The informant is a 19 year old Ecuadorian student studying Architecture at the University of Southern California. Her family is from Quito, Ecuador. English is her second language, but she wanted to share these folk items with me in English. Following a direct transcription of how she spoke the tale in English is a copy of how she wrote it out in her native Spanish.
“This is a Shuar legend, which is an ethnicity in my country, these are like a tribe that lives in the Amazon jungle which is at the right part of Ecuador. The legend is called Etsa, whose name in Shuar means son – the brave son, the generous son of its ancestors.
“The legend starts by, when the Grandpa, Arutam, which in Shuar means the “powerful tiger spirit of the morning”, he walked through the jungle in between giant matapalos, frondosos, copales, chambiras y pitajayas. And he told the children how the luminous Etsa gave back the life to the birds.
“The story starts when Iwia, that was a really horrible demon, had the custom of taking the Shuars and putting them in their enormous Shigra, which is sort of like a handbag that is typical from these people. And he saved them in this Shigra to eat them later. That’s how the parents of etsa died. But he [the demon] seeing how powerful this child was, he kidnapped him and he made him believe that he was actually his parent. And so Etsa grew up thinking that the demon was his parent, so he did everything he told him to.
“And he commanded Etsa to hunt birds for him every day, so he would eat them as desert. And one day, Etsa discovered that the jungle was in silence and there were no more colorful birds anywhere. There was only one pigeon that was Yamapancam, that was in some branches of a Malitawa. And they became friends – they started talking and they became friends. The pigeon told him the truth about his parents and about the demon
“The boy cried bitterly for hours after this and then the pigeon told him that he could not do anything to give his parents their life back but he could still give the life back to the birds. And he explained to him that if he put in his cerbatana – which is this elongated sort of thing where they blow – the Shuars – blow on – that if he put the feathers of the birds that he has killed in the cerbatana and he blows, he will give the life back to the birds. So he did it immediately and from his long cerbatana thousands and millions of birds of every color started to fly and happily populate again the jungle. And from then on Etsa and the demon Iwia are mortal enemies.”
Written by informant, in her native Ecuadorian Spanish:
“Etsa – Shuar, su nombre quiere decir sol, el valiente sol, el generoso sol de sus antepasados.
“El abuelo Arútam (Shuar = Poderoso Espíritu Tigre de la mañana) mientras caminaba por la Selva, entre gigantescos metapalos, frondosos, copales chambiras y pitajayas, relataba a los niños como el luminosa Etsa le devolvió la vida a los pájaros.
“Iwia = demonio tenía la costumbre de atrapai a los Shuar y meterlos en su enorme Shigra para después comérselos. Así murieron los padres de Etsa. Raptó al niño y le hizo creer que su padre era él
“Todos los días cazaba pájaros para el demonio (se los pedíce de postre)
“Descubrió con asombro que la selva estaba en silencio. Ya no había pájaros coloridos por ninguna parte. Solo quedaba la paloma Yápankam, posada sobre las ramas de una Malitagua.
“Se hicieron amigos, la paloma le contó la verdad. El muchacho lloró amargamente por horas. “No puedes hacer nada para devolverle la vida a tus padres pero aún puedes devolvérsela a los pájaros”, La paloma explico. “Introduce en la cerbatana las plumas de los pájaros que has matado, y soplas”
“El muchacho lo hizo de inmediato. Desde su larga cerbatana empezaron a salir miles, millones de pájaros de todos los calores que levantaron el cuelo y con su alegría palaron nuevamente la selva. Desde entonces Etsa (sol) y el demonio Iwia son enemigos mortales.”
When asked what this story means to her:
“I heard it when I was very little, like I heard it in school when we were learning about the different legends and myths, because we have thousands in my country – we really do from every single region and there are many. And so we were reading this book that is called “Myths and Legends of Ecuador” and we were reading that and I remember that this was one of my favorite folk tales. I think I have a really visual imagination so I think that by imagining how the birds went out of his cerbatana and how they gave back life to the birds and gave back the colors and their songs to the jungle, I always imagined that. And also because I think that birds are something that are really emblematic to our country. We have the biggest variety of birds in the world.”
She says she would definitely tell this story to kids or friends, but really only if they were from Ecuador, because she feels it takes some cultural knowledge to fully appreciate and understand.