Volume 27 1918 > Volume 27, No. 105 > Traditions of and notes on the Paumotu (or Tuamotu) Islands. Part I, collected by Pere Herve Audran, p 26-35
                                                                                             Previous | Next   

- 26

[In the following paper by Père Hervé, we regret that he has not translated the several songs and other sentences in the dialect of the Paumotu Islands. In many cases the dialect is so like (sometimes exact) the Maori of New Zealand, that the sense is easily seen. But for all that we should have liked to have Père Harvé's own translation.—EDITOR.]

MOEAVA is, without doubt, the greatest hero of the Paumotu Group; the greatest navigator and warrior. His renown is great in all the islands of the archipelago.

He was born about twenty generations ago at Takaroa, known also under the name of Takapua. He was the son of Kanaparua and of Ruritau (called also Puna-keu-ariki). His father was originally of Hao Island, and his mother of Takaroa. They had many children, among others, Tangaroa-tiraora and Moeava.

Tangaroa, the eldest of the family, had for wife Korare (called also Mau-te-kaunuku), who was born at Hao Island—say some, others at Takume Island. She gave him five children, four boys and a girl, whose names were Tangihia-ariki, 1 Parepare, Rongo-tama, Reipu, and Tu-tapu-hoa-atua (the daughter). Early left orphans, Moeava adopted these children and loved them as their father. But he was a man too fond of adventures and navigation among distant islands to remain permanently in his natal island. He was the equal, without exageration, of a long-voyage captain, and on his famous vessel, the ‘Muri-henua,’ he visited all the surrounding archipelagoes. One after another he visited the numerous islands scattered over that immense liquid plain that forms the Pacific Ocean. According to - 27 tradition he was a navigator beyond compare, a skilful seaman of the first order—in a word, a veritable sea-wolf. One can say of him with truth that he was as good a sailor as brave warrior. He visited Hao Island, the home of his father, to make acquaintance with his numerous relatives in that island, and lived a certain time with them in the ancient village of Vainono, situated at the extreme end of the island. The taste, or rather the passion, for voyaging never left him. From Hao, he proceeded to Napuka Island, and made a lengthy sojourn there. It was here that he met one named Huarei, whom he married, and she presented him with a child named Kehauri.

Sometime after, desiring to revisit his home and his adopted children, he launched his vessel, embarked his wife and child, and steered for Takaroa Island. On return to this island, he had many troubles, for the children of Tangaroa (whom he had adopted), who prided themselves on their rights of seniority, were not able to bear for long with the newly arrived cousin, born as he was at Napuka, far from Takaroa, and said to be the last of the Tuamotus; they showed little respect or esteem towards him. Kehauri on his part felt deeply, and with sorrow, the sentiments of Tangihia-ariki and his brothers towards him—he felt humiliated and offended. … . From day to day the situation became more strained between the cousins. Kehauri's indignation only awaited an occasion to put fire to the powder. That occasion was not long in presenting itself. It was about the head of a turtle of which Kehauri was deprived of his share. A violent quarrel arose, which was nearly degenerating into a pugilistic encounter and a fratricidal murder. Kehauri would not admit at any price—he the only and legitimate son of Moeava—that his father gave the turtle head to his adopted son, to Tangihia-ariki.

All the world knows that the turtle is royal food in Polynesia—the head was exclusively and of right reserved for the chief of the marae, where it was offered to the divinity before cutting up and placing in the oven. Now Tangihia-ariki, of Takaroa, was not only king, but tahua or chief-priest, and also proprietor of the marae named Rangifaoa, built on the land called Matiti-marumaru in the district of Te Vavaro. He therefore refused the turtle's head to Kehauri, saying ironically if he desired it he had but to go to his own marae at Napuka. There he was master; at home, and would be able to satisfy his desire to satiety, but at Takaroa he should not have any.

Profoundly vexed and mortified to the last degree by this signal refusal, a strong jealousy arose between the two cousins. Kehauri would never pardon Tangihia-ariki. Not able to suffer further such an insult on the part of his cousin, Kehauri urgently demanded with tears to return to his native isle, Napuka. His mother, Huarei, tried in vain to calm him and make him understand that the turtle head belonged of right to Tangihia-ariki, who was the eldest of the family, - 28 and in consequence Kehauri had no claim to it. But no reasoning prevailed; it had on the contrary the effect of further exasperating him. He replied to his mother in these outrageous words, “Taku nanu nei e i te po i Havaiki.” Tangihia-ariki heard these words and reported them to Moeava on his return home. He in his turn essayed to reconcile the two cousins, without avail; so nothing could be done under the circumstances. Finally Kehauri obtained his ardent desire to return to his country. It was Moeava himself, always brave and intrepid to undertake distant voyages, who undertook to take Kehauri home. Accompanied by his wife Huarei, who could not resist the pleasure of again seeing her “fenua-fanau’ (or birth place) and her ‘fetii,’ he took Kehauri on board his vessel ‘Muri-henua’ to Napuka Island.

