Volume 60 1951 > Volume 60, No. 1 > Proverbial expressions of the Samoans, by E. Schultz, p 1-21
PROVERBIAL EXPRESSIONS OF THE SAMOANS
(Continued from previous issue)
493. Ua sau le va'a na tiu, 'ae tali le va'a na tau, o lo'o mamaulago i le va'a na faoafolau. One boat returns from the catch; the other is tied to the strand; the third one is propped up in the boat-shed.
Upu fiafia with which the travellers are welcomed by those who stayed at home. The boat returning from fishing is compared with the travellers; the anchored boat refers to the chiefs, orators and young men; the third boat is likened to the old people staying at home.
494. O le foe tafea. The oar carried away (by the sea).
Compare with No. 39. When an oar has been carried away by the waves it is of no further use. Same meaning as Nos. 39, 280, 281, and the following:
495. O le ago e tafia. The obliterated tattooing design.
The tattooer draws first the design on the skin with a piece of charcoal. If he does not like it, he wipes it off again. Similar to 494.
496. Lepa ia i le foe. Keep the boat still with the paddle.
Thus says the fisherman to the rower when he wants to begin fishing. The expression is also used in a fono when one wishes to interrupt a speaker. Failure to use the apology shows lack of manners. If a fono takes place on the malae, where the speaker stands up and leans on his staff (to'o to'o), the interrupter says: Mapu i lou to'oto'o—rest on your staff. Feao (protector, companion) is a more respectful paraphrase for to'oto'o.- 2
497. Ua suluia le pagi. The bait is lit up (by the rising sun).
Pagi is a bait of coconut kernel used for catching the malolo (flying fish). The fishing takes place before sunrise. With daylight the bait becomes visible to the fish.
Same meaning as Nos. 140 (2), 159, 453.
498. Ua tete'a le lupe ma le upega. The pigeon has been taken out of the net.
Used when one thing being done, one wishes to proceed with another; for instance, in a visit the speeches of welcome are followed by the kava, the meal, etc.
Similar to Nos. 70, 191, 215, 265, 403, 412, 435, 455, 480.
499. Ua siliga tali i seu. They would not wait for the end of the hunt.
Same meaning as No. 498.
500. In peace and war signals used to be given with the lali (wooden drums). Smaller drums (pate) are used for beating time at dances. Wooden drums still call the Samoans to church and school.
Ua tata lali lapopo'a. Beat the big drums.
The problem is so weighty and difficult, that only an experienced chief or orator can solve it; and inferior chiefs should abstain from expressing an opinion and await the decision. A big drum is heard farther than a little one; so also a high chief will have more listeners than one of lower rank.
501. Ua leai se ulu e ala. There is not even time to scratch one's head.
Refers to a job that keeps one's hands busy.
502. Ua se va'a e lalago. Like a propped-up boat.
Applied to a reliable, upright person; also to a family or village in which peace and union reign. Upu vivi'i.
503. When there is a shortage of food, particularly of taro, the taro leaves are eaten. Hence, when a village finds itself in a difficult situation and lacks experienced chiefs, one says:
Ia saosao lautalo. Collect the taro leaves.
i.e.—We are in a critical situation; therefore every matai should attend the meeting and express his opinion, so that the right solution may be reached.- 3
504. Ia 'oso 'ati'ati. Dig out even the small pieces (of yam).
'Oso is the Samoan planting stick used both for planting and for digging up yam.
The saying is used when there is a food shortage. Compare No. 352.
505. E le au le pule po i le pule ao. A decision reached in the evening is changed in the morning.
(The change being necessitated by intervening circumstances). Used after the change has been made; or as upu taofiofi: Don't act yet upon what you have decided.
506. When a person has made a mistake, such as a slip of the tongue at a council meeting, or forgotten someone at a food distribution, he excuses himself with:
O le po malae. On the malae one feels as in a dark night.
i.e.—At night one easily makes a mistake because of the dark; at a big gathering of people one is nervous and easily distracted.
507. O le uta a le poto e fetala'i. The wise man thinks before he speaks.
Compare Nos. 4, 88, 391.
508. O le fafaga ma le feuna'i. Constantly increasing the load on the back.
Same meaning as Nos. 172, 224, 437, 476.
509. E ala i aso. Some days one is lucky.
The literal meaning of ala is to be awake. E ala le faiva. The fishing expedition was successful.
