Sacred Texts  Native American  Inca  Index  Previous  Next 

Apu Ollantay, by Clements Markham, [1910], at

p. 325


THE drama was cultivated by the Incas, and dramatic performances were enacted before them. Garcilasso de la Vega, Molina, and Salcamayhua are the authorities who received and have recorded the information given by the Amautas respecting the Inca drama. Some of these dramas, and portions of others, were preserved in the memories of members of Inca and Amauta families. The Spanish priests, especially the Jesuits of Juli, soon discovered the dramatic aptitude of the people. Plays were composed and acted, under priestly auspices, which contained songs and other fragments of the ancient Inca drama. These plays were called 'Autos Sacramentales.'

But complete Inca dramas were also preserved in the memories of members of the Amauta caste and, until the rebellion of 1781, they were acted. The drama of Ollantay was first reduced to writing and arranged for acting by Dr. Don Antonio Valdez, the Cura of Tinto. It was acted before his friend José Gabriel Condorcanqui 11

p. 326

in about 1775. Taking the name of his maternal ancestor, the Inca Tupac Amaru, the ill-fated Condorcanqui rose in rebellion, was defeated, taken, and put to death under torture, in the great square of Cuzco. In the monstrous sentence 'the representation of dramas as well as all other festivals which the Indians celebrate in memory of their Incas' was prohibited. 1 This is a clear proof that before 1781 these Quichua dramas were acted.

The original manuscript of Valdez was copied by his friend Don Justo Pastor Justiniani, and this copy was inherited by his son. There was another copy in the convent of San Domingo at Cuzco, but it is corrupt, and there are several omissions and mistakes of a copyist. Dr. Valdez died, at a very advanced age, in 1816. In 1853 the original manuscript was in the possession of his nephew and heir, Don Narciso Cuentas of Tinta.

The Justiniani copy was, in 1853, in the possession of Dr. Don Pablo Justiniani, Cura of Laris, and son of Don Justo Pastor Justiniani. He is a descendant of

p. 327

the Incas. 1 In April 1853 I went to Laris, a secluded valley of the Andes, and made a careful copy of the drama of Ollantay. From this Justiniani text my first very faulty line-for-line translation was made in 1871, as well as the present free translation.

The first printed notice of Ollantay appeared in the Museo Erudito, Nos. 5 to 9, published at Cuzco in 1837, and edited by Don José Palacios. The next account of the drama, with extracts, was in the 'Antiguedades Peruanas,' a work published in 1851 jointly by Dr. von Tschudi and Don Mariaiao Rivero of Arequipa. The complete text, from the copy in the convent of San Domingo at Cuzco, was first published at Vienna in 1853 by Dr. von Tschudi in his 'Die Kechua Sprache. It

p. 328

was obtained for him by Dr. Ruggendas of Munich. The manuscript was a corrupt version, and in very bad condition, in parts illegible from damp. In 1868 Don José Barranca published a Spanish translation, from the Dominican text of von Tschudi. The learned Swiss naturalist, von Tschudi, published a revised edition of his translation at Vienna in 1875, with a parallel German translation. In 18711 printed the Justiniani text with a literal, line-for-line translation, but with many mistakes, since corrected; and in 1874, a Peruvian, Don José Fernandez Nodal, published the Quichua text with a Spanish translation.

In 1878 Gavino Pacheco Zegarra published his version of Ollantay, with a free translation in French. His text is a manuscript of the drama which he found in his uncle's library. Zegarra, as a native of Peru whose language was Quichua, had great advantages. He was a very severe, and often unfair, critic of his predecessors.

The work of Zegarra is, however, exceedingly valuable. He was not only a Quichua scholar, but also accomplished and well read. His notes on special words and on the construction of sentences are often very interesting. But his conclusions respecting several passages which are in the Justiniani text, but not in the others, are certainly erroneous. Thus he entirely spoils the dialogue between the Uillac Uma and Piqui Chaqui by omitting the humorous part contained in the Justiniani text; and makes other similar omissions merely because the passages are not in his text. Zegarra gives a useful vocabulary at the end of all the words which occur in the drama.

