utca Paucar would not accept defeat, nor could he renounce his love for Yma Sumac. He felt he must have another chance, and at last he declared war on his brother.

Among the troops not all were in sympathy with Utca Paucar; many of the soldiers sided with his brother. The young men of the town were similarly divided; some joined the ranks of Utca Mayta, others took the part of his rival. Before long two powerful armies had been formed and a bloody struggle began. Fierce battles were waged in which first one side, then the other, would gain the upper hand, but with never a final victory. Days and months went by. A year passed and then another, and yet another. Still the fighting wore on, and still there was no conclusion. By this time there were few men left to sow the fields and few to tend them. The harvests were scanty and poor. The people began to go hungry. There were not enough supplies for the troops. At last, as the fighting let up and there came a time when starvation threatened to put an end to the war, Utca Paucar challenged his brother to settle the dispute in single combat. Utca Mayta accepted.

As agreed, the two brothers met, each with a club in one hand and a shield in the other. But just as the contest was about to begin, Utca Paucar, who was larger and stronger than his opponent, realized that the match was unequal and that his conduct had been wrong. He laid down his weapon, admitted his error, and conceded the victory to his brother.

Utca Mayta and Yma Sumac were married in a solemn ceremony. All the local dignitaries, as well as those from neighboring provinces, were in attendance. Afterward there were many songs and dances and much to eat and drink. The celebration lasted for several days, as was the custom among our ancestors in those remote times.

But Utca Paucar was not present at the wedding. Overcome with grief, unable to end his suffering, he withdrew to a distant mountain, where he lived in misery for the rest of his days.

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