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Ethnology of Tokelau Islands



The tales of Tokelau contain many references to mythological characters and events found in tales from other parts of Polynesia. Many myths mention voyages to Fiji and the people found there, a common feature of Samoan tales. Elements characteristic of myths of the Cook Islands and New Zealand are often incorporated in basically Samoan tales. The only local stories are those concerning the nature spirits inhabiting specific spots on the islands (p. 61).

The most frequently mentioned figure is Sina, who is the sister of Maui in the most wide-spread Polynesian story. She is sometimes associated with the moon as its goddess and with Tinirau or Tinilau whom she marries. In western Polynesia, as in the tale of Sinalangi given below (p. 81), she is the daughter of Tangaloa and descends to earth.

The following tales heard in Tokelau are derived from Samoa or Tonga: The courting of Sina, princess of Fiji, by Tinilau, a chief of Vavau (5); the story of the pearl shell (9, p. 243) in which Alo'alo, son of the sun, marries Sina, the Fijian princess (the Tokelau version adds Kui, a blind woman, who appears in myths of Tahiti and the Cook Islands); how counting came to be as it is (9, 32) in which the appearance of the snake (ngata) is obviously from Samoa; and the tale of Tae-a-Tangaloa which contains an element of the creation stories of Samoa and Tonga.

The story of Manini, the fish, put together after it was killed by Tinilau, is found in Tonga (6) and Rotuma (15). How fish got their colors (5) is found in western Polynesia and the Cook Islands. In this myth Sina loses valuable property of her parents and is carried away by a fish, shark, or turtle, which deserts her for the insult of touching food to his head, but which finally returns or is succeeded by another sea creature that carries her to the land of Tinilau. Her restoration to her parents by her brother, Lupe, is part of the fundamental Sina episode in the Maui myths. Except for the tattooing of the fish this myth is more closely parallel to the similar story in other islands than any Tokelau tale.

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Sina Myths

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.

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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.

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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.

The Story of Tae-A-Tangaloa

Once Fakataka and his wife, Paua, and Luafatu and his wife, Kui, were traveling in a canoe from Fakaofu to Fiji. A quarrel arose between the two couples which finally resulted in a fight. Fakataka and Paua jumped from the canoe and went down to the bottom of the sea, where they remained as the shells called fasua and paua.

Kui and Luafatu continued in their canoe toward Fiji, but they encountered a great storm. The canoe sank and Luafatu was thrown out and drowned. His body sank to the floor of the ocean and became a rock (fatu). Kui swam through the storm, praying that she might set her foot on land: “ko au, ko au, ko Kui e oku lunga, e oku lalo, ke akahi toku vae ke tu ki he motu” (I … I … Kui. My kicking above, my kicking below, may my foot stand on an island).

Soon she came to the reef of an island and crawled on to it. Kui was pregnant, and when she came to a hole (tafeta) in the reef, she lay down and gave birth to her child and then walked to the beach and died.

Tangaloa, in the sky, saw the new-born child dying on the reef below and sent down the snipe, Tuli, to name it. Tuli flew down with two gifts for the child, a small adz (atupa) and a long-handled ax (ualoa). When he came upon the baby he called it Tae-a-Tangaloa and named the parts of its body after himself; calling the knee tuli vae; the elbow tuli lima, the head tuli ulu, and naming the other parts in the same way.

The child, Tae-a-Tangaloa, walked ashore, and on the beach he found the pool of blood left by his mother and her dead body. Then he walked among the trees along the shore and came upon Kui Kava, a carpenter, who was making a canoe with the help of his son, Pepe-le-kava. Tae-a-Tangaloa regarded the hull they were piecing together and said to Kui Kava, “Your canoe is crooked.” Kui Kava became angry and replied, “You are an evil boy. I am the chief canoe builder and yet you tell me my canoe is crooked.” Tae-a-Tangaloa repeated many times that the canoe was made out of line, and at last Kui Kava came and stood with him at the end of the canoe and saw that Tae-a-Tangaloa was right. Kui Kava asked Tae-a-Tangaloa to remain with him and help to build the canoe with his ax and adz.

Tae-a-Tangaloa set to work with the carpenter. First he laid down several short coconut logs in a row, as a cradle for the hull, while he fitted the sections of the hull in page 86 line. But Pepe-le-kava, angry because Tae-a-Tangaloa had found his father's canoe crooked, put his foot on an end of one of the logs and threw the section resting on it out of line. When Tae-a-Tangaloa found they had made a mistake, he commenced again to fit the hull; but each time he finished he found the sections would not join. Working again to make the canoe right, he saw Pepe-le-kava tipping a section by pressing down one of the logs with his foot, and killed him with his ax. After this, Tae-a-Tangaloa finished the canoe in three days.