The great drawback to the study of Zegarra's work is that he invented a number of letters to express the various modifications of sound as they appealed to his

p. 329

ear. No one else can use them, while they render the reading of his own works difficult and intolerably tiresome.

The last publication of a text of Ollantay was by the Rev. J. H. Gybbon Spilsbury, at Buenos Ayres in 1907, accompanied by Spanish, English, and French translations in parallel columns.

There is truth in what Zegarra says, that the attempts to translate line for line, by von Tschudi and myself, 'fail to convey a proper idea of the original drama to European readers, the result being alike contrary to the genius of the modern languages of Europe and to that of the Quichua language.' Zegarra accordingly gives a very free translation in French.

In the present translation I believe that I have always preserved the sense of the original, without necessarily binding myself to the words. The original is in octosyllabic lines. Songs and important speeches are in quatrains of octosyllabic lines, the first and last rhyming, and the second and third. I have endeavoured to keep to octosyllabic lines as far as possible, because they give a better idea of the original; and I have also tried to preserve the form of the songs and speeches.

The drama opens towards the close of the reign of the Inca Pachacuti, the greatest of all the Incas, and the scene is laid at Cuzco or at Ollantay-tampu, in the valley of the Vilcamayu. The story turns on the love of a great chief, but not of the blood-royal, with a daughter of the Inca. This would not have been prohibited in former reigns, for the marriage of a sister by the sovereign or his heir, and the marriage of princesses only with princes of the blood-royal, were rules first introduced by Pachacuti. 1 His imperial power and greatness led

p. 330

him to endeavour to raise the royal family far above all others.

The play opens with a dialogue between Ollantay and Piqui Chaqui, his page, a witty and humorous lad. Ollantay talks of his love for the Princess Cusi Coyllur, and wants Piqui Chaqui to take a message to her, while the page dwells on the danger of loving in such a quarter, and evades the question of taking a message. Then to them enters the Uillac Uma, or High Priest of the Sun, who remonstrates with Ollantay--a scene of great solemnity, and very effective.

The next scene is in the Queen's palace. Anahuarqui, the Queen, is discovered with the Princess Cusi Coyllur, who bitterly laments the absence of Ollantay. To them enters the Inca Pachacuti, quite ignorant that his daughter has not only married Ollantay in secret, but that she is actually with child by him. Her mother keeps her secret. The Inca indulges in extravagant expressions of love for his daughter. Then boys and girls enter dancing and singing a harvest song. Another very melancholy yarahui is sung; both capable of being turned by the Princess into presages of the fate of herself and her husband.

In the third scene Ollantay prefers his suit to the Inca Pachacuti in octosyllabic quatrains, the first and last

p. 331

lines rhyming, and the second and third. His suit is rejected with scorn and contempt. Ollantay next appears on the heights above Cuzco. In a soliloquy he declares himself the implacable enemy of Cuzco and the Inca. Then Piqui Chaqui arrives with the news that the Queen's palace is empty, and abandoned, and that Cusi Coyllur has quite disappeared; while search is being made for Ollantay. While they are together a song is sung behind some rocks, in praise of Cusi Coyllur's beauty. Then the sound of clarions and people approaching is heard, and Ollantay and Piqui Chaqui take to flight. The next scene finds the Inca enraged at the escape of Ollantay, and ordering his general Rumi-ñaui to march at once, and make him prisoner. To them enters a chasqui, or messenger, bringing the news that Ollantay has collected a great army at Ollantay-tampu, and that the rebels have proclaimed him Inca.

