Volume 79 1970 > Volume 79, No. 2 > Coconut, breadfruit and taro in Pacific oral literature, by Raden S. Roosman, p 219 - 232
                                                                                             Previous | Next   

- 219

Setting out from a homeland as yet unknown, the first Polynesian seafarers spread over the Pacific Ocean and eventually occupied an area extending 4,000 miles from the Ellice Islands to Easter Island and over 3,000 miles from New Zealand to Hawai'i. By the time of Captain Cook, they gave to the islands they settled a common appearance, a common language, and common customs. 1

The adventures of the early migrants, commemorated in local chants, form the sources used by many authors in developing an extensive literature. 2 Smith, among others, translated a Rarotongan song about Tangaroa (Kanaloa) in which this god-like hero is represented as having once dwelt in Avaiki-te-varinga where people live on vari or mud-rice (a cognate of Javanese pari=unhusked rice) which Tangaroa refuses to eat. 3 'Ina, his wife, receives the instruction from her father to bury him in their yard after his death; the first breadfruit tree sprouts from the burial place. The people of Avaiki, finding the taste of the fruit palatable, ceased to eat vari. 4 The prototype of Pacific mythological heroes is Māui, known in chants throughout Polynesia. Luomala has associated Māui with Lumauig, a beneficent culture hero of the Bontoc and Lepanto Igorot tribes of Northern Luzon. 5 One of Luomala's grounds for comparing Māui with Lumauig is that these culture heroes “have raised the Sky”. 6 In South-east Asian mythology this motif is apparently - 220 not an isolated one. It occurs in Indonesia, e.g. in Nias, Borneo, Roti, and Luang Sermata. 7 The folktale of “a humpbacked woman raising the sky with her broom” occurring in Assamese mythology may be indicative of a link with mainland South-east Asia. 8 In Polynesian mythology the demi-god Māui has been associated with the origin of staple foods; in Sāmoa, for example, he is one of the party which goes to the Sky to obtain various food plants and brings them down to earth. 9 Bearing the name Ti'iti'i he steals, among other things, taro from the god Tangaroa in the heavens. 10 Above all, Māui is the hero of the myth of the origin of the coconut, in which Hina (Sina) flees her eel-husband Tuna and asks Māui for protection. In the ensuing fight, Māui kills the eel-god, whose severed head is buried; from it sprouts the first coconut tree. 11 Although the myth of the coconut derived from an eel-lover is found commonly throughout the South Seas, Beckwith denies its occurrence in Hawai'. 12

Anthropologists have reconstructed the history of the Pacific as originally becoming populated by migrations from the area where Indonesia is located. This area, however, may have functioned only as a temporary home in a much longer migration. 13 These East-bound migrations have been interpreted in various romantic versions as comprised of sea-adventurers in double canoes who, for one reason or another, left their South-east Asian homeland for the thousands of islands which Westerners—arriving on the scene many hundreds of years later—discovered as their permanent habitat, an area which is characterised by a homogeneity of climate, favourable for the growth of tropical plants.

Of these, the coconut (Cocos nucifera), the breadfruit (Artocarpus communis), and the taro (Colocasia esculenta) became staple foods throughout the Pacific. Lexicographical study shows the broad distribution of the names for these plants. Coconut occurs commonly as niu in the Pacific, with cognates such as nu (New Caledonia), nui (Nukuoro), ni (Eniwetok). Breadfruit is widely known as 'ulu, with such cognates as 'uru (Society Islands), kuru (Nukuoro), and huru (Gilbert Islands). The word taro has a wide distribution in the Pacific, appearing as kalo (Hawai'i), talo (Tonga), dalo (Fiji), and tara (Kapingamangarangi). 14 Oceanic linguists differentiate 'ulu (breadfruit) from ulu (head), as 'ulu derives from the Proto-Malayo-Polynesian word for breadfruit kulur, or Proto-Polynesian kulu. 15

For the Indonesian language area, Heyne's work gives us data on the names of these three food products in the various regional languages. 16 Coconut occurs as niu or ñiur (Malay), niu (Goram), niu or ñiuh (Bali), nu - 221 (Banyak Is. and Western New Guinea); it occurs commonly in Indonesia as klapa. In most of Indonesia the seedless variety of the breadfruit is called sukun; the variety with seeds, however, occurs as kulur (Malay, Batak), kurur (Northern Celebes), kulu (Atjeh, Sumba), and 'ulu (Wetar). Taro is widely known in Indonesia as talas; also frequently used is the term kladi. Cognates of talas are tales (Java, Bali, Dayak), talo (Nias), talè (Northern Celebes), and talé (Angkola Batak).

