Ethnology of Tokelau Islands
The Story of Sinaiono
Maliliona Tane and Maliliona Fafine were married and had two children, a boy and a girl, named Mangeleponapona and Sinaleulu. The boy, Mangeleponapona, was married to Lafailafaitonga. She became pregnant and desired some fish.10 When Mangeleponapona heard the request of his wife, he went straightway to his parents' house and told them of his wife's wish. They sent his sister, Sinaleulu, to the reef to catch fish for Mangeleponapona to take to his wife. Sinaleulu had no net to fish with on the reef, so she sat in the inlet facing the current and spread her legs apart, and in this way made a fork trap into which the fish must run. When the fish swam against her, she caught them with her hands. After catching many in this way she took them home to her brother, who brought them to Lafailafaitonga. He cooked them for her to eat, but when she swallowed them she immediately vomited.
Again Mangeleponapona went to his parents with a request for fish for his wife who wished some to eat, and again they sent Sinaleulu to the reef to catch some. She sat as before in the inlet, and when the fish swam between her legs she caught them with her hands and took them to her house. Her brother Mangeleponapona prepared them for his wife, but these too made her sick when she ate them.
Mangeleponapona asked his parents for fish a third time, and watched from a distance to discover how his sister was catching them. When she came back he took the fish from her but did not cook them or allow his wife to touch them.
The next day he went to his parents and told them how his sister had caught the fish. Sinaleulu was lying on the mats in the house when her brother came in and he thought she was asleep. But she listened to what he told their parents and became very angry. As soon as he had left the house she went to a point of the island and pushed it off with a pole (toko) for propelling a canoe in shallow water, thus separating it from the rest of the land. Then she poled her way to the land of Saluelakaniva, whom she married.
Lafailafaitonga had a baby girl, Sinaiono, who married Tinilau and went to his island. Here Tinilau had many wives, the Kaunofoitalau, but Sinaiono became his favorite. The Kaunofoitalau were jealous of her because Tinilau always carried a bonito to her when he returned from fishing but made the Kaunofoitalau get their fish from the canoe. One night these women made a dish of young coconuts, tamokomoko worms, and starfish, which they ground together and then mixed with their urine. When Tinilau was out early the next morning catching bonito, they forced Sinaiono to drink the food they had prepared. She died, and then they examined her body to find out why she was the favorite of her husband. They decided it was because of her well-formed genitals.
When Tinilau returned with a large bonito for Sinaiono he found her lying dead on the floor. He went to the Kaunofoitalau, his spirit wives (aitu), and ordered them to bring her back to life. He told them that they must build an island near his own for her by piling rocks on the bottom of the sea where they were to live and take care of Sinaiono, bring her food each day, and make a fire to give her light at night. The island was small and round, and nothing grew on it but the flowering tiale trees.
After the women and Sinaiono settled on the island they took her soul from her each day and left her alone. They forced the body of Sinaiono to clean up the island and throw the rubbish into the sea each morning and make a fire for herself each night so that Tinilau would believe they were tending her.
One day the Kaunofoitalau went away as usual but forgot to take the soul of Sinaiono. She went about her work, picking up all the dead leaves and flowers and throwing them into the sea. These dead bits floated away and came to the island where page 81 Sinaleulu, her father's sister, was living with Saluelakaniva. Sinaleulu saw these things and wondered where they came from, and set out in search of the land. She found Sinaiono and discovered their relationship.
When the Kaunofoitalau returned at the end of the day, Sinaiono went down to the beach to show her shame before them and perform singo, (sitting crosslegged with the back to the superior people and then sitting forward on the knees so that one's buttocks are exposed to those behind). The Kaunofoitalau told Sinaiono that they were doing all that Tinilau had commanded of them. When Sinaleulu heard this she threw all the Kaunofoitalau into the sea, where they were devoured by sharks and fish.
Then Sinaleulu called all the fish to her and made them carry Sinaiono to Tinilau's island in a house built on a raft. When Sinaiono arrived she found a long house with 10 doors called the Faitutoka o fafine, the doors of which were called pouangafulu (tenth door), pouangahiva (ninth door), pouangavalu (eighth door), and on down to pouangatasi (first door). Behind each door there were as many women as the number marked on the door. When she came to the first door, where Tinilau slept, she went in and lived as his first wife.
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.”
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.
The Story of Sifo
Once there was a very beautiful virgin named Sina who had four suitors: Pili, Ulio, and Moko, who were lizards; and Sifo, who was a man. Pili came first to ask her to marry him and as he approached he sang a little song: “I am Pili, the lizard, who has come to ask you to marry me; but, alas, I can not walk and can only creep.” Sina turned to Pili and said, “How can you be my husband? You can not walk and you can not do your work.” Then Ulia came to her and sang a little song: “I am Ulia, the lizard, who has come to ask you to be my wife; but, alas, I can only creep and can not walk.” Sina sent Ulia away, for he too could do no work. Moko came next but Sina page 84 sent him away too because he was a lizard. Finally the man, Sifo, came to Sina and said, “I am coming. I am a man who walks and does not crawl. I would like you to be my wife.” Her parents agreed to her marriage and Sina became Sifo's wife and went with him to his island to live.
