Volume 6 1897 > Volume 6, No. 2 > Folk-songs and myths from Samoa, by John Fraser, p 67-76
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V. The History of Tangaloa-a-Ui.—A Tala.

Introduction.—The supreme Tangaloa of the heavens was the father of all Polynesian gods and men. His divine children, the Sā-Tangaloa, occupied the various stages of the heavens above—all except the ninth, where Tangaloa-i-le-langi reigned supreme and alone. But on earth below he had sons also by mortal mothers. These sons were demigods, and one of them, Tangaloa-a-Ui, is the subject of this myth. Other particulars of his history are to be found in other myths.

The Tala Translated.

TANGALOA-A-UI was both by birth and adoption a god; he was also of human birth through his mother. A-Ui, as a god, had the right to go up to the heavens, which he did frequently, to attend the councils there. On earth at that time there were no councils, for no rule was yet established among men. Tangaloa's children were gods, and had all the same power to ascend from earth to heaven, to pass over seas, and to go to the most distant regions.

2. When A-Ui's sons were sufficiently old, he used to take them up with him to the councils of Tangaloa and the Sā-Tangaloa. The one son, Ta'e, sat respectfully with the other young gods outside the council-house, listening to the deliberations. But the other son, Le Fanonga, used to go about quarrelling with the other boy-gods noisily, so that there was always an uproar when Tangaloa-a-Ui and his sons came up. This was utterly unlike the propriety required in these realms; for, at all times, perfect peace and order were there, and silence during the holding of councils. Annoyed by these disturbances, Tangaloa-the-creator and Tangaloa-lē-fuli proposed that dignity and authority and the palace and sovereign rule should be given to Tangaloa-a-Ui to take to earth with him, so that he might appoint one - 68 of his sons king of earth, with all the royal rights; thus there would be no occasion to have the peace and quietness of the heavenly regions any longer broken.

3. Accordingly, when Tangaloa-a-Ui next attended the council, Tangaloa-the-unchangeable said to him, ‘Come here! Have a regard for these lands, that there may be no (more) disturbance here. Let the title depart; take it away with your children; and do you take order down below, as to whom you will cause to hold the title; and take it and hold a council down below; take it, and with it a royal house.’

4. With these dignities, therefore, Tangaloa-a-Ui and his sons returned to his home at Le Fangā. Here he made his arrangements for the future. So to Le Fanonga he said, ‘You are a disobedient boy; you stop here. Ta'e-o-Tangaloa shall be king; to him shall be given the royal sway over all lands under heaven; the proclamation of the ao shall go forth in his name.’

5. At that time there was no Tutuila nor Upolu, but only this Manu'a, and Savai'i and Tonga and Fiti and the eastern groups—all included under the name of Samoa-atoa—and papa-langi, ‘the foreign lands.’ And so he became sovereign of all these lands; their kings all received their dignity through or from him. His title was Tui Manu'a-tele-ma-Samoa-atoa, ‘prince of great Manu'a and of the whole of Samoa.’ His sister was Moi-u'u-le-Apai, who married Tui-Fiti, ‘the king of Fiji.’

6. After he had made these arrangements, Tangaloa-a-Ui went back to heaven and remained there.

7. But his son Ta'e-o-Tangaloa married two wives, of whom the one Le Lau-lau-a-le-Folasa was the first to bear a child. Then at once they cried out, ‘We have got a king of Manu'a.’ Doubtless the Folasa had prophesied that the title should descend to him. Tangaloa came and was angry. He said, ‘The boy of her who brings forth first will not be titled quietly.’ Then he came to Aualuma, and Sina had brought forth. Her family heard that a king was proclaimed. Then they were angry. Sina said, ‘Come here! Your wife has brought forth; your child has been elevated; he is proclaimed. You separate from me and dwell alone with that lady. Why should you proclaim the praise of me and my boy? Let me please myself as to a name for him.’ But Tangaloa said, ‘Don't listen to that tale; be not grieved. Have I said, “The family that does things quickly shall rule?” Do I desire the boy of the quick-doer? But, come now, proclaim that boy of yours as your chief; let him be called “The Raiser-up of Lands” (Fa'a-ea-nu'u); let him have the title as exclusively human; let him stand up in his palace as king of Manu'a and all Samoa. But as for that other boy in the east, let him be called “The Heavenly Pleader” (Ati-i-langi); he is only a god in Fanga; let him make speeches in the sky, his palace; let him sit there and speak to the heavens; let the boy be exclusively god in Fanga.

