Ethnology of Tokelau Islands
The Story of Alomoanaki
The Story of Alomoanaki
Once a chief went down to the sea to bathe and when he had finished, he dried himself with coconut husks. He threw these down and went away, but a woman named Sinafatukimoa came by and picked them up and sucked them. From the husks she became pregnant and had a boy whom she called Alomoanaki and a girl, Sinamoanaki, whom Tinilau married and took to his island.
When Alomoanaki was still a little boy playing on the floor by his mother, he asked her who his father was. She would not tell him, and he continued asking until Sinafatukimoa told him his father was Fatutaulalanga, the rock that was holding down one end of the mat on which Sinafatukimoa was plaiting. The boy asked the rock, “Fatutaulalanga, are you my father?” The stone did not reply, so he asked his mother again. She would not tell him though he asked her each day for several days. Finally she told him his father was Kaupuipui, the rack between two posts in the house. Alomoanaki asked, “Kaupuipui, are you my father?” But the table between the posts was silent, and Alomoanaki asked his mother again to tell him the name of his father. Sinafatukimoa did not answer him for several days; then she said that his father was Pou, the post of the house. Again the boy went to talk with his father but the Pou did not speak. Alomoanaki went back to his mother and asked her again and again each day until she finally told him that Alo, the chief in the village, was his father. She told him how she had gone to the beach after he had been bathing and had sucked the coconut husks he had used to dry himself. Then she sent Alomoanaki to the village to find his father. “Go to the house of all the chiefs whom you will find sitting in a council. One will be sitting on a pile of mats higher than the others. This is Alo, your father. Go to him and stay by him until he asks you who you are. Then you must tell him that you are his son and how you came to be born.”
Alomoanaki went to the village and found his father in the meeting house and sat by him. The chief asked him who he was, and when he heard that Alomoanaki was his son, he came down from his seat, put Alomoanaki in his place, and went to sit with the other chiefs. While Alomoanaki was sitting in the council house, he heard a noise outside and asked what it was. His father replied that he was not to go out and join the page 83 young men who were making the noise and were about to throw darts in a contest. But Alomoanaki went out and joined them in the match. The target was the house of the village maiden. Any man who could hurl his dart through the wall of the house to this maiden won her as a wife. The first young men who hurled their spears pierced the walls of the house, but as the spears came through, Meto, who was sitting inside, waved them aside. When it was Alomoanaki's turn he threw and pierced the wall. Meto watched the stranger throwing and guided his dart toward her, calling, “Come to me, come to me.” The dart went across the floor and slid through her leaf kilt as she sat on the floor. When all the men saw this they shouted, “Avanga! Kaitauso, kaitauso” (The husband! The fish has his bait!, the Tokelau announcement of a marriage). When Alomoanaki went into the house to get his dart, Meto took him by the arms and drew him to her.
Afterwards they were married, and the first night Alomoanaki slept with his wife the roof of the house leaked from the rain. In the morning Meto asked Alomoanaki to thatch the roof and he went to his father to ask help. Alo replied that he had told his son not to go out with the young men who were competing for Meto and sent him on to his mother to seek help. His mother went to his cousins, the four rats, and asked them to come and thatch the house of Meto and Alomoanaki. Alomoanaki went home and slept. Early the next morning he heard the four rats crying, “Ki, ki, ki” on the roof and scurrying about putting in new thatch.
When the roof had been repaired Meto asked her husband to bring some pearl shells to make a flooring for the house. This time Alomoanaki went to Tonga to ask the help of his sister who had married Tinilau. A servant of the chiefess of Tonga saw Alomoanaki sitting on the bank of a river and reported to his mistress the arrival of a very handsome stranger. She promptly sent the servant, Te Lulu, back to invite the stranger to her house, but Alomoanaki refused the invitation. Then Alomoanaki asked Te Lulu the name of his mistress and he replied, “Faufauitafafine”. Alomoanaki said, “I am Faufauitatane”, and as he spoke these words, the chiefess died. The servant returned and found a council gathered to elect a new ruler and to discover the cause of the death of the chiefess. Te Lulu told the council that she had died from a sickness of the heart, and he related the story of the stranger. Alomoanaki was sent for and when he looked at the woman she came back to life.
Then Alomoanaki returned to the river and sat there. Kalesa and Tafaki, the two sons of his sister, Sinamoanaki, saw him and noticed how much he looked like one of them. They told their mother and she sent them to bring the man to her. Sinamoanaki gave her brother pearl shells to put on the floor of his house. Alomoanaki gave his nephews a necklace of Hibiscus blossoms that he had brought from his house and then sailed back to his wife. After he had given the pearl shells to his wife he went down to bathe. He sent his wife to the house to bring some coconut husks to dry himself, but while she was in the house, he jumped into his canoe and started back to the chiefess of Tonga, to whom he had promised to return. Alomoanaki went into her house, but as soon as she entered the door, he smelled the Hibiscus necklace that he had given to the sons of Sinamoanaki. He knew that their father, Tinalau, had stolen it and given it to Faufauitafafine and was sleeping with her. Alomoanaki left the house and departed from Tonga.