The question of when the coconut, breadfruit, and taro were brought into the Pacific may remain unanswered; the Pacific Islanders themselves take the existence of their food-plants for granted and hold that these plants have been there from time immemorial. However, part of their oral literature, surviving in the form of chants, reveals their ancient beliefs relating to the origin of certain plants. For example, the physical features of the coconut with “its two eyes and a mouth” are explained on the grounds that “it first grew out of a human head.” 17 In most cases, the head was buried before it could develop into a plant, and it is rare for this motif not to include the element of violence; for one reason or another, a dead body has been decapitated. In New Britain, a boy fishing with his parents in a canoe was eaten by a shark, but his head was left untouched. His parents found it later and buried it, and a coconut tree grew from it. 18 A parallel myth is found in Vuatom in the Bismarck Archipelago, where a man was eaten by a shark, except for his head. His sister found it floating in the water and buried it, whereupon a coconut tree appeared. 19 In the Biak-Nufoor region of New Guinea, the coconut is thought to have originated from the skull of a woman. 20 In the Admiralty Islands two brothers go fishing with a canoe stolen from the devil, who discovers the theft and swims after them. They manage to keep him at a distance by feeding him their catch. Eventually no fish are left, so the younger brother cuts his brother into pieces, and throws them to the pursuer, except for the head. Thus he manages to reach land, buries the head, and a coconut tree spring from it. 21 In the Trobriand Islands the coconut tree originates from the head of a boy who spears a sting-ray; the latter, shaking itself free, kills and devours him, all but his head. 22. An Arapesh myth reveals the origin of the coconut from the head of a woman who walks ahead of her husband. She thinks jealously of him, and another man kills her. Children travelling with her see coconut palms rising from her head. People kill the man who has killed her, and a wild coconut tree comes out of his head. 23

The element of violence is missing in the origin myth of the coconut among the Hill-People of North-eastern Guadalcanal, where a boy digs up his buried uncle's body and finds nothing but a coconut. 24 In New Guinea a girl is born in a coconut growing from buried corpses. 25 Two - 222 motifs are contained in one myth of Paparatava (Gazelle Peninsula), in which the coconut sprouts from the head of a dead woman, but when the tree bears fruit, a small girl is found in one of the nuts. 26 A peculiar myth occurs in New Guinea, where a woman—before going fishing—takes her head off to let the fish enter her body. Some people, suspecting something peculiar, follow her and throw her head far away. When she returns to shake the fish out of her body, she cannot find her head and dies. From her head springs a coconut tree. 27 Parallel myths occur in this area, where the woman is a man instead, who jumps back into the water and becomes a fish, as soon as he cannot find his head. 28 A similar story is found in Rennell and Bellona. 29 A variant occurs in Samoa in which a man is looking for his head and dies; from his head grows a coconut tree. 30

The other widespread motif of the coconut originating from the head of an eel also occurs in Samoa, in which the girl Sina is pursued by an enamoured eel. The villagers kill the creature, and Sina buries the head; a coconut tree sprouts from the burial place. 31 “Te uru e tupu ake hei niu” (the head is now growing into a coconut tree) says the Tuamotuan counterpart. 32 The first motif of the human being taking off his head is typically Melanesian, and was apparently imported into Samoa, a common phenomenon occurring in Oceania, due to recent transmigrations. In Rennell and Bellona a ngosengose, an enormous sea-snake, dies, and Mautikitiki, taking great care, buries the monster. A black coconut tree grows at the top of the head and a red one at the other end. 33

A link with the folklore of mainland South-east Asia may occur with the Burmese myth of the coconut which “originates from the head of a mischievous person decapitated at the order of the King.” 34

Not in all cases does the transformation take place from the head of a human being, however. The Marind-Anims of New Guinea have a myth of the first coconuts occurring as a transformation of their Dema (ancestors); in this connection, the coconut appears as their totem. 35 Among the Kiwai Papuans of New Guinea is the story of the coconut originating from a bird which was shot down and buried. 36 Another version, occurring in the same area, is that the coconut originated from a growth like a ball hanging between the legs of a woman. It later comes off and falls into the sea. Her husband shoots arrows at it, and it afterwards becomes a coconut tree. 37 In Hawai'i a canoe is transformed into a coconut tree and functions as a bridge between earth and sky. 38 In the Admiralty - 223 Islands the coconut was originally a stone thrown into the air. 39 The Marshallese have the story of a woman who becomes pregnant and delivers both a boy and a coconut. The boy grows up, and the mother gives him the coconut to play with. He wants to eat the coconut, but the mother hides it. The boy cries, and the coconut turns into a tree. 40 In Rotuma an albino coconut tree springs from the dwelling of an albino man. 41 In the Torres Straits the coconut is believed to originate from the semen of a culture hero. During intercourse his semen is spilt on the ground, and coconut palms spring from it. 42

How the coconut serves as a means of survival on barren atolls is related in a New Caledonian myth, where a man flees and swims to a deserted island with no water or food. The devil appears and orders the man to plant a stone which becomes a coconut tree. 43 Another myth tells about an island with no food except pandanus fruits. Someone does not allow his younger brother to eat the fruit, whereupon the latter goes to the lagoon to eat pumice stones. He sees a coconut floating in the water, but does not pay attention to it. The next day he comes back, and the coconut has grown into a tree bearing fruit. He finds that the inside of the nut tastes sweet, and he invites his fellow-islanders to eat. Thus they are relieved from their hunger. 44