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1.—Tangaloa-a-Ui; a is the preposition ‘of,’ and is here equivalent to ‘belonging to,’ ‘begotten of,’ ‘the son of.’

Councils; ‘fono.Cf. Ovid's Consedere duces, the council of the knobs, as old translators call them; cf. also Homer's Δανάων βούλη, the council of the Grecian kings before Troy.

2.—Council-house; ‘fale-ula’; which means the ‘bright house.’ Elsewhere in this myth it is translated, ‘a royal house,’ ‘the palace.’ It is also the name of the supreme Tangaloa's abode in the ninth heavens.

Sovereign rule; royal rights; the title; all these expressions are included in the one word ao, which denotes the sovereign, supreme and sacred position of the rightful tui, or king.

Le Fanonga: he was a giant; see his history in other myths.

Propriety; see the account of the conduct of Pava's boy in another myth.

Silence; ‘ligo-ligo.

The creator; ‘fa'a-tutupu-nu'u’; who ‘made the lands to spring up.’

Lē-fuli, ‘the immoveable.’ See the myth entitled ‘The Samoan account of Creation’ in vol. iii of this Journal.

Annoyed by these disturbances; the Samoan text here, shortly expressed, is as follows: ‘Ona oo lea i le tasi fono; ua fetalai Tangaloa-fa'a-tutupu-nu'u ma Tangaloa-lē-fuli, “Ina o mai ia, se fai le tatou filifiliga; ina alu ia lena alii ma ana fanau; aua lē misa soo ma le soesa a le tama lea o Le Fanonga; a e lē afaina Ta'e-o-Tangaloa; ina au mai ia le ao e te'a ifo ma le alii ma ana fanau.”’ Which means, ‘Then another council came on; and Tangaloa-the-creator and Tangaloa-the-immoveable said, “Come now, let us make our choice of the best plan; let that chief go and his offspring; don't quarrel constantly because of the offensive troublesomeness of the boy Le Fanonga; but there is no danger (on that account) as to Ta'e-o-Tangaloa; make the royal title go down with that chief and his offspring.”’

3.—Come here, &c.; the Samoan text is: ‘Maliu mai ia; e te silasila i le nu'u nei e leai se pisa; ma ina te'a alu ia le ao; inā ave ma lau fanau; pule oe i lalo se e te fa'anofo i le ao, ma ave ma fono ina fono i lalo; ave ma le fale-ula.’

5.—Moi-'u'u. See the myth about her. She is probably the same as Mai-kuku in Maori tradition.

7.—Le Folasa, ‘the prophet.’ See his history in other myths.

Brings forth first; ‘failise’; lit., of the ‘quick-doer.’

Her family hear, &c.; ‘ua fa'alogo le aiga ua alogaina lea tupu.’

Your wife, your child; there is some bitterness in her use of ‘your.’

The title (of authority), ‘ao’; ‘his palace,’ ‘lona fale-ula’; god in Fanga, ‘aitu,’ an inferior sort of god.

VI. The Supremacy of Tui-Manu'a.—A Tala.

By Tangaloa's appointment, there was originally only one king for the whole Samoan group, which included Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Rarotonga, Tahiti, and Wahua. In accordance with this arrangement, Fiji, Tonga, and the eastern groups used to bring tribute of fish - 70 to Tui-Manu'a. The Fijians felt it to be burdensome to bring their offerings so far, hence they compounded for them, once for all, in the following way:—

2. A couple named Ia-ia and Sau-sau gave birth to a pig, that had young. The Fijians held a council, in which the difficulty of conveying the umiti to Tui-Manu'a was considered, and it was resolved to take a boar and a young sow and offer them as compensation for the annual tribute. The offer was accepted. The progeny was distributed among the chief families of Manu'a, on condition that they should pay the umiti regularly to Tui-Manu'a. So young pigs were soon brought to him in such abundance that the king told his councillors that they must now take charge of the produce of the land themselves. On one occasion, while the king and his attendants were on a visit to Fiti-uta, the umiti arrived from the eastern isles, but the people of Taū killed those who brought it. When the king returned, he was so angry that he prayed to Tangaloa that the islands of these wicked people might sink; and so they disappeared; but sometimes a light is seen where the islands were, and boat-parties coming from Tutuila mistake it for Taū. There is a tradition that formerly there were islands to the south-east of Taū.

All this is testified to by Taua-nu'u, legend-keeper of Manu'a.


1.—Wahua; this name is doubtful as it is indistinctly written in the MS. It may be Oahu, which in Maori is called Wāhu.