Moeava, in consequence of his wars right and left—and he was always victorious—in many islands which he had subjugated, putting them to ransom or ravaging them, ended by making numerous enemies. Learning, no doubt, of his absence from Takaroa, the latter profited by this to enter into a league, and made a descent on the island of their common enemy. It was composed, so to say, of all the people of the western and central isles of the Tuamotu Group, from Rangiora, Kaukura, Kauehi, Apataki, Fakarava, Makemo, Anaa, and from islands much further away named Marama. They numbered at least eighteen tini-tangata (or tribes) who participated in this revengeful invasion of Takaroa. The following were the principal peoples that took part in the expedition, the memory of which has been handed down by tradition:—

  • Te Tini o Muta
  • Te Tini o Parakau
  • Te Tini o Taramoa
  • Te Tini o Goio (Ngoio)
  • Te Tini o Tuakarahi
  • Te Tini o Togagi (Tongangi)
  • Te Tini o Tuhirangi
  • Te Tini o Mauri-o-keha
  • Te Tini o Pakou
  • Te Tini o Tokorenga
  • Te Tini o Tautu
  • Te Tini o Tu-te-riha
  • Te Tini o Fakararo
  • Te Tini o Tuaero-kura
  • Te Tini o Marioka
  • Te Tini o Marivaka
  • Te Tini o Kaua
  • Te Tini o Kauro

All these tini-tangata, says the tradition, came from Marama (no Marama anae ratou), a country situated to the west. Marama, in most of the dialects of Polynesian signifies ‘moon,’ ‘month,’ ‘learned’; but where in Oceania is that land to be found? The chart of the celebrated Tahitian, Tupaia, which is the chief geographical monument of the Polynesians, does not make any mention of such a place. 2

- 29

The hostile invaders ravaged Takaroa Island from end to end, and, to assuage their hate of Moeava, they even killed his adopted children. Three only were massacred by Muta and his men. Two others, Reipu, the youngest of the boys, and his sister Tu-tapu-hoa-atua, succeeded by an extraordinary chance in escaping the execution of their brothers. They fled, and concealed themselves on the approach of the enemy fleet; they fled to the far part of Takaroa, to Te Matahoa, by the deep sea, to the place known as Matiti-marumaru at the corner of the marae of Rangifaoa. That place has many names, among others, Te Poriu-i-te-tara-o-Rangifaoa, Te Muri-a-vai, and Marino-te-rangi. It was there Moeava had constructed his beloved and celebrated vessel, ‘Muri-henua.’

The two climbed up into a Kakaia tree (Guettarda speciosa), a tree that was completely covered by a creeping plant with redish branches, a species of cuscute, which the natives call Kainoka. They carefully hid themselves, and remained unperceived by the invaders of the island. Muta and his people in spite of their search were not able to discover them. Reipu and his sister named that Kakaia tree ‘Rau-mihi,’ that is mihihanga-metua, the tree of sorrow, or, of compassion, for their father, Moeava.

It was during these sad circumstances that they composed the following chant:—

1 E pupuni fakakitekite ko maha, u, u,
E, he pupuni to ki te pohoriu, u!
E, he pupuni ki te pohoriu ko mahatu, u,
He pupuni e rue ka pupuni e.
2 E pupuni fakakitekite ko maha, u, u,
E, he pupuni to ki te pohoriu, u!
E, he pupuni ki te pohoriu ko mahatu, u,
He pupuni to rau e i ai i.
3 Tangihia he ariki, ko mahatu, u,
E, he pupuni to ri te pohoriu ko mahatu u,
4 E Parepare he ariki ko mahatu u,
E, he pupuni to ri te pohoriu ko mahatu u!
5 Rongotama he ariki, ko mahatu u!
E he pupuni to ri te pohoriu ko mahatu u,
E pupuni to rau e i ai i!