Many myths represent the coconut as originating locally and then spreading throughout the rest of the Pacific. The New Caledonian myth, for example, is based on the assumption that the coconut was spread from there. 45 Through comparing myths, it has been determined that certain food-plants were brought into particular areas from outside; according to Fornander, the first breadfruit in Hawai'i was brought back by a party going to Tahiti, and planted on the island of O'ahu. 46 Similarly, there are indications that the first coconuts were brought to Hawai'i from Tahiti; in Hawaiian, Kahiki (Tahiti) often means “foreign lands”. The Hawaiian version of the origin of the coconut tree originating from a decapitated monster-eel resembles a similar Tahitian myth. 47 According to Teuira Henry, there are two other myths of the origin of the coconut, in one of which a woman gives birth to three human heads and a son who is a physically perfect human being. He buries the heads, and coconuts grow from them. 48 Another Tahitian myth concerns a man who is looking for food in the forest for his hungry children. After several days he discovers plantain and hurries home, but finds his children dead of starvation. Their heads have grown, however, and when he buries them, coconut trees spring out. 49 Another Hawaiian myth tells that the coconut was brought to Hawai'i by the god Kāne (Tāne), another indication that - 224 the cult has been imported from Tahiti where the same cult existed. 50 The tree was formerly low, the myth says, but when a servant was sent to pick the nuts, the tree lengthened as he climbed. This explains why the coconut palm is tall. The question of why certain coconut leaves are red, finds its answer in an Ifaluk myth in which a new-born baby is very ashamed that he is all bloody and runs to a coconut tree to remove the blood with some branches. 51 In a myth of Lifu in the Loyalty Group, a baby boy is carried off by sea-gulls and deposited on an island where a good-hearted witch finds and nurses him with coconuts. When he grows up, she sends him home in a floating calabash, supplied with coconuts. He returns to his home island, where the coconut is planted. 52 A local legend in Ontong Java, traces coconut and taro as originally having been brought to the island by culture heroes. 53

The creation of food-plants, e.g., the coconut and taro, is ascribed among the Siuai to kupuna, man-like supernatural beings who walked about on earth performing creations of such food-plants. 54 Other myths indicate that supernatural beings coming to earth caused flora to exist; on the island of Sikaiana (Tasmania) spirits from heaven heap sand on the island to grow plants. 55 In the Torres Straits, it is a culture hero who flies like a frigate-bird and loads himself with various foods, e.g., coconut and taro, and drops them while flying over the islands. 56 A New Guinean variant occurs as the giant monster Si flies from island to island, and places coconuts on them. 57 The common belief in the Society Islands is that plants sprang from human bodies. When the god Ta'aroa (Tangaroa, Kanaloa) shook off his feathers in the close sky of Rumia, they produced verdure upon the earth, but after the sky was raised to its present position and mortality of human beings increased, many new plants sprang up from their bodies. 58

Considering the rich lore of the coconut, it is reasonable to look for an equally large number of myths relating to the breadfruit and taro, both staple foods which figure as largely as the coconut in the diet of the Pacific Islanders. Published materials show a fairly clear correlation between plant myths and the role of food-plants in any given locale: the number of origin myths is roughly proportional to the importance of the plant in the local diet. In Hawai'i, for example, it is taro rather than breadfruit that is the chief staple; here taro is the subject of an elaborate lore and literature, so that in the Kumulipo, the sacred creation chant of the Hawaiians, it is much used as a source of symbolism. 59 In much of New Guinea, although the breadfruit and taro are cultivated, the yam is the primary food; predictably, more myths are about the yam than about - 225 any other food plant. 60 Similarly one finds a more developed mythology on the breadfruit in the Marquesas and Tahiti, where it is the primary food. 61 In insular South-east Asia the rice mythology has been paramount since the supposed introduction of rice cultivation from the mainland; other plant myths—if they ever existed—have either been replaced, or remain as relics, or survive in a syncretic form. The myth of the coconut originating from a human head can be considered such an example. A special case is the New Zealand myth of the coconut originating from a severed eel-head, since climatic conditions do not permit the coconut to grow in New Zealand; as a result the Māui-Tuna-Hina myth has become modified as an origin myth of eels which were and still are an important food of the Maoris. “Māui kills him (Tuna), whereupon his tail flies into the ocean to become a conger eel and his head falls into a stream to become freshwater eels” quoted Kirtley. 62 There is an ideological parallel one can draw between the coconut, the breadfruit, and taro. Myths of the coconut's origin from man or animals or gods are repeated for the breadfruit and taro.

According to a Tahitian myth, for example, the breadfruit tree originated from parts of man: the fruit was his head, the heart of the fruit his tongue, the trunk his body, the branches his limbs, the leaves his hands. 63 A myth of Hawai'i tells that the breadfruit grows from the testes of a dead man. People cook the fruit and find it palatable, but when they hear where it comes from they begin to vomit and spread the breadfruit all around Kona (Hawai'i). 64 The element of self-sacrifice is found in the following origin myths. When famine occurs in Hawai'i, the god Kū saves the life of his earthly wife by standing on his head, and becoming a breadfruit tree. 65 Another Hawaiian myth tells us how a man named 'Ulu dies of famine, and following the directions of a kahuna (priest) his body is buried near a spring whereupon a breadfruit tree appears and the family is saved from hunger. 66 On Ra'iatea, in Tahiti, a father bids farewell to his starving family, and becomes a breadfruit tree which saves them from famine. 67

