Volume 12 1903 > Volume 12, No.3, September 1903 > The making and un-making of man (a Legend of Fiji) By E. Tregear, p 182-183
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- 182

THE great god Degei,1 who is the impersonation of eternal existence, dwelt in a cave in the sacred valley of Na Kauvadra. As the god appears to men, his form is that of the serpent of wisdom, but the lower part thereof is of stone, the symbol of everlasting duration.

As Degei one day passed along the valley he perceived that the snipe (kitu) had built a nest and therein had laid two eggs. Thereupon the god resolved that these eggs should receive divine protection, and, covering them with his influence, he brooded over them until the eggs grew warm with life. Then the shells divided, and forth came a boy and girl, the primal pair whose eyes first saw the great ocean and land, the future home of men. Degei removed the twins from the nest, and placed them in safety from the hot rays of the sun, under the shadow of a gigantic vesi tree (the “green heart” of India; Afzelia bijuga). Here the god tenderly watched over them, nourishing them with delicate food day by day, until they were about five years old. Up to this time, however, the children had not seen each other, for the vast trunk of the tree was between them, and they had not known of the existence of other beings than their foster-deity.

But the boy, peeping round the tree, discovered his little mate, and with celestial cleverness prompting him said, “O girl, the great unborn gods (kalou vu) have brought us two into existence in order that we may have children who shall people this land.” Then Degei put forth his power on the soil of Viti, and the ground produced yams, ndalo (taro) and bananas for their food; green and pleasant the leaves sprouted, and the roots were pleasant to the taste, as the fruits were delicious on the trees. The gods of the sea brought fish to the growing children, and to them was taught the secret of the woods in which the seed of fire is hidden, to be brought forth by friction. And on - 183 the burning coals the roots of yam and ndalo were cooked, but on the fire the bananas were not laid. Thus, under the shadow of the vesi tree grew up our first parents till the years brought them full strength and stature. Then the pair became man and wife, and their descendants peopled the land.

There came a time when this father of men grew very feeble with the weight of years, and his eyes were dark with death, so his soul left his body and went to Mbolutu, that he might dwell for ever with his divine foster-father Degei. While his body was being buried by his sons a god appeared to them and said, “What are you doing?” The men replied, “This is the body of our father who is dead, and we are burying it.” Then said the god “He is not dead. The body must not be buried; take it up out of the grave.” The sons were obstinate, and answered, “Our father is surely dead; he has been dead for four days, and the corruption causeth the corpse to stink.” “Take up the body,” said the god; “I tell you that he yet liveth.” Then the sons grew angry and repeated their statement that their father had been four days dead. They refused to take the body from the grave. The air shook with thunderings and grew dark with the scowl of the offended deity, who said, “Listen to the words of the gods. The banana when it is green is buried in the earth for four days. Underneath the soil it grows ripe; then it is dug up again and is fit for use as food. As the banana is ripened to something better, so would you have found the body of your father had you listened to the commands of the Heavenly Ones. So also would it have been with your bodies and those of your children; but you have been wicked and deaf to the instruction of the gods. Now there shall be death to all—death for your father and your mother—death for you and for your children—death for man and woman—all shall die, and there shall be no escape nor deliverance. All shall rot, and there shall be the end.” So when the first man died, the death of all men was made certain by disobedience to the gods.

1  Note.—Pronounced Ndengei.