Volume 75 1966 > Volume 75, No. 3 > Seven Pileni tales, by Samuel H. Elbert and Bacil F. Kirtley, p 348 - 372
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The Outer Reef Islands, where the Polynesian language known as Pileni thrives, have been Christianized for about a century; yet, principally because they lie so far from trade routes, only scanty information about the language and oral literature has been published, and until recently all of this was between 1904 and 1921. O'Ferrall 2 gave some ethnological information and a translation of five tales. Florence Coombe 3 presented one more story. In 1918 the Melanesian Mission published a prayer book, which according to Sidney H. Ray was a “slavish” imitation of the Mota language. Sidney H. Ray 4 published 11 pages of grammatical notes, texts and translations of two short tales, and a vocabulary of about 1200 words. Save for occasional references, no primary material was published after 1921 until William Davenport's comments in 1962, and an article by Elbert now in press.

The Pileni language is spoken on the islands known locally as the Outer Reefs: Pileni, Nukapu, Nupani, Matema (stress being on the last syllable, a preferable spelling is Matemaa), the north end of Nifiloli, and Taumako (also called the Duff Islands, about 60 miles northeast of the Reefs). The language in the Main Reef Islands is probably non-Malayo-Polynesian, as are the related languages spoken at Santa Cruz, 23 miles to the south. All these islands are a part of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate and are administered from Honiara, on Guadalcanal, more than 400 miles further west. According to a recent count by Davenport (personal communication), speakers of Pileni and its mutually intelligible dialects number 709. The Pileni people have so long been inter-married - 349 with their Melanesian neighbours as to be nearly indistinguishable physically. On the more remote islands, however, the people have lighter complexions.

Computations based on Swadesh's 100 basic words, reveal shared correspondences of Pileni as follows (in percentages); Tikopia, Ellice 63; Samoa 59; Rennell, Futuna 57; Ongtong Java, Wallis 55; Tonga, Hawaii 53. This would put Pileni in the Samoan branch of West Polynesia, and is what one would expect; like Samoan, Pileni has no reflects of PPN *?*h*r, as are found in Tongan. The Pileni phonemes are /p t k ph th kh mb nd ŋg f s h v m n ŋ hm hn hŋ/. PPN *s is zero in Pileni. Pileni /s/ has not been analyzed with certainty (see Elbert, 1965, “Phonological Expansions”) because of its frequent free variation with /f/ and /h/. Before /i/ it is an allophone of /t/, as in Mousikisiki. In the texts included here /s/ has been written whenever heard. Variation of /s f h/ will be noted. The prenasalized stops occur ordinarily in Melanesian loan words and proper names. The five vowels when heard long or stressed before pause are written as geminates.

Elbert was on Pileni-speaking islands for about a month beginning May 5, 1958, and collected quite a number of texts, only a few of which are included here. Some of the texts were taped. These were played back, and the teller helped with transcription and translation. Other stories were dictated directly. Most of the conversations were in the Pileni language, with some assistance from Neo-Melanesian. Of texts included here, four were told by Chief Basil of the Pileni settlement recently transferred to Nifololi. Basil, who said he was born in 1900, had been famous as a sailor, and had sailed in puke (canoes with a house on the outrigger platform) as far as the Banks Islands, some 150 miles southeast. He was pleased and proud to co-operate, but difficult to work with, especially at first, as he all too often spoke very fast or syllable by syllable. He seemed usually to have a mouthful of betel or a pipe in his mouth, and frequently looked out to sea rather than at the transcriber. A young lady, Maryanne, on the other hand, who after considerable reluctance finally consented to talk, immediately sensed the stranger's handicaps and timed her speed to his pen.

The selections include tales of two famous Polynesian culture heroes, Mousikisiki and Lata. Tilikambe was included because of its number-one position on the hit parade—simply everyone had to hear the recording over and over, as well as English and pidgin-English translations. Moreover, the psychological implications of the story were intriguing. The volcano explanatory tale was included because of the collector's fascination with the perfect cone that could be seen clearly in fair weather from the beach in front of his Nifiloli home.

The texts, translations, and preceeding notes are by Elbert, in the first person. The usual Polynesian conventions of word and particle separation are followed: a detailed grammatical description may indicate another orthography as preferable. Alternate forms given by informants in second and subsequent readings are in parenthesis. Translator's insertions are in brackets.

The analyses are by Kirtley. Asterisks follow citations of secondary sources or works referred to for their bibliographic apparatus.

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Two versions of this tale were collected, the first on May 5, 1958, under difficulties during a few hours' stopover at remote Nukapu Atoll. This was almost my first contact with the language and I understood little of what I was writing down. The school teacher was my host and informant. On May 16 I went over the story three times at Nifiloli.

The second version was collected on May 10 at Nifiloli. After a general discussion about such Polynesian personages as Mousikisiki, Tangaloa, and Lata, Basil dictated the story, saying that the Nukapu version was not “right.” Often Basil's son, Clarence, aged 31, repeated in softer tones what his father had said.

1. Tai tangata nei toa tai fafine. Ne fanau e tangata. E malamakena ko tele ki mouku, o anga. E lekatuna kua tulia atu (koi hokatulia) te mahila ko tuu oko ia, ku anga okoia. 2. Kosi, a lakau, koia koi talia ange, a lakau ke maangoa koia koi too ki te keu, koi hikuange ia pokoula ko ula okoia. 3. Koia koi kutea poatea te mala ana, koi toa te koo koi voloia tuaone, a kaikai ko tuu okoia. 4. E malamakena, a tamana ko tuake ko tele i te mala. Kona taliki ko Mouhikihiki, ko tuakena koi huatautaulia (fokatautalia), a takapuvae o tamana. 5. Ko hinakenake ko noho i te thahito ihi, iaa ko tamana e angana, siai noanga sika. 6. Takina na ataliki ko Mouhikihiki, noi kute ange aia. 7. Ne tahuli maina, koi kute ange aia e noho i thahito ifi. Koi taku ange, po, na ohino (sino) ke maluu. Kanaa, ko koe ko au o kutea mai aiau. 8. Kanaa ohinoo ka mae ala. Na noi leleinaange (leleina) na taliki pena, ko tangi koi hilihilia te akaifi. 9. Tamana ku fano ngauta. Aia ko feneiho oki, koi toa te alo koi hohia (fuaohia) lakoua ma Hinota lakoua te moana koi toa te matau koi tuku ifo, a ko lau i te aka ifi. Koi toa koi vusia a Ndeni kie lunga. 10. “Maletuio lala i toange laumea Mousikisiki vusi ai Ndeni kie lunga mate o lalaie.” 11. Ku osi. Koia kalaua kouake, lako palake i Ndatoa. Lako fulo tai tua tai alohi. 12. Lako fulofulo lako felauaki, lova a Sinota koi taku ange, po “ni oku te fenua.” Iako ko Mousikisiki koi teku ange po ni ona takina ne vusia na eia. 13. Koi teku ange Mousikisiki po ko e takua “po ni ou ta fulo o kutea a fae ta ne o mai ai. Ko ai te fae ona e lavoina ni ona te kaenga.” 14. La ne fulofulo no la ko kutea, e lavoina ko te fae o Mousikisiki. Ko te fae o Hinota e tapeo. Nakoia kohi te fae Mousikisiki, nakoia e lavoina te fae ki alohi. Te fae ki tua ni o Hinota, nakoia e tapeona. Ku osi.
1. A man took a woman. A male was born. In the morning [the father] went to the bush and worked. He went there and made the knife [or bamboo] stand up by itself and work by itself. 2. Then sticks were heaped up, the sticks were to dry and then were taken to the fire which was lit and it blazed, it blazed by itself. 3. Then he saw that his garden was clear and he took a digging stick [laugh] and dug holes in the earth, and food appeared by itself. [Two old men were coughing and a woman talking, reducing audibility; many flies.] 4. One morning the father got up and went to the garden. His son Mousikisiki got up and followed the father's footsteps. 5. He went on and on and stopped at the foot of a chestnut tree where the father was working, but it did not go well. 6. Because the son Mousikisiki was watching him. 7. [The father] looked about, and saw him sitting at the foot of the chestnut tree. And [he] said, before the body could relax. But now you have come and watched me. [Informant coughs, laughs.] 8. And the body is in pain. - 351 In this way he was cross with his son, who wept and tapped the chestnut root. 9. The father went to the bush. He [Mousikisiki] also went down and took a canoe and untied it, he and Hinota [a new man] paddled [laugh], paddled to the sea and took a hook and let it down and it became entangled with a chestnut root. And he took it and pulled up Santa Cruz. [Everyone joined in the following chant:] “. . . . Mousikisiki took a leaf and pulled up Santa Cruz maybe . . . .” [chanted twice]. 11. Finished. Then the two paddled on and went ashore at Ndatoa [place at Nukapu]. They went on, one going on the ocean side and the other on the lagoon side. 12. Going on they met finally and Sinota said “the land is mine.” And Mousikisiki said it was his because he pulled it up. [Talk.] 13. Then Mousikisiki spoke saying “If it's yours let's go and see the places we came from. He whose side is good, he will have the village.” 14. They went on and saw that the side of Mousikisiki was good. Hinota's side was bad. For Mousikisiki's side that was good was on the lagoon. Hinota's side that was bad was on the ocean. Finished.
1. Mousikisiki ne fanau i Lakao. Tamana Mousikisiki no anga i te pouli. A Mousikisiki ne fano felela a tamana. Ne kutea tamana, a tamana siai no i kutea a Mousikisiki, tamana o Mousikisiki. 2. Ne ilangi ki te keu ko pelo. Te koo ko vasi. Te kila ko vasi. Koi takua: “e aa te keu ko pelo ai, te koo ko vasi ai, te kila ko vasi ai? Koai nei kutea mai aiau?” 3. Ne ilangi ko Mousikisiki e tu. Koi takua: “O, te keu ko pelo, te koo ko vasi, te kila ko vasi. Ko koe ko ko kutea mai.” 4. Takuangei “Na koia afeina ko tapeo ai na.” 5. Koi teia a Mousikisiki. Mousikisiki ko tangi. Koi toa te fatu, noi tukitukia. Te vai aka ifi ko fotu. Te ifi na e tuu i te pouli. Mousikisiki ko temu. Laua ma tamana lako i te malama. Latou ko nofo i Lakao.
1. Mousikisiki was born at Lakao [island near Taumako in the Duffs]. Mousikisiki's father worked in the underworld [not known where]. Mousikisiki went to look for his father. [Basil did not know name of the father]. He saw his father but the father did not see Mousikisiki, father of Mousikisiki. 2. He saw that the fire had gone out. The digging stick was broken. The adze was broken. He said: “Why has the fire gone out, the digging stick been broken, the adze been broken? Who has seen me?” [Informant: this spoils magic.] 3. [He] saw Mousikisiki standing there. And said: “Oh, the fire has gone out, the digging stick is broken, the adze is broken. You have been looking.” 4. [He] said. “That's why it's bad.” 5. He hit Mousikisiki. Mousikisiki cried. [He] took a stone and pounded. A buttressed chestnut root made a hole. The chestnut stood in the underworld. Mousikisiki stopped crying. He and the father came to the upper world. They live at Lakao. [I tried to discover why the father was no longer angry, but could get no explanation and gave up.]