When they were in Sifo's house, Sina made a sucking sound with her lips (misi).12 Sifo asked what she wished and she said that she wanted to drink. Outside the house were two coconut trees, one the tree of the gods and the other the tree of men. Sifo climbed the tree of the gods, which was a tapu tree whose nuts no one could drink without dying, and picked a nut for his wife. Tinilau was halfway up the tree, caught the nut, and threw it into the tree of men, thus taking away the tapu before the nut fell to the ground. Sina drank the coconut and ate the kernel without disastrous effect.
After that Sifo took his wife into the bush which was owned by the spirits. He went along the sea side of the bush but sent his wife by the middle path. As they proceeded Sifo called out to his wife to see if she was still living and to ask where she was. Tinilau was walking behind her and as they came to each spirit place (malae aitu) in the bush, of which there were very many, he told her the name and she called it out to her husband. Thus with Tinilau she escaped being taken by the spirits of the bush. Finally they came to an old man, Patikole, who was pounding coconut husks to get fiber for rope-making. Tinilau asked Patikoli to put Sina under his leg as he sat there tailor-fashion. Sifo came up to them and just then Sina made a sound with her lips (misi) calling him. Sifo heard her and asked what it was, but Patikoli said it was his knee making the sound. Patikoli was very angry because Sina had made a misi and would not let her get up. Sifo returned home and brought his flute to the edge of the bush and played for his wife. She heard him but could not go to him. Finally Tinilau took her to his land and married her, and Sifo returned home to grieve for his wife.
The Story of Matilafoafoa
Matilafoafoa, the king of heaven (tupu o lunga) saw a women from his place in the sky. She was picking up rubbish on the earth below. Matilafoafoa sang, “I am king above and below. Let a wind come and carry me to the woman below.” Immediately a wind and a strong rain came and carried him down to earth and set him down beside a woman named Sina. She turned to Matilafoafoa and asked, “Who are you, a man or a god?” Matilafoafoa replied, “I am a man.” He stayed with Sina on earth until she became pregnant. Then he wished to return to his home in the skies. When he left his wife he told her that if she gave birth to a son she must call him Limaleimakoloa.
Sina later gave birth to a son and named him as his father had desired. Not long after Matilafoafoa had left, Sina married Punga, and by him she had many children. Punga went fishing every day, and when he beached his canoe on his return at evening, all his own children ran to carry his fish; but they drove off Limaleimakoloa, because Punga was not his father.
Limaleimakoloa, angry at the taunts of the other children, asked his mother why Punga was not his father. Sina told him Matilafoafoa was his father and sent him to his father in the sky, but Punga called him back. Limaleimakoloa shouted at him, “Punga, you like your own children but you do not love me”, and he proceeded on his way.
During the journey, Limaleimakoloa met many spirits and evil creatures who tried to prevent him from reaching the sky. As soon as the boy told them that he was the son of the king of the sky, they fled from him. Beyond these beings he came upon two women, Limalei and Makoloa, sisters of the king of the sky, who struck at him and cut his flesh. When he reached Matilafoafoa, he told him of the treatment he had received from the two sisters of his father. Matilafoafoa sent for these two women and killed them. Then he took the son of Sina and put him in his own high place.page 85
Legend of the Stars
There were two brothers, Kupenga and Kakau, each of whom had two sons. The four boys went fishing together, but Filo and Mea, the sons of Kupenga, always caught the most fish. They played games together and wrestled, but Filo and Mea always won. The sons of Kakau became jealous of their cousins, so Kakau sent for the two sons of Kupenga and ordered them to go and catch a big sumu (a fish).
Filo and Mea went to the beach and collected all the waste they could find and threw it into the sea. It floated to the large sumu that was lying at the mouth of the channel. The fish ate it and swelled up. Then the two boys went out, caught the fish, and brought it ashore. Kakau was astonished and asked, “How did you boys manage to kill such a great fish?”
Kakau sent them out again, this time to kill the great Matuku, a bird that had caught their sister and carried her off to be his wife. The two boys went to Matuku and killed him and then started on their return with Sina, their sister. On their way they came to a big hole that led to the bottom of the sea. In their attempt to cross, Sina and one boy jumped over it, but the second brother fell in. The brother who remained with Sina told her to return to their father and to tell him, when she reached there, to go out that night from his house and he would see his two sons. Then he jumped into the hole. The boys and the Matuku went to the sky, where they may be seen with the sumu in the four-star constellations: Na Tangata, the boys; Te Manu, the bird husband of Sina; and Te Sumu, the fish they had caught. They can be seen above the islands of Samoa.