The ‘Mpa-lu ‘Mpa

I am Nahuatl, the shaman of the ‘Mpa-lu ‘Mpa. I was away in the high mountains gathering plants when the sorcerer came who enslaved my people. This is the story of how the ‘Mpa-lu ‘Mpa rose up and defeated the sorcerer.

For many years, our village and our way of life had been under siege by illegal loggers and our trees being cut down by farmers. We had retreated high into the mountains and adopted an ever more stealthy way of life.

We make our houses on platforms high in the rainforest, with suspension bridges between them. We make beautiful carvings of the birds and animals who live in the rainforest. And we have small gardens of fruits and vegetables in pockets of earth in the forks of trees.

Far from the duplicitous lies of the sorcerer, claiming that we were suffering from a shortage of cacao beans (which were not our main food, but rather what we used to make the sacred molē and chocolatl), or from attacks by wild animals, what we were mainly suffering from was the depredations of the illegal loggers. And the people did not go voluntarily with the sorcerer; they were drugged and kidnapped. He was on the island searching for our sacred cacao beans to use in his chocolate factory.

The kidnapping was witnessed by a mother and child, who hid high in the rainforest canopy and waited for my return to tell me what had happened.

I decided that I must leave the forest and go to find out what was happening to our people. Accordingly I wiped away the green face paint made from cacao leaves, and cut my hair (a sign of mourning among our people).

I descended from the tree canopy and walked upon the ground, and out of the forest. The woman and the child went to stay with some of our allies in another village. I shall not reveal their location.

It was not hard to pick up the trail of the sorcerer. People had seen a large truck with closed sides, and heard weeping and screams coming from inside it.

I followed the trail of these stories down to the harbour, and saw the truck being loaded onto a big ship. I paid one of the men at the harbour a large nugget of gold (a substance that does not really interest us, but seems to be of great interest to other cultures) to smuggle me onto the ship. We had seen these great floating houses from afar, and at the time I was very frightened, but I floated above my fear and went into the belly of the beast.

Once onto the ship, I succeeded in finding my people and getting into the place where they were held captive. They crowded around me.

“Grandmother, will we ever escape from this terrible place?” asked one of the younger children.

The warriors were ashamed that they hadn’t been able to do anything to stop the sorcerer, as he had drugged the entire village while they were at a feast.

One of the ship’s crew was charged with feeding the people. Fortunately he retained a shred of humanity.

“Poor little hombres, no chance of escaping right now when you’re in the middle of the ocean,” he said. We conversed in Spanish, a language I had some knowledge of.

“Kidnapped you say, that’s a bad business. I’ll report that to the authorities, so I will.”

When we reached land, he was as good as his word, but the sorcerer bribed the port authorities and the people were carted off to his factory.

Once in the factory, not a single one of our people was seduced by the sorcerer’s propaganda. We lived in the houses provided and plotted our escape. I sometimes went outside the factory, but outside was a hell-world, with tall towers belching smoke and even the air tainted with noxious dust and fumes. It was also very cold outside. Some of the people despaired that we would ever escape. One or two tried to demand that we should be paid in the local currency instead of in cacao beans, but the sorcerer just locked them up for several weeks. I took them food, but they nearly died of despair.

No one else could go outside because the sorcerer held a roll-call every morning, and although he would occasionally issue permits for people to go outside, they were always accompanied by one of the factory’s security guards.

I never got counted as part of the group, so I could get in and out more easily.

One day, we saw the sorcerer leading a strange party of people through the factory. They cried out in amazement at the chocolate waterfall and the sugar trees, but none of them seemed to really notice us or see us as people. I had hoped that at least the ragged boy and his grandfather would notice our plight, but they did not.

Once the ragged boy was selected as the sorcerer’s heir, we thought that things might improve, but that didn’t happen either. Once or twice, members of the tribe tried to speak to him, but he claimed not to understand what the problem was.

“Mr Wonka brought you here out of the jungle away from all the wild animals, and fed and clothed you — you should be grateful. Now you have all the chocolate you could ever want!” he said, whenever the ‘Mpa-lu ‘Mpa complained.

Next we tried the boy’s grandfather, but far from being the working class hero that he liked to believe himself to be, it turned out that he was a strike-breaker and police informer. He took the same line as his grandson.

After some time in the factory, we learnt about money and how this hell-world worked. The people of this place are obsessed with money, but they will also exchange money for chocolate. This meant that the chocolate factory had large amounts of money stored somewhere on the premises. I had heard the ragged boy say to his grandfather that he did not trust banks, so I knew that the money must be on the premises somewhere.

So while the boy and the sorcerer were away fighting the Pernicious Knids (beings whom we regarded as benefactors for providing such a massive distraction), we found the key to the safe in the office, and collected our back wages in bank notes.

We waited until it was dark, and then used the sorcerer’s own delivery van to drive down to the harbour.

After several false starts, where various captains would not let us onto their boats, we found that we had enough money to buy a small sailing vessel, and some left over to bribe the harbourmaster to let us depart.

It was dawn before all the ‘Mpa-lu ‘Mpa were safely aboard our ship, and we sailed out of the harbour with our hearts beating wildly but with our heads held high, expecting the alarm to be raised at any minute. We remembered all too well the way that the port authorities had allowed the sorcerer to carry us to his factory, and did not trust the harbourmaster to keep his word.

I had taken the precaution of liberating a map upon which the sorcerer had marked the location of our island, and during our captivity, several members of the tribe had learned to read and navigate. The sorcerer had actively discouraged any learning on our part (more solitary confinements, and extra roll calls), but I had managed to smuggle in books from the local lending library.

We realized that we could not go back to our old village, as the sorcerer would know where to find us, so we sailed around to a secret harbour on the other side of the island. We travelled inland to the village of our relatives to find the woman and her child who had been left behind.

Then we founded a new village high up in the mountains, where we hope that neither the sorcerer nor the boy will ever find us.

I got the idea for this story from several tweets talking about the way that Wonka’s treatment of the Oompa Loompas closely resembles colonialism.

There’s even an academic paper on the depiction of the Oompa Loompas:

Most of the things I’ve described in this story have been done to Indigenous Peoples, along with worse things.

If you would like to support the self-determination of Indigenous Peoples, please support Cultural Survival and Survival International.

This story is also available on Archive of Our Own.

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