Maui-tikitiki is the best-known Oceanic hero and figures in such a lavish number of myths in Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia that nothing less than a multi-volumed monograph can treat definitively all the themes associated with his name. Professor Katherine Luomala 5 has written several works making generous contributions to the com- - 352 parative study of the Maui myths. Other authors provide useful summaries and bibliographical citations. 6

The Pileni Maui story is garbled and fragmented, but when it was once an integrated narrative it probably related that Maui's father sneaks by night to the underworld, where he practises agriculture and cooks his food, attainments unknown to the rest of humanity. Maui ties his father's loincloth to himself so that he awakens, and then he follows his father beneath the earth. His viewing his father's magic spoils it, and his parent flies into a rage. Maui defeats him in a wrestling fight, and steals fire and agricultural tools, which he takes to the surface of the earth and there introduces them to mankind. The above reconstruction would be consistent with the particles of information given in the Pileni text and would conform to the narrative pattern of a Niue story, which, of discovered cognates, the Reef Islands' version most closely resembles. 7

Cognates of themes found in the above story which are widely current in world folklore are cited by Thompson 8 under the following motif entries: C947. Magic power lost by breaking tabu; and the references given from C300-C399, where an enormous number of occurrences of the “looking tabu” are cited.

Notes dealing with the island-episode are given after the next tale.


On May 11 Basil dictated this tale. Mouthfulls of betel did not render comprehension easier. Basil was proud of his fluency in the Mota language, used then by the Melanesian Mission (he was the lay attendent in the village) and told me the words for “intestines” (nonom) and “however” (panaua).

1. A Mousikisiki nei toa te kulu o fano ki thaupe o kaukau. Ko ulu e pepei, koitoa sikuange te kulu, ko manu kie lunga. 2. Koia takua i na ngakau, po kou ilaange na koia, ko tupu alo. A mousikisiki ko ea ki lunga, koi lange, ko te alo manuanu. A Mousikisiki ko ulu, ko eake, oki, nei lange, ko te alo nama koai, te alo koi fakapakuiaina i te one. 3. Koia ko hano ko nghauta, ko tapena i te o ona, ko feneiho i te alo ako kake ki te alo, ko ua, kilaua ma Moukavakava, ko ua i moana. 4. Ko matau ika, te matau ko tele i lalo, ko lau i te vaiaka ifi, nei fakafoutia e Mousikisiki a koia ko vusia koia e maha. Koi takua: “Ko tena e ika efa.” 5. Kanaua siai. Noi vusia e fenua. Koi taku ange kia Moukavakava o po no kutea e ango alo e siai. 6. Ko Moukavakava koi taku ange po te alo no ua mai. Nei lange oki nakoia kolua koi taku ange po alo kolua. 7. Ko Mousikisiki koi taku ange po: “Siai. Tena e fenua.” Koitoa koi vusiake kie lunga. Ko hano ko mathuake kie lunga a maunga ko fano kie lunga. 8. Koi taku ange e Moukavakava po: “E fenua na ni oku:” Ko Mousikisiki koi taku ange po: “Siai: Te fenua na ni oku. Takina u nei vusia.” A laua ko uake hauta, lako siku ai te alo. Ko ki laua ko fulo, vakai i te fenua. A Mousikisiki ko tele i alohi. A Moukavakava ko tele i tua. Moukavakava ne mataku i te athua. 9. A ko tele ki moana. A ko mataku i te loma a ko tele i mouku. A Mousikisiki siai no mataku. Ko lekatu ko tele. 10. Koi - 353 takua po: “Te kaenga tenei,” ako vakai ki mouku. Ko lekake ko tele. Koi takua po te kaenga ko lavoi ako vakai ki moana. A Moukavakava ko tele i tua. Ko thae ki te mata o te fenua. Ia Mousikisiki ko leifo ko thae ki te mata o te fenua. A laua ko felau aki. Ko taku ange e Mousikisiki po: “I ange mua te fenua na ni oku.” Nakoia te fenua ko Ndeni.
1. Mousikisiki took a breadfruit and went to sea to swim. He dove in and submerged, having left the breadfruit to float on top. 2. [His] intestines spoke [that is, he thought] he would look about, he would change [the breadfruit] to a canoe. Mousikisiki came up and saw a canoe floating. Mousikisiki submerged and came up again and saw the canoe and the float [the informant questioned a woman in the doorway] . . . the canoe had drifted (?) to the beach. 3. So he went ashore and prepared his sea rations and then went down to the canoe and boarded the canoe and paddled, he and Moukavakava [some talk about this; a woman knew this was a fish, but not common today, if ever seen] paddled to the open sea. 4. [They] fished with hook and the hook tangled down below on a chestnut root and Mousikisiki made a hole and pulled [it in]. It was heavy. [He] said: “This is a big fish.” 5. But no! [He] pulled up land! [He] asked Moukavakava if [he] had seen a canoe coming or not. 6. Moukavakava said that the canoe paddled here [?]. 7. Mousikisiki said: “No. That's land.” Then [he] pulled [it] up. [It] came up and mountains stood up and went high. 8. Moukavakava said: “This land shall be mine!” But Mousikisiki said: “No! That land is mine. Because I have just pulled [it] up.” They paddled ashore and left the canoe. They went round the land. Mousikisiki went in front. Moukavakava went in back. Moukavakava was afraid of the deity. 9. [He] ran to the sea. And was afraid of the waves and then went back to the bush. [Laughter when re-reading.] Mousikisiki was not afraid. [He] ran on. 10. He said: “This is a village” and then went around in the bush. [He] climbed up and ran. He said the place is good and went to the open sea. But Moukavakava had run away in back. And came to the end of the land. Mousikisiki went to the end of the land. They met. Mousikisiki said: “I have seen for the first time my land.” But it was just the land of Santa Cruz.

The latest treatment of the island-fishing theme is Lessa. 9 References will be found also in Thompson 10 and Kirtley 11 s.v. motif A955.8. Island fished up by demigod.

A more elaborate version of the Pileni story has been recorded from Santa Cruz. As in the Pileni story, Maui transforms a hollow breadfruit into a canoe, magic he performs by diving. Maui repeatedly takes his canoe to sea and each time overcomes a different peril: shoals of fish which try to sink his boat, a giant clam, a huge pearl-shell oyster, a deadly shell, and a fish with eight fins like sails. Maui then fishes up an island when his hook catches upon two trees. His and his brothers' actions after they first step ashore shape the island's topography. 12

The most distinctively indigenous element in the Pileni and Santa Cruz tales is Maui's transformation of a breadfruit into a canoe, a motif - 354 not listed in any of the folktale indexes, an indication of its rarity. Only in New Caledonia, where in a Maui story the hero turns two blades of grass into two rigged canoes, 13 could a similar idea be found.


Having admired the distant cone of Tenukula for some days, I asked Basil on May 14 if the cone had a story. Basil told the tale swiftly to others, and an old man with elongated ears added a few details. Then Basil dictated the following.

