Folk-Lore/Volume 2/Samoan Stories, 1



THE following Samoan stories were translated by the Rev. G. Pratt, for many years missionary on the island of Savaii, and author of a grammar and dictionary of the Samoan language. The MS. was presented to me by Mr. John Fraser, at Sydney, in July 1891, for the use of the Folk-lore Society. Unfortunately, it is unprovided with notes, and though I have been able to supply a few from G. Turner's Samoa, there are still some allusions and sentences which are not perfectly clear. It may be well to remind our readers that Samoa consists of a group of volcanic islands, the principal ones of which, in the direction from west to east, are Savaii, Upolu, Tutuila, Ofu, and Tau.

There was a woman called Fanga. She brought forth a daughter, whose name was Papa (flat). She had no vagina; her body was all in one. She was exceedingly beautiful, and many men desired to obtain Papa, but her husbands deserted her. Then she lived with another chief whose name was Olomataua. The chief Olomataua felt and he perceived that the woman was as one piece. He did not divorce her, because great was his love for the woman, because she was beautiful. The chief said one day to Papa, "Let us go to work." They went to work, and when their work was done they rested. Then they bathed, and went to their house and laid down. The woman slept soundly. The chief then felt the woman that he might know. Then he thought of a plan. He took a shark's tooth, and made an incision into the private parts of his wife, and left the shark's tooth in the part. It was said the shark's tooth became the private parts of the woman. The chief was rejoiced because he had got his wife. That is the tale of the woman. They began then to cohabit, and the woman became pregnant and bore a son, Ulufanuasesee by name. His father belonged to the conquered party. Aea-sisifo was the chief's name.[1] Aea-sasae was conqueror. Aea-sisifo was trodden down, and Ulufanuasesee ran away because his father the chief Aeasisifo was conquered. Ulufanuasesee ran away and came to Falelatai[2] and dwelt in the mountain.

Ulufanuasesee was always gliding on the waves at Mauu; that was his occupation. He saw the waves breaking at Fangaiofu; then he went down there to glide on the waves. He left his girdle of leaves and his hair-band on the beach while he was gliding. A certain lady, Sinalalofutu by name, with her attendant girls, went down there. The lady saw Ulufanuasesee,' and she fell in love with him. Then she took his leaf-girdle and his hair-band and hid them. Ulufanuasesee could not find his things, and he said: "Lady, be not angry; have any of you seen my things?" The lady said, "Chief, where did you leave your things.? We do not know." Lo! the woman continued to hide them. The chief again asked, "Lady, have you seen my things? Be quick, for I am going." Then she showed him his leaf-girdle and his hair-band. And the lady said, "Chief, what think you? Let us drink inland." Then they went and talked. Long did Sinalalofutu talk to Ulufanuasesee, saying: "What do you think ." Let us dwell together and I will be your wife." The chief then married her, and put away the other woman.

Sinalalofiitu became pregnant and brought forth two girls—twins. They were not separated but were joined together in their backs. Their names were: the one Ulu, the other Na. These were their names; o Ulumaona was called from the water which sprang from the ulu; it subsided {maona) and ran away towards the sea.[3] That was what their names arose from. They lived many months; the years were not known [till] the girls were grown up.

One day the girls said thus to their family: "Friends, when our family return from work let them first give us warning by crying out tulou,[4] and then throw down the log of firewood, lest we should be startled, for we are going to sleep." Then they slept. The family came down, did not give warning, but threw down their firewood. The girls were startled in their sleep, and ran outside, each by her own opening. Their bodies were separated by the intervening post, and they were parted from the other.[5] Each one ran away. They left that country.[6] The father cried out, "I am of the conquered party."

This is the story of the departure of Ulu and Ona,[7] who left their land and swam by sea and arrived at Tutuila. They dwelt at Tutuila. On a certain night there came a chief, Moamoanuia by name, who lived in the bush. He came to the ladies. He did not come in the light. The women said to the chief, "Come into the light." The chief answered, "I cannot enter; my eyes are dazzled by the light, for they are sore." They were not sore. It was his lie, that he might conceal his shame from the women; for he had a large nose like a cockscomb. That is the reason why he lived in the bush, that he might not be seen.

