Volume 56 1947 > Volume 56, No. 1 > The Tuamotu legend of Rongo, son of Vaio, by Kenneth P. Emory, p 52-54
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DURING the Tuamotu expedition of the Bishop Museum, 1 we collected from Anaa atoll, Fangatau atoll and Tatakoto atoll, myths of Rongo, represented as the son of Vaio and known, at Anaa at least, as Rongo-mau-puha (Rongo-confined-in-a-box). On a Fangatau genealogy, Rongo, son of Vaio, the son of Itu-ragi, stands at 28 generations from 1900. 2 In a Rurutu genealogy, on file in the Bishop Museum, there appears at 30 generations from 1900, the name Ro'o-nui-aio, son of Vaio, the son of Te Ro'o-atea, the son of 'Iro-i-te-pu-manatu. Ro'o-aio occurs in a Tahitian marae chant beginning Teie te reine no Taputapu-atea. 3

These are the main features of the Tuamotuan myth of Rongo, the full native texts of which are on file at the Bishop Museum:

Rongo as a child displeases his parents. In the Tatakoto version, it is because he laughs at everything they do; in the Fangatau version (from our informant Fariua), because he makes everything he touches sacred, his father having made him a tabu child. In consequence, he is put in a wooden box (puha) and buried at the marae. The three upright stones on the marae are appointed guardians and are told not to reveal the whereabouts of Vaio. Ancestral spirits of Rongo feed him. He finally breaks through his box and demands of the stones at the marae where he will find his father. They refuse to tell him, but he learns from the octopus who has carried his father to Hiti, that he will find his father in that land. He sets out for Hiti where he finally rejoins his father. On the way to Hiti, or soon after the meeting with his father, he falls in with Tu-ki-Hiti, guardian of the Nether World (Po Marikoriko). Tu-ki-Hiti challenges him to dive to the bottom of the sea and bring up something in proof that he has reached it. Rongo is speared by Tu-ki-Hiti as he comes up.

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In the Tatakoto version, Rongo's backbone is tied to the bow-piece of the canoe, after he has been consumed by Tu-ki-Hiti. In the Fangatau version, it is Rongo's head which is tied to the stern-piece of the canoe. The head drops into the water but is recovered by Rongo's sisters by means of their dip nets. Rongo takes two of his sisters, Rei-tere and Rei-noa, to make a body for himself. In the Tatakoto version, Rongo's backbone is recovered by his ancestors, who, with the aid of all the fish, put all his flesh back on him except a piece below the left armpit and another below the right armpit. When Rongo meets his sisters, he takes two of them to replace the missing flesh. Fully restored to his former condition, Rongo goes to meet Tu-ki-Hiti, whom he spears in revenge.

In the Fangatau version, a great storm comes up and the waves which sweep over the land drift Rongo's box onto one of the upright stones (keho) of the marae where it breaks and allows Rongo to emerge. He swims to Hiti over the deep-blue ocean, the dark-purple ocean (te moana uriuri, te moana kerekere), where he meets Te Mango-hei-ata (The Shark-surrounded-by-clouds), whom he tries unsuccessfully to hook. He goes on to Te Ao-pikopiko-i-Hiti, where are the seven magic waves (ngaru ehitu). Then he passes through a dead calm. Exhausted and unconscious he drifts to the shore of Hiti. Many of these incidents are referred to in the following song, the words of which we copied from a native manuscript from the island of Fangatau.

Tanu kava, tanu kava! Plant kava, plant kava!
He aitu no Rongo! A god is Rongo!
Tanu kava, kia tanu kava. Plant kava, that kava be planted.
To kava! Your kava!
Tanu kava no Rongo Plant kava for Rongo
Ki tua i Utu-koru. Seaward at Utu-koru.
Na te matangi tu, For the steady wind,
Te matangi puiakina. The gusty wind.
E iro nuku te matangi tu. The steady wind twists the land.
Haonga kava! Smell of kava!
Takao-kava-roa te tupua tapa mai kava, Taka-kava-roa is the god designating for whom is the kava,
Kava taia te kava. Stimulating kava is the kava.
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1 1
Taia 1 te kava no Rongo! Stimulating is the kava of Rongo!
Kia hopukia, kia kauria, That he dive, that he swim,
Na te matangi tu, etc. 2 For the steady wind, etc.
1   Taia is evidently the word describing the effects of kava. In translating it as “stimulating” I am aware that this is not exactly the effect it produces. The kava plant does not grow in the Tuamotus and yet we collected a number of chants referring to kava.
2   From here on the song is the same as in the introduction.
2 2
Taia te kava no Rongo! Stimulating is the kava of Rongo!
Ko i te moana uriuri, It is there in the deep-blue ocean,
Ko i te moana kerekere, It is there in the dark-purple ocean,
Na te matangi tu, . . . For the steady wind, . . .
3 3
Taia te kava no Rongo! Stimulating is the kava of Rongo!
Ko i Te Meha, It is there with Te Meha,
Ki Te Mango-hei-ata, There with Te Mango-hei-ata,
Kia hitia, That [they] rise up,
Na te matangi tu, . . . For the steady wind, . . .
4 4
Taia te kava no Rongo! Stimulating is the kava of Rongo!
Ko i Te Ao-pikopiko-i-Hiti, 3 It is there at Te Ao-pikopiko-i-Hiti,
Ko i na ngaru e hitu, 4 It is there in the seven waves,
Na te matangi tu, . . . For the steady wind, . . .
3   Te Ao-pikopiko-i-Hiti is the name of Rata's ship.
4   In a version from our informant, Paea of Anaa, from this point on, the chant is “Ko i te ngaru e tu, ko i te matangi tu, taia te kava no Rongo, ko i te tai ngarepu kina hao, e huti no te matangi,”
1   An account of the Tuamotu expedition will be found in the Report of the Director for 1931: B. P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 94, pp. 40-50, and in the Report of the Director for 1934: B. P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 133, pp. 33-67.
2   See Emory, K. P., Tuamotu concepts of creation: Polynesian Society Journal, vol. 49, p. 70.
3   In Geneological book of the Pomare dynasty, manuscript copy in the B. P. Bishop Museum.