Some origin myths indicate that the breadfruit was introduced from outside. Two fishermen from the Big Island of Hawai'i were blown off the island of Kaua'i, and brought back home the breadfruit. 68 According to Fornander, the first breadfruit planted on O'ahu (Hawai'i) came from Tahiti. 69 In a myth of Kapingamangarangi a breadfruit tree sprouts from the place where an eel had lain. A starling carries a portion of the breadfruit to Touho and drops it. 70

The origin of the taro plant is mentioned in various myths. On Rennell - 226 and Bellona Māui tricks the Sky-people, unwilling to give their taro, and hurls it down to earth. 71 Similar myths are found in Samoa and New Zealand. 72 In Sauva (Samoa) Losi is the beneficent culture hero who brings taro back to his countrymen from his wanderings in the Sky. 73 A man of Rotuma is abducted into the Sky world. When he discovers a taro plant growing there, he throws it down to earth. 74 In Hawai'i the taro is given to man by the Sky Father Wākea. 75 Two other Hawaiian origin myths on the taro occur. Ho'ohokukalani's first child by Wākea is born in the form of a root and is thrown away. Not long afterwards a taro plant grows from the spot. 76 The lauloa taro grew from the embryo child of Papa and Wākea. 77 In Tahiti the taro was produced by the feet of a man, and his lungs became its leaves. 78 In Mono Alu folklore, taro originates from snake-flesh planted in a garden. 79 In Rennell and Bellona the black taro is brought to the surface of the earth by a woman who dies and is resuscitated; in the underworld she meets her deceased parents who give her the taro. 80 The various species of taro in Hawai'i are ascribed to the fleeing pig-god, Kamapua'a, who goes through various taro manifestations to elude the fire-goddess Pele. 81 Why the skin of dry-land taro tastes bitter is explained in a myth: the taro slips and its inside falls down to earth, but its skin remains in the invisible heaven. 82 On the island of Maui (Hawai'i) it is believed that the first taro was cultivated in Ke'anae. The first earth was placed there when the taro patches were first formed. 83

For Indonesia, motifs relating to the origin of the coconut, breadfruit and taro are absent in Stith Thompson's Motif Index. 84 Neither does Dixon's “Mythology of All Races” list any Indonesian narrative on this subject. 85 Kirtley's Motif-Index is restricted to Polynesian, Melanesian and Micronesian tales. 86 Monographs on Indonesian folklore—which before World War II were written almost entirely in Dutch but thereafter in Indonesian, regional languages, or in English—have not dealt with plant-origin myths. Bezemer's work, for example, a compilation of folktales related to different areas of Indonesia, does not make any mention of plant-origin myths. 87 De Vries's work in Dutch on folktales from Indonesia represents a study which includes a type index with emphasis on parallels. However, plant-origin myths are remarkable for - 227 their absence in this work, which includes one myth relating to glutinous rice which “was stolen by man from heaven.” 88 The myths regarding plants originating from human bodies are not altogether uncommon in Indonesian folktales. Voorhoeve listed two Batak (Sumatra) stories, in one of which a tree grows out of the body of a witch, and in the other a child left behind in the jungle by his father is transformed into a vine. 89 He also includes myths mentioning plants which originate from heavenly seeds. 90

The early introduction of rice cultivation from mainland to insular South-east Asia may have relegated at least the breadfruit and taro to a secondary place as staple foods. The Ngadju Dayaks, the largest inland tribe dwelling nomadically in South and South-east Borneo, who practise swidden agriculture, have a myth to the effect that rice “originated as a drop of milk fallen on earth from the breast of a celestial being.” 91 Resemblance to Polynesian motifs is seen in a Ngadju Dayak myth representing the coconut as having been a transformation of a human head. 92 The Ifugao of northern Luzon have a parallel myth regarding the origin of rice “as exchanged with fire from the Skyfolk.” 93 The Ifugao version of the origin of the coconut starts with a party returning to their village from head-hunting while raising their victorious cries, but being disconcerted that the head they brought home with them shouts with them. They get rid of it, and from the head sprouts a coconut tree. 94 This motif seems to be more widespread in the Philippines than in Indonesia. As we find narratives describing the origin of the coconut from a human head in Indonesia and the Philippines, we may conclude that the concept in these areas corresponds to Polynesian myths.

The establishment of petty Hindu princedoms in the western part of Indonesia, beginning in the first centuries A.D., was partly based upon intensive rice cultivation. Further Hinduisation presumably absorbed local deities into the Hindu pantheon, and reinforced existing local traditions relating to the rice cult. Thus Dèwi Sri, the rice goddess, could be the syncretic re-emergence of a local Rice Spirit. Rassers relates Dèwi Sri to a fairy in the Javanese moon-mythology, and draws the conclusion that both are manifestations of the female ancestor of the Javanese race. 95 Dèwi Sri is also identified in her manifestation of the goddess Kèn Tisnawati, occurring in the agricultural myth Mengukuhan which the Javanese theatre performs as a wayang shadow-play. In one of the acts, Kèn Tisnawati refuses to be united with the god Guru; then he takes her by force, whereupon she dies. After her burial a coconut palm grows from her head and rice and other fruits from her body. 96

