Volume 34 1925 > Volume 34, No. 133 > Tale of Fambumu and his wives Betinaoa and Nosonaoa, p 36-60
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- 36
From the Eastern Solomon Islands.

AT market in the morning, the gossip was all of the wonderful forbidden maidens of Olulanakirio, the lovely Betinaoa, and the equally lovely Nosonaoa. Old Rofuniala and his wife Gunginangibulu, and his handsome sons, Gwaibumu and Fambumu, heard of the beautiful sisters of Bulokonari; heard how that valiant warrior had set them apart, that none might court them; heard how brave young men had dared Bulokonari, and in open warfare, or open friendship, or even by stealth, had attempted to have love with the maidens; heard how always there was carnage before another sun; heard of the house of the lovely maidens, with its walls of sago leaf, walled round again with the heads of their lovers slain by Bulokonari.

In the evening at their home at Sinaulakwaikwai, the tale was told again, and the two youths longed for these maids of such beauty and worth. At last fierce old Rofuniala spoke, “Are you sons of mine? In my youth and strength and beauty I cared for no man, but followed my own sweet will. What I wished I did, and what I wanted I took, and only my will was law to me. Let any man forbid, then did Rofuniala defy him, and seize that which was forbidden; his ‘Nay!’ was challenge to me. Behold your brother Arinane, a worthy son of my loins. He lives apart from us, while yet so near; his home is high up in the fata-tree yonder; his food is the flesh of men, warm with new departed life, and the sweet valour-making liver torn from the quivering bodies of his victims; or his meat is the flesh of men that glows in the darkness, dead for many days: and he drinks the warm blood of men. Behind his house are inaccessible rocks, and beneath it, at the foot of the fata-tree, is a deep fissure down which he tosses the bones of his - 37 feasting. His hair is long, unkempt and verminous, and greasy with the grease of his feasts, and veils his eyes, and his beetling brows, and his beard is plentiful and glows in the dark, for is it not greasy from the food he eats? And his great body is hairy and thewed. Round his wrist he wears the badge of the man-eaters, the wristlet of coconut fibre, with the scoop that scoops out blood as he tears at his quivering victim's liver. Oh, a fierce and worthy son is Arinane, is my first-born, the man-eater! But these younger——! They hear of the two maidens of Olulanakirio, whom none may speak love to, hear that those who go to the village arrayed for courtship, are slain by Bulokonari: and the news conveys no challenge. Ah, in my time, I would have taken up the challenge, courted his sisters, taken them from him—but you, are you men?” It was night, and they slept.


In the morning Gwaibumu and Fambumu did not join the rest at their work, but remained in their sago-leaf hut, built on piles, which the two brothers shared. “Let us trim our hair,” said Gwaibumu, and Fambumu trimmed his brother's hair, and shaved the edges of it with a sharp flint. But as they set about the trimming, they made a trial of omens, and while he shaved with infinite care, nevertheless Fambumu cut the flesh of Gwaibumu, and brought blood.

“Oh, this is a bad omen—I have brought blood! Let us set aside our plans till a time when the omen does not warn us!”

“Not by any means—it is not a bad omen: the blood is the blood of the men of Olulanakirio. The sign is a good one.”

Then Gwaibumu trimmed his brother's hair. Each placed four white cowrie shells in a row across his brow, and then Gwaibumu stood for inspection, and Fambumu exclaimed, “Oh, you are handsome! Were I a maiden, tho' you were my brother, I would love you for your beauty.” And Gwaibumu replied, “I, if I were a maiden, would choose you for my sweetheart. If I am as handsome as you, then we surely will win the hearts of Betinaoa and Nosonaoa.” Then they set out on their long journey.

It was toward the dark of a day when they drew near to Olulanakirio. Fambumu, following his brother, felt his - 38 limbs heavy and weary. “I feel my limbs dragging. Surely this is a bad omen. Let us not go on.” Then Gwaibumu tried the spirits, that they should possess his body as one seized in a fit, and his body shake, and he should weep like a maiden. But the spirits did not respond.

Then Fambumu made a trial. Him the spirits possessed; he shook and sobbed.

“The spirit speaks thus, “You may go, and court and win these lovely girls, and take them for your own, but only if you make an offering of a pig before you attempt it. But if you sacrifice no pig, then who shall say.….?”

But Gwaibumu snorted, “Who would heed a spirit, a thing invisible and intangible, a something less than air? Let us go and take the girls, and never mind the spirits.”

“No, let us rather go back, and make sure of success later on.”

“No, not now that we have got so far. We are now almost at the house. Our father taunted us with timidity. Let us not go back like cowards now we have got so far. Let us wait till they have all gone to their beds, and then try the house.”

So they waited till the people should have prepared for slumber, and then they went to the house of which they had heard so much. Fambumu, creeping ahead in the darkness, felt the skulls, tier upon tier of them, rising to the eaves.

“These are the heads of the lovers who have tried before us. See what has been their fate! Let us now try these girls.”

Gwaibumu tapped at the door. From inside, Betinaoa called softly, “Who knocks?” and Gwaibumu replied, “Open the door and let us in the house, for we come to love you!”

“But don't you know who we are, that you come to the house like this? Do you not know the risk you take in coming to the house of the Sisters of Bulokonari? You cannot come in—but stand close to the door that I may catch a glimpse of your faces, to see whether you shall be admitted. Do not go away, but stand both of you close to the door.”

They waited, and Betinaoa removed the bark upper portion of the door, and at the smouldering embers inside the house she lit a torch of dried bamboo; for just one instant she flashed it in their faces, and gasped her joy, - 39 “Oh, from where can these two superb youths have come, handsomer than any man my eyes have seen! Plenty of dances I have been to, plenty of feasts, but never have I seen men so handsome. Where can they belong?” Quickly she put out the light, and told Nosonaoa, “Light the fire, and let these splendid young men come in and be our lovers!”

