The Story of Jempue & Tatatúa

The Story of Jempue & Tatatúa

La Selva Amazon Ecolodge


The Story of Jempue & Tatatúa


In honor of International Migratory Bird Day, we hope you enjoy this traditional story told by older members of the Shuar Amazonian Tribe, just as they heard from their elders when they were younger. It is a tale of two men from the early foundation of the Shuar tribe named Tatatúa and Jempue.


For each young man the tribe assigned responsibilities as they came into adulthood. Tatatúa was assigned to work at a mine. There alone, he was not very committed to his work and was a bit lazy. To pass the days he would pile the stones very high and then push them over. The higher he piled them, the happier he was. As the rocks collapsed they made a great noise that could be heard back where the rest of the tribe was located. Tatatúa would pile them up again and again, continuing to push them over throughout the day increasing the height each time. This made a very loud ruckus or bulla (pronounced bushah) in Spanish.


Each time the tribe members heard the rocks fall they thought that Tatatúa was doing admirable work. Because of this, the women of the tribe were all quite taken with Tatatúa and always brought him pitchers full of the best chicha and would fight for his attention. Tatatúa was a man who lived a very happy life and lived it well…for the time being.


The other young man, Jempue, was assigned to sow the fields with seeds. His work was quiet, but bountiful. But with the absence of the noise, unlike Tatatúa, the tribe members thought he was nothing but lazy and did not do any work. So when he returned at the end of each day he was treated very differently than Tatatúa and received very little chicha of poor quality.


One morning a woman of the tribe wanted to go ahead of the others to give Tatatúa the chicha where he was working. But the other women who were also infatuated with Tatatúa became jealous so they followed behind. When they finally came to the site of the mine they found the same exact stones that had never been touched since the day he started working. The women finally realized that Tatatúa had been doing absolutely nothing but making all kinds of hullabaloo the entire time fooling everyone into thinking he was doing lots of work.


The women were upset that they had been deceived. So they climbed up to one of the nearby mountains and mixed a poisonous plant into the chicha they normally gave Tatatúa. Happy to see the women, Tatatúa drank the chicha like always and with great gusto. It was at that moment when the poisonous drink took effect. It inflamed Tatatúa’s throat and left it bright red forever. The chicha also made him hoarse, unable to speak.


Still furious, the women left Tatatúa to suffer and now full of curiosity, they went to see Jempue. They thought if all the noise that Tatatúa was making meant he was doing absolutely nothing with his work, then what could Jempue possibly be doing so quietly?


sunset at La Selva Amazon EcolodgeAfter walking through the woods towards Jempue and finding seeds scattered and planted by his own hands, the women realized they were wrong about Jempue. They realized just how dedicated he was to his work. And so, from this moment on, both the women and the rest of the tribe changed their attitude towards Jempue and treated him much better and with the respect he deserved.


Tatatúa went on to become a native bird that continues to fly through the canopies of the Amazon. And just like before, he is known to make quite a bit of noise, but never accomplishing much. When the Tatatúa rests against a tree or on a branch, you can still see its bright red throat. On the contrary, Jempue became known as the common hummingbird. Silently he continues to fly gracefully flower to flower, just like the seeds he carefully sowed when he was a man. The moral of the story is to always work hard and in time all you deserve will come to you. And if you should decide to be lazy, your destiny will mirror all you have done. Today, this story continues to be told to the tribe’s youth to instill worthy values.


Story is originally told and written in Spanish by Jorge Anhalzer.


See more of this Ecuadorian author and photographer online -


About La Selva Ecolodge:

One of the first Amazon rainforest lodges in Ecuador, the award winning La Selva was completely remodeled and reopened in July of 2012 and has since become the premier eco lodge in the Ecuadorian Amazon. La Selva Jungle Lodge and resort is located in a rainforest paradise bordering Yasuni National Park in one of the most biodiverse areas of the planet.


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