Upu fiafia used when a fishing expedition, a hunt or another undertaking has been successful. Also used as an upu fa'amafanafana in cases of ill-success.
510. E le se fe'e na tu tula. Not like the octopus that sits wounded in its cave.
Upu vivi'i used to welcome a high chief: You are in our midst, honoured and respected by all. You are not like the octopus that hides in its cave when it has been wounded by another fish. In the positive form: O le fe'e na tu tula, it is used as an upu faifai.
511. Fa'alau le tutu. Like a net that is too short.- 4
The saying refers to lauloa fishing explained in No. 25. When a net, with which a certain area is to be surrounded, is too short, the fish will escape.
Applied to an unsuccessful undertaking. See Nos. 164, 393, 395.
512. Fa'atolo le tutu.
The saying refers to seu fishing explained in No. 21. Tutu here means that the net is not deep enough; tolo, to move the net forward in order to surround a certain area. Similar to No. 511.
513. Fa'atagitagi ula. To call intently like the crayfish.
Crayfish are caught in the lagoon by means of lobster baskets. If only a little crayfish is found in the basket at the early morning visit, it is left there until evening. According to the Samoans it will cry loudly until its big companions come to keep it company in the basket.
Upu fa'amaulaeo. Same meaning as No. 365. Matou te o mai nei fa'atagi timu, fa'atagitagi ula. Compare also No. 471 and the following:
514. Fa'atagitagi niu malili. The married couple mentioned in No. 169 sat under a coconut tree and waited until the nuts fell down, as they were too lazy to pluck them.
515. O le faiva aulima tautala. With speaking it is as with hauling in the fish line.
Used to beg pardon for having given offence in a speech.
The alafaga fisher (see Nos. 5, 11) hauls in the line with a backward motion of his hand (faiva aulima). An incorrect movement will lead to the loss of the fish. Pratt explains: A reference to a club-match, in which blows were given at random.
516. Ua lata le tau laumea. It will soon be evening.
Same meaning as No. 368.
517. When an approaching shower changes direction and falls in the bush, people say:
O ua 'ua to i vao. The rain falls in the bush.
Applied to something a person expected or feared and which does not happen. Compare No. 461.
518. When the decisive battle has been fought and the victors are about to exterminate the vanquished, a wise and humane chief will say: Remember they are our brothers and - 5 spare them. The brave young warriors will die and be forgotten, but the clemency we exercise will be remembered by future generations and may some day be to our advantage.
E gase toa, 'ae ola pule. The warriors die, but the (clemency exercised by our) authority will live for ever.
The vanquished begging for their lives or expressing their thanks for having been spared, will say:
Ee manatua pule, 'ae le manatua fa'alaeo. Clemency will be remembered, but destruction will be forgotten.
He who has been spared will not forget to say to his heir on his death-bed: Remember the chief to whom I owed my life.
519. O le va'a e le'i mau le malali. Like a boat on which the gum of the breadfruit tree is not fast yet.
The gum of the breadfruit tree is used to calk boats.
Same meaning as No. 350. Also used as upu faifai.
520. Ua tu'ua i le to'oto'o pa'epa'e. It was left to the white (unused) orator's staff.
To'oto'o pa'epa'e or sinasina refers to a young talking chief (see No. 342).
Applied to a village that has a young inexperienced tulafale. Used as an upu fa'amaulalo or faifai; also used as an upu alofa to excuse the mistakes made by the talking chief. Ua tu'ua i le to'oto'a pa'epa'e le nu'u nei. See No. 389.
521. Musumusu a puiali'i. The whisperings of the chiefs.
Used when the chiefs discuss their affairs in a low voice so that the women, young men and children will not hear what is being said. Applied like Nos. 29, 113, 207, 239, 424.
522. Ua ou nofo ma le mama lomi. I sit with a ball of food in the mouth.
The decoy pigeons used to be fed with small balls of kneaded taro or breadfruit.
Used to express thanks for benefits received, especially for food served to a travelling party.
523. Lama tuapola. To watch behind the house shutters.
In pagan times assassination did not occur infrequently.