1. Te fafine i Taumako, e noho i thaunga. Te thoka e afaake i te vela. Te fafine no moe i te thoka. Ona vae e angaake te vela. Te vela no visiake no lau i te fafine. 2. Te fafine na siai ni avanga. Ka no moe na, no fokamanga ake ki te vela. Ia langi osi, na, a te fafine, ko fei tama, ako fanau te memea e tangata. 3. Te memea ko matua ake ka ona sino e mafana. 4. Te memea e tafao e lekatu i thaunga lae (thauŋa o te tai kee), thaunga na ko kaa, a te tai ni ona thauna ko foloto, po thaunga ona ko kaa, nanga fenua ko kute ange po no fai pena, latou ko tetuaa te memea na po ke fano kee, i te kaenga na, takina a thaunga o latou no kaa. 5. A sinana ko longoange koi takuange po laua ko toa te alo lakou ua. Te alo la ne tauia ange i te tangata tau Kafula ni avange te thuaone [?]. 6. Po mona fetaui ai te alo. Te foe ne tauia ne vange oki thuaone, ke saa ne taui oki, ne avange e thuaone. Te oo o laua ne tauia oki i te tuaone. 7. Laua ko ua, te memea la, ona sino e mafana a te alo po ke kaa ala, ko sinana koi taputapui aange a te keu ko pelo. A kilaua ko ua, te keu ko ke kaa, iako sinana koi taputapui aange. Lako ua ifo ko tae iho ki Nifiloli. 8. Ko feiliange a sinana po ko aa me tuu i manga nei? Ko tana tama koi taku ange po: “Sikiai, ta ua maoli.” 9. Laua ko ua, ko mmao, koi takuange po lavoi. 10. A sinana ko manu i te alo, ko tana tama ko ula ki lalo, na ulu ko tuu i lalo te kele, kona noko e vili kie lunge. Ko loaake kie lunga. Ko fano kie lunga. Ko sinana koi taku ange po lavoi, nakoia Tenukula e tuu ai mangana aina. Kosi. 11. Ano siko tenakoia na tae tatou no kutea ifo ko kona kohu. Kosi.
1. A woman [name unknown, answer to my question] at Taumako lived in a house. The door opened on to the sun. The woman slept in the doorway. The sun struck her legs. The sun came up and touched the woman. 2. This woman had no husband. [She] slept with her legs stretched apart towards the sun. This was every day and the woman became pregnant, and gave birth to a child that was a male. 3. The child grew up and his body was hot. 4. The child went for a stroll and came to a house [house of a different sea], and the house caught fire, and its people of the house became angry because their house was on fire, when the people of the land saw what was happening they drove [informant speaking with mouth full of betel] the child away to [his] village because their house was on fire. 5. The mother heard about this and said they should take the canoe and paddle away. [The old man with long ears interjected explanations.] They bought a canoe from a man of Kafula [a village at Taumako] and gave land [?]. 6. They bought the canoe this way. Paddles were also bought with land, and the bailer was also bought by giving land. Their sea rations were also bought with land. 7. They paddled on, including the boy whose body was hot, and the canoe caught - 355 on fire, and the mother poured water on the fire and it went out. The two paddled on, and the fire burned and the mother put it out. They paddled on south and came to Nifiloli. 8. The mother asked what should be done here, to stay here. Her son said [here the informant dictated syllable by syllable; I asked him to join four or five syllables in groups]: “No let's keep paddling.” 9. They paddled on, far, and [he] said this was enough. 10. The mother floated on the canoe and her son was in flames beneath, diving down and standing on the bottom with his buttocks pointing up. Going far up. The mother said it was fine, he was really Tenukula [Volcano] and is still there. Finished. [This is an afterthought; laughter.] When he excretes we see that the faeces is the smoke. Finished.

The only discovered cognate of the story as a whole comes also from Nifiloli, and is a less integrated and plausible narrative than the text above. 14 It may be synopsized as follows.

An infant is large and as hot as fire when born—so hot that he burns up the loin cloths given him, a circumstance which causes his parents to scold him. He grows sulky and goes away to where he now forever stands. “This is the tradition at Nifiloli, but at the big island [Santa Cruz] they say it was once part of the large island beyond Neko.”

Motifs in the story of Tenukula occurring in general folklore are Thompson 15; Kirtley 16 T521. Conception from sunlight; and A966. Origin of volcanoes.


Before coming to the Reefs, my ship had called at Taumako, and I had attempted to take down a tale about Lata, but with little success because of language difficulties, and a myriad of distractions caused by a ship's visit, a dance, and a death—all at once. Puzzling over my fragments at Nifiloli, I asked Basil on May 18 if there was a Pileni variant. He consulted four old ladies and then told this story, which to my surprise took several hours to transcribe. On the following day I had a fine session with an old man, four young ones, and several children, going over the tale for the third time, with several trips out to the puke canoe on the beach to check name parts.