They spread their mats and lay down, and the chief slept between them; he faced the women. He turned to one woman and afterwards turned to the other. Then the chief Moamoanuia said to the women: "Women, do you keep awake, and when the cocks crow quickly awake me. I go off very early, lest my weak eyes should be dazzled by the sun."

The cocks crew and the women awoke the chief, saying, "Chief, awake!" The chief was startled, and went away into the bush, where he lived alone. He did thus for many nights, and both the women were were child by the chief. But they had not seen one another, because the chief went away by night.

Then one of them said to the other: "Lady, what do you think? Here we are near our confinements, and we have not seen who the chief is like." The chief came down one night, and the women dallied with him in order that he might sleep soundly. The chief became sleepy, and slept soundly. When it was morning the women went and pulled up the house blinds, and each stood at one end of the house. The house was light, for the sun shone into it. Then they woke up the chief, saying: "Moamoamuia, awake, it is morning." The chief was startled. The women saw his nose, and he ran off into the bush. The women laughed aloud, saying: "A god, a god!" They ran away and left that country. They swam out to sea because they knew he was a god. They swam between Tutuila and Manua,[8] brought forth in the water, deserted their children, and were carried by the current to Aleipata.[9] It is said they were changed into gods. The women swam on, and they saw light excrement floating by. One of the women [said], "Lady, that shall be my name." The other said, "What?" [She answered], "Taema"[10] Again they reached a sprit of a sail floating about. They swam on, and the sprit turned round and round. The other woman said, "What name?" The other dinswered, "Tiiafainga" (sportive sprit of a sail). These are their two names to each of them, Ulu and Ona their first names; Taema and Tilafainga their names afterwards. They continued to swim, and reached land.

This is the tale about the land named Pulotu.[11] They say it is the land of gods, [such as] Savea-siuleo.[12] He decrees wars; but it is not known whether it is a true country. Taema married Savea-siuleo. After some time she was prematurely delivered of Alnalutoto (clotted blood); this she wrapped up carefully and hid in the garden. After a day or two it was heard to cry. People ran to the place where it was buried, and they brought [away] the girl. She was called Nafanua (hid in the earth), because she was placed there when first born.[13] They brought it from the place in which it was placed. It could not be quieted; it cried for many days and nights. The chief Savea-siuleo ordered the toa tree {Casuarina equisetifolia) in Ongea to be cut down to quiet the girl with. The toa tree was cut down and given to the girl, but she was not quieted; she still continued to cry. Then the chief commanded to cut down the Toa-ina-loto to quiet the girl with. The chief ordered a bread-fruit tree to be brought first. They brought a tree, and the girl was quieted when they brought the tree to her; she cried no more. The girl grew to maturity, but the number of her years is not known because the tale is only by word of mouth.

Taema remembered the saying of her father, "Remember, I am of the conquered party." Taenia said to her child Nafanua, "I feel sorry for my father being in the conquered party." Nafanua asked her mother: "Who is your father? Where is he?" [She answered] "He is in Samoa." The girl was sorry for his being conquered, and she said: "Let us visit him."

Taema and Tilafainga swam away, and took with them the Toa-ina-loto. They swam in the sea and reached a land called Fiji. They heard tattooers going about in the land. Taema said to Tilafainga that they should call in at that land and make trial of the tree. They went ashore. Taema covered her breasts and the two went ashore. The two women fought all the women of Fiji. Taema sprang up with the tree, and Fiji was defeated. Three times was Fiji repulsed. Again they fought and Fiji was defeated, and [its people] were chased to the cave in which they dwelt. They reached the end of the cave when the lady struck her head against the basket of tattooing instruments. She took hold of it to take it down to the sea. They swam here to Samoa with the basket, and thus they sang: "The women are marked and the men left." The clam shell, used as a cup, fell, and they dived for it. When they rose up they had forgotten the song, "Tattoo the women, but leave the men", and they made a mistake, saying, "Tattoo the men, but leave the women". This was the origin of tattooing in Samoa; but for this, they would not have been tattooed.[14]

They reached Falea-lupo (a settlement at the west end of Savaii). Two boys were keeping watch there. The women said to the boys, "Children, where are your parents?" The boys answered, "They have gone to work." They said to them, "You go to them and say, 'There is a travelling party of ladies by the sea.' Come quickly; and when you come, do not throw down anything, lest we should be startled."

