In about 1800 there was a king in Rikitea on Magareva named Te Ma- teoa. Te Ma-teoa was an old man and he had a grown son named Te Ika-Tohara. This son was the crown prince, that is, he was going to replace his father the king as his father got older.
Even though Te Ika-Tohara was already married he wanted to marry again to a particular woman who was a commoner. His father told him that he could not do this, so Te Ika-Tohara was angry and he went to live on an nearby island.
During the time that Te Ika-Tohara was living away from his home he went to the marae (the worship ground or temple) and he pulled up some pandanus trees that were on the marae. These trees were sacred and the woman who took care of that marae told Te Ika-Tohara that he had angered the gods and that something bad was going to happen to him.
Sometime later Te Ika-Tohara returned to his home village of Rikitea. One day he was fishing with his father’s servants and he was in the sea. He wanted to climb back into the canoe and he put his hands on the side of the canoe to pull himself up. Just at that moment a great big shark came and bit of the bottom part of his body below the waist.
After this the people on the canoes went crazy because Te Ika- Tohara, the crown prince, was dead. Someone had the sense to jump into the sea and retrieve the top half of the body. When the canoes returned to shore the people on the shore discovered what had happened and they started to go crazy too.
During this time, some of them were saying that they should have a human sacrifice, that is, they should kill someone, cook them and eat them. This was the custom in those days. (I strongly doubt that any of the people calling for a human sacrifice were actually volunteering for the honor.)
When the old king, Te Ma-teoa, knew what some of the people were saying he disagreed with them. He said, “E ‘uke’ia toku atariki penei, kai atu, kai mai?” (“Will my son be avenged by you eating one another?”) Because he said this no one was killed that day.
There is a lesson in this story. If you are in a group and you see that something bad is about to happen, it is time then to speak up and stop the bad thing from happening.
This king, Te Ma-teoa, was an unusual king for his time. When his faterh Te Oa died the custom was to kill a commoner as a human sacrifice. When Te Ma-teoa was reminded of the custom he replied that he would enter the funeral house by the door of the commoners, that is, that he was going to mourn over his father’s death with the commoners. This was his way of saying that no one was to be killed.
Te Ma-teoa again showed his compassion when he rejected the idea of a human sacrifice as mourning for the death of his son. I am not sure, but it seems to me that Te Ma-teoa’s mercy may have been a factor in his victory over his second cousin Mataira.
Revised: March 26, 1997 from Ethnology of Mangareva by Te Rangi Hiroa (Peter H. Buck].
Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff