Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/379

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The Heron and the Turtle.

and would have little effect if not brought forth as true; a story, because it has always been told and heard, is not open to much doubt or criticism. But it may be safely said that to the natives a story is not a piece of history; the marvels are not very seriously taken, however much they are enjoyed; anything seems possible of course when magic is at work and when spirits are the agents; that there are such spirits as Qat, for example, is not doubted, and the story goes that he performed certain feats. I cannot, however, think that the natives seriously believe that birds and fish talk; I have never discovered from them that they do not distinguish between animate and inanimate things, between birds and beasts and men. When an owl in a story talks and cooks food, both actions are on a level, not of supposed fact but of fancy. The native mind is full of lively intelligence, and is by no means to be judged incapable of the invention of marvels and enjoyment of the flights of fancy; though in the highest flights it moves in accordance with generally accepted beliefs. There is in Florida and in Mota a title for a story to tell, tugu ni pitu, kakae lea, which marks the character of the narrative.

These stories are here divided into three classes: I. Animal Stories, concerned mostly with birds and fishes, as is natural in islands were mammals are very few; II. Stories containing Myths and Tales concerning the origin of things; III. Wonder Tales.

 

I. ANIMAL STORIES.

1. The Heron and the Turtle. Florida.

One day a Soo, Heron, caught his foot fast in the coral; the tide came in, but his neck was long. When the tide reached to the top of his neck there came along a Shark Come and save me, says the Soo. Wait a bit, says the Shark. There comes a Boila; Come and save my life, says the Soo; and the Boila says to him, Wait a bit, says he. There comes