The boys went to fetch their parents. Their father said to them, "What is it?" They answered, "There is a travelling party of ladies by the sea, who say that you are to come quickly." The man ran down, for he doubted whether visitors had come to the house where the ladies were. He saluted them with, "You are come!" The ladies said, "Yes; come here. What is the noise [we hear]?" The man said, "It is caused by the cruelty of the conquering party." The women asked, "How so?" The man answered, "The state of the conquered party is very grievous. They kill people, and raise the finger-nails of others."[15] The ladies wept, and told the man that he should go to the place where the conquering(?) parties were defeated and raise themselves from subjection.[16] The man said, "Ladies, pray do not make use of such words, lest the conquering party should hear." The man suspected that they would be ill-used. The women still continued; great was the discussion.

Then all the people of the town collected together to show this thing. The people were distressed, because if they were again defeated they would not live. The women said, "Do not be distressed, but leave the matter with us two." The people agreed to this. Then they drove away the persecutors belonging to the conquering party, saying: "You go; we are going to revolt." The conquering party heard of it, and called a council. They were angry. The troops for the war collected; all Aea-sasae came. Aea-sisifo[17] said to the women: "How about this war?" The women answered thus: "When you fight, all of you confine yourselves to the inland [side] of the road, and we will confine ourselves to the seaward side of the road. Let none of you pass over to the sea side of the road, and neither of us will cross over to the land side of the road; we will not pass to and fro. You fight first and we will come after." They fought and [the] Aea-sisifo were defeated. The two women saw they were defeated, and that they came along anyhow by the sea side of the road. The women[18] made a rush and struck the man because he had broken the law. Then the women[18] made a stand; the women[18] held the troops in check. Aea-sasae was defeated and beaten. Aea-sasae was conquered and Aea-sisifo was victor.

This was why these two had come back from Pulotu: the saying of Ulufanuasesee, "I am of the conquered party; remember me." They brought their two professions, the profession of tattooing and the profession of war.[19] The profession of war was accomplished; their father was conqueror.

That tale is ended.

This is a Tale of the Origin of Tattooing.

These two left the district of Aea and came to the Itutaoa, and they came to Safotu.[20] The name of its chief was Seve. He was asleep, for it was night. Thus they called to him: "Seve, Seve! do you wish to engage in our profession?" When these two came the chief was startled, and he told his dream to the family, saying: "Friends, this is my dream. A travelling party of two called out to me, saying, 'Seve, do you wish to engage in our profession?'" When the morning was light, Seve said to his daughter, "Woman, let us go to the east to my friend." They came to Salelavalu to his friend Mafua, the name of the chief. The travelling ladies were with him, and Mafua was preparing food for them. He spread lots of good things before the travellers. Seve and his daughter entered the house of Mafua.[21] The ladies said: "You have come." Seve answered, "You are sitting there." Then they exchanged salutations. Mafua also saluted Seve, because he was his friend. Then he gave the fine mat of the daughter of Seve to the ladies. The ladies felt kindly towards Seve, and gave him some of the tattooing instruments. Then they went to their own town of Safotu with their profession, because they said: "Whether does Seve desire their profession?" That is one branch of the family of tattooers. Satulauena is its name. That is a very large family.

This is the Tale about Mafua.