1. Te fafine ne fanau te memea te ingoa ko Laka. Koitoa te sinana, koi fokafaulia i te kumete (kamete). Ko sinana ma tamana ko mate. Koia e takoto i loto te kumete. A thauna ko tapeo. Te kumete ko uaina a ko pala, ko mwaoha (mhaofa). 2 A te vela ko visi ake ko tuu i te kamete a ko malama, takina te kamete ko fotu. A Lata ne ilange nakoia o malama. A Lata ko fano ki taha. A Lata ko noho ko matua.
3. Lata ko tuutuu puke mo latou. Nanga fenua ko fokamua o taa puke, koia a Lata ko fenange fokamuli. 4. Ne fenake i te alo koi kutea te - 356 umbe, na vae e fiifii i te fau. A te umbena ko valoangepo: “Tokana lemai mua, ko fokalaka ange tuku vae.” A Lata ko vakai ange koi fokalaka ange na vae. 5. A koi takuange e te umbe po: “Fano i te ala, ko a ila mai ki tei au. U ka lele i mua. Koi ila mai i te lakau u e tuu ai ko paapaa oku kapekau na au ko tangi ako koe ko iloa ko te puke ou tena koia. A koe ko fenange o tusia te puke ou tena koia.”
6. Koi tuhia te puke ko ino, koitoa koi mutuia na ulu, koitoa foeia na paku koia ko hano nghauta. 7. Ko Sinota ko henange koi kutea te puke. Koi takua po: “Koai koi tuhia te puke oku nei?” Ko foloto, ko lelea, i te puke ona, ko lekange ko tuu ange i na tahito. 8. Koi takua po: “Vihi mai na laa ke tuu! Vihi mai na lau ke tuu! Vihi mai na ulu ke tuu! Vihi mai na paku e pili! Vihi mai na malaamala ke tuu!” Koi takua po e: “Oo, te vaka o Sinoto kee tuu!” Ne ilange na o te vaka ko tuu.
9. Koia ko hano. Malamake a Lata o henake, oi asia ake te puke ona. Ne fenake na ne ilange, na o te puke nei tuhia la e tuu oki i na tafito. 10. Koi takua po: “Po te puke nei ni oku, u ne tusia anahi. Ka ko aa oki aia nei. Ko tuu oki ai nei.” A koitoa koi tusia oki, koi ino oki, koitoa koi mutia oki na ulu. Koitoa koi foe oki ko eia oki, na paku koia. 11. Koi toa te tanga kamu ona ko fano, i alohi, koi taulia te tanga kamu ona koia ko fene ifo kaukau i thaupe.
12. Ko Sinota ko henange oki koi kutea te puke la ko tuu oki. A koi takua po: “Vihi mai na laa ke tuu! Vihi mai na lau ke tuu! Vihi mai na ulu ke tuu! Vihi mai na paku ke pili! Vihi mai na malaamala ke tuu! O te puke o Sinota kee tuu!” Aku tuu ake ko fenake po ke tuu, siai na koia a ko ino oki.
13. Iako Lata ko ilange (ilake) koi kutea ake te tanga kamu ona ko vili. Koi takua po: “Te tanga oku na no aa?” Iena nako tuu, ko lekake ne ila iho ki te tanga kamu ona no kote malaamala o te puke e takoto i loto te tanga kamu ona. 14. Ko kavange koi kumia te ngutu o te tanga kamu ona. Ko hano-omaia koitoa te malaamala koi avake ki te keu. Ko kaa. 15. Ko Sinota takua po te puke ona po ke tuu oki, ka siai takina na malaamala koi fakasia e Lata. A te puke siai ne tuu oki, ko takoto loa i lalo. 16. Ko malamake na a Lata koi asi ake oki te puke ona. Koia na takoto na. 17. Ko afio oki nghauta. Ko malamake ko fenake oki. Ne asi ake oki na ko te puke, ko fola ko lavoi i ana liu ko fakava. 18. Ko fano oki nghauta. Malamake ko finake oki, koi kutea ko na liu ko tupaki tai momoa kosi. Ko afio oki nghauta. Ko moe malamake ko fenake oki. Koi kutea oki na ona liu kosi. Ko afi o oki nghauta. Ko moe malamake ko fenake oki. Koi kutea oki na ona liu kosi. Koia tupakina e te umbe nei ei fakalaka ange na vae la, kosi. 19. Koia ko fano oki nghauta ko moe. Malamake ko fenake oki. Koi kutea kona mangungu koaa tupaki kosi. Ko afio oki nghauta. Ko po henua e malamake oki na ko fenake oki. Oi asi ake oki na koia ona aumi ko talae kosi. Ona momoa ko penapena kosi. Koia ko hano nghauta. Malamake ko henake oki. Nei kutea okina koia ko limu. 20. Koia ko afio nghauta. Malamake ko fenake oki. Ne kutea na ona tapua o tuu, ia ona lakau fakelava ko vakhei i ona matai ko fakau kosi.
21. A ko afio oki nghauta ko moe. Malamake ko hinake oki. Koi asi ake, koia ona lakau ko faofao kosi. A ko vakhei oki a ko filo kosi. Ko te umbe koi takuange po: “Hano ko toange noia ange te kafa a te moko ke fau ai.” 22. A Lata ko afio nghauta. Ko fano koi noia ange te kafa a te moko. Koi toa e te moko koi avange te kafa. Koi takuange e te moko po: “U ka avatu nei e potopoto ka pela ko na fauia ai te puke ou la. Aua to motuia me fepaleakina ia faunga o te puke ou; koia aua to - 357 motuia moi ka osi ai a faunga o te puke ou.” 23. Malamake, ko fenake oki, koi kave ake te kafa a te moko, koi suku ai i te puke ona. Koia ko fano nghauta, ko moe. Malamake ko fenake koi kutea te puke po faufau kosi. Te ama ko fau oki kosi. O na thau ko faufau kosi.
24. Koi taku ange e te numbona po: “Metoa ala ni lau fao koaa ka mai o fauia ufiaina ai a faunga o te puke ou, failake i kutea atu e nanga fenua osi. A latou po tautalia atu a fanuga o to puke.”
25. Ko Lata ko fano nghauta. Malamake na o fenake oki. Koi kutea te puke ona ko fau ia lau fao kosi. 26. Akoi takuange e te numbona po: “A po te ua ka too, a te numbula a tele.” A Lata ko fano nghauta. Henua ne po na o te ua ko too, a te numbula ko tele. A ko manu ai te puke koitoa koi kavea ifo te puke ki thaupe. Ako taula i thaupe. Nanga fenua ko ange ko kutea ko te puke e fau ia lau fao. Khilatou ko afio ko faufauia a puke o latou ia lau fao. 27. Khilatou ko tapena ko lavoi a puke o latou. Khilatou ko too kaikai ma o latou. Ko thao. Malamake koi takuange e Lata po: “Koutou a laa outou ke tuu fokamua. Tuko fulo fokamua iau ka lekatu ala i muli.” A laa o latou ko vusivusi ko tuu. Latou ko fulo.
28. Ko Lata, koi taku ange kia Sinota po: “Aumai te kalea na maku. Ko koe ka toa mai taku, tenie mau.” 29. Akoia avange e Sinota. Ko Lata koi avange tana kia Sinota. Koi taku ange e Lata po: “Te laa oki na tuu la u na tele la koi au ka fokatangi a te kalea la. Ko koe fokatangia oki tau.”
30. A Lata ko tele. Ko eva atu ki tafa koitoa te kalea ana koi fokatangia, a ko longo ifo ai a Sinota. Koitoa tana kalea oki akoi tailifia. Ka siai no tangi. A Sinota ko foloto. Koito te au niu ko kave iho. Koi fokalavaia i te ava. Koia visia ai. Ko a Lata failake fenake oki i te ava na. 31. A Lata ko folau iho na koi kute ange tai angata te puke ona ko motumotu a lau fao, ne fau ai la te puke ona. Ko apulu. Koia e manuanu i thaupe. Ko valange ia Lata po ko: “U kake atu.” Ko Lata koi taku ange po: “E faivaa tou?” Ko sama laa koi taku ange po: “Ku taia atu te liu ou.” Ko Lata koi taku ange po: “Au o kake.”
32. Lakou leifo. Koilange tai oki puke ko mwaoha oki. Ko apulu. Ko leifo a Lata koia ko valange po: “U kake atu!” Ko Lata koi taku ange po: “E fai vaatou?” “Kou vusia atu alaa te tata!” Koia koi taku ange po: “Au o kake.”
33. Ne ilange a Lata ko tai oki puke ko apulu. Ko valange a Lata po: “U kake atu!” Koia koi taku ange po: “E faivaa tou?” “Ko u toko mangaina ake te laa.” A Lata koi taku ange: “Au o kake.”
34. Lata ko ilange tai oki puke a mwaoha. Na tai ko valange kia Lata po ko: “U kake atu!” Ko Lata ko feili ange po: “E faivaa tou?” “Kaiaasia atu ala e oo mo tatou!” Ko Lata koi taku ange po: “Lemai o kake.”
35. Ko tai oki puke ko tapeo o apulu. Ngatai ko valange po: “U kake atu.” Ko Lata ko feilia ange “E faivaa tou?” “Ko u tunu atu ala ma tatou.” Koia ko taku ange po: “Au o kake.”
36. Ko Lata ne ilange tai oki puke ko apulu oki. A nga tai ko valange po: “Ku kake atu.” Ko Lata po: “Faivaa tou?” Koia po: “Ko u ou koko atu ma tatou.”
37. Khilatou ko tele ko thae ki Santa Ana. Ko taula ake te puke. Ko te oo o latou kosi. Fenua ko po. Ko te ifi e tuu i thaupe. Ko fenake te tai no kaiaa ko kake. Koi fakia ki te fokapotu, a ko fonu ko te maea e tuu i te puke tai ona pitoki e tuu i te laa ifi. Koitoa koi tukua ifo ai te fokapotu ifi. Khilatou kotoa ko lingia kia vai mafana, a ifi ko mila (sikiai ne vela lavoi).
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38. Fenua ko au te tai ni ana te ifi o hinange nei kute ange po: “Te ifi aku tena koia koutou ne fakia na.” Ko khilatou koi taku ange po: “Fano mua o kaa mai te fua o te ifi au matou kutea mua.” A koitoa koi kaveange latou ne kutea na koia na paku e uiui (uiiuii). Latou ko taku ange po: “Lange mua tau na kili e kee a matou na kili e kee.” Sama no kaiaa ko fano koi kutea Khilatou i te kaenga. No tao ona te umu poi. Ko afio oki koi taku ange kia Lata po: “Khilatou no taona te poi.” Ko Lata koi taku ange po: “Ke fano alo oi kaiaasia ei poi malatou.” A te tai no kaiaa ko henake koi keli thuaone mhao, ko fenange ko fano ko foa ange i te umu poi. A koitoa ona penupenu ma latou, a koi kavea ki te puke o latou.
39. Ko malamake khilatou o te kaenga o fukea te umu. Latou ko kutea a penupenu o te poi e lavaki. Latu ko ange feili ange kia Lata, po: “A poi a matou koutou ne daiaasia.” Ko Lata koi feauiakina ange a poi a latou koi takuange po: “Autou anaa koia. Ko ai nei ni a matou.”
40. Tai po ke latu ko moe. Ko te tai no kaiaa ko henake koitoa koi vetaa te kiou, a nangai i te kaenga, Koi kavea na po ta latou koitoa koi fokatulia ange i mangai no tuai te kiou ananga i te kaenga.
41. Khilatou ko tele oki ki Taumako koi lekake ki te ava. Ko Sinota nei e pisia te ava i te kau niu. Asiai ne lekake kauta. Takina te ava ko tapono. A te puke o folafolau loa i moana siai ne fenake oki kauta. Siai tatou nei loa po te fea. Kosi.
1. A woman gave birth to a child whose name was Lata. The mother tied him in a wooden bowl. The mother and father died. He lay in the wooden bowl. The house was poor. The wooden bowl was rained on and became soft and broke to pieces. 2. The sun came up and touched the wooden bowl and it was daylight because the bowl had holes. Lata indeed saw the light. Lata came outside. Lata stayed and grew up.
3. Lata cut a puke [canoe-with-hut-on-platform] for them. The people went first to cut a puke tree and Lata followed. 4. Going on the path he saw a dove whose feet were entangled in a cord. This dove said, “Oh older brother there, come and disentangle my feet.” Lata went and released his feet. 5. And the dove said: “Go on the path and watch me. I will fly on ahead. See the tree I light on and beat my wings on and sing, and you will know that that's the tree for your puke. You come then and cut your puke tree.”
6. He cut the tree and [it] fell and he cut off the top and pealed off the bark and went towards the lagoon. 7. Sinota (the stock dupe) came along and saw the puke log. He said: “Who cut down my puke tree here?” (He) was angry and spoke as though the puke log was his, and went and stood at the base. 8. He said: “Come up branches and stand! Come up leaves and stand! Come up tree top and stand! Come up bark and cling! Come up chips and stand!” And he said: “Sinota's ship, stand!” And [he] looked and the canoe stood (the tree was back as before).
9. He went away. In the morning Lata came to inspect his puke. (He) came and saw that the puke [he] had cut was standing again on its trunk! [Laugh.] 10. He said: “My puke log which I cut yesterday was here. What has happened to it? Here it is standing again! Here it is standing again!” So he cut (it) down again and (it) fell again and he cut off its top again. And he stripped off its bark again. 11. He took his betel bag and went away to the lagoon shore, hung up his betel bag and went to bathe in the sea.
12. Sinota came and saw that the puke log was standing (sic). He - 359 said: “Come up branches and stand! Come up leaves and stand! Come up tree top and stand! Come up bark and cling! Come up chips and stand! Sinota's ship, stand!” And [she] stood up and did not fall again.
13. Lata looked and saw that his betel bag was twirling. He said: “What has happened to my bag?” And (he) went and looked into his betel bag and there the chips of the puke log lay in his betel bag. 14. He carried it, holding the mouth of his betel bag. [He] came and put the chips on the fire. [They] burned. 15. Sinota called on his puke log to stand again but it didn't because the chips had been burned by Lata. The puke log did not stand again but just lay prone. [Basil questioned two women and his son, Clarence; seven children were listening, and a woman delousing another.] 16. In the morning Lata visited his puke log. It was lying prone there. [Basil spits.] 17. (He) went back to the lagoon. In the morning (he) came down. (He) visited the puke log again, but its hold had been dubbed out and chipped. 18. (He) went again to the lagoon. In the morning (he) came down again and saw that the hold had been dubbed and that one end piece was finished. (He) returned again to the lagoon. In the morning (he) returned again. (He) saw that its hold was finished. He went back to the lagoon again. (He) slept, and in the morning returned. (He) saw that the hold was finished. It had been chopped by the dove whose feet he had released. 19. He went to the lagoon again and slept. In the morning he came up again. (He) saw that the end sections of the hold had been cut out. [Laughter on third reading.] (He) went again to the lagoon. Night came to the land and in the morning he went back again. (He) inspected and the undersurface of the end sections had been carved out. Thus the end sections were all finished. He went back to the lagoon. In the morning (he) came up again. (He) saw that (the canoe) had been painted with seaweed. 20. He returned to the lagoon. In the morning (he) came up again. (He) saw that the end supports for the platforms (tapua) were in place, as well as the thwarts across the hold that support the platforms.
21. He returned to the lagoon and slept. In the morning (he) came back up again. (He) inspected and the wood had all the holes punctured. And the booms had been bound with wicker. The dove said: “Go and ask the lizard [laughter] for some sennit to bind with.” 22. Lata went to the lagoon. (He) went and asked the lizard for sennit. The lizard took (some and) gave him the sennit. The lizard said: “I'm giving you a short (sennit) to bind your puke with, don't break it and connect your lashings of your puke, don't break them until you finish the lashings of your puke.” 23. In the morning (he) went again and took the lizard's sennit and put it on his puke. Then he went to the lagoon and slept. In the morning he came and saw that the puke had been completely lashed. The outrigger float also was bound. All the connections were also bound.
24. Then the pigeon said: “Take some pandanus leaves and bring them and tie them so as to cover the lashings of your puke, thus preventing the other people of the land from seeing them (the real lashings). Or they might make lashings similar to those of your puke.
25. Lata went to the lagoon. In the morning (he) came up again. (He) saw that pandanus leaves had been tied to his puke. 26. Then the pigeon said: “Tonight the rain will fall and flow in torrents.” Lata went to the lagoon. At night the rain fell and flowed in torrents. The puke floated thereon and the puke was carried out to sea. (She) was anchored in the sea. The natives came and saw that the puke was bound with pandanus leaves. They went back and bound (their pukes) with pandanus - 360 leaves. 27. They were ready and their pukes in good shape. They brought food for themselves. (It) had been baked. In the morning Lata said: “You hoist your sails first. You go first and I'll come later.” So they hoisted sail. They left. [Basil's voice became faint; someone reported a canoe on the horizon bound for Pileni.]
28. Lata then said to Sinota: “Bring me that conch horn. You take mine and let me have this one.” 29. So Sinota gave him his. Lata gave his to Sinota. Then Lata said: “When my sail is hoisted I'll sail away and will blow the conch. [Basil spits.] You blow yours too.”
30. Lata sailed. (He) went outside and took his conch and blew it, and Sinota heard. (He) took his conch too and blew. But (it) did not sound. [Basil laughs.] Sinota was angry. He took a coconut tree (he) had brought. (He) laid it across the pass. It blocked it. Lata was blocked when (he) came to the pass. 31. Lata sailed on and saw the puke of one man and that the pandanus leaf that had bound his puke had broken. (It) was sinking. (The) man was floating in the sea. (He) called to Lata: “Let me come aboard!” Lata said: “What do you do?” The man said: “I'll bail out your hold!” Lata said: “Come aboard!”
32. They went on. (They) saw another puke had disintegrated. Sunk. Lata came up and (the man) called: “Let me come aboard!” Lata said: “What do you do?” [Basil asked questions here and punched betel lime in its container; a baby cried loudly.] “I'll hoist your sails!” (Lata) said: “Come aboard!”
33. Lata saw that another puke had sunk. (The man) called to Lata: “Let me come aboard!” (Lata) said: “What do you do?” “I'll take care of the stay? supporting the sail.” Lata said: “Come aboard!”
34. Lata saw that another puke had broken to pieces. The man called to Lata: “Let me climb aboard!” Lata asked: “What do you do?” “Steal some rations for us!” [Basil chews and looks away.] Lata said: “Come aboard!”
35. Another puke was damaged and sank. The man called: “Let me come aboard!” Lata asked: “What do you do?” “I'll do our cooking!” (Laughter.) Lata said: “Come aboard!” [Basil questioned four women and a man in the audience; one women was delousing another.]
36. Lata saw that another puke had sunk too. The man called: “Let me come aboard!” Lata: “What do you do?” Said: “I'll build our fires.” [Such repetition may make dull reading, but it provoked much laughter when I read back and struck me also as hilarious.]
37. They sailed on and landed at Santa Ana [island just east of San Cristoval]. The puke was anchored. Their food was finished. It was dark. A chestnut tree stood near the sea. A man went there to steal. He plucked and put [some nuts] in his plaited basket, and one end of the line on the puke was on the chestnut tree. He lowered the plaited basket of chestnuts. They took them and poured them into hot water and the chestnuts were partially cooked [not cooked well].
38. The people of the land came, and the man to whom the chestnuts belonged came and looked and said: “Those chestnuts you've plucked are mine.” They said: “Come and get these chestnuts, we saw them first.” They gave them and saw that the skin was green. They said: “Look! The skin (of your chestnuts) is different from the skin of our (chestnuts).” The man who had stolen went and saw the people in the village. (They) were baking pigs in the oven. [Laughter.] (He) went back and said to Lata: “They are baking pigs.” Lata said: “You go and steal their pig.” [Much laughter.] The man who had stolen went and - 361 dug the earth very far and kept going underneath and came to the pig oven. And took their pig legs and brought them back to their puke.
39. In the morning they of the village opened the oven. They saw that the front legs of the pig had disappeared. They went and said to Lata: “You have stolen our pig!” [Laughter.] Lata changed their pigs and said: “That's for you. This is ours.”
40. One night they were asleep. The thief went and took a chicken belonging to the people of the village. He took theirs and put it in the place where the village people's had been. [Basil: “They exchanged chickens because Lata's chicken did not crow.]
41. They sailed on to Taumako [Basil is pounding lime] and went to the pass. Sinota had closed the pass with a coconut tree. So they did not go ashore. Because the pass was shut. The puke kept on sailing the seas and did not go ashore. Where we do not know. Finished.