They thus escaped the massacre by Muta, whose victims were Tangihia-ariki, Parepare, and Rongo-tama (mentioned in the song). Only one of the tini (or tribes), that of Tautu, did not take part in the massacre. The daughter of Tautu, named Rangahua, who accompanied her father in the fleet, frequently landed; and was a witness of the murders committed by Muta and his tini. In passing before the bodies, extended face downward near each other, she perceived that there were only three (of Moeava's foster children), one therefore was - 30 missing. In examining their tattooing she divined which (of the sons) was missing.

The tattooing, in effect, was not only a decoration among the ancient Polynesians, but before all a distinctive and honorific sign accorded not exactly to everybody, but to he who merited it, either from his degree of dignity or from the valour of his exploits. Now, Rangahua in seeing on the first of these bodies the “royal mark” (moko a hia), she concluded that it was Tangihia-ariki, for he alone was entitled to that mark. On the second body she saw the pareke, a distinction awarded to the brave (toa). “Ah! said she, this is Parepare.” The third bore the tavaro the sign of Rongo-tama, where is therefore the putaka ia, that is, a design of the Tiki, belonging to Reipu? It was not there. She knew from this quite well that it was Reipu that they had not discovered—he must be hidden somewhere safe and sound.

After having killed and cooked the bodies in a great native oven, the fires of which lasted many days, a portion of the human flesh was taken to Tautu. But he would not eat it—he caused it to be moored at the stern of his vessel without touching it.

After many days, if not weeks of anxiety, and overcome by hunger, Reipu and his sister descended from their aerial concealment, and returned secretly to the edge of the lagoon to ascertain if Muta was still there. They saw no sign, and therefore concluded that they had departed. As a matter of fact he had already put to sea with all his tini-tangata that had accompanied him, save Tautu, who appeared about to form a separate expedition. After all, and due to prudence, Reipu and his sister after having satisfied their hunger climbed up again into their ‘Rau-mihi’ shelter.

Just about this time Reipu caught two birds named taketake, which the natives to day call kirarahu, otherwise sea-gulls. After, no doubt, having confided to them his message, he started them off for Napuka Island to inform Moeava of the grave events that had taken place at Takaroa, and which he would at once have to avenge. The following is the pehe (or song) chanted by Reipu in despatching these extraordinary ‘voyager-pigeons,’ formerly, no doubt, brought from Napuka by Huarei.

1 Taketake taku manu tuku mai e te i po rohoeru e e!
Taketake pirikura o hoe turaga te hipo
Taketake pirikura, taketake taku manu.
2 Taketake taku manu, tuku mai e te i po rohoeru e e!
Taketake pirikura o hoe turaga te hipo.
Taketake pirikura, fanau a vahine Huarei!
E vahine meitaki te i po rohoeru e e!
- 31
3 E aha viranoa taketake pirikura o hoe
Turaga te hipo 3 taketake pirikura.
4 Fanau a tama Tagihia he tagata meitaki.
Te hipo rohoeru e e!
E aha higa noa taketake pirikura o hoe
Turaga te hipo taketake pirikura!
5 Fanau a tama Parepare he tagate meitaki
Te hi po rohoeru e e!
E aha Toa noa, taketake pirikura o hoe
Turaga te hipo taketake pirikura.
6 Fanau a tama Rogotama he tagata meitaki.
Te ipo rohoeru e e!
E aha karo noa, taketake o hoe.
Turaga te hipo taketake pirikura
Fanau a tama.
7 Fanau a tama Reipu he tagata meitaki
Te ipo rohoeru e e!
E aha horo noa, taketake pirikura o hoe
Turaga tehipo, taketake, pirikura.
Fanau a tama.
8 Fanau a tama Moeava he tagata meitaki.
Te ipo rohoeru e e
E aha paha noa, taketake pirikura o hoe
Turuga te hipo, taketake pirikura
OAUEI AI I .… ….

After these events Rangahua again descended to the ground on the demand of Tautu, to catch a pretty white bird (a sea-gull, no doubt) which he saw resting quietly on a branch of guettarde. In seeking a means of catching it, she discovered hidden under the foliage of Kaihoka a young man. She addressed him in these terms, “Who art thou? What art thou doing up there?” Without waiting for a response she quickly devined that it was Reipu, one of the adopted sons of Moeava, who had succeeded in flying and hiding himself. She then did all she could to attract him and cause him to descend. It was, however, not till after many reiterated promises on the part of Rangahua that Reipu ended by descending, and made friends with her. They (eventually) married, and soon Rangahua became pregnant.