When this was done, Tae-a-Tangaloa took the body of Pepe-le-kava to Tangaloa and asked that the boy's life be restored. They returned to the island of Kui Kava, where Tae-a-Tangaloa found the people sailing for Fiji. He stood in the canoe passage as the canoes filed out to sea and requested each one to take him in the canoe, but each refused because he was too young. As the last canoe went out to the reef, Tae-a-Tangaloa offered to go with them as living food (oso o te vaka) to be eaten by the party during the journey; and he was taken.

During the voyage a great storm arose and many of the canoes sank. Tae-a-Tangaloa stood up in his canoe and prayed to Tangaloa to save them from the strength of the waves: “Tangaloa, kua ita kuku ki faitalia kae tafia, tafia, tafia” (Tangaloa, why does your anger seize us? Let it be driven away). Then the water became calm, but the people in the canoe demanded that they should eat the man who had offered to come as food. Tae-a-Tangaloa stood up again in the canoe and prayed to Tangaloa for food, and it fell from the sky into the canoe. The people ate and then turned to Tae-a-Tangaloa and cried that they were thirsty. He told them to drink the water that had leaked into the canoe, and when they tasted it they found that it was fresh and drank.

With plenty of food and a fair wind they traveled on and finally came in sight of Fiji. Near the passage lived the high chief, Tui Viti, who destroyed all canoes which came to his island. Tae-a-Tangaloa stood in the canoe again and said to the people, “When Tui Viti lifts his hand, do not look at him but look at me.” (Tui Viti lifted his right hand in signal to the entering canoes; the crews raised their hands in salute, and fell dead.) When Tae-a-Tangaloa came to the passage, the people in the canoe all looked at him and he recited:

Sua, lau putuputu lau manunu
Kaho ia ka he kaho lakulu
Talotalo ki le tua i manunu. Sua.
Sua, sue ma tukutukua mataseua
Kae mulisau ma le tokamea
Tu ki tai se kava se ula ma ke
Tapatapa keli ake te ika he
Palaoa e fakatalau ki te taotao
Amakula ko ai le ia le kava ola
Koa ia le ia le kava kona ui ifo
Aliki kei na ola ko au ko
Tae-a-Tangaloa. Sua.

At the end of this recitation Tui Viti died. Tae-a-Tangaloa went ashore and brought back to life all the people whom Tui Viti had killed as they arrived at his island and had hung from trees. He took a young coconut and the end of a coconut leaf and went to the place where Tui Viti had died. He fanned the old chief with the leaf and broke the young nut, pouring the juice over Tui Viti's face, and brought him back to life. Tui Viti ruled again over his island and married Te Malamafitakia13, the daughter of Tae-a-Tangaloa.

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The Story of Pupunatavai 14

Once there was a married couple of the same name, Pupunatavai. With them lived a spirit, Matapula, who noticed that Pupunatavai, the woman, was pregnant; and he began to count her months. At the approach of the last month, Matapula sent a message to this woman: “When you give birth to your baby, you must send it to me to eat.” When the child came, she did as Matapula had ordered and sent the baby to him; and he ate it.

Some time later Matapula noticed that Pupunatavai was pregnant again, and he counted the months of pregnancy until it was about time for the child to arrive. Again he sent his servants with the message, “Pupunatavai, if you are going to have another child you must send it to me to eat.” The child was born not long after Matapula's servants had delivered the message, and Pupunatavai sent her second child to Matapula, who ate this one also. Her pregnancies continued, and each time Matapula sent his servants with the same message and each time the child was sent for Matapula to eat, as soon as it was born. This went on until Matapula had eaten nine children of Pupunatavai.

When the tenth child was about to be born, Matapula sent his servants as usual to Pupunatavai with the demand for the child. But the child still in its mother's womb heard what the servants had told her and sang to her:

Punapunatevae … e
Auma ia ko te tamaliki.
Ke faiai ko te kava.
Fakatali mai koe.
Ke fano ifo au.
The swelling of the child.
Make the kava.
You wait here,
I shall come down.

Then the child said to his mother, “Where is the place to go down?” The mother answered, “Come straightway from my foot.” But the child replied, “No, I do not wish to come from the foot because the legs always stand in the excrement of birds and in dirty things.” And he shouted, “Where is the way to come out?” Then the mother replied, “You must come out from my hand.” But the baby answered, “No, I do not wish to come out from your hand because the hand always smells of the eggs of the lice in the hair.” And again he asked loudly, “Where am I to come out?” Then his mother said, “You had best come out as all people are born, from between a woman's legs.” Then the child was born and a tall man stood before Pupunatavai.

This son of Pupunatavai asked the two servants of Matapula, “Are you the two who came with Matapula's message? You know I am a strong man and can break you two into pieces in no time. I can even break your legs.” And with that he broke the legs of one servant and the jaw of the other servant and sent them away. The servant with the broken jaw ran to his master, while the other crawled. When the first arrived, Matapula asked him, “Where is the child I sent you to bring here?” The servant tried to reply, but all he could do was to make unintelligible sounds. Then the second servant arrived, dragging himself along with his hands, and he told his master all that had occurred—how the child had talked to them from his mother's womb and how, when it was born, there stood before them a giant who broke the legs of one of them and the jaw of the other.