To have a secret design; to meditate evil.- 6
524. Several proverbial sayings are based on the legend of the Sasa'umani's fishing expedition. Pugai and Lealali had ten sons all named Sa'umani and the whole family, including a sister, were known as the Sasa'umani. Pulelei'ite (see No. 466), the son of Punapunavai and Lefe'e, joined the brothers and was named Sa'umani afa'ese (i.e., of a different stock). One day he was fishing with the brothers between Tutuila and Manu'a. They were trying to catch a wondrous turtle whose shell sent forth a luminous red glow.
O le melomelo a Manu'a. The red glow of Manu'a.
Applied to occurrences known by everyone.
525. The fishermen (see above) succeeded in catching the turtle in a net; but it was so heavy that they could not lift it into the boat. One after the other of the Sa'umani tried in vain. Finally it was Pulele'i'ite's turn. He asked: Pe tele a lalo, pe tele a luga? Shall I push it from above or from below? His words were meant to confuse the brothers. They replied:
Tele a lalo le i'a a Sasa'umani. Push the fish of the Sasa'umani upward.
Used in the same sense as No. 521 with the additional meaning of: Let the preparations remain secret; the final result may be made public.
526. Pulele'i'ite (see above) then pushed the fish to Savai'i and landed it between Si'uvao and Falelima. The spot is remembered to this day. The turtle was cooked in the oven but, through negligence, the carapace was allowed to burn. Only a small piece of the precious tortoise shell was saved. This happened at Sagone. Hence:
Sina toe o Sagone. A small piece left at Sagone.
Used when asking for a favour: I will appreciate even a little.
527. The remaining piece of shell was buried in the mountains of Savai'i. Pulele'i'ite went to Malie in Upolu and lived with Malietoa.
On a fine afternoon Savai'i could be seen distinctly and, as the buried shell glowed even through the covering earth, the island with its broad back resembled a huge turtle sleeping on the waters. Malietoa said:- 7
Ua se i'a e moe mauga o Savai'i. The mountains of Savai'i look like a sleeping fish (turtle).
Compare No. 71.
528. Malietoa was keen on possessing the tortoise shell (see above). In return Pulele'i'ite asked for a perch for his decoy pigeon. This was only a figure of speech. What he really wanted, was a girl. Malietoa, who was not very adept at solving riddles, brought him several kinds of wood suitable for making a perch. To draw the chief's attention to his error, Pulele'i'ite then gave him a:
lau'ava mu'amu'a, a young kava shoot (a worthless thing).
Upu fa'amaulalo or faifai: Be contented with this trifle; I have nothing better.
529. O le sala e tau'ave i le fofoga. Sin is carried in the mouth.
Many sins are committed through slander and angry words.
Used as an upu taofiofi; also as an expression of satisfaction when the evil-mouthed person has met with punishment.
530. Na o le taeao o faiva. One should go fishing (hunting) only in the morning.
The early morning hour is the most suitable time for the sport. The saying is also applied to other things that should be done in the early morning, such as setting out on a journey. A similar saying refers to the poula (night dance): Na o le afiafi o faiva (siva).
531. Ua tu'utu'u solo fa'afuamanusina. Lying about like the eggs of the manusina.
The manusina (a white seagull) does not built a nest, but lays its eggs anywhere on the ground.
Applied to persons who are related to one another, but live in different localities; also to the scattered islands belonging to the same group or the scattered houses of a village.
532. Sa'ili 'ese fa'atavau. To look for another place like the leech.- 8
The leech does not stay on the part of the body where it happens to drop, but looks for a better, softer spot where it can suck the blood.
Pratt: Applied to those who, not content with what they have, seek for things too high.
533. Ou te fa'atua'iato. I am like the one sitting behind the outrigger boom.
The saying relates to the big outrigger canoe soatau which the Samoans used for long voyages before they had learned from the Tongans and Fijians how to build the double canoe 'alia. The outrigger booms served as seats for the paddlers. Those who sat behind the booms (tua'iato) assisted neither in paddling nor in bailing out the boat (taliu). From time to time the steersman called: Fa'afetai alo (thank you for rowing) and fa'afetai taliu. The others replied: Fa'afetai tautai, fa'afetai fa'auli or fa'afetai folau (thank you for steering). The inactive ones were not taken any attention of.
Upu fa'amaulae similar to No. 83. The saying is also used by a stranger entering a house where a fono or a distribution of food takes place.