The second act opens with a grand scene in the hall of the fortress-palace of Ollantay-tampu. Ollantay is proclaimed Inca by the people, and he appoints the Mountain Chief, Urco Huaranca, general of his army. Urco Huaranca explains the dispositions he has made to oppose the army advancing from Cuzco, and his plan of defence. In the next scene Rumi-ñaui, as a fugitive in the mountains, describes his defeat and the complete success of the strategy of Ollantay and Urco Huaranca. His soliloquy is in the octosyllabic quatrains. The last scene of the second act is in the gardens of the Convent of Virgins of the Sun. A young girl is standing by a gate which opens on the street. This, as afterwards appears, is Yma Sumac, the daughter of Ollantay and Cusi Coyllur, aged ten, but ignorant of her parentage. To her enters Pitu Salla, an attendant, who chides her for being so fond of looking out at the gate. The conversation which follows shows that Yma Sumac detests the convent and

p. 332

refuses to take the vows. She also has heard the moans of some sufferer, and importunes Pitu Salla to tell her who it is. Yma Sumac goes as Mama Ccacca enters and cross examines Pitu Salla on her progress in persuading Yma Sumac to adopt convent life. This Mama Ccacca is one of the Matrons or Mama Cuna, and she is also the jailer of Cusi Coyllur.

The third act opens with an amusing scene between the Uillac Uma and Piqui Chaqui, who meet in a street in Cuzco. Piqui Chaqui wants to get news, but to tell nothing, and in this he succeeds. The death of Inca Pachacuti is announced to him, and the accession of Tupac Yupanqui, and with this news he departs.

Next there is an interview between the new Inca Tupac Yupanqui, the Uillac Uma, and the defeated general Rumi-ñaui, who promises to retrieve the former disaster and bring the rebels to Cuzco, dead or alive. It after wards appears that the scheme of Rumi-ñaui was one of treachery. He intended to conceal his troops in eaves and gorges near Ollantay-tampu ready to rush in, when a signal was made. Rumi-ñaui then cut and slashed his face, covered himself with mud, and appeared at the gates of Ollantay-tampu, declaring that he had received this treatment from the new Inca, and imploring protection. 1 Ollantay received him with the greatest kindness and hospitality. In a few days Ollantay and his people celebrated the Raymi or great festival of the sun with

p. 333

much rejoicing and drinking. Rumi-ñaui pretended to join in the festivities, but when most of them were wrapped in drunken sleep, he opened the gates, let in his own men, and made them all prisoners.

There is next another scene in the garden of the convent, in which Yma Sumac importunes Pitu Salla to tell her the secret of the prisoner. Pitu Salla at last yields and opens a stone door. Cusi Coyllur is discovered, fastened to a wall, and in a dying state. She had been imprisoned, by order of her father, Inca Pachacuti on the birth of Yma Sumac. She is restored with food and water, and the relationship is discovered when Cusi Coyllur hears the child's name, for she had given it to her.

Next the Inca Tupac Yupanqui is discovered in the great hall of his palace, seated on his tiana or throne, with the Uillac Uma in attendance. To them enters a chasqui, or messenger, who describes the result of Rumi-ñaui's treachery in octosyllabic quatrains. Rumi-ñaui himself enters and receives the thanks of his sovereign. Then the prisoners are brought in guarded-Ollantay, Hanco Huayllu, Urco Huaranca, and Piqui Chaqui. The Inca upbraids them for their treason. He then asks the Uillac Uma for his judgment. The High Priest recommends mercy. Rumi-ñaui advises immediate execution: The Inca seems to concur and they are ordered off, when suddenly the Inca cries 'Stop.' He causes them all to be released, appoints Ollantay to the highest post in the empire next to himself, and Urco Huaranca to a high command. There are rejoicings, and in the midst of it all Yma Sumac forces her way into the hall, and throws herself at the Inca's feet, entreating him to save her mother from death. The Inca hands over the matter to Ollantay, but this Yma Sumac will not have, and, the Uillac Uma intervening, the Inca consents to go with the child.

p. 334

The final scene is in the gardens of the convent. The Inca enters with Yma Sumac, followed by the whole strength of the company. Mama Ccacca is ordered to open the stone door and Cusi Coyllur is brought out, She proves to be the sister of the Inca and the wife of Ollantay. There are explanations, and all ends happily.