Tribute of fish; ‘sa au mai le umiti a Tui-Manu'a mai Fiti ma Toga ma le atu sasae.’

2.—Ia-ia, ‘a pig's grunt’; Sau-sau, ‘come-come,’ or ‘sow-sow.’ Umiti, ‘tribute’; councillors, ‘tula-fale,’ heads of families.

Take charge, &c.; ‘pule i le lau 'ele'ele.’

Islands . . might sink; ‘ia lolomi lea atu nu'u i sasae.’

VII. The Origin of the Samoans.

Note.—This fragment is not signed or dated, but it seems to have been written by a missionary on some one of the other Islands of the Samoan group.

I have not been able to ask any one of the wise men (au popoto) about your account of the name Savai'i. There is little doubt, I think, that Manu'a was the first island to be peopled, not only of this group, but also of several other groups. All tradition seems to point to that. Tui-Manu'a, I believe, claims to be the seigneur (matua) of all the Tuis in these seas, including Tui-Tonga and Tui-Fiti. The Tongan tradition goes far to confirm this. They give the following account of the origin of Samoa and Tonga: Maui or Ti'i-ti'i went to Tui-Manu'a to - 71 beg from him a bonito-hook (e saili pa). Tui-Manu'a was away from home, and his wife received Maui all too kindly in her husband's absence. She one day asked him what he came for, and he told her. She then said, ‘When Tui-Manu'a comes, he will offer you a bright hook (pa pupula), but don't take that; he will then offer another and another, but you must refuse them all, and ask for that old hook there which is lying in the eaves of the house (taatia i le pausisi o le fale). All this took place just as she said; and in due time Maui went away with his hook. Tui-Manu'a's wife, however, was now pregnant to him; so, before he left, he told her that, if the child should be a son, she should call him Tonga. He then came down here to Samoa and fished up these islands; but, just as he had done so, he had to flee from Tui-Manu'a, whose wrath was kindled on discovering his wife's unfaithfulness. Maui then fished up Tonga, and, having heard of the birth of a son, he called the islands after him; and, as a proof of his love, he made Tonga all level and smooth for him. He would, perhaps, have done the same for Samoa if Tui-Manu'a had not been so angry against him; and so it was left in the rough, just as it had been fished up.

And this is the origin of Samoa and Tonga, and explains why the one is rocky and mountainous and the other level and smooth.

VIII. The Origin of the Samoans.

Tufa, chief of Sapuna-oa, says:—

1. Samoa are a people that came in a vessel; they got the land, but the accounts differ as to the place from which they came. Tui-Manu'a was first, because, when a chief of Upolu or Savai'i dies, he is carried about on a bier all through his village, and they shout out, ‘O Tui-Manu'a, this is your chief.’

2. Next, after the people of Manu'a, came Tua and Ana and Sanga. The land of Tua (i.e., Atua) was thus divided:—

  • 1. First of all is Sā-le-a'a-au-mua, the head of Atua.
  • 2. Falefa, the next, is the heart of Atua.
  • 3. Fale-a-lili, the third, is the tail of Atua.

3. Lili was the name of a man belonging to Fiji. This man was driven away (i.e., expelled) because of his oppressive conduct. He came to Samoa, but he did not get here in time for the appointment of Atua; the appointment of Aleipata as head of Atua was over, but Lufi-lufi remained as the governing land. Then, when Lili came from Fiji, a fresh arrangement was made, and this district of Atua became the tail-land of Atua. Thus Aleipata was made the head-land of - 72 Atua; Lufilufi was made the governing land; this place (i.e., Fale-a-lili) was made the tail of Atua. Then came Lili and built his house at Satalo, which was called the Tail-of-Atua.

4. When these arrangements were all made, then came Vae-nu'u, whose name was Lili-ita, from Tui-alii. He was the tutelary deity of a family whose founder was worshipped in Sale-sā-tele as if he were the King of Chiefs (O le Tui o Alii). His emblem was a leaf of the fai-mamae banana. When the month of June comes on, then a feast is made that he may have compassion and not let an epidemic break out.


1.—This is your chief; that is, the chief of each island belongs to Tui-Manu'a.

2.—Head, ‘ao’; heart, ‘uso,’ the heart of a tree; tail, i'u.

3.—Appointment, arrangement, ‘tofiga. ’

Head-land, ‘ulu’; governing-land, ‘lau mua.

4.—Founder, ‘tamā,’ father'; Sale-sā-tele, which is in the Fale-a-lili district. Emblem, ‘ata’; break out, ‘tupu.’