It may be suspected that certain other etiologies like trees and plants - 228 originating from parts of dead people or animals, if they did not already exist locally, were imported with Hindu culture, since such motifs are common in Indic folklore. 97

Could we then expect that an area such as Mentawei, an island group west of Sumatra which was bypassed by Hinduism and Islam, and has only in recent years been influenced by Christian missionaries (who also introduced rice), and the inhabitants of which still have taro as their staple food, would yield information on links with Polynesia, as far as myths and legends on the taro are concerned? 98 Loeb's monograph “Mentawei Myths” does not provide material on plant origin; neither does it contain any creation stories, nor evidence of a concept of the Creator. 99

Unlike the western part of the country, Eastern Indonesia, bordering Melanesia and Australia, was not heavily influenced by either Hinduism or Islam. Inasmuch as its staple food crops are sago, yam, and taro, rather than rice, it can be predicted that this area will yield myths regarding the origin of these food plants. Long Christianisation, however, may have superimposed Biblical stories over more ancient lore or may have syncretised it, as has commonly happened elsewhere in the Pacific. It is also possible that plant mythology—a manifestation of ancient agricultural cults—has been obliterated altogether. After the turn of the century, Dutch missionaries were active in collecting ethnographic data; they were followed by university-trained anthropologists. The Dutch have thus produced a valuable body of information on contemporary situations. The volume of their production on the folklore of eastern Indonesia cannot be compared with their research on the western part of the country; considering their thoroughness in exploring all aspects of life in Indonesia, it is somewhat surprising that their interest in folklore did not extend to plant mythology. Hence, if it is said that no myths regarding the origins of plants are found in eastern Indonesia, this is presumably because Dutch investigations have not yet reported such myths. 100

We may conclude that Pacific horticulture is reflected in a mythology concerned with indigenous beliefs in the mystic relation between Sky, man, and the soil. The Sky or Upperworld is represented by gods, supernatural creatures coming from the Sky, or deified ancestors manifesting themselves as culture heroes or demigods. The soil is the fructifying element in the process of plant growth. Man, not necessarily present in every myth, functions as a mediary between the two. The whole complex of plant-origin myths can be reduced to an ancient belief in the primeval marriage of Papa (the Earth Mother) and Wākea (Sky Father), a marriage which is considered the source of all existence on earth. 101 One aspect of this belief is the constant relation between man and the soil from which his ancestors have sprung. 102 An intricate disciplinary system of food - 229 taboos, interpreted by some as a relic of totemism, governs the diet of the Pacific Islanders. 103 The dualistic contrast of male (Wākea) and female (Papa), already present in cosmogony, is extended to a categorisation of food plants as manifestations of the male or female principle. Several food plants are associated with phallic symbols of certain gods. In Hawai'i, for example, the coconut, breadfruit and taro belong to the male sphere, and their cultivation and consumption are consequently taboo to women and girls.

The coconut is believed in Hawai'i to have been brought by the god Kāne. 104 Offerings to the gods Kāne, Kū and Lono were performed with coconuts. 105 In Hawai'i as well as elsewhere in the Pacific, coconuts were taboo to women in ancient times. 106

In Hawai'i the breadfruit is a transformation of the war-god Kū and is called 'ulu-kū; it symbolises masculinity. 107 In the primeval home of man, the Polynesian Paradise, there stands as decoration the 'Ulu kapu ā Kāne, the breadfruit tree tabooed for the god Kāne. 108

Finally, taro lies in the male sphere, and the taboo against eating certain varieties is explicitly mentioned in the Kumulipo, the sacred creation chant (ka pule ho'ola'a Ali'i) of the Hawaiians. 109