Then, Reipu feeling compassion, and fearing for the life of Rangahua and that of her father if they prolonged their sojourn at Takaroa, prayed them 4 to remove.

- 32

1 Ka taua! Ka taua e!
Taua Moeava rire makao a rire
Hiki taua e! Ka taua e!
2 Ka taua! Ka taua e!
Taua Moeava rire makao a rire
Hiki taua rau e e i ai i!
3 Ka taua! Ka taua e!
Taua Moeava rire makao a rire
Hiki taua e! Heke ai koe e!
I heke ai koe e ki hetua o te fafarua rire!
Makao a rire hiki taua e i rere ai koe e!
I rere ai koe e he ki te tua o te ragi rire
Makao a rire hiki taua e!
Ka horo ko Tautu, ka horo ko Tautu-Fakaragiroa
Ka hakatupua tarava ia he rire
Makao a rire hiki taua rau e . . i . . ai . . i . .!

He counselled them to avoid the vengence of Moeava by returning to Motu-tapu (now called Te Kokota), a small isle distant some miles from Hikueru. He demanded also of Rangahua, that if their child should be born a boy he should receive the name of Tamakura-take-take. Tautu and his men were wise enough to listen to the counsels of Reipu; thanks to which they were safe and sound.

Moeava, understanding by the two taketake (bird-messengers) that something extraordinary had occurred at Takaroa, was not long in deciding to proceed there. In his anger he would not have spared one of them. On the receipt of the message by the two pigeons, Moeava at once took to the high seas to regain Takaroa, and to ascertain himself what had occurred.

In passing by Makemo Island at the village of Punaruku, where he stayed a short time, he heard of the massacre of his children. In this manner: One of the tini, which had taken part in the expedition to Takaroa, was found there. Some of the young men were bathing together with the new arrivals from Napuka outside the reef. In the end, as often occurs, after being much amused with one another, they quarrelled. Among other abusive words exchanged, the voyagers from Napuka heard themselves addressed as follows, “Kakati mahinahina mai koutou ki a matou, ka kore i rangahia e taua o to koutou ariki o Tangihia-ariki i patua; i hamohia e i kaihia e matou.

These words, many times repeated in time and unison, naturally attracted the attention of the young men who formed the party of Moeava. They reported the words exactly to Kehauri. The latter at once entered his house and fell on the ground and began crying and groaning, lamenting in no ordinary manner. His mother Huarei came in, and thinking him ill, demanded what was the matter. He replied he was not ill, but it was sorrow caused by the news of the death of - 33 Tangihia-ariki that made him shed tears. Huarei herself then announced the sad news to her husband Moeava. On learning of the death of his nephews that he had adopted his anger was extreme; he melted into tears, rolling on the ground, and to give free course to his sorrow he composed the following pehe or chant:—


1 Tupu te taua e! tupu te taua e!
He tura ha ki torohoraga te taua u oa turaki atu e ra
Tupu te taua e! tupu te taua e!
2 Tupu te taua e! tupu te taua e! He turahaki torohoraga
te taua u oa tura ha ki atu e ra u e ei ai.
3 Na Tagihia te taua e! He turahaki torohoroga
te taua u oa tura ha ki atu e ra!
na Tagihia te taua e!
4 Na Parepare te taua e! He turaki torohoraga
te taua u oa turaki atu e ra
na Parepare te taua e!
5 Na Rogotama te taua e! He turahaki torohoraga
te taua u oa turaki atu e ra!
na Rogotama te taua e!
6 Na Reipu te taua e! He turahaki torohoraga
te taua u oa turaki atu e ra!
na Reipu te taua e!
7 Na Kehauri te taua e! He turahaki torohoraga
te taua u oa turaki atu e ra!
na Kehauri te taua e!
8 Na Tukairoa te taua e! He turahaki torohoraga
te taua u oa turaki atu e ra!
na Tukairoa te taua e!
9 Na Moeava te taua e! He turahaki torohoraga
te taua u oa turaki atu ra … u … e … i … ai … i

This is the most important of all the chants of Moeava.

