Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/377

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Wild Men.

caves in the mountains; they plant nothing, and eat snakes and lizards. They eat any coast man they can catch; they carry on their backs bags filled with pieces of obsidian, with which to pelt men whom they see, and they set nets round trees to catch men who have climbed them; they use spears also. In Saa they say there are Mumu in the forest, human, very small in stature, but very strong and swift; they have very long hair, and long nails, with which they tear the coast men to devour them; they go about in threes, a male, a female, and a child. Lastly, Saa men who have been in the 'thief-ships' have seen the Australian natives like the Mumu. In the New Hebrides, similar creatures are seen basking on the rocks of the slopes of the great volcano of Ambrym; even in the little island of Mae they used to be seen—for they are now extinct—on the Three Hills. In Lepers' Island the wild men are called Mae; they have long hair, long teeth, they dwell in caves, carry off pigs, and if they meet a man alone will seize and eat him. In the night they are heard crying in the valleys, and it is then said that the Mae is washing her child. The name shows some connexion with the superstition described (page 188), but they call no snake a mae, and these are men. However much these stories vary, the belief may be said to be general from Ysabel to Mae, just as stories of wild men have been current in New Zealand. Descriptions very much like these have their place in grave treatises on mankind. It may be said to be certain that the Melanesian belief has no foundation in present fact in the existence either of ape-like men or man-like apes; it may be a question whether the belief is founded on the memory of large simians in former seats of the Melanesian people. To myself, so far as it has any foundation at all in fact, it appears to be a fanciful exaggeration of the difference, which the coast people are much disposed to exaggerate, between themselves and the men of the uta, the inland tracts, who have no canoes and cannot swim, the true 'orang utan' or man of the woods, the 'man-bush' of pigeon-English.

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