The Lata story is one of the most complex and widespread of Oceanic narratives. The present analysis can do little more than point out puzzling or suggestive affinities of the Pileni tale and map out bibliographical aids to further investigation.

The Pileni form of the Lata story may be separated into eleven plot elements, or traits, which have affiliations elsewhere in Polynesia, Melanesia, or Micronesia: (1) a child named Lata dwells in a bowl; (2) Lata rescues a bird; (3) Lata's antagonist is named Sinota; (4) Lata's antagonist repeatedly restores a tree which he (Lata) cuts down; (5) Lata puts wood chips in a bag to prevent their rejointing the restored tree; (6) a bird (or animal in some island groups) builds Lata a canoe; (7) Lata perpetrates a canoe-lashing trick; (8) Lata's canoe is launched by magic; (9) Lata trades Sinota a worthless conch-horn for a good one; (10) Lata acquires helpers; and (11) Lata and his companions gain food in a distant island by various deceptions. Of the sources of narratives which have been recorded and which contain motifs occurring in the Pileni story, a tale from Vaitupu in the Ellice Islands bears by far the closest resemblance to the present text and has seven of the eleven traits (traits 1, 3, 4, 6, 9, 10, 11). Briefly summarized, the tale is as follows:

Mafialoa lives with his wife, who becomes pregnant and acquires a craving for fish. He kills a remarkable eel, despite the creature's warnings, and later a huge wave destroys the island. The parents of Lata, however, put him for safety under a wooden pounding basin and he remains there until a fetau tree root overturns it at some distant time. Lata stands up, sees a house, and around it lie many objects strange to him. He experiments with a skirt, then with an adze, with which he cuts down a puka tree. Sinota, a monster, comes in the night and magically restores the tree. Lata cuts it down again and hides. Sinota comes and says, “Son of the mother that was eaten in Fiji and Napanapa.” Lata wrestles with Sinota and throws him. Sinota then offers to build the canoe. Lata secretly returns and finds three magic adzes at work. They cease at his presence, and Sinota tells him not to come there again. Lata then goes to seek a conch for Sinota. He makes him one out of stone and gives it to him with instructions to blow it when he is almost out of sight. Since it is solid, Sinota can not blow it, and he falls out of the tree from which he is watching and breaks his neck.
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Lata goes on until he comes to an island, where he acquires Ulupokolatu as a companion. The pair travel on and come to an island where they play various tricks on the foolish populace. They afterwards put out to sea and sail on. 17

