Ethnology of Tokelau Islands
The Story of Sinalangi
The Story of Sinalangi
Tangaloa-langi, who was half man and half god, lived in the sky. He sent his daughter, Sinalangi, down to the world to live, but before she left he gave her a mother-of-pearl shell called Tipi, and said, “If men come to make love to you when you go down and live upon the land, throw the Tipi at them. It will cut off their heads and fly back to you.”
Sinalangi had a song for her pearl shell:
Taku tipi e fano ki Olomanga,
Ko te tipi kula ma Apaitoa,
Taki te kafa ma Tangaloa,
Te poipoi ka lele taku tipi
E fano ki te afu ma te afi.
My Tipi goes to Olomanga,
The red Tipi for Apaitoa11
? the sennit for Tangaloa,
The division as my Tipi flies
And goes to the smoke and the fire.
Sinalangi married a great chief of the earth, Talitau, and by him bore a son whom they called Apaitoa. After she had lived with Talitau for some time she fell in love with Lesia, his brother, who asked her to marry him. Sinalangi went to her husband and confessed her love for Lesia and pleaded that she might marry him. Talitau refused, and though Sinalangi went to him each day, he would not consent. Finally she ran away with Lesia and they lived together in the bush away from the village. They lived there for many years and Sinalangi bore two daughters, Te Titisamakia and Te Titipokia. After the birth of the second daughter, a famine came and no food grew where Lesia and Sinalangi were living. A drought killed all the trees. Lesia had to steal food for himself and his family from his brother's village. When the people discovered that food was disappearing, they banded together to search for the thief. After hunting along the shore and through the forests, they found Lesia hiding in a well and killed him with spears.
Sinalangi waited for many days, but when her husband did not return she sent her daughters to look for him. They found him dead in the well, his body swollen from the water, and trees growing from his back. The girls sang a song to their father and he returned to life.
Te masiku tu tua e tu i te vae
O to ma tamana ko Lesia e.
The small masiku bush stands in the back and stands in the leg
Of my father, Lesia.
Sweep it away.
Lesia went back home with his two daughters. When his disappearance was reported to the village, the men held a council and set out in a war party to find him again.
When Sinalangi saw all the war party approaching her house, she went outside and threw her Tipi at them. Of the hundreds who were before her, all fell dead except the chief, Talitau. He fled back to his village. With the remainder of his villagers he returned to the house of Lesia and Sinalangi. Apaitoa, the son of Sinalangi and Talitau, was standing beside his mother holding the Tipi. She ordered him to throw it at the party coming to kill Lesia, but Apaitoa refused to throw it at his own father. Sinalangi took the Tipi from her son and threw at Talitau, killing him and all the people with him.
After this, Apaitoa and his two sisters, Te Titisamakia and Te Titipokia, played a game called pei with two coconuts. The girls thought they had won the game and sang a little song to Apaitoa, claiming that they were above him because he had lost.
Lalalo, lalo, lalalo e mai koulua e,
Ko Te Titisamakia ma Te Titipokia
E kae la lunga, lalunga e kae.
The two (girls) spring from under, under, under,
Te Titisamakia and Te Titipokia
Go above, above, (they) rise above Paitoa.
Apaitoa turned around and sang the same song, but said that he was above his two sisters. When their mother heard them singing this, she rebuked her daughters for saying that they were superior to their brother. “You are girls,” she said, “and it is right that a boy should be above you.”