IX. The Origin of the Rarotongans.

Note.—Manu'a, July 17th, 1871. On our way to Fiti-uta this day, Taunga, the Rarotongan teacher, gave me the following particulars as to the peopling of his native isle:—

The first inhabitants were from Hiva, of the Marquesas Group, and their chief was named Tutapu, of Tahiti, according to Rarotongan myth. There are no accounts as to how he came, and hence he is said to have come in the manner of a god—that is, not in a canoe or other conveyance. When his party had established themselves on the island, Tangiia arrived from Tahiti in a big canoe with a large following. The two parties took to war, and Tangiia and his men were getting worsted, when Karika came from Manu'a in a large canoe with 200 men. Tangiia at once offered him the supremacy if he would join him against the other party. He did so, and they, combined, gained the upper hand; hence the Karika family became supreme, and the present Makea is the descendant of Karika. And, since his malae at Manu'a bore the name of Rarotonga, that is probably the origin of the name of that island. The piece of land called Rarotonga is on Manu'a, and is on the north side of the land occupied by Taunga himself. There are still on Rarotonga, says Taunga, representatives of all the three parties named above.

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Marquesas Group; thus the MS.; but there are strong reasons for believing this to be the Hiva on Raiatea.

Karika: from the myth about the boy 'Ali'a-tama, it appears that the name 'Ali'a is the Samoan form of Karika.

X. The Story of Tapu-ali'i.—A Tala.

A Mythological Account of the Origin of the Names of the Islands Apolima and Manono.

1. Tapu-ali'i was the son of the daughter of Pule-ta-fanga-fanga. He was grown up. He got hold of two fishermen, Nono and Lima, and they went out to fish in a double-canoe, but those two were carried off by Li'a-va'a. Then Tapu-ali'i sought for his fishermen, but he did not find them in this group. Then Tapu-ali'i went in his double-canoe to seek his fishermen in another group of islands: he went, but he did not return. He could not find them anywhere in Manu'a. Where can they have gone to? But his fishermen knew that they themselves had caused lands to grow up, which (from them are now called) Apolima, Ma-nono.

XI. O le Gafa o Tau-olo-ash.—The Pedigree of Tau-olo-ash.—A Tala.

2. Tuē and Tumā-ăuă were the names of a married couple in Auasi. They were makers of fine mats from the leaf (lau) for mats ('ie). Olo-'ie is the name of the land in which it (i.e., the lau-'ie) was planted. They brought down the leaves, and then looked for something to scrape them with; they found a shell (asi); the place where they got the shell is called Au-asi. Then the woman began to plait a mat. Five children were the progeny of that couple, four girls and one boy. Fe'e-lelei or Fe'e-alo-alo was the name of the boy, but the names of the girls were Ni-usi and Manu-ina, Ailesi and Muli-'ua-'ua. Two of them behaved well towards their parents and two of them behaved ill. [Incomplete.]


1.—Apolima and Manono are two very small islands off Upolu.

According to this myth, the names come from two fishermen, called Lima and Nono. Apo means ‘a cup’ or the hollow of the hand, and refers to the cup- - 74 like shape of the summit of the island. From this crater runs down a pleasant stream of water, on the sides of which are patches of land cultivated by the inhabitants, who are about 200 in number.

Li'a-va'a; ‘li'a’ means the ropes of sinnet which fasten the outrigger to the canoe (va'a).

Double-canoe, ‘ali'a’; fishermen, ‘tautai’; carried off, ‘area.

2.—Fine mats, ‘tonga lau-i'e.’ To plait a mat takes months. Fe'e-lelei, ‘the good octopus’; Fe'e-alo-alo, ‘the feelers of the octopus.’

XII. Silia-i-vao.—A Tala.

1. This name occurs in the ‘Sologā-Tupu,’ where it is said—

O Malae-a-Vavau, this is our island;
The three kings lived there—
Fa'a-ea-nu'u and Pui-pui-po
And Silia-i-vao; they have lost the predominance,
And they have passed away downward,
Through the anger of the three districts.
They landed at Sili and Fuai-Upolu.
Puni-gutu perished through his [vile] purpose.
[They] arrived in safety, [but he] did not remain,
But was thinking of Tui-o-le-fanua,
Through whom the islands were regained,
On whose account he wished to return.

