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La Upe

South Sulawesi - Indonesia
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La Upe was a poor motherless boy who lived in a kampong in South Sulawesi. La Upe was taken from Buginese language. The words la means man, and upe means lucky. Thus, La Upe literally means lucky man. In return to his patience, God helped in difficult times. How hard was the life of La Upe and how God helped him out? The story goes as follows.


In a kampong in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, there was a motherless boy named La Upe. He lived with his father in a little shack on the side of the kampong. His mother passed away when he was still a baby.  At his 10, his father married a widow from a neighboring kampong. She was I Ruga, the woman whom La Upe’s father expected to be a mother who would care for the boy. Yet, things did not happen as expected. Everyday I Ruga tortured and hit La Upe while his father was working in the rice field.

La Upe’s life with his stepmother was very horrible. He could not get away from her severe torment and command. She often asked him to fish at the river and if he came home empty-handed, she would hit him with a stick. His father knew nothing about this.

One day, I Ruga asked La Upe to fish for her. After preparing his rod and a lot of baits, he walked to the river in a hope that he would get loads of fishes to avoid I Ruga’s beating. At the river bank, he set his hook and sat relaxedly. Hours passed, he was still waiting for a fish. He had been fishing for half a day without catching a single one, he started to worry.

“My bad luck. I will get beaten again today if I do not get a fish,” moaned La Upe.

He kept moving his rod to a deeper water to attract the fishes, which was a vain effort because none touched his bait. The sun was right at the top of his head and he was already very hungry. He gave up and decided to return home. He would accept every beating of his stepmother if he had to. But as he pulled his hook up, a big fish swooped down the bait. It was caught! La Upe carefully pulled the hook to the side of the river and there it was, a huge fish hooked. La Upe was very happy because this time, he did not have to suffer. However, when he was putting the fish to his bag, it amazingly spoke.

“I beg your mercy, human! Please don’t kill me! I am the king of the fishes. If you let me go, I would grant your wishes. Anything. You just have to say ‘on the power of the fish king,’ whatever you ask will be granted,” said the fish.

Feeling pity for the fish, La Upe released it back to the water. He came home without a fish and I Ruga was waiting for him.

“La Upe! Where is the fish?” said I Ruga.

“I am sorry, mother. I did catch a big fish but I released it back to the river,” La Upe answered.

I Ruga was furious to hear the answer. She took a club to hit La Upe and right before she started to beat him, he recalled the words of the big  fish. He then spelled the magic charm, “On the power of the fish king, stick my mother on the door!”

Suddenly, I Ruga was stuck on the door. She struggled to get loose but could not make it. Her body was stuck as if it was glued. She asked La Upe to take her off the door but he refused. La Upe left her on the door and went out.

Not long after, La Upe’s father came home from the field. He wondered why the door was so heavy as he tried pushing it. It was as though there was somebody pushing it from the opposite direction.

“Honey, are you pushing  the door from inside?” asked him.

“No, I‘m not pushing it. It is my body sticking behind the door. I can’t move,” answered I Ruga.

Lu Upe’s father pushed the door forcefully. When it was open, there appeared his wife on the door, holding a stick.

“Who did this?” asked him.

I Ruga told him what happened. La Upe’s father only smiled and said:

“That is what you get if you torture an innocent boy.”

He then went looking for La Upe and found him playing with his friends on a yard.  He called his son, asked him to go home and forgive his stepmother. The good boy La Upe obeyed his father command. At home, he released his stepmother right away with his magic spell.

“On the power of the fish king, set loose my mother!”

It was then that I Ruga was released from the door and asked forgiveness from her husband and La Upe. Since that time, I Ruga never beated La Upe anymore. They lived in peace and happiness ever since.

Several years later, La Upe grew up a strong and handsome man. He liked to go for a walk around the capital of the kingdom. One day, when he passed in front of the king’s palace, his step stopped. His eyes were caught on the gorgeous princess leaning on the side of a window.

“How beautiful she is!” La Upe said to himself.

“If only I could marry her, I would be the happiest man in the world,” he said without moving his eyes from the princess.

The princess apparently noticed that somebody was starring at her. She turned her head to see who it was. La Upe and the princess were now looking at each other. The princess was captivated by the young man’s handsomeness. Her heart beated so hard, she fell in love with La Upe. Their eyes met and the princess gave a signal to the young man that they should meet. Several days later, they arranged a secret meeting  without the king and queen knowing. They spoke about their feelings for each other and decided to get married.

Several days later, La Upe along with his parents came to the king’s palace to propose the princess. Unexpectedly the king refused the proposal because La Upe was not of their rank. The princess was a daughter of a king and La Upe was an ordinary and poor man. La Upe went home with his head down. He was very sad.

La Upe did not give up on her. He tried to find a way to marry the princess. Then, he decided to get the king’s attention by sticking the princess on a door. No body could help her except him. He told the princess about the plan and explained to her that it was just his strategy so that they could get married. The princess understood and was willing to do it in the name of love.

In one night, La Upe ducked down into the princess’ room. With his magic spell, he stuck the princess on the door and left. Some moments later, the entire palace were shocked, including the king and the queen, as they found the princess sticking on the door. The king commanded all the palace’s physicians to help the princess, but until dawn, none of them made it. Then the king decided to offer a prize for whoever could take the princess off the door.

“My people! Whoever could take my daughter off the door, I would marry him with her. No matter if he is an ordinary or poor person. And of course he will succeed me when I step down.”

Then, one by one, people tried to release the daughter but no one succeeded. Until there was only one left, La Upe. Calmly,  he walked into the palace and came near the princess, then said his magic spell.

“On the power of the fish king! Set loose the princess off the door!”

The princess was magically released from the door. All the people were stunned by what had just happened. The king and the queen were amazed by La Upes power.

“Well, La Upe. I am a man on my words. I would marry my daughter to you soon. I and the rest of the royal family apologize for refusing your proposal,” said the king.

A week later, they got married in a grand wedding ceremony. Various musical and dance arts were performed. All people attended the ceremony. They were happy for the couple. They matched to each other. La Upe was a strong and handsome man and the princess as a gorgeous girl.

La Upe brought his parents along to live in the palace. Some years later, La Upe was enthroned to replace the king. La Upe and the princess lived happily ever after.


Thus the story of La Upe ends. The story is categorized as fairy tale or fiction. The moral message conveyed in the story is that abusing others will bring misfortune to ourself. This is reflected on the action of I Ruga, who beated her stepson, La Upe, everytime he comes home without a fish. Consequently, she is stuck on the door. We can take a lesson that God would help those who are abused, directly or indirectly. In the story, La Upe is helped by God through a medium of a big fish.


Translation by Reza Daffi (trans/08/03-10)


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Comments for "La Upe"

Septian Nugroho Supriyono January 5th, 2011

"Thank You . :D

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