He lived with the women. They said to Mafua, "Mafua, come and tattoo towards the sea. When you tattoo anyone let your kava be first; do not reject it in favour of another chief, but drink it yourself, for it is our kava to bring success to your profession."[22] Mafua went to tattoo. The kava was made and was first offered to Mafua. He refused it, and went on with his tattooing. The tattooing was accomplished, and again they made kava. The first cup was offered to Mafua, again he refused, saying: "Let the chief be first, and let my kava be after." He then went to his house, where the women were sitting who had the profession of tattooing. They said: "You rest from your work." Mafua answered: "You are wishing success." The women said: "Come and tell us whether you followed your profession as we directed." He replied: "I went, and they made kava and served it out, bringing me the first cup. I refused, telling them to take it to the chief They took it to him first, and I again tattooed. When it was done they again made kava, and brought me the first cup; again I refused [saying], that the chief should be served first. They took it first to the chief, and I came after." The women said to Mafua, "Mafua, you have broken covenant, you have given away the kava, for we told you that your kava should be first to make your occupation prosperous. You shall no more engage in the occupation because you have broken covenant." Then they took away from Mafua the occupation of tattooer; he did not tattoo again because he had broken covenant. Again he became poor, and regretted uselessly because the profitable occupation had passed from him.

Then the ladies again swam to Upolu, and reached the lee end of the island. There was a man fishing; Pule was his name. He said: "My love to the travelling ladies. Come, whence have you journeyed?" They replied: "You have spoken. We have come from Savaii." [He said] "Come here and take the fish I have caught to make a meal of." He gave all the fish he had caught to the travellers. The ladies asked, "Where is your home?"

Pule said, "It is some distance inland. Come and partake of some food." They went to his house and ate. Then he prepared a feast. Great was the love of Pule for the ladies. The ladies said to Pule, "Do you take our occupation of tattooers and make use of it. When you are engaged in it your kava must be first, to bring success to your occupation. Now we are going."

They went towards the east. They went along the mountain range till they reached the mountain of Olotapu, inland of Safata.[23] There was a man, Atapu by name, who was a skilful workman. He planted every kind of food, bananas, kava, yams, and taro. All looked very well. The travelling women came as Atapu was at work. Atapu looked as the travellers came in sight. Great was the astonishment and compassion of Atapu. He ran and spread good mats in the house. Then he said, "Come into the house and sit down while I pull up some kava." He brought some kava, and the women said: "The good wind cannot be concealed. It is the road of prosperity which is walked on." Atapu ran off to bring cold food, ripe bananas. They ate, and then Atapu said to the ladies: "Do you recline while I go to cook some food, for I am all alone." He then went off to prepare food. He prepared it nicely with delight. Then he brought it and addressed his word to those in the house: "Tuloutulon! awake, and take some food."

The women said, "Come here, you are wearied; I am sorry for you." They also said to him, "Atapu, when tomorrow comes we will give you our occupation, that you may engage in it." On the morrow they explained to him what he must do: "When kava is served out, your kava must be first, to bring success to your occupation," Then Atapu went to tattoo. The kava was served out, and Atapu asked them to bring a pair of water-bottles to him. They brought the water-bottles. They dealt out the kava, Atapu's was first. They brought it to him; he did not drink it, but poured it into one of the bottles. They also brought him cold food, Atapu told them to put it into a basket; but he did not eat nor drink until the tattooing was finished, as he intended to take the food to the ladies who had given him orders. When he finished tattooing, they brought more kava; Atapu's was first. He put it into the other bottle. Then they brought food and native property. Atapu did not eat, for he meant it all for the ladies.

He went inland [and found] the ladies were seated each one by a post in the doorway of the house. They said, "You have rested from work." He replied, "You are wishing success." They said, "Come and tell us how you did your work." He answered, "I went, and they prepared the morning kava. My kava was first, and I poured it into a bottle; and this cold food I did not eat, but kept it to bring to you two. Then I tattooed. When it was done they again prepared kava, and my cup was first; and I poured it into the second bottle; also I did not eat the food until we should all eat together," Great was their affection for him, and they said: "Love to you! It is the road of prosperity which is travelled."

Then they had their meal. When it was done they said to him, "Atapu, very pleasing is your kind conduct. Now we are going, and we leave these things that you may properly work at your profession. Although Tulauena engaged in it, his work was incomplete; he will be under you."

These are the two great branches of the family: Sa-Tulauena is one great branch, the king of which is Seve; and Pe-o-Sa-sua is the other great branch, the king of which is Atapu.