A version of the Lata story collected earlier from the Reef Islands corresponds with Elbert's tale in four traits (3, 5, 8, 11), and would have been much closer if the narrator had not confused the roles of Lata and Sinota. The tale may be summarized briefly:

Sinota goes into the bush seeking a tree out of which to build a canoe, but he can not find one. Out of spite, he chops Lata's canoe into pieces. Lata finds his wrecked vessel and restores it whole with a spell. The next time Sinota destroys the canoe, a wood chip falls into his betel bag, and when Lata chants to restore the boat, the chip flies around in the bag. Sinota runs to Lata, and Lata chants a spell which Sinota is unable to articulate. Lata then chops another canoe, a heavy one which the local people are unable to launch but which Lata launches by magic. Lata's canoe is lashed with coconut cord covered with material used for mats. When Sinota builds himself a boat, he uses only matting fiber. Lata sails for his island and runs out of food, except for a chestnut, which magically sprouts. A mouse helps him to land safely. 18

A story of Lata from Pukapuka in the Northern Cook Islands contains four traits found in the Pileni tale (3, 4, 10, 11). The hero is named Lata of Samoa, and when he goes to build a canoe, he picks the tree of Hinata (cf. Sinota). The two wrestle, and Hinata restores the tree. Lata at last builds his canoe and sails away with a number of helpers (helpers in the folkloristic sense of being remarkable specialists). On a distant island owing to the specialized talents of his companions, Lata wins competitions and perpetuates clever food thefts. 19

A Rata story from Aitutaki in the Southern Cooks, while it is generally like the Central-Marginal Polynesian form of the tale, includes among the four traits shared with the Pileni narrative (2, 4, 6, 8) the Western Polynesian theme of the bird-and-serpent fight and the bird's rescue by the hero. 20

Nearly identical Banks Islands (Vanua Lava) and New Hebrides (Mota) stories correspond with the Pileni tale on two traits (4, 6), and they relate that the culture hero Qat twice hews down a canoe-building tree, only to find it standing whole the next day. He hides under a chip of wood, and a little old man with a long white beard comes and collects the chip to use in restoring the tree; whereupon Qat seizes the little man (Marawa, or Spider). Marawa then buildings a canoe for Qat. Later Qat sinks by magic his eleven brothers' canoes, and uses a conch horn to taunt them. 21

Two Samoan stories are related to the Pileni Lata tale. Samoa 1 corresponds upon three counts (traits 4, 6, 9). Two brothers, the story goes, cut down a tree in Rata's forest on Savaii. They find it restored - 363 the next day, and again cut it down. Going home they encounter a snake and owl locked in combat. The owl claims to be the lord of the forest and tells the brothers they will never launch their canoe if they do not help him. They kill the snake. The canoe is built overnight (it seems by a spirit), but the brothers die while trying to launch it. The boat is then launched by birds. 22 In another Samoan narrative, ten brothers going to cut a tree find an owl and serpent fighting. The youngest saves the owl and is rewarded. 23

The Central-Marginal Polynesian forms of the Lata story are extremely stable and homogenous. The plot structures of certain versions from Hawaii, New Zealand, Tahiti, the Tuamotus, and the Cook Islands, bear close mutual resemblances, and agree upon such small details as the name of the hero's father, Wahiloa (or a dialectical variation). These versions are summarized by Beckwith, 24 who also gives an analysis of the story's type pattern. 25

Three motifs of the Pileni Lata story are of particular comparative interest: (1) the child's growing up in a bowl, (2) the magic restoration of a felled tree, and (3) the canoe-lashing trick.

In the Pileni story the bowl episode is completely ambiguous. The event is at least made superficially plausible in the Ellice Island story, in which the bowl serves the child as a shield against a tidal wave. No other discovered version of the story contained the bowl episode—though in a Rarotongan tale Rata's parents are swept out to sea. 26 The theme of a bowl having mysterious life-giving qualities is found, however, in other contexts which suggest that the Pileni episode once had other implications. Discussing the Reef Islander's beliefs in the fate of the soul after death, Florence Coombe writes that the spirit of a dead man pines until it is weak. Fellow ghosts then put him on a piece of wood, which they place in the sea and then upset. He is eaten by a large fish, but his ghost-relations take a drop of his blood, put it in a bowl, and cover it with leaves. After five days the blood turns into a ghost; after five more days, the ghost becomes strong and mature; and after five more days, the ghost goes about and ceases to grieve for its friend. 27 Again, in a story from the Polynesian outlier Rennell, a small child is created when the supernatural woman Ha'usanga places liquid turmeric in a bowl and covers it with banana leaves. When she removes the leaves, an infant is sitting cross-legged in the container. 28

The magic restoration of a felled tree occurs hundreds of times in folk literature. See the numerous summaries and source references of oceanic occurrences cited in the following works: Beckwith (1940:263-275*), Dixon (1916:68-69, 320, notes 38, 39, and 40*), Kirtley (1955:s.v. motif D1602.2*), and Riesenfeld (1950:76, 128, 311, 370, 406). For the reference to the theme as it occurs in world folklore, see Thompson (1955-1958: v.s. motif D1602.2*).

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The canoe-lashing trick which Lata pulls upon Sinota also has cognates elsewhere in Oceania. To the west, the Rennellese have a story, the main characters of which are One and Ten. One lashes his canoe with sennit, and covers that with a tender vine known as buge. Ten, seeing the buge, lashes his canoe with buge only, and it comes apart at sea. 29 From Alu in the northern Solomon Islands comes a story of Loi, a despised orphan, who wins a canoe race when, upon advice from his grandmother, he uses proper lashing material and caulking compound, while his opponents use banana fibre for lashings and clay for caulking. 30 Similarly, a Trobriand story relates that Tokosikuna is tricked into lashing his canoe with pandanus fibre, which snaps under strain. The boy must then swim to shore. 31 The distribution of the lashing-trick motif seems to be confined to Melanesia.

The Pileni tale, we conclude on the basis of the assembled evidence, shows close similarities to stories recorded in Western Polynesia, particularly to the Ellice Islands version. The Pileni tale may descend from it; or more probably, both the Ellice and Reef Islands' narratives are surviving forms of an ancestral Western Polynesian narrative, one which later changed in Samoa but which still retains suggestive traces of its ancient lines.


Clement dictated this ribald anecdote to the recorder on the night of May 20, and then helped with transcription. Three or four men were present and the wife of one of them, who giggled constantly while the others guffawed. No one was embarrassed, least of all Clement, who demonstrated with his fingers. He said that Pileni people did not circumcize (he used the Biblical term).

1. Tai meitama koi takua po: “Ku fano o fefela, kamu maku, i mouku.” A ku fano, a ku kake i te pua, a ko kake ake, na ule ko tuu ange i te pua a ko mahule [roared with laughter], a koi takua po: “Tuku phali ko lavaki.” 2. A ko ifo ifo, na koi fefela, koi takua po: “Tuku phali ko lavaki!” 3. Po fefela fefela na ko ngae, ioko tai fafine ko lekange, koi takuange po: “Ni aa ko no fefela?” Koia koi takuange po: “Tuku phali e lavaki.” 4. Ko te tangata la koi takuange: “Tuku phali na i ite koe na?” Koi takuange po “Aiau siai.” Koia koi takuange oki po: “Siai, ko ne toa.” 5. Koi takuange po: “E phali aa tou, hu alia mai, ku kutea atu mua.” A koi huali ange, ko te fafine la koi takuange po: “Le mai, ku huali atu.” A ko lekange a koi huali ange. Kosi.
1. A young man said: “I'm going to look for some betel chewing for myself in the bush.” (He) went and climbed a betel palm but as (he) climbed his penis became erect in the betel palm and (the foreskin) was pulled back [roars of laughter] and (he) said: “My foreskin is lost.” 2. (He) went down and looked, and said: “My foreskin is lost.” 3. (He) looked and looked and became tired, and a woman came and said: “What are you looking for?” He said: “My foreskin is lost.” 4. The man said: “My foreskin, have you seen it?” (She) said: “Not I.” He said: “No, - 365 you have taken it.” 5. (She) said: “What is your foreskin? Show me so I'll know!” (He) showed and the woman said: “Come here and show me.” So he went and showed. Finished.


The implications of the story are ambiguous and depend upon whether the man is viewed as a numskull or a trickster, upon whether he really knows where his foreskin is or whether this is a ruse to effect a seduction. The tale seems to occur nowhere else. The following motifs conceivably apply (Thompson, 1955-1958): K1326.1. Seduction by asking for sham cure for sham illness; J1745. Absurd ignorance of sex; and J2020. Inability to find own members.


On May 24 I went by canoe across a fairly rough open sea to Pileni Island. A man named Nelson was eager to tell this story. After working it over and translating it, I was asked to read the tale back three times—in the Pileni language, in proper English, and in pidgin English—to a huge and merry crowd. A similar reception was held after returning to Nifiloli. One of my informants, Mary, laughed about it and said: “Tapu, tapu, tapu, nofo te toohine ulavvale, eva vvale!” (Taboo, taboo, taboo to marry a sister. Rascal. Playboy.) [The last expression was Samoan that I had taught the people.]