Of the antiquity of the drama of Ollantay there is now no question. General Mitre wrote an elaborate paper on its authenticity, raising several points to prove that it was of modern origin. But every point he raised has been satisfactorily refuted. At the same time there are many other points, some of them referred to by Zegarra, which establish the antiquity of the drama beyond any doubt. The antiquity of the name Ollantay-tampu, applied to the fortress in memory of the drama, is proved by its use in the narratives of Molina (1560) and of Salcamayhua.

An able review of the literature connected with the drama of Ollantay was written by Don E. Larrabure y Unanue, the present Vice-President of Peru, who considers that Ollantay would make a good acting play with magnificent scenic effects.


1. The original text of Valdez. In 1853 the property of Don Narciso Cuentas of Tinta, heir of Dr. Valdez.

2. The Justiniani text. In 1853 at Laris. Copy of the Valdez text.

3. Markham's copy of the Justiniani text (printed 1871).

4. Rosas copy of the Justiniani text.

5. Copy in the convent of San Domingo at Cuzco (the Dominican text).

p. 335

6. Von Tschudi's copy of the Dominican text (printed 1853).

7. Text of Zegarra (printed 1878).

8. Second text of von Tschudi.

9. Text of Spilsbury.

10. Text of Sahuaraura penes Dr. Gonzalez de la Rosa.

There is light thrown upon the name Ollantay by the evidence taken during the journey of the Viceroy Toledo from Jauja to Cuzco, from November 1570 to March 1571. He wanted information respecting the origin of the Inca government, and 200 witnesses were examined, the parentage or lineage of each witness being recorded. Among these we find six witnesses of the Antasayac ayllu. Sayac means a station or division, Anta is a small town near Cuzco. The names of the six Anta witnesses were

Chiefs of Anta.

We thus find that the name of Ollantay belonged to Anta. Now the Incas were under great obligations to the chief of Anta, for that chief had rescued the eldest son of Inca Rocca from the chief of Ayamarca, and had restored him to his father. For this great service the chief of Anta was declared to be a noble of the highest rank and cousin to the Inca family. Moreover, the daughter of the Anta chief was married to the Inca Uira-cocha, and was the mother of Pachacuti. Assuming, as seems probable, that Ollantay was a son of the chief of Anta, he would be a cousin of the Inca, and of very

p. 336

high rank, though not an agnate of the reigning family. This, I take it, is what is intended. Pachacuti desired to raise his family high above all others, and that, consequently, there should be no marriages with subjects even of the highest rank; and his excessive severity on the transgression of his rule by his daughter is thus explained.




326:1 'Sentencia pronunciada en el Cuzco por el Visitador Don José Antonio de Areche, contra José Gabriel Tupac Amaru.' In Coleccion de obras y documentos de Don Pedro de Angelis, vol. V. (Buenos Ayres, 1836-7).


(Cura of Laris)

329:1 The wives of the Incas were called ccoya. The ccoya of the second Inca was a daughter of the chief of Sanoc. The third Inca married a daughter of the chief of Oma, the fourth married a girl of Tacucaray, the wife of the fifth was a daughter of a Cuzco chief. The sixth Inca married a daughter of the chief of Huayllacan, the seventh married a daughter of the chief of Ayamarca, and the eighth went to Anta for a wife. This Anta lady was the mother of Pachacuti. The wife of Pachacuti, named Anahuarqui, was a daughter of the chief of Choco. There was no rule about marrying sisters when Pachacuti succeeded. He introduced it by making his son Tupac Yupanqui marry his daughter Mama Ocllo, but this was quite unprecedented. The transgression of a rule which he had just made may account for his extreme severity.

332:1 A bust, on an earthen vase, was presented to Don Antonio Maria Alvarez, the political chief of Cuzco, in 1837, by an Indian who declared that it had been handed down in his family from time immemorial, as a likeness of the general, Rumi-ñaui, who plays an important part in this drama of Ollantay. The person represented must have been a general, from the ornament on the forehead, called mascapaycha, and there are wounds cut on the face.--Museo Erudito, No. B.

Next: Acts and Scenes