- 230
  • BARTON, Roy F., 1956. The Mythology of the Ifugaos. Philadelphia.
  • BASTIAN, Adolf, 1881. Die Heilige Sage der Polynesier. Leipzig.
  • BECKWITH, Martha W., 1940. Hawaiian Mythology. New Haven.
  • —— 1951. The Kumulipo. Chicago.
  • BEZEMER, T. J., 1904. Volksdichtung aus Indonesien. The Hague.
  • BUCK, Sir Peter, 1950. The Coming of the Maori. Wellington, Whitcombe and Tombs.
  • CHURCHWARD, C. Maxwell, 1939. Tales of a Lonely Isle, Rotuman Legends. The Oceania Monographs, 4.
  • —— 1937-1938. “Rotuman Legends”. Oceania, 8:104-16, 247-60, 351-68, 482-97.
  • COLUM, Padraic, 1924. At the Gateways of the Day. New Haven, Yale University Press.
  • DE VRIES, J., 1925. Volkverhalen uit Oost-Indië. Leiden.
  • DIXON, Roland B., 1916. The Mythology of All Races. Vol. 9, Oceanic. Boston, Marshall Jones.
- 231
  • DUYVENDAK, J. Ph., 1946. Inleiding tot de Ethnologie van de Indonesische Archipel. Groningen.
  • ELBERT, Samuel H., 1949. “Uta-Matua and Other Tales of Kapingamangarangi”. Journal of American Folklore, 62:240-246.
  • ELBERT, Samuel H. and Mary K. PUKUI, 1965. Hawaiian-English Dictionary. Honolulu.
  • ELBERT, Samuel H. and Torben MONBERG, 1965. From the Two Canoes. Honolulu.
  • ERDLAND, P. A., 1904. Die Marshall-Insulaner. Münster.
  • FORTUNE, R. F., 1942. Arapesh. Publications of the American Ethnological Society, 19.
  • GOSWAMI, P., 1950. Ballads and Tales of Assam. University of Gauhati.
  • HADDON, A. C., 1908. Reports on the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to the Torres Straits. Vol. 5. Cambridge.
  • —— 1908. Report of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to the Torres Straits. Vol. 6. Cambridge.
  • HADFIELD, E., 1920. Among the Natives of the Loyalty Group. London, Macmillan.
  • HANDY, E. S. Craighill, 1940. The Hawaiian Planter. Vol. 1. Honolulu, Bishop Museum Bulletin 161.
  • HENRY, Teuira, 1928. Ancient Tahiti. Honolulu, Bishop Museum Bulletin 48.
  • HERMAN, Brother, 1955. Tala o le Vauvau (Samoan Legends). Pago Pago, Duplicated.
  • HEYNE, K., 1927. De Nuttige Planten van Nederlands Indië. Buitenzorg.
  • HOGBIN, Ian N., 1937. “The Hill-People of North-Eastern Guadalcanal”. Oceania, 8:62-89.
  • KAMMA, F. C., 1954. De Messiaanse Koréri-bewegingen in het Biaks-Noemfoorse Cultuurgebied. The Hague.
  • KER, A., 1910. Papuan Fairy Tales. London, Macmillan.
  • KIRTLEY, Bacil F., 1955. A Motif-Index of Polynesian, Melanesian, and Micronesian Narratives. Ann Arbor, University Microfilms.
  • — 1967. “The Slain Eel-god and the Origin of the Coconut, with Satellite Themes, in Polynesian Mythology”. Folklore International.
  • KLEINTITSCHEN, P. A., 1924. Mythen und Erzählungen der Küstenbewohner der Gazelle Halbinsel. St. Gabriel.
  • KYSELKA, W. and G. BUNTON, 1968. “Star-voyaging: Polynesian Skies and Men”. Malamalama.
  • LANDTMAN, G., 1927. The Kiwai Papuans of British New Guinea. London, Macmillan.
  • LAVILLE, J. and J. BERKOWITZ, 1944. Pacific Island Legends. Noumea, Librarie Pentecost.
  • LÉVY-BRUHL, L., 1935. La Mythologie Primitive. Paris, Alcan.
  • LOEB, E., 1929. “Mentawei Myths”. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land-, en Volkenkunde, Part 85.
  • LUOMALA, K., 1949. Maui-of-a-thousand-tricks. Honolulu, Bishop Museum Bulletin 198.
  • —— 1955. Voices on the Winds. Honolulu, Bishop Museum.
  • MAAHS, A. M., 1956. A Sociological Interpretation of the Cargo Cult of New Guinea. Ann Arbor, University Microfilms.
  • MALINOWSKI, B., 1965. Soil-tilling and Agricultural Rites in the Trobriand Islands. Bloomington.
  • MAUNG HTIN AUNG, 1948. Burmese Folk Tales. Oxford University Press.
- 232
  • MEIER, J., 1907. “Mythen und Sagen der Admiralitäts-Insulaner”. Anthropos, 2:646-67, 933-41.
  • MEIER, O., 1910. “Mythen und Erzählungen von der Insel Vuatom”. Anthropos, 5:711-33.
  • MILLER, Carey D., 1929. Food Values of Breadfruit, Taro Leaves, Coconut and Sugar Cane. Honolulu, Bishop Museum Bulletin 64.
  • —— 1932. “Food of Ancient Hawaiians”. Mid-Pacific Magazine, 44:337-42.
  • NEAL, MARIE C., 1928. In Honolulu Gardens. Honolulu, Bishop Museum Special Publication 13.
  • OLIVER, Douglas L., 1955. A Solomon Island Society. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.
  • PARKINSON, R., 1898. “Nachträge zur Ethnographie der Ontong-Java Inseln”. Internationales Archiv für Ethnographie, Band 11:194-209.
  • —— 1926. Dreissig Jahre in der Südsee. Stuttgart, Strecker and Schröder.
  • RASSERS, W. H., 1959. Pañji, the Culture Hero. Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land-, en Volkenkunde Translation, Series 3. The Hague.
  • RESCHKE, H., 1953. Linguistische Untersuchungen der Mythologie und Initiation in Neuguinea. Münster.
  • RIESENFELD, A., 1950. The Megalithic Culture of Melanesia. Leiden, Brill.
  • RIVERS, W. H. R., 1909. “Totemism in Polynesia and Melanesia”. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 39:156-80.
  • SARFERT, E. and H. DAMN, 1931. “Luangiuia und Nukumanu” in Ergebnisse der Südsee Expedition, 1908-1910, III Halbband. Hamburg, Fridricksen.
  • SCHÄRER, H., 1966. “Der Totenkult der Ngadju Dajak in Süd-Borneo”. Verhandelingen van het Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land-,en Volkenkunde, 1.
  • SELIGMAN, C. G., 1910. The Melanesians of British New Guinea. Cambridge University Press.