“Good, but open the door and let them in while I am making the fire, that their coming may be unnoticed.”

Gwaibumu and Fambumu entered the house of the lovely girls, the forbidden sisters of Bulokonari. Gwaibumu had for companion Betinaoa, Fambumu sat with Nosonaoa, and in their comradeship the hours passed till they thought of the dawn which must not find them in the village of Bulokonari. Then Gwaibumu spoke, “We must go now, Fambumu.” So they told the girls that they must leave the village now. Nosonaoa held Fambumu's basket, while Betinaoa held Gwaibumu's.

“Where is this place you belong to, and to which you must needs return?”

“We belong to Sinalakwaikwai, and Rofuniala is our father, and our brother is Arinane, the great man-eater. And now we must go.”

“But we must go with you. You have come a long journey for us, and you have won our hearts. We love you, and we must go with you.”

Then Gwaibumu and Fambumu were filled with joy. The party of four lovers started on their flight. They followed the road as far as the sea, and then made their way along the hard white sand. Three leagues had they journeyed, when Gwaibumu wearied by his long journey and his night of sleeplessness, said, “Let us rest here, and snatch a little sleep.” So they went back a little from the shore, to where the jungle was more than usually impenetrable, so that they could hardly make their way for the undergrowth and vines. And they slept.


In the morning Bulokonari arose, and set about cleaning his weapons, and his spear was in his hands. He glanced about him, and then at his sisters' house.

“Ho, why have you girls not risen? There are the pigs to feed, and all your day's work to attend to; it is past the - 40 time for the pigs to be out of their pens. They want to pee. Get up and let them out, I say!”

Then all the women spoke in wonder, “These girls are always first up and about their work, what can have made them so late to-day, these paragons!”

They went to the maidens' house, and lo! it was empty. They rushed out and sought for the footprints of the girls on the road, and were not long in finding them.

But Bulokonari was staggered. “What stranger has dared to take my forbidden sisters? When the deed has been attempted by night, before dawn I have made battle; and when men have tried to take my sisters by day, always has sunset seen my vengeance wrought.”

He beat upon his great tom-tom, and one hundred warriors gathered at his house. With Bulokonari at their head, they followed the tracks of the lovers. They traced them to the patch of jungle, and then were unable to trace them further, for such was the nature of the jungle. So they skirted round the jungle, but found no footprints emerging from it anywhere.

“We are nearly upon them now; they must be in this jungle!”

Bulokonari took the lead into the patch of vines and undergrowth, and there he found the weary travellers, sound asleep, at the foot of a rock. He stumbled against a small boulder, and the boulder rolled away. The sound of it aroused Fambumu. He awoke, and called out, “Wake up, for Bulokonari is upon us!” He kicked Gwaibumu with his foot, and they gasped out, “We are as good as dead, for what are two against five-score?” And Bulokonari's men made onslaught with their spears; the brothers stood with their backs to the rock.

The tangling vines, however, hampered Bulokonari's men, and more than four-score fell at the hands of Gwaibumu and Fambumu. A spear pierced the body of Fambumu, and quickly he seized it, pulled it from his flesh, and hurled it back at his assailant, who fell dead. Then Bulokonari exclaimed, “These two men have almost wiped out my hundred warriors: you that are left, fight this side and keep them engaged, while I go behind the rock, and climb it, and slay them from behind!”

Then they did as Bulokonari had bidden them, and Bulokonari, from behind, speared Gwaibumu, so that he died - 41 with the spear in his back. Then Fambumu fled, and the few surviving warriors of Bulokonari were powerless to stay his flight.

Then Betinaoa spoke, “Gwaibumu have you slain. Is that not slaughter enough? Behold your own dead, and let the killing end. As for Gwaibumu, living I loved him, and dead I take his body. He is mine!”

So Betinaoa and Nosonaoa, with the body of Gwaibumu, left the fateful tangle of vines and undergrowth, but not to return to Olulanakirio. They took it in turns to carry their burden, to carry the body of Gwaibumu.

“Why does not Fambumu wait for us?” they questioned as they reached the road. “His brother they have slain, and we wish to show his body, with the spear in the back; if he wishes it, then we can take it to Sinalakwaikwai.”

Fambumu, further along the road, saw the two girls coming. “Why do you burden yourselves with this? The life has gone from it, it is no more than clay: rather leave it, and make the best of our way to Sinalakwaikwai.”

“Because you journeyed far to win us, and Gwaibumu gave his life for love of us, therefore in our sorrow we have borne him thus far. If you wish us to bear the burden to your home, gladly will we do so.”

“No; if we were near to Sinalakwaikwai, to my ogrebrother Arinane, who can raise the dead to life, then indeed 'twere well to take the body of Gwaibumu; but the journey is far, and the body would be past restoring to life long before we can reach Sinalakwaikwai. Let us place our dead brother among the roots of this big tree, after the manner of my people.” So they placed the body of the bold and handsome young warrior at the foot of a great tree, and sorrowfully proceeded on their journey.


At last they reached Sinarango, the home of Fambumu's cousin, Leafmai.

“Why is the great tom-tom booming and echoing through the hills? What great doings have been, that there should be such a beating of drums: the battle call, the beat of triumph, and death?”

“The drum beats at Olulanakirio, the tom-tom of Bulokonari, to whom Gwaibumu and I have given battle. For - 42 we took the forbidden sisters of Bulokonari, and courted them, and fled with them, and Bulokonari pursued us, and gave battle, and we have slain four-score and ten of his hundred warriors, and Bulokonari slew Gwaibumu from behind. The tom-tom beats for the battle, and the dead. But Gwaibumu, alas, is dead, and I am returning in grief to Sinalakwaikwai.”

“And why did you not bring the two maidens for whom Gwaibumu lost his life?”

“I have brought them, and they are just behind me on the road.”