1. Tai tangata e nofo ange e sinana. I ana tuohine ekotai. Te tangata ne ingoa Tilikambe. Ko maki. Koi heili ange kia hinana: “Hano mua, feili ange kia athua, o maua, ma thamaku, po iau u e maki, huahea (fokafea)?” 2. A hinana, ko tuu ko tele, ia ia ko tele fuamua. Ko tuu, thaunga fele thua (fale thua), a ko muni. 3. A hinana, ko thae ange, fokamuli, koi heili ange: “A Tilikambe, no maki huafea?” Ko Tilikambe koi taku ange po: “Te noho ange i ana tuohine.” 4. A hinana, koi afioki. E Tilikambe ko ulu mai, ki vaho (fafo), ko vatheiki, ko takoto ko kahu ko pepio po ko maki oki. A hinana ko thae ange koi feili ange po: “Ni aa nei takua atu e athua o maua ma thamaku?”. 5. Ko hinana e hualongo (e thuu themu). Ko ia koi taku ange: “Tele oki o feili ange oki, ki thaunga fale thua, o mmaku (thamaku), po iau ko maki ko velethaki taku mate?” 6. Ko ia ko ulu oki ki vaho, ko vatheiki oki, ki thaunga fale thua (fele thua), ko muni ai. A hinana ko thae ange oki, koi feili ange: “A Tilikambe, e maki fuakafea? Tu taku mai e aanga te mouli ai.” 7. Ioko Tilikambe, koi taku ange: “Ke noho ange, i ana tuofine!” A hinana ko afioki. Aia ko ulu oki ki vaho ko vatheiki oki, ko takotoki (takoto oki) ko kahu. A hinana ko thae ange koi heili ange: “Aiau no maki fokahea?” Ko hinana: “Me noho ange ia to tuofine!” Ko Tilikambe koi taku ange po: “Auaa! Nakoia aiau u ko mouli oki. Nakoia. Muei ne takua e athua o maua ma thamaku u ka tautaulia.
1. A man lived with his mother. His sister was separate. The man's name was Tilikambe. (He) was sick. (He) asked his mother: “You go and ask the spirit of my father and me why I'm sick.” 2. The mother got up and went but he (Tilikambe) went ahead. [He] arrived (at) the spirit oracle house and hid. 3. The mother came afterwards and asked: “Why is Tilikambe sick?” Tilikambe said (pretending to be the spirit): - 366 “He should marry his sister.” 4. The mother went back again. Tilikambe came out and ran and lay down and covered up, pretending [laughter] to be sick again. The mother came and he asked: “What did the spirit of my father and me say?” 5. The mother did not speak. (He) said: “Go again to my father's spirit house and ask if my sickness is close to my death.” 6. He came out and ran again to the spirit house and hid there. The mother arrived and asked: “Why is Tilikambe sick? Tell me how he can be cured.” 7. Then Tilikambe said: “If he marries his sister!” [Laughter.] The mother went back. (Tilikambe) came out again, and ran and lay down again, and covered up. The mother came and (he) said: “Why am I sick?” The mother: “You should marry your sister.” Tilikambe said: “Aha! That's just how I can get well. That's how. According to the spirits of my father and me and I shall obey.”

Six cognates of “Tilikambe” have been found, and two of these duplicate quite closely indeed the plot elements of the Pileni story. A tale from Ponape, in the Eastern Carolines narrates that a youth who wishes relations with his sister pretends to be ill and about to die. He tells his sister, if she wishes to aid him, to get kava and pound it at the sacred rocks so that an oracle may speak. The brother hides in the rocks, and, pretending to be the oracle, tells the girl to sleep with himself. The girl returns, sees her brother, and (as in the Pileni story) is reluctant to speak. Her brother tells her to again visit the sacred rocks, and the deception is repeated. She returns to her brother this time and tells him her instructions. 32 In a story from New Caledonia two sisters of a youth are tattooed a beautiful blue, and this arouses his amorous feelings. When he can not seduce one of them directly, he pretends to be sick. He tells the elder sister, who wishes to help him, to call his spirit up at the place of the dead. The instructions of the youth, who pretends to be a spirit, are that the girls are to sleep with their brother. The elder sister returns and lies with him. The other sister leaves in disgust. 33

A tale from Ulithi in the western Carolines presents some interesting variations. Two brothers and a sister live alone upon an island. The brothers take turns pretending to be spirits and instructing their sister to lie with the other. To further their disguise as ghosts, they smear their bodies with luminous fish scales. Eventually the three live happily together in incestuous promiscuity. 34

A story from Radak in the northeastern Marshalls tells that a son returns from fishing. He divides the food his mother brings him into three parts: one for his mother, one for himself, and one for the Bush Spirit, whom he tells his mother to consult. The youth then pretends to be the Bush Spirit and counsels the woman to marry her son. 35

A Truk story, with two brothers co-operating in an incestuous plot, resembles the Ulithian tale, except that the fish-scale disguise is missing, - 367 and one brother, supposed to play the role of ghost, lets the other down by revealing his true identity to the sister. 36

From Satawal-Puluwat comes a text having close affinities with both the Ulithian and Trukese versions, for like the former, it contains the fish-scale disguise, and like the latter, it has the trickster brother episode. 37

The close affinities of the Pileni story to versions from Ponape and New Caledonia require explanation. First, one can assume that the story is of Micronesian, probably Carolinian, origin. Its distribution and the kinds of elaboration it has undergone in the Carolines suggest this assumption. One might go a little further and hypothesize that the prototypical version was much like the Ulithian, which contains in embryo the plot elements from which the other Micronesian variations could have developed.

From the Carolines, the same version of the Tilikambe story could have diffused, perhaps by sailors carried aboard European vessels, to Nifiloli and to New Caledonia. The story, however, may be quite old in the Reef Islands area, and may be pre-European. Affinities between Micronesia and this area of Melanesia exist. Persons from the Reef Islands go to Santa Cruz for extended stays in order to receive food supplies 38 and Santa Cruz has several cultural elements which seem of Micronesian provenience: looms are found in Santa Cruz, and the nearest others are one thousand miles away in the Carolines 39 and the outrigger apparatus of Santa Cruz canoes finds its closest counterparts in Micronesia. 40 Indeed, ‘one of the most interesting phenomena of the South Sea ethnology is the zone of influence which extends along the northeast border of Melanesia and ends at Santa Cruz.’ 41

Presuming a pre-European diffusion of the tale, we find the connections between either the Carolines or Pileni and New Caledonia rather tenuous. Speiser, working with technical and artistic materials, postulates a relationship between New Caledonia and Nitendi in the Banks Islands. 42 Nitendi was within range of Reef Island travel, and if Speiser's conclusions are correct, a rather nebulous route for folktale diffusion may have existed.

On the theme of incest, numerous relevant comparative references are given by Kirtley (1955) under the following motifs: T412. Mother-son incest; T415. Brother-sister incest; T415.1. Lecherous brother; and T415.5. Brother-sister marriage.


After collecting some animal stories, I asked for tales about turtles. After some modest denials, my neighbour Maryanne told this tale—clear, well organized—my easiest informant. Ellipsis, as in verse 2, contrasts with repetitiousness, as in verse 8.

