Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/323

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Houses. Tree-houses.

the walls, and sometimes a tiny house on piles is built in the middle. In former days when a chief's dwelling-house or canoe-house was finished a man's head was taken for it as for a new canoe; a boy or woman was sometimes bought to be killed. It is a matter of tradition that men were crushed under the base of the great pillar of such a house, when it was set in its place. The tree-houses, vako, are not seen till Ysabel is reached, where they are needed as a refuge from the head-hunters. One of these to which Bishop Patteson mounted, was built at a height of ninety-four feet from the ground, and was approached by a ladder from a fortified rock below which the tree was rooted; the house, which had a stage outside it, was eighteen feet long, ten feet broad, and eight feet high. The houses at Santa Cruz, according to the account given of the first discovery, were round; they are now square, though round houses are said to be built. The only round house that has come under my notice was at Ha'ani in San Cristoval, one built to contain and shelter the village drums, and an excellent building. Sometimes in the Banks' Islands a gamal may be seen the rafters of which are curved. It may be well to notice here how the two words for house run through the islands; one, which in Malay is ruma, varying from that form in San Cristoval to 'ma in the Loyalty Islands and Santa Cruz; the other, which is whare in New Zealand, not by any means so common, but vale and hale in the New Hebrides, vale, vathe and va'e in the Solomon Islands[1]. The absence of ancient house-mounds has been observed (page 48), and accounted for by the little permanence of village sites. When a ruinous house is demolished to build another on the same site, it is found that the constant sweeping of the

  1. In Maewo, Aurora, 'the ima is the married man's residence. Within this house the cooking of the food for the family is done, and the married couples live. This house is known from the rest by having the front and back ends worked with cane, and more pains are expended on the building of it. The vale has no fire-place for cooking, and is mostly used as the apartment of the young females before marriage, and for stowing anything that may be inconvenient in the ima.'—Journal of Rev. C. Bice, 1886.