“Tell them to come here. I have lost my cousin Gwaibumu, and these maidens shall be to me as my cousin. They hold his place in my regard.”

“It is well. Let them be your guests while I hasten on to bear the tidings to my people. I tremble to think of his grief when my father hears that his son is no more. And I fear my brother Arinane, lest in his wrath at the death of Gwaibumu, he should slay my two wives, should slay the sisters of Bulokonari, and eat them.”

So Betinaoa and Nosonaoa stayed at the house of Leafmai, while Fambumu went ahead to tell of the disaster that had befallen Gwaibumu. He went to the hut he and his brother had occupied.

Guguinaqibulu, his mother, heard movement inside the hut, and said, “My two boys have returned.” She took taro and cooked it, and called, “Fambumu, come and get the taro I have cooked for you, my children!”

Fambumu heard, but did not make any response. She called, and called, but her son did not come.

Then, because a woman may not go to the men's house, Rofuniala went. “Why do you not go when you hear your mother calling?”

Then Fambumu told his tragic tale. “We went after these girls whose names you taunted us with, and Gwaibumu was killed in battle by Bulokonari; he died at Olulanakirio.”

Rofuniala started, the taro fell from his hands, and the bamboo cooking vessel full of taro leaves fell. He wept bitterly. “Alas, my son!” Then, as the first of his grief passed, he asked, “Why did you not bring one or other of the girls, that my son might not have died in vain?”

- 43

“Both maidens came with me, and I left them in charge of our cousin Leafmai at Sinarango.”

“That is well done. Bring them, that they may take the place of Gwaibumu who is no more. And now tell us your tale at length!”

Fambumu remained one month at Sinalakwaikwai, and then returned to Sinarango for his wives.


The two girls waited impatiently at Leafmai's home at Sinarango. Then Betinaoa questioned, “One month has passed, and why has Fambumu not returned to us? We had better follow him.”

So the two girls set out for Sinaulakwaikwai. They had not gone very far, when they neared Leafgau, who lived by the way: a man thin, cadaverous and hateful to see. He came outside his hut, and spoke, “Oh, you then are Fambumu's lovely wives? But Fambumu is a Sinaulakwaikwai lad, and in all the years that he has been at Sinaulakwaikwai, I have heard of no valiant deeds of his, that can entitle him to rank as a warrior bold, with two such glorious wives. As for me now, tho' I am a leper, and my bones are without flesh, yet am I a man of prowess. And you, you are my wives!”

The girls, hearing him, answered, “You, you ugly leprous heap of bones, why from your ugliness do you try and belittle the bold Fambumu? You look like nothing but a corpse, and we, we would sooner marry a lump of excrement!” Then they fled from him. They had gone some distance along the road, and then they looked, but Leafgau was following them. They hastened their flight. Again they rested, and thought within their hearts, “Oh, he has gone back now. Let us look!” But when they looked, they saw the vile leper approaching. “You two, wait for me!” They fled the faster. They left the road for the shelter of the dense forest. Night came on, and they slept.

Leafgau, still pursuing, slept some distance from them; for had he tried to surprise them in their sleep, their forest instinct, prepared for danger, would have roused them: and so it was, for, even as he chose his resting place, they woke. He called to them in the darkness, “Come, sleep with me - 44 that we may have heat! This Fambumu you have chosen is no man at all, only a lad of Sinaulakwaikwai——.”

“And Leafgau is no man at all, only a sickening corpse that stalks from its resting place. Behold, Fambumu is beautiful and brave, a warrior bold who fights against great odds. To him, you are as a lump of excrement.”

When daylight came, they fled more, with their pursuer behind them. And so for two months the pursuit went on, far in the trackless forest till they reached Nunauli, far from the sea..

Rebusekwa, mighty man of Nunauli, was thinking. He had it in mind to make a feast, and the details occupied his mind. He decided to go to his coconut tree, which he had set apart with a dreaful tambu, that none might take its fruit, so that there would be plenty for the feast. So he wished to see how the tree fared, and whether it promised well for the feast. ….. While they were yet a long way from Nunauli, the lovely maidens spied a tall coconut tree, loaded with fruit. They made their way to it, and looked up to its beautiful crown of leaves and fruit. “Let us wait for Leafgau, and persuade him to climb the tree and throw coconuts down for us to drink!”

They waited, and Leafgau, as he saw that they had at last given up the flight, was happy.

“Ah, now you are behaving sensibly, waiting for me.”

“Yes, we are waiting for you, husband, and we want you to climb this tree and throw us down coconuts to drink.”

Then Leafgau was beside himself with joy. “Go and get a piece of vine, that I may tie it round myself and the tree, and work my way up the trunk.”

He climbed the tall branchless trunk. The rough tree tore his flesh, and the tree was sickening to look at, for the blood and issue from his leprosy that marked his progress, but he thought of the happiness awaiting him at the bottom of the tree. On he climbed. At last he reached the fruit. He threw down one. As it struck the ground it disturbed the spirit Rebusekwa had left in charge of the tree. The spirit looked up, and beheld Leafgau. And Leafgau grew short and round; no longer a lank and awful skeleton was he, but small and round, and his arms and legs shrank into his body, and he fell to the ground.

Then the girls laughed their glee. “He can't catch us now, we are safe from him, at least—and at last. We - 45 won't drink the coconuts Leafgau got for us, tho'” They made their way once more down toward the sea… Rebusekwa, mighty man of Nunauli, reached his coconut tree. And on the ground was a plump round something that had been a man.

“Ah, my coconut has done well to bear fruit like this!” He took Leafgau to his house, and there announced the feasts. “… And there shall be pork, and man, and whoever does not care to eat pork, shall eat man. And those who choose shall eat pork!”


The two wives wandered on till they reached the coast. They sat in the shelter of a seashore cedar that leant out over the sea. “Oh, could we but see Fambumu!! Hopelessly they looked along the shore, “Oh, if only one might see him coming toward us now!”