After the passing of the first impression of sorrow, and in an intermission of his grief, Moeava went himself to watch for and catch the young men at the bathing place. From his listening-place he heard himself the very words (of offence) from their lips. He no longer had any doubt; but, nevertheless, said nothing to them. Red with fury, the heart boiling with anger, he returned silently to the house, made a strong cord, cut and attached to it a piece of mikimiki wood and fastened it to the end of the cord. On the morrow, at the proper time, when the young men were enjoying themselves in the sea, he approached them, seized them, and strung them one after another on the cord, just exactly as fish are impaled, with his pointed mikimiki forced under their armpits, and coming out at their ears. He caught them all in the same manner, and brought them still living and uttering fearful crys of pain, enough to make the hair stand on end; some he placed in his vessel, the others he anchored behind it, and with that cargoe he departed for Takaroa.

- 34

At sea, before making the island, he saw something like spirit-forms flying over the waters. He knew at once that these were the manes of his assissinated children—a further confirmation that the massacre, was alas, only too true. But an old sorcerer (taura) that he had on board predicted to him that one child was alive, and that he would soon see him on the shore. As a matter of fact, hardly had the anchor of ‘Muri-henua’ been cast over near the reef outside of Matiti-marumaru, when Reipu dashed into the water to come on board. He cast himself into his fathers arms without a word and commenced bitterly crying. Moeava, much upset, joined his tears to the other—he was inconsolable. Then he went ashore and passed over all the places frequented by his lost children; he even went to the oven, still smoking, where Tangihia-ariki had been cooked. Turning his eyes, bathed in tears, to the scene, he repeated the following:—

1 Takaviri hia pakura tinaki kamoreiatoro;
Takavere atioo aua te o rire pu kamoreianoa e ra;
Takuviri hia pakura
2 Takaviri hia pakura tinaki kamo reiatoro
Takavere atoo aua te o rire ipu Kamoreianoa
Tuitui Takapua a raua i ai i.

After having thrown (into the fire) in their turn all the young men of the tinis of Muta, Tuaero-kura, Tuhirangi and Kaua, whom he had taken at Makemo as spoil of war, and not being able afterwards to extinguish the fire, he took an extreme course and chanted as follows:—

Ka tinai, ka tinai taku ahi e te ruerue
Te koro atu au e te ruerue, ka tinai, ka tinai . … i!
Ka tinai, ka tinai taku ahi e te ruerue
Te koro atu au e te ruerue, ka tinai, ka tinai . . i rau e … ei … ei … i…
Ka tinai, ka tinai Tagihia e te ruerue Marohau
Te koro atu au e te ruerue, ka tinai, ka tinai!
Ka tinai, ka tinai Parepare te ruerue Paretoa
Te koro atu au e te ruerue, ka tinai, ka tinai … i!
Ka tinai, ka tinai Rogotama e te ruerue Tagitama
Te koro atu au e te ruerue, ka tinai, ka tinai!
Ka tinai, ka tinai Reipu hue te ruerue Hoakore
Te koro atu au e te ruerue, ka tinai, ka tinai . … i!
Ka tinai, ka tini Tutapu te ruerue Nohoumatemakave
To koro atu au e te ruerue, ka tinai, ka tinai rau ei . . ai . . i!!

He finished this by casting himself on to the oven, lamenting and repeating without ceasing, “Ka tinai, ka tinai.” The legend states that by this means he succeeded in extinguishing the fire.

After having for a length of time given way to his sorrow, the sentiment of vengence occupied Moeava. He made his preparations and then departed on his warlike enterprise. In all directions he searched for the assassins of his children, following them up and - 35 catching them. Wherever he encountered them he defeated them, and in these encounters with his adversaries he fought like a tiger or a lion enraged. He made an unheard of carnage of his enemies; he massacred them without mercy; in him there was no pity, no relaxation, tooth for tooth, eye for eye, was his maxim. All their islands were brought under his powerful domination without exception.

The rest of his days he lived quietly at Takaroa, feared, loved and respected by all the (Paumotu) world.

(To be continued.)

1   We take the liberty of inserting the ‘n’ before ‘g’ for, though not written, it is always so sounded, as in Maori and Rarotongan, etc.
2   There are two places in Polynesia in which the name Marama enters as part of a geographical name. The general name of the Marquesas Islands, to the east of the Paumotu Group, is Te Ao-marama (the world of light). The other name—Te Tai-o-Marama—is a name for the sea around Ra'iatea, Tahaa, and Huahine islands of the Society Group lying to the West of the Paumotus, a name mentioned in both Tahitian and Maori (N.Z.) histories.—EDITOR.
3   It is suggested that hipo above should be ipo, a beloved one, a lover. Note the letter ‘g’ is pronounced ‘ng’ as in other dialects.—EDITOR.
4   Query, Tautu and party.—EDITOR.