That is the end.

  1. Above he is called Olomataua. In another story Aea is called a district—aea-sisifo and aea-sasae can mean western and eastern Aea respectively; so perhaps aea-sisifo was really the district over which Olomataua ruled and Aea-sasae was the country of the conquering party.
  2. The house of Latai, a village in Upolu.
  3. The word can also be divided o ulu ma o na, Ulu and Na.
  4. An apologetic word used on entering the house of a god, or when about to make a sudden noise, or on beginning a speech. (Sam. Dict., s. v.)
  5. A Samoan house is something like a gigantic bee-hive, thiityfive feet in diameter, raised from the ground by a number of short posts at intervals of four feet from each other all round. The spaces between the posts are shut in at night by roughly plaited cocoa-nut leaf blinds. During the day the blinds are pulled up. (Turner, p. 152.)
  6. Mr. Turner has a variant of this story. Taema and Titi were the names of two household gods in a family at the east end of the Samoan group. They were twins and Siamese. Their bodies were united back to back. They swam from the east, and as they came along the one said to the other: "What a pity it is that we can only hear each other's voice but cannot see each other's face!" On this they were struck by a wave which cleaved asunder the joining and separated them. Members of the family going on a journey were supposed to have these gods with them as their guardian angels. Everything double—such as a double yam, etc.—was sacred, and not to be used under penalty of death. It was also forbidden for any member of the family to sit back to back, lest it should be considered mockery and insult to the gods, and incur their displeasure. (Turner, p. 56.)
  7. The MS. has O le tala lenei le teva a Ulu and Ona. The "and" is written over an erased ma, and Ona should, I think, be read o Na.
  8. This name embraces Ofu, Tau, and another small island at the east end of the Samoan group. Manua means wounded. As the story runs, the rocks and the earth married, and had a child, which, when born, was covered with wounds. {Turner, p. 223.)
  9. A district at the east end of Upolu.
  10. Tae (excrement). Turner translates Taema by "glistening black".
  11. The Hades of the Samoans, Tongans, and Fijians. Its meaning suggests a pleasant, agreeable, beautiful place.
  12. "Savea of the Echo {siuleo)" was king of the lower regions. The upper part of his body was human, and reclined in a house in company with the chiefs who gathered round him: the lower part was fishy, and stretched away into the sea. {Turner, p. 259.)
  13. Na-fanua (hidden inland) was the name of a goddess of a district in the west end of Savaii. She was the daughter of Savea-siuleo, the god of Pulotu, and was hidden inland, or in the bush, when an infant, by her mother, who was ashamed of her illegitimate birth. {Turner, p. 38.)
  14. Taema and Tilafainga (the sportive) were the goddesses of the tattooers. They swam from Fiji to introduce the craft to Samoa, and on leaving Fiji were commissioned to sing all the way: "Tattoo the women, but not the men." They got muddled over it in the long journey, and arrived at Samoa singing, "Tattoo the men, and not the women. And hence the universal exercise of the blackening art on the men rather than on the women. (Turner, p. 55.)
  15. In a story about Nafanua, it is said she came from Pulotu at a time when the ruling power was so oppressive as to compel the people to climb cocoa-nut trees with their feet upwards, their heads downwards, and to pluck the nuts with their toes. . {Turner, p. 39.)
  16. The sentence is unintelligible. It should rather run, "and told the man he should go to the place where the conquered parties, were defeated, and induce them to raise themselves from subjection".
  17. See note i, p. 2.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 MS., "the woman."
  19. It looks as though Taema, one of the goddesses of tattooing, had been,'confounded with Taema, a war-god, sometimes incarnate in the kingfisher bird, sometimes present in a bundle of sharks' teeth. (Cf. Turner, pp. 54, 55-)
  20. The capital of Itu-taoa, which was the name for the north side of Savaii. {Turner, p. 255.)
  21. The MS. has Seve, obviously an error.
  22. Kava is always offered to persons in order of rank, beginning with the highest.
  23. A harbour on the south side of Upolu.