“Idle wishes, Nosonaoa. Fambumu does not want us, or he would not have left us so long. He has not sought us; he does not think we are worth looking for. Let the ogres and the man-eaters get us, for what has life for us now that Fambumu has left us? We can never know happiness now, and I, I care not what may be my fate!” But Nosonaoa was gazing intently along the beach. She saw a figure. Was it some fresh pursuer, an ogre, a man-eater, or what else come to destroy them? “It looks like a young man, and almost like Fambumu,” she exclaimed.

“No, it is your eyes that deceive you, for your head is full of thoughts of Fambumu! It is some fresh disaster befallen us. To me this looks very like an ogre, not at all like Fambumu. Whatever evil thing it is, I am in despair, and will neither flee nor resist. Gwaibumu died bravely; we can do no more.”

“Indeed, to me, this seems more like Fambumu, his figure, his way of walking,” said Nosonaoa.

“Well, if it is an ogre he will smell us. But no matter. Let us go nearer and make sure.” By now Fambumu was near enough for Nosonaoa to recognise his face, and the ornaments upon his brow; but his hair had grown and at a distance almost concealed them.

“This is Fambumu!” she whispered. Then Betinaoa ceased weeping. “Yes, it is Fambumu,” she agreed. “Let us hide and be quiet, and then give him a surprise.”

- 46

Fambumu now was walking along the forest path, the cedar tree between him and the sea. He was within a fathom of his wives. Then Betinaoa hissed “Pssss.” Fambumu leapt aside, seized Nosonaoa by the hair, and cried: “Who are you that——.”

“Oh, I am Nosonaoa, do not kill me!”

“Where is your husband, the man you have been with so long?”

“Leafgau, the vile! He pursued us, drove us from the highway, followed us through the trackless forest, till we came far inland, and he climbed a coconut, and fell, and he is dead.

“I think you were wives to him, there in the forest?”

“No, we fled from him, and are pure, Fambumu!”

Then they set out for Sinaulakwaikwai.

So, after two months' search, Fambumu at last found his two wives. He took them with him to Sinaulakwaikwai, to his father Rofuniala. “Oh, cool to my eyes sore with weeping, is the sight of my two daughters; and I know that Gwaibumu did not die for naught, and I know that my son who is lost to me and my son who is with me are men. 'Tis well. But let not my daughters go far from the house, nor wander in the forest.”


For a time all was peace and quiet, and Betinaoa and Nosonaoa worked about the house and in the garden of Fambumu's family.

Then Rebusekwa from his fastness at Nunauli sent a message, “I would like my cousin and his wives to come to the feast and dance I am giving.” But he wished to take the younger of Fambumu's wives for his own, and leave the other for Fambumu.

Fambumu accepted the invitation to the feast, and after five days made a pudding of taro and nuts as his contribution to the feast. Then, when he was ready to set out, he told his brother Arinane, the man-eater, of his intention. “Oh, by all means go to cousin Rebusekwa's dance, and you need take no large party with you, it will be quite safe for only you and your two wives to go.”

So it came about that they arrived at Nunauli, and Rebusekwa said, “My cousins are very welcome!” But when he had greeted them, he went to his brothers, “To-day - 47 Fambumu and his wives will sleep here; to-morrow, after the feast, they intend to go back. But when we have all finished eating, and we prepare to chew betel-nut after the meal, as is the custom, then with my betel-nut I will point to one of my cousin's wives. Her you must seize for me.”

And so it was; for at the yarning and betel-chewing that follows the meal, Rebusekwa with his betel-nut indicated his heart's desire. His brother leapt at her, seized her, held her. “This is Rebusekwa's bride!” Rebusekwa seized Fambumu round the body to prevent his handling his spear. Nosonaoa cried out, “Oh, how many men desire me. And cannot they leave me in peace with my beloved? I am Fambumu's, and can be no other's bride!”

Fambumu, helpless, but having still his speech, demanded of Rebusekwa, “Why do you seek to rob me of my wife?”

“Oh, one only I want—one for me, and one for you.”

“Never! I and my brother who is dead, fought, and my brother died, for the sisters of Bulokonari. Both of my wives I love, and she whom you desire is as my brother's honour, for whom he gave his life, and I may not give her up.”

“Better for you to return safe and sound to Sinaulakwaikwai.”

“If my wives go back with me, well. If not, there shall be slaughter at Nunauli!” And Fambumu, with a mighty effort, struck Resu (brother of Rebusekwa), who, stricken let go Nosonaoa.

Then was a battle indeed. Fambumu, and his two wives, unaided, fought the whole people of Rebusekwa. In his despair he called, “Oh, how can we three hold out against so many?” But strength was with them, so that they decimated the tribe of Rebusekwa, and in the tale of that fight to-day, five thousand they say were slain by Fambumu and his wives. Then, when their enemies could resist them no longer, Fambumu and his wives fought their way out of Nunauli.

At Sinaulakwaikwai, Fambumu spoke to his brother Arinane, “Oh, my brother who advised me to go alone to Nunauli, 'twas good advice, indeed. Plenty of pork and pudding and other food Rebusekwa gave us. Good was your advice to take a small contribution of pudding to the - 48 feast, for he received us well, and was generous, and gave us much food.”

But Arinane smacked his lips, and rubbed his claws, for he knew the import of Fambumu's saying. “Oh, good indeed! For they sought to dishonour you, and to slay you, and to rob you of Nosonaoa, who is your wife and as our brother's life. Good, for now shall your hungry brother feast, for there is much of the food I love at Nunauli, for the tribe of Rebusekwa is large! You have had your feast, and now I shall have mine, and every day the tribe of Rebusekwa shall pay toll to my larder, for, oh, I hunger for the meat of man!” Gloating, he rubbed his hairy belly.


