Volume 25 1916 > Volume 25, No. 98 > A Tongan tradition, etc. by B. G. Mahony, p 67-70
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A TONGAN TRADITION, ETC.

The case of Romulus and Remus, abandoned as infants by their parents, but living to rise to great power in after years; and similarly perhaps of Moses, has its parallel in Tongan tradition.

The genealogies of the Tuitoga, or sacred rulers of Tonga, contain the following story:—

An infant born in the western part of Togatabu was of repulsive appearance to its parents, its head resembling that of a dove rather than that of a human. The father therefore took it in his canoe to the adjacent island, and there left it in the bush. A childless old couple happened to live on the island; and the following day the husband finding the infant took it home to his wife.

They adopted it, naming in Vei. As years went by the child grew up, but instead of being of repulsive appearance, developed into a most beautiful maiden.

The girl as she approached maturity was warned by her adopted parents to avoid always being seen by anyone, since if her presence should become known, she would certainly be taken away by one of the powerful chiefs. After a time, however, probably when she was about fifteen, two of the Toutai, or fishermen of rank of the Tuitoga, landing on the island surprised her at some task in the bush. She fled and concealed herself; but not, however, before they had time to realise her surpassing beauty.

On their return to Mua, the seat of the Tuitoga, they told of this girl of course, and a Matabule was sent immediately to bring her before the King.

The latter, on her arrival, happened to be amusing himself by beating a Nafa, or drum, while a number of women danced before him on the Malae. He signed to the girl to take her place among the rear row of dancers.

This she did. Straightway her beauty as well as the grace of her movements caught the eye of the Tuitoga, and he motioned to her to approach nearer and nearer.

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So struck was he that his beating lost its rythm, and becoming irregular, threw all the dancers into confusion, excepting Vei. She continued to dance on as gracefully as ever.

So enraptured was the King as she danced before him that his beating became faster and faster till, in his excitement, losing his grip of one stick it flew up and struck him on the brow, causing blood to flow.

This ended the dance immediately of course; but straightway Vei was taken to wife by the Tuitoga, and installed in the chief place in his household. From the fact of the wounding of the King's face she was named Vei Lavea Mata, and as such is known as the ancestress of the present Tuitoga, as well as of many of the noble families of Tonga.

This Tuitoga was Kau-ulu-fekai, whose body lay unburried while his sons pursued his murderers through the groups till they caught and slew them in Uea (Wallis Island).

Through an incident in this pursuit originated the right, spoken of by Marriner as possessed by the natives of Fotuna, of appropriating all the belongings of any Tongan vessel at the island.

This right was exercised quite recently in regard to the schooner Bamu from Tonga.

From a raid on Samoa, too, made by the Tongans in the same journey, originated the title Malietoa still held by one of the foremost chiefs of Samoa. 1

The successor to Kau-ulu-fekai to avoid a similar fate appointed a number of Viceroys throughout the islands, himself remaining as the sacred ruler of the group.

These Viceroys, however, had to bear the results of any unrest among the people of course, particularly Gata (or Ngata), of the family of Kanokubola, who acted as the Tuitoga's representative in all temporal matters.

From these Viceroys are descended the present chiefs of Tonga. As time went on the power of the Tuitoga waned while that of the vassel-chiefs waxed till Tukuaho, of the Kanokubola, became practically supreme in power, the Tuitoga by that time being but a figurehead to whom certain conventional acts of respect were paid, but little other notice taken.

As recounted by Marriner Tukuaho was killed by Finau Ulukalala of the Haa-gata-tubu, if I remember aright, an offshoot from the original Gata.

Finau reigned more or less supreme for a time; during which he openly threw off the control of the Tuitoga.

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Power, however, reverted to the family of Kano kubola, till in the first half of last century Malae-Kula of that family brought the whole group finally under his rule, and united it as a whole.

About 1864 the last of the Tuitoga, Laufilitoga, who had had any power at all, died. What little he had held had visibly declined with the advent of Christianity.

Till his death he was allowed by Malae-Kula the courtesy of being the nominal head of the kingdom, but from that time the house of the Tuitoga represented then by Kaleniuvalu, son of Laufilitoga, and now by Sioeli, grandson of the latter, has taken a subordinate place.

Malae-Kula later had himself proclaimed King under the title of George Tubou I., of Tonga, and granting a constitution to his people, gradually brought the kingdom into being as a State conducted on most modern lines.

On his death the present King, Taufa-ahau, succeeded through his mother as King George Tabou II. and has ably carried on the government of the State, which now stands as the last kingdom of the Pacific, self-governed and independent, existing under the protection of Great Britain as an example of the powers of adaption of the newest races of the earth.

1   See this ‘Journal,’ Vol. VIII., p. 231, for Samoan account of origin of the name of Malietoa.—EDITOR.