Upon hearing this, Matapula beat his log drum and summoned all his people. They assembled at his house, and the giant child came with them. Matapula stood before his people. To show them his strength he seized a great stick and brandished it over his head, but no stones moved where he stood, and the people saw that he was weak in his legs.

Then Vaea, the newly born giant, took the stick from Matapula and told him to sit down. He brandished the stick and all the stones flew away. Matapula became alarmed and shouted, “No giants in the world or in the sky will come and fight with the strong man, Vaea.” Matapula's people abandoned him, and Vaea returned to his mother.

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That evening Vaea asked his sister to go and catch some fish for him. The girl took her torch and went down to the sea where she saw a canoe approaching. The canoe contained Malokilafulu, a giant, and his brothers, Tauaputuputu, Tauatiniulu, Talofialekava, and their sister, Apakula. They came up to the reef but could not beach their canoe. Vaea's sister ran back to tell Vaea and fell weeping. Vaea said to her, “Do not cry for me or be afraid.”

The giants thought that no one had seen them arrive in the dark, so they anchored their canoe and went to sleep in it. Vaea went down to the sea, picked up the anchored canoe by one finger, set it on the shore, and slept beside it. During the night one of the sleeping giants was awakened by a dream. He aroused the rest and said, “My dream is that we bailed our canoe on the shore and not on the land.” When he finished, his brothers told their dreams; each one had dreamed the same thing. Malokilafulu said, “We are still in the night, but tomorrow we shall eat the liver of Vaea.”

With the rising of the sun they found that they had been taken into Vaea's house. They were very frightened and pleaded with Vaea not to kill them. Malokilafulu promised their sister, Apakula, to Vaea if he would let them live. Vaea married Apakula.

After he had been married for some time, he said to the four brothers, “I want to go and look at some other islands. You wait here and live with your sister.” Then he said to his wife, “If you have a son born to us while I am away, you must give him my name; but if you have a daughter, you may name her as you wish.” Apakula lived with her brother, Malokilafulu, who was angry when she named her baby boy Vaea. He went to his brothers and told them that Apakula had a son whom she had named Vaea and that they must plan to kill him.

When Malokilafulu was not with them one day, the brothers told their sister all that Malokilafulu planned against her son. When Malokilafulu returned to her house, Apakula said, “If you are angry with me and wish to kill my son, you must bring me his heart.” Malokilafulu immediately went out of the house. He prepared some fibers of coconut husk to make a sennit rope and spread them out on the ground. Then he poured water from a coconut shell over them and returned to his place in the house of the brothers. “Did Apakula's baby break my fibers?” he asked them. But their answer was that no child had come near the fibers. Then he ordered them to bring the baby to him, saying that he wished to kill it, for if he did not, the child would go to its father. The baby was brought, and while the brothers were sitting in the house, Malokilafulu beat the child to death with a club.

Apakula came to the house and asked for the heart of her baby. They wrapped it in tapa and gave it to her. She carried it out and went to the reef, where she cried:

Sihusihu launiu
Mau kau fakalava
Ko leo lauatau
O laku tama.

Kai ke ko puakina atu
Takumea nei fatu manava
Namaumau ete mea te alofa.

She dived into the sea and swam to the place where Vaea had gone to live. She related to him the story of her child and gave him the heart. Vaea restored the child to life. Then Apakula told him that all her brothers loved her except Malokilafulu, who had been very cruel and angry with her. Vaea said, “We shall return to our land and fight.” So he, his wife and child, and three boys—Fakataufili, Vakataufiki, and Lae—whom he had taught to be clever in fighting and quick in running, set out for home.

When they came to their land where the giant brothers were living, Apakula pointed out to Vaea the brothers who had been kind to her and then Malokilafulu. Vaea and the three boys went to the house of the giants and started to fight. Apakula hid under a rough coconut leaf on the canoe. Malokilafulu ran away from Vaea to the place where the canoe was and stood by the mat under which Apakula was hiding. She recognized her brother's legs and slashed at them with an adz. He cried out, “Apakula e lofuatini.” His sister replied, “Ko koe tena na e te pofepoa.” Then she killed him with her adz.

10 Such a desire for special foods on the part of pregnant women is called an umiti by the Tokelau people, and the greatest effort is made to fulfill such desires.

11 Apaitoa, the name of Sinalangi's son.

12 Done by drawing the corners of the mouth back over the teeth while the lips are kept shut. A common Tokelau custom to signify that something is desired or to call a person.

13 The daughter of Tae-a-Tangaloa appears in the story without any reference to her origin or how she came to be in Fiji.

14 Pupunatavai was said to mean “one wind”; literally, it means “a spring”. In Vaea's song it is given as punapuna te vai.