Now Leafmai brooded over the loss of his brother. “My cousin left his two wives in my charge. Had he taken them straight to his father's house, all would now have been well, but he delayed, and his wives wandered in the forest, and led by brother Leafgau to destruction at Nunauli to be killed and eaten. Surely Fambumu is responsible for this disaster. His wives are beautiful, and only the giving one to me could right the wrong he has done me in leaving his wives here to bring disaster upon my family.” So he made his way to Sinaulakwaikwai, and arrived there about noon.

He came to the house and asked, “Where is Fambumu, and where has he gone?” Nosonaoa alone was within, for Betinaoa had gone to work with Fambumu, while Nosonaoa was left to clean up the home.

“Come, Nosonaoa, let us go!”

“What sort of insult is this? My husband is Fambumu—what do you mean by asking me to go with you? You appear to plan mischief like Cousin Rebusekwa, O Cousin Leafmai!”

“Come outside Nosonaoa. I do not wish to talk with you there in the house.” But Nosonaoa would not leave the house, for she knew Leafmai's wicked design.

Then, when she would not come out as he wished, Leafmai made his way into the house, and seized Nosonaoa. Nosonaoa struggled and seized one of the posts supporting the roof, and held to it till the strength of Leafmai prevailed, and the post gave way. She struggled yet, and seized another post, till that also gave way, and so till the house - 49 was a ruin about them. Then Leafmai forced her to the road, but now her strength could not hold out against him, and she called loudly, “Fambumu! Leafmai is taking me!”

Forty fathoms had they gone, Nosonaoa struggling every inch of the way, when Fambumu, returning from his work in the other direction, heard his wife's cries. “Who is this calling my name so loudly? Nosonaoa was left in charge of the house; I think someone must be taking her away, that she calls so. Or else some party has attacked the village.” But his questionings were answered as he reached the ruined house, and he made out the meaning of his wife's cries.

“Leafmai is taking me away, Fambumu!”

“So this is the cause of the uproar.” And grimly and silently Fambumu, leaving the road, sped round through the jungle, and came out onto the path ahead of the spot which Leafmai and his victim in their slow progress had reached. Then Leafmai, unaware of what awaited him, pulled Nosonaoa from the road into the jungle, and again the despairing Nosonaoa called her husband's name. But she did not know how very near her husband was to her. She caught hold of a tree and clung fast to it, and though Leafmai beat her hands, she would not let it go.

Again she called out, but deliverance was at hand. Fambumu waited till only two fathoms from Leafmai. Then he sprang forward, and seized Leafmai's hair. “Now Cousin Leafmai, just what are you doing with my wife?”

“Oh, I seek only to square the death of my brother Leafgau, which came about through these girls. You left your two wives in my charge. If you had taken them straight to your father's house, Leafgau would be alive to-day, but you delayed, and your wives wandered in the forest, and led my brother Leafgau to destruction, to be killed and eaten at Nunauli! Only one of these wives of yours can suffice to right a wrong like this.”

“Not so, Nosonaoa is not for you. Betinaoa is the wife who would have wed my brother Gwaibumu, and is wife and brother to me. Nosonaoa is she whom I courted when we first went to Olulanakirio. And one thing besides the giving a wife to you can right this wrong!”

So saying, he struck Leafmai a blow with his weapon, a blow to remember through a long life. Then slew him. Then Fambumu turned jealously to his beloved Nosonaoa.

- 50

“You were a while with Leafmai. I think you were as wife to him?”

“No, I but struggled with him, and am pure, Fambumu!”

“Then let us go back to our home at Sinaulakwaikwai.” But the news of the death of Leafmai spread over Malaita, spread to Sinarango.


At Sinarango the tale of Fambumu's last exploit roused the wrath of Leafmana, brother of Leafmai. “Let me go to Sinaulakwaikwai! Let me behold this mighty man! "My people, for him who slays Fambumu, there are one thousand pigs, and one thousand fathoms of red money, and one million molekwalu!” But his people said, “Do not publish this reward. Let us people of Sinarango go and slay this Fambumu.” And so it was decided to do.

The day following they sacrificed a pig to the deity of Sinarango, and—ill omen!—the blood poured from its snout. Again to try the oracle, they placed another pig in the fire, and—ill omen!—the pig grunted. “Let us not go on this raid, for twice the oracle has warned us.” But Leafmana replied, “The blood is the blood of the enemies we shall slay—they cannot now defeat us!” But his father muttered, “In olden times this was a bad omen, blood coming from the face of the pig. You should put off the raid till some more suitable time.” “No,” said Leafmana, “it is no ill omen; we shall go ahead with our plans as if this thing had not occurred.”

And off they started for Sinaulakwaikwai. It was nearly dawn of a day, when they approached the house, but the occupants were not yet awake. While they yet slept Leafmana fired the house, and made battle on the surprised people of Sinaulakwaikwai. Fambumu's father he put to death, bold old Rofuniala, and Fambumu's mother Guginangibulu; and Fambumu escaped by flight. But when they slew they reckoned without the magic of the great maneater, and his strength. For Arinane came from his hut. “Who are you that come and slay our tribe, so that only trees are left to people Sinaulakwaikwai?” “I, Leafmana, avenge my brother Leafmai—avenge him with the blood of Rofuniala, and how many more!” But his boast was uttered too soon, for Fambumu, recovered from the panic - 51 of his sudden awful awakening, had returned, and they two, bold Fambumu and terrible Arinane, pursued Leafmana, fighting and slaying. Three men the mighty Arinane seized in his claws, three men at once he slew, and three men more, till they two mighty warriors had each half-a-hundred dead men for his score.

Then Fambumu, as he beheld their own dead, wept. But he reckoned without his ogre brother, for no sign of sorrow or regret gave Arinane. “Nay, do not bury our dead,” said he, “but do just as I tell you. Gather the bodies of our people, and take them to the rock behind my house; the bodies of our father and our mother, and our people. Then go and get eight wild taro leaves.