  • SMITH, S. Percy, 1910. Hawaiki, the Original Home of the Maori. London.
  • SPIRO, Melford E., 1951. “Some Ifaluk Myths and Folk Tales”. Journal of American Folklore, 64:289-302.
  • STAIR, John B., 1896. “Jottings on the Mythology and Spirit-Lore of Old Samoa”. Journal of the Polynesian Society, 5:33-57.
  • STEPHEN, E., 1936. “Notes on Nauru”. Oceania, 7:34-63.
  • STIEBEL, O., 1895. “Übersetzung der Samoanischen Texte”. Veroffentlichungen aus dem Koniglichen Museum für Volkerkunde, IV Band, 1. Heft, Berlin.
  • STIMSON, J. F., 1937. Tuamotuan Legends (Island of Anaa). Part I. Honolulu, Bishop Museum Bulletin, 148.
  • SUZUKI, P., 1929. The Anthropology of Nias, Mentawei, and Enggano, The Hague, Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land-, en Volkenkunde Bibliographical Series 3.
  • TE ARIKI-TARA-ARE, 1899. “History and Traditions of Rarotonga”. Journal of the Polynesian Society, 8:61-88, 171-8.
  • THOMPSON, Stith, 1966. Motif-Index of Folk-Literature. Bloomington.
  • THOMPSON, Stith and J. Balys, 1958. The Oral Tales of India. Bloomington.
  • THRUM, T. G., 1912. Hawaiian Folk Tales. Chicago.
  • VOORHOEVE, P., 1927. Overzicht van de Volksverhalen der Bataks, Vlissingen.
  • WARD, M., 1952. “Folklore of the Coconut”. The Australian Museum Magazine, 10:319-21.
  • WHEELER, G. C., 1926. Mono Alu Folklore. London, Routledge.
  • WILLIAMSON, R. W., 1933. Religious and Cosmic Beliefs of Central Polynesia. Vol. II. Cambridge University Press.
1   Kyselka and Bunton 1968:7.
2   E.g. Luomala 1955.
3   Avaiki has been interpreted as “Little Java”, as in Smith 1910: 59-62; for “vari”, see ibid.:77.
4   Te Ariki-Tara-are 1899:65-66.
5   Luomala 1949:10.
6   Ibid.:119; for an elaboration, see Colum 1924:10-15.
7   Dixon 1916:178.
8   Goswami 1950:165.
9   Luomala 1949:119.
10   Williamson 1933:185.
11   Kirtley 1967:89-109.
12   Beckwith 1940:102. However, through Mr Kalani Meinecke, I received the information from Mrs Kawena Pūku'i that this motif occurs in the region from Waipi'o to Ka'ū on the Big Island of Hawai'i.
13   Buck 1950:71-73.
14   In certain areas breadfruit is referred to as mei (Tonga, Marquesas), mai (Truk, Ponape), and mäi (Ulithi). In the Philippines niyog is the common term for coconut; kulo for breadfruit occurs in the Visayan dialect.
15   Elbert and Pukui 1965:341.
16   Heyne 1927:398, 423, 555.
17   Stephen 1936:45.
18   Parkinson 1926:308.
19   Meier 1910:721.
20   Kamma 1954:75.
21   Meier 1907:646-667.
22   Riesenfeld 1950:299.
23   Fortune 1942:232.
24   Hogbin 1937:88.
25   Reschke 1935:37-38.
26   Kleintitschen 1924:23-24.
27   Seligman 1910:381.
28   Ker 1910:92-96.
29   Elbert and Monberg 1965:167.
30   Herman 1955:92.
31   Kirtley 1967:98-100.
32   Stimson 1937:41.
33   Elbert and Monberg 1965:126-127.
34   Maung Htin Aung 1948:167-169.
35   Lévy-Bruhl 1935:97.
36   Landtman 1927:100.
37   Ibid.:100.
38   Beckwith 1940:104.
39   Meier 1907:646-667.
40   Erdland 1904:298.
41   Churchward 1939:121.
42   Haddon 1908:21.
43   Laville and Berkowitz 1944:135-142.
44   Sarfert and Damm 1931:411-412.
45   Laville and Berkowitz 1944:135-142.
46   Handy 1940:186.
47   Ibid.:190.
48   Henry 1928:421.
49   Ibid.:422-23.
50   Beckwith 1940:98.
51   Spiro 1951:290.
52   Hadfield 1920:228-230.
53   Parkinson 1898:195.
54   Oliver 1955:39-42.
55   Sarfert and Damm 1931:492-493.
56   Haddon 1908:28.
57   Ward 1952:321.
58   Henry 1928:420.
59   Miller 1932:339.
60   Maahs 1956:13-14.
61   Miller 1929:4.
62   Kirtley 1967:96.
63   Henry 1928:420-421.
64   Beckwith 1940:68.
65   Ibid.:100-101.
66   Ibid.
67   Ibid.
68   Ibid.:68.
69   See footnote 46.
70   Elbert 1949:245.
71   Elbert and Monberg 1965:124.
72   Luomala 1949:119.
73   Stair 1896:36. Another variant of this myth occurs in which Losi steals the taro from the heaven of Tangaloa in Stiebel 1895:142.
74   Churchward 1937-1938:267.
75   Neal 1928:56-58.
76   Beckwith 1940:297.
77   Ibid.:98.
78   Henry 1928:420-421.
79   Wheeler 1926:9.
80   Elbert and Monberg 1965:355.
81   Handy 1940:13.
82   Elbert and Monberg 1965:342.
83   Beckwith 1940:288.
84   Thompson 1966.
85   Dixon 1916.
86   Kirtley 1955:8.
87   Bezemer 1904.
88   De Vries 1925:144-145.
89   Voorhoeve 1927:73-74.
90   Ibid.:65.
91   Schärer 1966:45-46.
92   Ibid.:32.
93   Barton 1956:111-118.
94   Ibid.:182-184.
95   Rassers 1959:44.
96   Ibid.:17.
97   Thompson and Balys 1958:52-56.
98   Duyvendak 1946:32; also Suzuki 1929:7.
99   Loeb 1929:67.
100   Dixon 1916:241, “as far as origin-myths are concerned, Indonesian and Polynesian beliefs have little in common”.
101   Bastian 1881:29.
102   Malinowski 1965:290-316.
103   Rivers 1909:156-180.
104   Beckwith 1940:98.
105   Ibid.:314.
106   Miller 1929:13.
107   Beckwith 1940:13.
108   Thrum 1912:17.
109   See Beckwith 1951. The Kumulipo also magnificently exemplifies the use of plant symbolism in literature. In lines 112-114, taro, the prime food of the Hawaiians since ancient times, becomes a motif for making literary allusions.
'O ke kāne huawai, Akua kēnā,
'O kālina a ka wai i ho'oūlu ai,
'O ka huli ho'okawowo honua.
The man with the water gourd, he is a god,
Water that causes the withered vine to flourish,
Causes the plant-top to develop freely.