534. Ua fa'aluma tupu i fale. The disgrace had its origin at home.
Applied to a person who, through his bad behaviour, exposes his relatives to people's criticism.
535. Ua fa'aseumataina. To watch the sport of pigeon-catching.
Also: Ua mataina le seu, abbreviation for ua fa'apei le seu ua mataina.
One of the hunters tries to catch a pigeon; the others watch whether he is successful or not. Same meaning as Nos. 261, 338.
536. E le la'ai mo'o i liu o va'a. The gecko does not walk about in the bilge of the boat.
Because the gecko is a land animal. Same meaning as No. 216.
537. Ua muli mai ni oli, a o ni foli? How will there be anything to boast about when there is no semblance of ability?- 9
Oli (not to be confused with 'oli'oli (to rejoice) means to be proud of, to boast about something one has done; foli (foliga) is to be like unto, to resemble.
Upu faifai applied to vain boasting. Compare No. 133.
538. High chief Tamasoali'i (Safata) has two tulafale, Fuga and Mau'ava, who sit to the right and left of him. They are called tafa'i. When kava is about to be served, Mau'ava stands up and, having laid a stone in the place vacated by him, he sits near the kava bowl and calls out the cups. Last of all he calls out his own cup and the cup-bearer will pour it over the stone. Tamasoali'i must not be without his two tafa'i during the ceremony; that is why the stone takes Mau'ava's place.
An orator sitting next to a high chief, will often introduce his speech with the words:
Tafa'i ma'a Mau'ava. Let a stone occupy Mau'ava's place.
i.e.—As it would be unmannerly for me to speak so close to the high chief, I place, so to speak, a stone between us. The following are also heard: Tafa'i ma'a le na liu fatu and Tafa'i ma'a le tamaloa na i le Alataua (the eastern parts of Safata).
539. Molia tai o'o. Carried along by the flood tide.
The flood tide carries the salt water fish into the rivers. When the tide recedes the fish, in the belief they are in the sea, remain behind and are often stranded (pa'ulia).
Applied (1) to a person who thoughtlessly rushes into an undertaking and then finds himself in trouble. Upu fa'anoanoa or alofa: Talofa, ua molia a'u ('oe, o ia) i tai o'o. Also used as an expression of satisfaction when one has acted with prudence and discretion: Fa'afetai, e le molia ita i tai o'o; (2) as an upu fa'amaulalo it is used to wave off compliments and congratulations: E le molia a'u i tai o'o.
540. E tasi le fa'aafi, 'ae felatilati.
The explanation is not quite clear. Pratt translates fa'aafi, the sheet and boom of a canoe. Felatilati (or felasilasi) is not found in the dictionary. The word is said to be borrowed from the Tongan or Fijian and seems to have the - 10 meaning of: sufficient, adequate. The saying, then, could be translated: To turn about only once, but it is sufficient. It pictures a boat that reaches its destination with a single tack.
According to another explanation the saying relates to fire-making by rubbing together two pieces of wood. Fa'aafi, then, would be the last effort that produces the spark and felatilati—ola, burn.
541. Tuiaana i Lotoa was defeated by the Tongans and fled with his family to the region where later was founded the village of Palapala, Savai'i. There they built a house behind a breastwork of felled wood. Pipili, one of the sons, stood guard on the outside. The other two boys and their sister Lelauoi looked after (tausi) their parents. Hence, fa'amatua i vao, or abbreviated:
Fa'amatuavao: To look after the parents in the bush.
To do a thing conscientiously: Ia fa'amatuavao or ia fai ma le fa'amaoni, aua le fa'ataga ona fai; ua ou fa'amatuavao.
Lelauoi later acquired the title of Tuiaana. In recent times Papala was transferred to Patamea. The faleupolu (see No. 201) of Patamea is known as Fale a'ana.
542. The following has a similar meaning:
Fa'amatualautalo. As if it were wrapped in an old taro leaf.
As related in No. 477, Losi stole a taro plant in heaven. He wrapped it in an old taro leaf (lautalo matuatua) and secreted it on his body. Had he not taken every precaution, he would have been discovered.