Fambumu faithfully did as his great brother told him. Then Arinane made his magic for the restoration of their dead. He took the eight leaves, and spread them on the still bosoms. Then he spoke further. “Fambumu, you see the plant growing on the rock there: bring the roots of it.”

He received the roots from Fambumu, cut small pieces and placed them in the nostrils that were without breath; and said, “To-night, let rain come!”

At evening he sent his brother to look at the dead; and lo, his father sat up, but was without speech, and his mother also; and all had turned, and now lay, not on their backs, but on their breasts. And rain fell till daylight.

Then Arinane again made magic, and his parents recovered their speech, and rose, and went to their house. Then, as he had willed, rain came in the night, and in the morning all at Sinaulakwaikwai lived.


Then Rebusekwa, lord of Nunauli declared, “A great reward of pigs and money is for the man who brings me Fambumu's body. Fambumu has slain the half of our people, let us therefore have the head of Fambumu.” And the news of it reached Fambumu.

Arinane, of his wisdom, advised him, “Go you quietly to Nunauli, and spy out the roads and the buildings, and the lie of the land. Then, when you know it well, so that we can form a plan of attack, come back, and we will take a party and teach Rebusekwa the lesson he failed to learn before.”

Fambumu went, and spied out the land, and came back with his report to Arinane. But Arinane said, “Let us both - 52 go and have a look at the place together.” So they went together to Nunauli, and saw the fortifications. For Nunauli was well protected with ramparts of stone, and only one place was there where an attack could be made. Having made a thorough survey, and decided what must be their plan of attack, they turned their faces again toward Sinaulakwaikwai.

In the land of Malaita, when a women dies pregnant, a blow is struck upon her body to kill the unborn babe; for were this not done, the babe lives on, is nourished from the dead breast of its mother, lives upon the decaying body of her who died, and at the time of birth, emerges from the ground to prey upon mankind. Its food is the rotted tree till it finds a victim, some poor human whom it seizes, and like the human man-eaters, tears the liver from the body eats it warm, and drinks the blood, the warm, warm blood. And what is not eaten warm is set aside for the passing of days to make it palatable, so that by night it glows like the fire-flies, and thus it is eaten. These ogres are awful skeletons, and covered with a hairy skin, with the strength of many men; with fangs, and claws, and great consuming eyes, and the coarse tousled hair of them veils the body.

The brothers had gone a league and a-half from Nunauli when they heard a howling, weird and fearful, for eight ogres, each with a bound victim, were in the jungle and near at hand. Each had a basket, full of sharp stones, flints for slaying their victims. As they heard the fearful howling, Arinane said, “Quick, let us hasten away from them!” But Fambumu said, “No, I wish to see these creatures.” Arinane, however, knew what he had to deal with, and fled straightway.

Fambumu stood his ground. The eight ogres rested, placed their victims on the ground, about a furlong away from where Fambumu stood. Then the leader of the ogres, terrible Mamanetaba, sniffed, and Tagamamueda, the second in strength. “I smell blood!” They sniffed, and, following the scent, approached Fambumu. Then, as he beheld them so near at hand, Fambumu realised what he had to enocunter. “Oh, that my brother were here, for how can I alone prevail against such beings as these!”

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The eight ogres left their victims bound upon the ground and surrounded Fambumu. Then they cast their sharp flint missiles at him. The flints struck the trees beside Fambumu, and such was the force with which they were hurled that the trees were shattered, but none hit Fambumu, and the ogres were amazed. Then they took a bamboo with a flint point, as it were to stab their victim, for this could not miss him, they knew.

But Fambumu sprang forward, and trode upon the bamboo, and, one by one, smashed the eight bamboos of the ogres.

Then Tagamamueda spoke. “This man is as powerful as we. Surely, like us, he lives upon the warm flesh and blood of men. Let us seize and overpower him.” They drew in close to seize him, and Fambumu felt his end was nigh. “My time has come. My life is lived!” But he besought the deity of Sinaulakwaikwai to give him strength, and as the ogres bore down upon him, he made a mighty effort, and with his club felled three ogres. But his club fell from his grasp, beyond his reach; he tried with his foot to reach it, but failed; then he fought on with his bare hands, fought the ogres. But they had him in their grip, and Tagamamueda said, “Tie his hands to his sides.” So at last the powerful Fambumu was rendered powerless. Then Mamanetaba, chief of the orges, spoke up: “This man is too good to eat. He is a match for us. Let us, therefore, make him one of us.”

They carried Fambumu, all trussed up like the victims on whom his brother Arinane was wont to feed, along the road. When they were not yet half finished the journey to their haunt, the youngest ogre spoke, “Oh, let us eat this one, he is in fine condition. Let us eat him!” But Mamanetaba forbade it. So they carried him further till they reached the shore, where the rock Foilai 1 lies out in the sea.

Then Mamanetaba took the lead. He took from his basket a piece of ginger, chewed at it, spat it out into the sea and the sea divided, so that there was a pathway of dry land, with the sea piled up on either side, and the party of ogres, carrying their victims, walked dry foot upon the - 54 bed of the sea, from Malaita to Foilai. There, as they stepped above highwater mark, the sea closed behind them. They placed Fambumu, still bound, in a stone pen behind their hut. The rest of their victims they quickly consumed, but him they left, left Fambumu to his tears.

They returned again to Malaita, to those happy hunting grounds of the ogres, where victims abound, but they left Fambumu bound, in his pen. Again they returned, and the sea opened once more for them. Then Mamanetaba cut a piece of flesh from one of the victims, and gave to Fambumu to eat; but Fambumu could not eat, but only wept.


At Sinaulakwaikwai his two wives grieved for Fambumu. They fasted, they neglected their beauty, and would not bathe, but only wept, and their beauty departed from them.

“If Fambumu returns to us we live again; and if not we stay thus until we die.”