The water-gourd, the male symbol of the god Lono, serves as the fructifying element for the “plant top” which is thought of as the taro-plant, and which, in turn, is an allusion to the original chiefly line in Hawai'i.
The following lines (Kumulipo 115-119) portray the branching out of the genealogy of Hawaiian rulers.
O paia i ke auau ka manawa,
O piha, o pihapiha,
O piha-u, o piha-a,
O piha-e, o piha-o.
Multiplying in the passing time,
Fruitful, very fruitful,
Spreading here, spreading there,
Spreading this, spreading that way.

In Kumulipo lines 279-284 we may assume that the taro is an allusion of the Hawaiian nobility.
Ulu ka hāhā nā lau 'eiwa,
Ulu nioniolo ka lau pahiwa,
'O ho'olu i ka lau palai ali'i,
Hānau 'o Po'ele'ele ke kāne,
Noho 'ia e Pōhaha he wahine,
Hānau ka pua a ka Hāhā,
Hānau ka Hāhā.
The rootstalk grew forming nine leaves,
The dark leaf grew upright,
Shading the palai ali'i,
Pōele'ele the male was born,
Mated with Pōhaha, a female,
The offspring of the rootstalk was born,
The rootstalk was born.

Ha (taro-root stalk) in Pōhaha is an allusion of 'ohana meaning “family” or “kingroup”, i.e. the genealogy of Hawaiian rulers. In lines 370 and 371 the allusion is repeated:
'O ka hahu 'ape lau mānewanewa,
'O ka holili ha'ape lau manamana.
The young weak 'ape plant rises,
A tender plant with spreading leaves.

The 'ape, a taro-like plant was planted by a gate or fence because the irritating sap of the leaves was thought to ward off evil spirits. It is again mentioned in Kumulipo line 380:
E kūkulu i ke ahi'a a la'a la,
'O ka 'ape aumoa ka hiwa uli.
Plant the ahi'a and cause it to propagate
The protected 'ape, the black sacredness.

Kūkulu is to be interpreted as “to establish” in reference to a name or dynasty. In line 492 is mentioned Lo'iloa, an ancestor famous for planting the taro (Ho'omaha i ka lo'ilo'i o Lo'iloa).
From line 502 to 509 different taro species serve as allusions to the head-dress people of different ranks and class wore in ancient Hawaii.
Born were the peaked-heads, they were clumsy ones,
Born were the flat-heads, they were braggarts,
Born were the angular-heads, they were esteemed,
Born were the fair-haired, they were strangers,
Born were the blonds, their skin was white,

In line 1771 the name of Haumea is mentioned, an akua noho, a spirit capable of assuming various shapes, which takes possession of a tree which becomes the breadfruit tree.
Hānau 'o Hikapuanaiea he wahine,
'Ike iā Haumea, 'o Haumea no ia.

The food taboos mentioned above are specified in lines 1805, 1809, 1810 and 1811:

Taboo the taro plant, the acrid one,
Taboo the bitter part of the taro leaf,
Taboo the taro stalk that stood by the woman's taboo house,
Haloa was buried there, a long taro stalk grew,
The offspring of Haloa born into the day,
Came forth.