Taua-nu'u gives the following account of Silia-i-vao:—

2. Silia-i-vao was Tui-Manu'a the ninth, that is the eighth in succession from Ta'e-o-Tangaloa, thus:—

  • 1. The first Tui-Manu'a was Ta'e-o-Tangaloa
  • 2. Fa'a-ea-nu'u
  • 3. Sao-io-io-Manu
  • 4. Le Lologa
  • 5. Ali'a-matua
  • 6. Ali'a-tama
  • 7. Pui-pui-po
  • 8. Fa'a-ea-nu'u
  • 9. Silia-i-vao
  • 10. Tiārigo

Pui-pui-po, Fa'a-ea-nu'u, and Silia-i-vao are termed in the Solo 'o le tupu tolu, ‘the royal trio,’ or ‘the three kings.’

3. Silia-i-vao was the eldest son, heir, and rightful successor of Ali'a-tama. He had a son named Fa'a-toa-lia, whose wife's name was Lasi. Silia-i-vao so coveted this young woman Lasi that he became thin and ill with the intensity and constancy of his desire; and he requested Fa'a-toa-lia to allow his wife to come and prepare him some - 75 food. She accordingly made ready a dish and brought it to him. She was stirring it with a seu (a native spoon), which is a piece of coco-nut leaf stalk; but he said, ‘Put down the spoon and feed me with your fingers.’ She did so, but he thereupon seized her fingers between his teeth, and thus held her fast. He then said to her, ‘My only sickness is my intense desire for you; go and tell your husband, and beg him to let you come to me.’ She went and informed her husband that his father's illness arose only from his desire for her, and that he had sent her to beg him to give her up. Her husband answered ‘I fear the king, and I have no power to resist his wishes; now, therefore, if you love me, go to the king and be his wife.’

4. She accordingly went, and became the king's wife. After she had remained with him some months, he conceived a great dislike to her; his dislike was now as intense as had been his love before. He therefore sent her back to her husband, saying, ‘I have great regard for my son; it was very kind of him to give you up to me; now therefore go back to him.’

5. The injured pair regarded this as a greater indignity than the first wrong done to them, and they were exceedingly grieved. To this point in the narrative the commencement of the Solo refers:—

Fa'a-toa speaks—

What mountains are those so near?
Which have heard of the calamity that is upon us both?
My former kindness has been treated with contempt.

Lasi speaks—

O Fa'a-toa-lia, we have both been treated with contempt.

Fa'a-toa speaks—

Why have I been thus treated with contempt?
No deference has been paid to his loved ones,
Nor to the honour rendered by his people,
Who show deference to the children of the descendants of Soa-le-tele,
And constantly exercise mutual respect.

6. The narrative goes on to say that such was the adulterous conduct of Silia-i-vao that a general discontent arose among his people. Being afraid of an insurrection against him, he fled first to Sili and thence to some place eastward of that. At Sili two attendants were got to accompany him; their names were Puni-gutu and Lata-lata-i-'ai. The three now went to an eastern group of islands where was a king whose daughter was named Tui-o-le-fanua, and Silia-i-vao made her his wife. She had somewhere in her land a small lake covered with a flat stone, in which she kept a sacred fish (a mala-'uli) as a charm. She used to go there secretly every day, take out the - 76 fish, strip off its sides, and then throw the backbone and the head into the lake again, which she carefully covered over with the stone. She then took away the flesh of the fish to feed her husband with it. His attendants wondered where she got so constant a supply of fish; they watched her and discovered her secret. For when she again attempted to catch the fish it was very wild and would not come to her; and when she tried to adjust the stone it would not fit. She then looked about to discover the cause, and saw the men peeping. She therefore went down to the house and requested Silia-i-vao to begone with his attendants. He had now been absent from his kingdom about two years, and he thought that as his people had not actually driven him away, he might return with safety. He did so, and was gladly received.

7. Before he left, however, his attendant Puni-gutu fell in love with Tui-o-le-fanua and gained her affection. As soon therefore as they saw their master safely established in his kingdom, Puni-gutu and Lata-lata-i-'ai departed again for the land of Tui-o-le-fanua, for Puni-gutu meant to make her his wife. Silia-i-vao, hearing this, cursed them and doomed them to destruction on their voyage. They accordingly perished at sea.


1.—‘Downward,’ s.c. to oblivion. Fuai-Upolu is in the Sili district.

3.—‘I fear the king’; the kingly power was said to be of divine origin.

5.—Treated with contempt; ‘mele,’ to reject, depreciate. ‘His people,’ s.c. of Manu'a-tele.

6.—‘A sacred fish’; a supernatural incident excites attention. ‘Driven away’; expelled from his kingdom.

7.—Gained her affection; ‘na momoe laua.’ ‘Doomed them’; ‘perished’; hence the verses at the beginning of this Tala say that he ‘perished through his purpose’ to return.