For two months they wept, and then the deity of Sinaulakwaikwai had pity on them, and spoke to a fly-catcher, a Willy-Wagtail, the little bird that chirps about the villages and is so familiar, his little black and white body never still, his black tail always perkily wagging. The fly-catcher then flew to Foilai, and perched close to where Fambumu was penned, and bobbed its tail, and chirped, “Oh, I have seen your two wives, and their heads are bowed with woe, and they fast and do not bathe, but only grieve for you, Fambumu.”

“Whose is this voice that speaks to me, for my eyes see nothing but a fly-catcher. Is it you who speaks to me, Oh fly-catcher? And have you seen my wives and where?”

“I have seen them at Sinaulakwaikwai, O Fambumu.”

“But you are only a little bird, how can you help me, who long to return to them again? My bonds are strong, and I must stay here till I die. I cannot return to my wives, to Sinaulakwaikwai.”

Just then Mamanetaba and all the ogres set out again for the mainland.

“I am here with these ogres, and they give me food, but only raw flesh of men, and I cannot eat it, and if I do not learn to eat it as they do, I must surely starve to death. Already I am weak from hunger.”

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Then the fly-catcher replied, “Only leave it to me, and I will see that you return to your wives, to Sinaulakwaikwai.” “But you are only a little bird—how can you help me? My bonds are strong, and I must stay here till I die.”

“When the ogres return, you shall see what will happen, and, after, you shall return to your two wives. I have said it. Now I must go back to Sinaulakwaikwai, but to-morrow I will come again.”

He flew away. The ogres came back from Malaita, Mamanetaba opening the pathway in the bed of the sea with the spittle from the ginger he chewed. Arrived at Foilai, they set about their feast, and again gave a portion of the raw flesh to the famished Fambumu. In his extreme hunger he tried to eat it, to live until he should be delivered. But it was raw and hateful to him, and he could not swallow it. Oh, that the ogres would cook a portion!

The next day the ogres went again to Malaita, and the fly-catcher came and watched them, observed carefully their procedure. When they returned and sat down to banquet on their latest victims, Willy Wagtail, pert and curious, sat down close at hand, for this is the way of Willy Wagtails. He watched Mamanetaba tear open his victim's body, and pour the blood into a basin of stone, that he might drink it fresh and warm. Then, O, the uncleanliness of it!—the thing which is utterly foul in the sight of men and ogres of Malaita, the thing that is uncleanliness in its essence!—Willy Wagtail messed in the basin of blood!

Raged Mamanetaba, and swore, and chased the flycatcher, which flitted here and there, and over the vessel of blood, and messed once more. “This foul thing cover my head if this fly-catcher lives till the befouled blood grows cold! Let us wait till he comes near one of us, and slay him!” Then the fly-catcher perched on the head of Tagamamueda. “Stay still, don't move!” said Mamanetaba. He struck at the fly-catcher, which flitted away, and the spiked weapon clove the skull of Tagamamueda. So, one after another, the fly-catcher perched on the heads of the other ogres, and the rampant Mamanetaba struck wildly at him, and he flitted away, and one after another, the spiked weapon of Mamanetaba cleft the skulls of his brother ogres, till he alone was left. Then Willy Wagtail flew up, and perched on the knee of Mamanetaba, and shook his tail, bowed and chirruped, and gyrated. “Now I have you!” - 56 snarled Mamanetaba, and with all his might drove the spike through his bony thigh: for the fly-catcher had flitted away; and Mamanetaba fell forward and died. The fly-catcher had flown to Fambumu. “This rope they have bound you with is very strong for a small bird like me; I fear I cannot get it broken.” But he set to work, and pecked from daylight to dark, from day to day, for four days, and then at last the thongs were severed. But Fambumu had been bound so long, he could not move for hours, and even when the use of his limbs partially returned to him, he remembered that the sea was between him and Malaita.

“You have loosed my bonds, O Fly-catcher, but how can I cross the sea, for I am too weak for such a swim?”

“Here is the hiding place of Mamanetaba's piece of ginger, behind this stone—take it!” Fambumu took it, chewed a piece, and spat into the sea, and the sea opened, and Fambumu made his way dry foot to Malaita.

But the fly-catcher flew ahead, and told his two wives, “Your husband is safe now. I freed him, but he is far back on the road, making his way home.”

Nosonaoa and Betinaoa bathed and decked themselves, and were gay and beautiful once more. “I think you are deceiving us, Willy Wagtail!” “No, I did what I have told you. Trim your hair and be beautiful, for Fambumu is coming.”

The two wives rejoiced, so that Arinane wondered “Why are these two women so happy? Is their husband alive after all, or is it that they are fickle women, and their sorrow has passed?” He came to them and demanded, “Why are you so gay, when your husband is lost? Have you seen him, that you rejoice so?” They would not explain their happiness, for they wished to surprise Arinane.

At last Betinaoa took pity on his bewilderment, and said, “Let us share the good news the fly-catcher has brought us.” “Alright,” agreed Nosonaoa, and they shared their secret with Arinane.

The next day Fambumu arrived, and Arinane welcomed him. “Oh, how is it that you are yet alive, for I mourned you as dead?”

“A Willy Wagtail slew the ogres, broke my bonds, showed me the magic of the ogre Mamanetaba that opened the sea, and I came across from Foilai.”

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“We rejoice that you live, but your two wives had nearly died of grief, but now we are all happy again.” In honour of the return of Fambumu, Arinane held a great dance.


As time passed, the thought occurred to Fambumu. “I still have not avenged the death of Gwaibumu, nor punished my brother-in-law.” And his wives said, “Yes, do you avenge the death of Gwaibumu.”

They went, the two brothers and Fambumu's two wives, and fought, and slew the father of Bulokonari called aloud, “Who are you that wipe out my village, so that only trees are left in the place that was Olulanakirio?”

“I am Fambumu, come to avenge my brother Gwaibumu!”

“So? Then return you to your people, and be ready in nine days for a visit from me.

[I cannot find anyone to give me the fragment missing here. which is doubtless a battle between Fambumu and Bulokonari.]


Arismai at Sulebala heard of the wonderful wives of Fambumu, warriors valiant as men, and he desired to see them, and desired them. He arrived at Sinaulakwaikwai with a band of twenty men, arrived while Fambumu was away at work but his wives were at home.

“Rofuniala,” he said, “I now see my cousin's wives, and they are excellent, two very good wives.”

“And what do you seek at Sinaulakwaikwai, what business brings you here?”

“Oh, I am only taking a journey to look at you people here at Sinaulakwaikwai.”

“Fambumu has gone to his work, and has not yet returned. You had better stay till he comes back this afternoon.” They waited.

When Fambumu returned, he greeted his cousin. “So you have come, my cousin. Do you wish to see me?”

“Yes, I came to see you and the two wives you got at Olulanakirio.”

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“Oh, Betinaoa and Nosonaoa are in the house; but your cousin Gwaibumu, who went with me is dead, dead at Olulanakirio.”

“But two good wives you have here. I see that they are good, and they are warriors like your brother who is dead, they help you in battle.”

The sun was now set, and soon they all went to sleep. But Arismai took the leaves of a tree, the sleep-charm of Malaita, and scattered them on the fire as the fashion is, and all slept soundly.

Arismai spoke. “Wake up, Fambumu; and let us have a little speech together.” But the charm had worked, and Fambumu slept soundly.

Then Arismai went to the women's house. “Come, you two—run away with me to Sulebala.” They refused angrily. Then Arismai took his oath. “Your people are all asleep, drugged, and cannot waken till morning: the dung of men be on my head if I leave you or any alive within this village, if you do not go with me!”

Then the women, thinking of the danger to their helpless beloved, and to his people, consented; and fled in the night with Arismai. For the warriors of Sinaulakwaikwai would wake up in the morning, and would miss Arismai and know his wickedness. They had reached about half-way to Sulebala, when they came in sight of the house of Olo, whose house is on the main track; and he shoots passers-by with his bow and arrow. Arismai warned his party. “We must make a detour through the forest, and go without noise.” But Olo had already heard them, and had come onto the track. He saw two surpassingly lovely girls, and wondered where they came from, and marvelled at their beauty. Betinaoa was foremost, and Olo shot her in the breast with an arrow so that she fell to the ground. The rest all ran away, and Olo took Betinaoa to his house, and brought her back to life. Then he determined to go after the other lovely maiden.

Arismai's party had by this time reached Sulebala, but Olo followed them there, and hid behind a heap of rubbish, that he might shoot her when she came to throw away the taro leaves and refuse. She came at last, and Olo shot her, and she fell the other side of the heap of refuse. Arismai heard her cry, rushed to her assistance, but her breathing had already ceased.

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Then Arismai was filled with sorrow. He built a platform outside, and placed her body upon it.


After two days Fambumu, recovered from the effects of the drug, set out after his two wives. It was dusk when he reached Sulebala, and he listened, but could not hear their voices. Where could they be sleeping? As the darkness deepened, he came right up to the house, went behind it, and saw the platform with Nosonaoa's body upon it.

“Nosonaoa they have slain: now where is Betinaoa?” Then as he gazed at Nosonaoa, tears filled his eyes. “Oh, were you with me, you had not died. But I will take your body to Arinane; my brother will surely restore you to life.”

He took her on his shoulders in the dark night to Sinaulakwaikwai, and roused Arinane.

“Get up and restore my wife to life! They have shot her in the breast with an arrow.” Then Arinane instructed him as on the night when Leafmai attacked Sinaulakwaikwai. He got a wild taro leaf, and root of the plant on the rock behind Arinane's house, and in the night the rain came, and in the morning Nosonaoa was alive but without speech.

“When Nosonaoa recovers her speech, I will learn the fate of Betinaoa. Go to your house, Nosonaoa.” As soon as she was able to tell him, he asked her what had happened to Betinaoa. “We were journeying, and a man was on watch on the track, above us, and he shot Betinaoa, but I do not know the place, and I do not know where Betinaoa now is.”

Fambumu, however, had heard of Olo, and knew that Betinaoa must be there. He went to Olo's house. “If she lives I will bring her back, as I brought Nosonaoa,” he vowed. He lay down near Olo's house, and heard the voice of Betinaoa, and knew she lived, but knew not how to rescue her for the number of men round about. For the place where Olo lived was populous.

“Oh, spirit of Sinaulakwaikwai, speak in the heart of Betinaoa that she come and cast rubbish here this night!” And, surely, in the night, Betinaoa came to throw away some taro stems, and Fambumu seized her hand. Betinaoa knew her husband, “Oh, Fambumu, you have come at last!” and wept tears of relief. But Fambumu turned - 60 jealously to his beloved Betinaoa, “You have been three days with Olo—I think you were wife to him?”

“No, Fambumu. He shot me, and restored me to life, and has held me prisoner, and I am pure, Fambumu.”

“Tell me the truth, that I may kill you here and now if he has done this thing.”

“No, Fambumu, this thing he did not!”

Then Fambumu spoke words of guile. “Where is Nosonaoa? Is she in the house with you?”

Betinaoa replied, “Oh, when we neared the place, Olo shot me, and I was insensible, but he restored me to life, but Nosonaoa went on with Arismai's people to Sulebala.”

Then Fambumu knew his wives spoke the truth. “Let us go back.” They returned to Sinaulakwaikwai, and afterwards Fambumu made a great feast, with dancing.….


1   The island Foilai, so I found, when I repeated my inquiries on our return from San Cristoval, is Sail Rock, that rock in Maramasiki entrance that is claimed to have strayed from Cristoval.