There was once a pregnant woman in Mangareva named Vai-Hunarei- Tinaku. Her husband was named Garagi. One day the wife told her husband that she was hungry for ‘umu fish and that he should go catch her one. She cautioned him that as soon as he caught one fish that he was to stop fishing and return.
He went fishing, but after he caught the first one he kept on fishing. A wind came up and the anchor rope of the canoe broke so the canoe drifted away. It drifted to the island of Tetamanu which was an island inhabited by a female cannibal named Tuhoropuga. She captured him and he did not return from fishing.
In time his wafe gave birth to twin boys. She named one Huru- Mahakihaki and she named the other Huru-Tavake-Rega. They grew into young boys and one night they came to their mother and they asked her, “Who is our father?”
She told them, “I am both father and mother to you.” But they insisted on asking who their father really was. So their mother said, “Your father is the front pole of the house.” These two boys went to the front pole of the house and asked, “Ko koe to maua kui? (Are you our father?) But there was no answer. They said to their mother, “Kakore e ki! (There is no answer!)”
She then said that their father was the back pole of the house. So they asked it the same question: “Ko koe to maua kui?” There was no answer so they again said, “Kakore e ki!”
Their mother told them that their father was the side poles of the house, but there was still no answer for these two boys.
All the time that these boys were asking questions to the poles there mother was softly singing to herself, “Ka rue, ka rue! Ka rue na tama tokorua naku! (They will leave me, they will leave me! My two sons will leave me!)
Finally their mother pointed to a distant cloud on the horizon and said, “Your father floated to an island beyond those clouds.” So these two boys got their toy canoes and sailed beyond the clouds.
They came to the island of Tetamanu and they were captured by Tuhoropuga the female cannibal. She tied them to a housepost for the night because she planned to eat them the next morning.
As they were tied to the housepost they saw the moon rising. The oldest boy, Huru-Mahakihaki, called out to the moon:
“E te marama e ra’iti ake ra i ruga,
O te ma’eumia i ruga,
O te ma’eu takaka,
I reira ana to maua motua,
To maua kui,
Ko Vai-Hunarei Tinaku,
E te marama e, titokorua,
That shines on lands below,
That shines on lands above,
There are our parents,
O moon, untie us two.
His younger brother, Huru-Tavake-Rega, repeated those same words to the moon.
Although their father had been captured by Tuhoropuga, the female cannibal, he was still alive. This is because Tuhoropuga had made him into her cook. He heard the words of these two boys. From the names that they said he recognized them as his sons so he untied them.
The three of them then went outside of the house of Tuhoropuga, the female cannibal, and they burned down her house and she was dead. The people of Tetamanu were happy that they were free from Tuhoropuga. The father and his two sons then returned to Mangareva to Vai-Hunarei-Tinaku.
There is a story from Tonga that is almost like this one (one of the Hina and Sinilau stories). There is also a story from the Marquesas Islands (Kae) that has this as one of its themes. These similarities show that the people of Mangareva, Tonga and the Marquesas are the same people.
There are probably some people who think that this story is a lie. But even if you think that it is a lie it tells us a great deal about what the values of the people of Mangareva.
Why did she not tell her sons about their father? Why did she try to lie to them?
Think about this woman, like the old Mangarevans might have. Then you will see some of their thoughts.
When this woman was pregnant her husband went fishing and he never returned. She bore through her pregnancy on her own and gave birth to these two boys who she raised. After some time they came to her and wanted to go and look for the father.
If they went to look for their father she would be alone, without husband or sons. So when her sons were asking the poles of the house: “Ko koe to maua motua?” She was singing to herself, “They will leave me, they will leave me. My two sons will leave me!” Think of the anguish that was in her heart as she said those words.
Those two boys must have been silly, to think that they were sons of poles of a house! But perhaps it was because their desire to find their father was so strong that they would believe anything.
from Ethnology of Mangareva by Te Rangi Hiroa [Peter H. Buck].
Revised: March 26, 1997
Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff