To Culture

To First Kings

[This story is adapted from M.Titifanua and C.M. Churchward, 1995, Tales of a Lonely Island, Institute for Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific (pp. 7-14).]

The Founding of Rotuma

A chief was living in Samoa, named Raho. He had three sisters. The name of the eldest was Mamaere; the middle one, Mamahioväre; the youngest, Mamafiarere. The youngest was the one that ruled over Savai'i, while the eldest was the one that ruled over the place where Raho lived.

Now it was the custom of the eldest sister, as soon as the sun had set [each evening], to go to the door of the house that faced the west, to sleep there; and as soon as the sun rose, she would go along to sleep at the door that faced the east.

Now after a short time Mamaere became pregnant; and everybody came to know that the woman was with child, but they were afraid to tell Raho about it, since the woman had no husband.

But, as time went on, Raho discovered that his sister was approaching confinement. Thereupon he gathered his people together and asked them who it was that was responsible for his sister's condition. To which the people replied that none of them had been near the woman. So Raho then told the people to start making preparations for the birth-feast.

By and by the woman's time arrived and her pains came on. So Raho sent word round and his people gathered together. But the birth-pains continued until night, and it was not until [the next morning], just at sunrise. that the woman was delivered. The baby was a girl. And then the baby rolled as far as the doorway that faced the east, and immediately sat up, and called out to her father, "Raho!"

The man asked [what the child wanted], to which [she] replied that she was hungry.

Raho then told his people to bring some food, and they brought what had been cooked for the child, namely a hand of bananas and a pig. So they got things ready and fed the child. But her mother was still having pains. And as soon as the child had finished eating, she got up and went out to play, saying to Raho, "I am going, Raho; and note that my name is Nujmaga."

By and by, as the day wore on, and the sun was on the point of setting, the woman gave birth to another baby girl. And the baby at once called out Raho's name, adding that she was hungry. So Raho told those who were attending to the cooking to bring some food, and the people brought another hand of bananas and a pig wherewith to feed the child. And no sooner had the child finished eating than she got up to go out to plan, saying to Raho, "My name is Nujka'u."

The two children also gave orders to Raho to refrain from calling them. If, however, a day should arrive when he should have a special task to be performed for him, then (but not 'till then) he was to call them.

Now Raho's second sister (Mamahioväre) had no children. But Raho had a daughter whose name was Vamarasi, who was married to a high chief in Samoa named Tu'toga. Tu'toga, moreover, had a Samoan wife [as well], And the Samoan wife became pregnant first, and was approaching the time of her confinement, before the fact that Vamarasi [also] was with child became noticeable. And the Samoans started to make preparations for the feast that would be held in honour of the Samoan woman's baby, without considering Vamarasi's baby. Raho did not like this--the Samoans preparing a birth-feast for the baby of their own kinswoman, while neglecting the baby of Vamarasi.

And so Raho made ready a present, and then sent for his two children (Nujmaga and Nujka'u). After a while these two girls came and asked Raho what it was that he wanted. To which Raho replied that he wanted Vamarasi's baby to be born before the Samoan woman's. "Unfortunately the woman is approaching the time of her confinement," said the two girls, "whereas the fact that Vamarasi is with child has only just become [apparent]."

But Raho still wanted Vamarasi to be delivered before the Samoan woman. So [finally] the two girls said, "It is a prodigious thing that is about to happen here in Savai'i--this change that you are going to bring about."

So when the Samoan woman's birth-pains began, the two girls went to her at once, and pressed on the feet of the [unborn] child, so that the child turned round and the woman's birth-pains ceased. The two girls then went immediately to Vamarasi, and pummelled her abdomen to bring on the birth, keeping at it until the woman succeeded in giving birth [to the baby]. The result was that the feast which the Samoans had got ready was given to the baby of Vamarasi, and was made the feast of the first-born. Now Vamarasi's baby was a girl, her name being Maiva.

When the feast was over, the Samoan woman's pains came on again. And after a while she gave birth to a boy, to whom they gave the name Fumaru.

As time went on these two children grew up, and one day they went to the beach to play, and began fishing for penu [a small variety of crab] named Tua'nakvalu. And as they continued fishing for penu, Maiva caught a red penu named Tua'nakvalu, which she thereupon took and put into a vessel of water. By and by Fumaru came and found the penu in the vessel of water, and picked it up and surreptitiously put into his mouth the penu that belonged to his sister. Afterwards Maiva came back, and found that her penu had been taken. So she went along and told Fumaru to drop her penu out of his mouth. But the boy refused to do so. So then Maiva went to her grandfather (Raho), crying, and telling [him] what her brother had done to her. Raho then pleaded with his granddaughter, but she would not relent.

Raho then sent for the twins again, and they came, and Raho told them what had happened to his granddaughter; and [he said that] he wanted to make a home for his granddaughter, which should be far away from Samoa.

Thereupon the twins filled two baskets with earth--a presentation basket and an ordinary basket. The name of the presentation basket was Fuarei, while the name of the ordinary basket was Fua'a. The twins then put these two baskets on board a canoe of aftea wood, and they, together with Raho and his household, got into the canoe and came to found this island of Rotuma.

Now it is said that when Raho came to found this island many high chiefs in Tonga and Samoa heard about it. And so, when Raho and his company left, a chief named Tokainiua (it is not known whether he was a Tongan or Samoan), accompanied by a number of others, went after Raho.

[By] and [by] Raho with his company came and found in the midst of the ocean a rock of great size, the two extremities of which were well above the water, while the middle was just awash. So the twins emptied out the presentation basket of earth on to the rock, [thus] forming an island.

This done, the twins left Raho and his company behind on the island, and took the [other] basket of earth and flew off [with it] towards Futuna. On and on the two girls flew till they got there, and then they emptied out the basket of earth and formed the island known as 'Arofi.

The twins then came back, and found that Raho and his people were still here, and they suggested to Raho that he should mark the island as his, in case another person should come later on and a dispute should arise. And so Raho marked the island as his by means of a green coconut-leaf tied round the fesi tree at Vakpäre, requesting the twins to go to Tonga to bring him some kava.

But, as soon as the twins had departed, Tokainiua and his company sighted this island, and thereupon directed their [canoe] towards it. They landed at Oinafa. By and by Tokainiua came to Malhaha, and discovered Raho's coconut-leaf tied round the fesi tree at Vakpäre, and [noticed that] it was still green. Thereupon he resorted to a strategem: he fetched a coconut-leaf that was already dry, and tied that round the tree to mark the island as his.

After a while Raho came and found Tokainiua standing by the fesi tree, having marked the island as his by means of a dry coconut-leaf. And so the two men began arguing. Raho said it was his land, while Tokainiua said it was his. Raho said it was he that had formed the land; but Tokainiua maintained that the land was his--his coconut-leaf had been fixed round the tree for a long time, while that of Raho [as shown by the fact that it was still green] had been put on quite recently.

Upon this [Tokainiua's successful challenge] Raho became angry and struck Tokainiua. But the Sa'aitu [a group spirits] came and held Raho back, and covered Tokainiua over at the foot of the fesi tree, and Raho did not see him again.

Raho then took it into his head to go and break up the island, so that Tokainiua should not have it. So Raho went along to the western end of the island, and took a digging-stick, and drove it into the ground and levered up the point, and [lo and behold the small islands of] Uea, Hatana and Hafliua sprang into being.

But the woman who lived in the scrub [Hanitemaus], observing that the land was about to he spoiled by Raho, came running towards him, and bowed herself at his feet, and besought him not to be angry, and not to spoil the land, for Tokainiua had told a lie, the land being really Raho's.

"That being so," replied Raho, "I will do as you request."

With that, he pulled his digging-stick out of the ground, put it on his shoulder, and returned to Malhaha.

[In doing this] Raho came [first] to Motusa. He then followed the inland road, going on until he reached the country behind the houses at Vai. There he let down his digging-stick, and dragged it towards the coast, and the place where he dragged the stick along became a watercourse, the name of which is the Watercourse of 'Alüstägtäge.

Raho then went down to the beach, but the kava was not there. Now the twins had arrived at Tonga, and had sent the kava plant which had then come [over the water] alone. But on arriving here, it had learned that Raho, in a fit of anger, had gone to spoil the island, and so the kava plant had left Valta [a part of the village of Pa'olo, in Oinafa district] and had gone inland, and had made its way to the queen at Fag'uta.

After a while the twins came back, but Raho had not yet had any kava to drink. So Raho sent them again, and once more they returned to Tonga, and brought some dry kava, wrapped in palm-leaves. Raho's kava was then prepared on top of the Kamea stone. And the bowl-like hollow is there even now on top of the rock, and there [nearby] is the spring [that supplied the water] with which the kava was mixed.

And after drinking the kava, then it was that Raho and his women-folk went to [live at] Hatana.

To Culture

To First Kings