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1. Thai fafine, ko avanga, ko nohonohona fei tama. Ko nohonohona ko fanau, fanau e fafine. Koi faelengia faelengia ko matua. 2. E leai (lea ai) thai tangata ko ia e tetua. E nohonoho e leai thai tangata, ko ia e tetua. [Laugh]. A hinana ma thamana, ko takua po: “Ni tangata hokafea me noho ange ai? Tanata kosi, E noho na te fonu tukutukumu (laugh), ka ko fea e noho mai ai? Thatou e valevalea mangai e noho ai, e noho mai i mmao.” 3. Ko te fafine la koi takua po: “Poi te aa? Te noho mai fea!” Koi takua kia hinana pokei taona ange e oo moona. Koitoa e hinana koi taonange a kaikai ana, tahuli ko fano, koi fefela mangai e noho ai te fonu tukutukuma. 4. Ne fenange na ko hinana o te fonu ia thamana (o te fonu) laua e noho i mouku. Ko ia ko ulufange ki thaunga a ko noho i lalo. Ko hinana o te fonu ia thamana laua ko iho i mouku. Laa ko ilange ko te fafine la e noho ange i thaunga. Koi takua e hinana o te fonu po: “Matea te fonu la koi teia e te tai e noho i thaunga na.” 5. Laua koo, laa ko kaukau i thaupe, laa koake, laua ko huka mathuu. Laua koange ki thaunga. O hinana o te fonu koi feili ange ki te fafine la; “Ko no fanofano fokafea?” Ko te fafine la koi takua po: “U ne au o fefela mai tau tama.” 6. Ko hinana o te fonu koi takua po: “Tenaa e tai, tenaa e fonu tukutukumu.” Ko ia te fafine la koi takua po: “Katoma e tukutukumu kau u noho ange ai.” Ko noho ange. Tlatou ko mmoe. Malamake, latou koo ki mouku. 7. Ko te fonu koitoa na vakavaka koi siaki ko takoto ko ia ko sino i na tamalama ko fano ko kaukau. Ko fenake ko hokamathuu. Ko fenange ki thaunga ko noho i lalo. Koi toange te tanga kamu. ko te fafine la ko kamu ai. 8. Ko ia ko longo ake ki te ala latou noifo, koitoa te tanga kamu o haine la, koi fokatulia ko ia ko lekange ko ulu oki ki na vakavaka. Ko tokoto. Latou koiho. Latou ko kaukau. Latou koake ka hokamathuu. Latou koange ki thaunga o te fafine la. Koi toange te tanga no po ke kamu ai. Koi kutea a kamu ana e lavaki. 9. Koi takua po: “Ko ahi nei (ko ai) nei maia a akamu aku?” Koia te fafine la ko iloa po nei maia e te fonu. Latou ko mmoe, mala-make koi takuange e hinana o te fonu po latu oo ki mouku po te fafine la koi takua po: “Kolua lu oo ki mouku. Koi au u ko maki.” 10. A hinana o te fonu ia thamana laua koo ki mouku. Ko te fafine la ko mmaki a ko nofo. Koia te fafine la, ko tuake koi takua po ia ka fano ki mouku. Ko ffano e tafao i te ala. Ko te fonu la ko sino i na tamalama, o ulu mai i fafo. 11. Te fafine la koi kute ange na ko leifo koi takua ki te fonu la po: “A koe na koe tai ko koe na e takoto i tukupotu? Ko koe na koe e tai kanaa ko no pepeioina aiau po koe e fonu.” Na koi puluhia loa. Laua koo ki thaunga, laua ko noho i lalo. 12. Ko hinana o te ffonu ma thamana laua koifo i mouku. Laua ko longo ange te ffonu ma te fafine la. Laua no menamena. Koi takua e hinana te fonu po: “Ma tea te fonu la koi teia e tauana e noho i thaunga na.” 13. Laua koange, laa koo kute ange te tangata la. Laua e noho ma te fafine la. Koi feili ange e hinana po: “Koulua e nohona ko te fonu fefea? Mateaa koulua ko teia!” Ko te fafine la koi takua po: “Te fonu tena koia maua e nofo nei.” Lelekange a hinana koitoa koi iaua kei lunga, koi fokanofoia i ona vae. Koi i ongia tana tama. Laua ko noho ma te fafine la. Ko nofo ange ai te fafine la. Kosi.
1. A woman married and after a while became pregnant. Then gave birth, a female being born. [Common tale beginning.] (She) cradled (her) and carried (her) and (she) grew up. 2. (The mother spoke to one man (about her daughter) but he refused. [Laugh.] After a while (she) spoke to another man and he refused. [Laugh.] The mother and father said: “How to find a man to marry her? The men are finished. - 369 There is a turtle without any legs [laugh], but where does he stay? We don't know where he stays; he lives far away.” 3. The woman said: “What of it? Where is he?” She asked the man to take some sea rations for her. The mother then baked her food and went to look for the place where the legless turtle stayed. 4. She went on; the mother and father of the turtle lived in the bush. She went into the house and sat down. The mother and father of the turtle came down from the bush. They saw the woman sitting in the house. The mother of the turtle said: “Maybe the turtle will be killed by the person sitting there in the house.” 5. The two passed by, they bathed in the sea; then they came back up and changed loincloths. They went to the house. The mother of the turtle asked the woman: “Why have you come here?” The woman said: “I've come to look for your son.” 6. The mother of the turtle said: “What (you say) is human, this is a legless turtle.” [Laughter]. The woman said: “Even legless I'll marry him.” [Laughter; the daughter rather than the mother looking for a husband.] (Time) passed. They slept. In the morning they went to the bush. 7. The turtle took his torso and left (it) and lay down and assumed human shape and went to bathe. (He) came back up and changed loincloths. He came to the house and sat down. He took the betel bag the woman had gotten betel from. 8. He heard them coming back along the trail and took the woman's betel bag and set (it) down, then he went away and entered into the torso. And lay down. They came down. They went bathing. They came back up and changed. They went up to the house where the woman had been. (She) picked up her bag so as to chew betel. Saw that her betel was gone. 9. (She) said: “Who chewed my betel?” The woman knew that the turtle had chewed it. They went to sleep and in the morning the mother of the turtle said that they would go to the bush, but the woman said: “You two go to the bush. I'm sick.” 10. The mother of the turtle and the father went to the bush. The woman who was sick stayed. Then the woman got up and said she was going to the bush. She went walking on the path. The turtle took human form and came out. 11. The woman saw him and came down and said to the turtle: “Are you the one who lay down by the wall? You there are human and you are the one who was pretending to me to be a turtle.” (She) caught ahold. They went to the house and they sat down. 12. The mother of the turtle and the father came from the bush. They heard the woman and the turtle. They talked. The mother of the turtle said: “Maybe the turtle has been killed by the two people in the house.” 13. The two went and they saw the man. He was sitting with the woman. The mother asked: “You two sitting there, where is the turtle? Maybe you two have killed (it)!” The woman said: “This is the turtle sitting with me!” [Laugh.] The mother came and picked him up and lifted him and set him down on his feet. And kissed her son. He and the woman were married. (He) lived with the woman. Finished.

The point of this tale, for which can be discovered only dubious cognates, is of course humorous satire, for the incidents emphatically revealed the characters' overriding urges for self-gratification: the turtle trickster, who obviously has kept his human aspect hidden from his parents, unmasks himself to obtain betel nut (and possibly to get a wife); the woman forgets her mission and betrays her daughter in an allzu menschlich spirit of conquest, acquisition, and sexuality.

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The Pileni story may be a quite specialized and highly enculturated adaptation deriving from a narrative type similar to the two stories summarized below.

A couple find a snake, adopt it, and marry it to their elder daughter, who mistreats it. The younger sister then weds the snake, and is kind to it. Gifts of fish begin to appear, and the couple hide. They discover that the snake, who is providing the gifts, is really a handsome man. They burn his skin. The elder daughter sees her ex-husband and wants to share him with her younger sister, but the man refuses. 43

Also, a Tongan story is possibly related to the Pileni tale, though it lacks the open-eyed and amused cynicism of the Reef Islands text. A synopsis of relevant portions follows:

During a famine a couple marry their elder daughter to a lizard (born to a god and a Samoan woman), who has food. The girl is terrified, however, and returns home. The younger sister then marries him, and is able to stand the strain. One day at a festival an unknown champion carries away the honors of a fighting contest with clubs. Later at home the girl notices red colouring in her lizard-husband's cheeks, tears off the skin, and finds beneath a handsome god, Sinilau. He then returns to his original home in the sky. 44

Marriages between humans and animals occur numberless times in folklore and ties between human and even such unprepossessing life-forms as the carapaced reptiles are often described. For instance, in a story from the Gazelle Peninsula of New Britain a voyager goes to a Land of Women and finds the women married to turtles. 45

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1   Elbert wishes to thank the Tri-Institutional Pacific Program for financing his trip to the Solomon Islands in 1957-58. Government officials in the Solomons were cordial and co-operative; C. H. Allen, in particular, made the difficult travel arrangements to the distant Reefs. The then District Commissioner, J. O. Tedder, provided many facilities in the Reefs.
2   O'Ferrall 1904.
3   Coombe 1911.
4   Ray 1919, 1920, 1921.
5   Luomala 1949, 1958, 1961, 1964.
6   Riesenfeld 1950: passim; Lessa 1961:35-7, 290-321; Williamson 1933: II index s.v. Maui; Dixon 1916:Ch.II.
7   Loeb 1926:211-3.
8   Thompson 1955-8.
9   Lessa 1961:35-7, 290-321.
10   Thompson op.cit.
11   Kirtley 1955.
12   Coombe 1911:192-4.
13   Lambert 1900:326.
14   O'Ferrall 1904:228.
15   Thompson op.cit.
16   Kirtley op.cit.
17   Kennedy 1931:213-6.
18   O'Ferrall 1904:223-33.
19   Beaglehole MS; Beckwith 1940:270-1.*
20   Gill 1876:142-8: Beckwith 1940:269-70.*
21   Coombe 1911:107-11; Codrington 1891:158-9.
22   Stair 895:99-100.
23   Turner 1884:215.
24   Beckwith 1940:263-71.
25   Ibid.:271-2.
26   Savage 1910:142-68; Beckwith 1940:268-9.*
27   Coombe 1911:200-1.
28   Elbert and Monberg 1965:83-4.
29   Ibid.: 162-3.
30   Thurnwald 1912, 1:413-6; Riesenfeld 1950:222.*
31   Malinowski 1922:307-9; Riesenfeld 1950:288-9.*
32   Fischer MS: 850; Lessa 1961:217.*
33   Leenhardt 1932:353-7; Lessa 1961:218-9.
34   Lessa 1961:52.
35   Erland 1914:II 264-5.
36   Fischer MS:1034-7; Lessa 1961:215-7.*
37   Damm and Sarfert 1935:256-7; Lessa 1961:217-8.*
38   Davenport 1964:138-9.
39   Coombe 1911:175.
40   Haddon and Hornell 1937:II, 50.
41   Ibid.: 51*; Graebner 1909:174.
42   Leenhardt 1951:304.
43   Coombe 1911:242-4.
44   Gifford 1924:194-5.
45   Meier 1909:85ff; Hambruch 1924:67.*