543. Chiefs Olo of Falelatai and Tigi of Amoa courted Lady Lau. She preferred Tigi, but, because of the opposition of her faleupolu (see No. 201) she had to marry Olo. After the wedding Tigi visited their home and gained Lau's favour. When she became pregnant, he returned to Amoa. Lau had a boy. When he was grown up he went fishing with Olo. Being disobedient he was scolded by Olo who said ‘You are not my son.” The boy told his mother and she admitted that Tigi was his father. The boy ran away to Amoa where his mother rejoined him. One evening Tigi and Lau were discussing what name they would give to the boy. They did not know that Olo, who had followed his wife, sat outside - 11 and overheard the conversation. When the lovers decided on the name of Tigilau, Olo said: A ua ta'ua Tigi ma Lau, a mea ta'u ane ma Olo; or abbreviated:
A ua Tigi ma Lau, ta'u ane ai ma Olo. If he is to be called after Tigi and Lau, why not add the name of Olo?
Applied to a person who insists on having his share.
The boy was given the name of Tigilauma'olo, but is usually called Tigilau. Tradition relates that he murdered two women because they had killed his manini fish. The saying, Ua initia lau manini or i lau manini, is not a proverb but simply an expression of scorn applied to a disobedient child.
544. Ia fa'afao le va'a o mala. Upset the ship filled with calamities.
A call to quarrelling parties to become reconciled. See No. 372. The evil suffered should be loaded on a ship and sunk in the sea.
545. Before a club-match (see No. 232) took place, an umu (Samoan oven), was made for the purpose of cooking food and hardening the lapalapa clubs. Those who took part in the sport were bound to the observation of certain rules, for instance, they were not allowed to touch the food. Transgressions of a rule were punished by the gods and the trespasser was sure to lose the match. People then said:
Ua tautalagia le umu lapalapa. He has trespassed on the lapalapa oven.
Applied to an undertaking that miscarries through the fault of a participant; for instance, when one reveals something that should have been kept secret. Also used as a warning: Aua ne'i tautalagia le umu lapalapa.
546. Pe na o le 'utu e vaelua? Can only a louse be divided?
Just as in the story related in No. 483, two young men were sent to Fiji by their father to get him a talisman. The Tuifiti gave them a closed basket full of bugs and ants. Despite the prohibition, they opened the basket on their way home and the insects escaped. Shame-facedly they returned to Tuifiti who, having scolded them, gave them a louse which he divided in the middle so that each should have his share.- 12
Used as a warning against avarice: Aua le limavale. If even a louse can be divided, why should not you be able to share what you have?
547. E tu manu, 'ae le tu logologo. The town-crier is reliable, but a rumour is unreliable.
When a fono is to be held, the town-crier (manu) is sent to advise the chiefs. If they have knowledge of it only through hearsay, they cannot be certain.
Another explanation relates to tapa making. To apply the dye, the cloth is stretched on a frame called 'upeti. The most common design, known as logologo, is set out in parallel lines with manoa (string). Another design is called manu. “If a woman does not like the logologo design, she will take the manu.”
Applied to the different aspects of a question, only one of which is to be recommended.
548. Tali i le tualima. To wave off with the back of the hand.
This is what a father does when his children try to approach him while he is in conversation with his fellow chiefs.
To give a person a cold welcome. To refuse to lend one's ear to friendly advice. Pe se a le mea ua e tali ai a'u i le tualima? (Pe se a le mea ua e fa'alemana'ia ai a'u?) Aua e te tali a'u i le tualima.
549. E fa'atata i Malie, 'ae fa'aofo i Palalaua. In Malie is made public what was discussed in Palalaua.
Palalaua is the malae of Siumu. The district fono for Tuamasaga was held in Malie. The different villages first had their private discussions at home, before they sent their delegates to Malie where the final decision was reached and made public.
Applied to matters settled long before they were made public.
550. The brothers Fuialaeo, Ma'oma'o and Pili had a sister named Sina who was married to the Tuifiti. When they heard there was a famine in Fiji, they planned to go to their sister's assistance. As they had the form of animals (the first two being birds and the other a lizard) they could not appear in her presence, fearing to shame her. So they - 13 thought of a stratagem. In their hiding place in the bush, they planted a palai yam and directed its growth towards Sina's home. When Sina saw the yam, she daily broke off a piece until she finally came upon her brothers.
Ia tulituli matagua. Follow the direction of the broken yam.
Strive towards your goal and do not allow yourself to be diverted from it.
551. Tu'itu'i malofie. The tapping at the club-match.
At a club-match the opponents form lines opposite each other. To challenge his opponent, a fighter will tap the ground in front of him with his club. The challenge will be either accepted or refused with the words: Sema sou nafa. The opposing lines are called fa'amalofie, because youths about to be tattooed (malofie) are also ranged in lines.
Same meaning as Nos. 365, 371, 513, 514.
552. Fa'amatagi. From the direction of the wind.
Matagi is matamatagi. Applied to the first cause, the origin of things; as all things having been created by God; the laws being made by the government; to tell a story from the beginning.
553. Pu'ega is a handle on the gunwale of the bonito canoe, just behind the rear outrigger. While the fisherman swings in the rod with his right hand, he steadies himself with his left by taking hold the pu'ega. The rowers have to paddle hard, lest the fish drop the hook. The assistance given by the paddlers is called malu.
Malu i le pu'ega. Assistance given when the fisher holds himself on pu'ega.
To lend assistance in an undertaking. O le avatu nei malu i le pu'ega.
554. Fa'ava'amatagia. Like a ship fighting the wind.
Same meaning as Nos. 129, 415. When those threatened with a danger begin to quarrel and blame one another, a wise man will say: Aua le fetaua'i fa'ava'amatagi, but take steps to save yourself.
555. Sao amo.
The villages of Anoama'a (Atua) had to make food offerings of 'ava'ava fish to Chief Lemana of Lufilufi. The offerings were called “amo,” the literal meaning of which - 14 is “carrying-stick.” When the chief was satisfied, the people said: Ua sao amo—It went well with the amo.
Used as an upu fiafia after difficulties have been overcome, a job completed, etc. Also used in the form of: Ia sao amo and Ua le sao amo.
556. O le tai e pisi nu'u malolo. A conquered village is like a splashing sea.
When a wave splashes into a boat and one occupant gets wet, the others do not know whether the same thing will not happen to them.
Used to reply to scornful, sneering remarks: Aua le mimita. Compare Nos. 423, 448, 281.
557. E fana le fatu, 'ae tu'u le manu. To hit the stone, but miss the bird.
This relates to the hunt with bow and arrow of the manuali'i. See Nos. 122-124.
Applied to one who misses an opportunity or suffers defeat.
558. Ua u ifo tau i le pa'u. The pain penetrates only as far as the skin.
Used when granting forgiveness; also as a request: Ia u ifo, etc. Similar to Nos. 325, 336. Pratt: Of family quarrels, as if only piercing the skin.
The saying may be based on the following: Tuiatua Polailevao was angry with Tuisamoa. The latter sent his two sons, whose mother was related to the Tuiatua, to ask forgiveness. When the Tuiatua saw the youths, his anger arose anew, but remembering they were his relatives, he sent them back with a full pardon for the father.
559. O uta ia i Olo. Inland near Mount Olo.
Oloalii is the mountain near Neiafu where Lefaoseu and Ulumu once had their contest in pigeon catching (see No. 103). Their tia (cleared space in the bush) could be used by none but experts.
Upu fa'alumaluma applied to a person who attempts more than he can manage. Compare No. 128.
It is said that on the tia Oloalii, Ulumu was killed and cut up like a pig by Chief Tapusoa of Sataua who was jealous of his reputation as a hunter. A relative of Ulumu, by the - 15 name of Pei Tautala'ai then treated the murderer in a like manner. On this is based the saying: O ula ia i Olo, applied to “retaliation.”
560. Ifo i le ti, a'e i le nonu. (To take it) off the ti plant (and hang it) on the nonu tree.
The saying relates to the history of the Tuiatua Mata'utia (see No. 408). When he and Levalasi had made up their minds to adopt a child, they had offers from every side. One candidate for adoption was Tuagasi'i of Satunumafono (Safata), who was brought along with numbers of fine mats to make a good impression of the Tumua (the speakers of Leulumoega and Lufilufi). The mats were first hung on the trees. When the time came to show them, a mat was taken off a ti tree, carried around for inspection and then hung on a nonu tree. Tuagasi'i being rejected, the mats could not be accepted. Thus only the ti and the nonu trees had, so to say, their share of the mats, while the orators went empty-handed.
The saying is used to refer to discontent and envy. Pratt: Applied to family quarrels.- 16
The figures refer to the number of the proverbs)