The Story of Stories:
Part I: The Journey of Kae
Chapter 1: A Marriage
In Vainoi on Hiva Oa there was a time when there were just women in the valley, no men. Every day the women would go and bathe in the river. After they were done bathing they would go and do their work.
One time a man named Kae came into this valley from Taaoa which is on the opposite side of the island of Hiva Oa. When the women went to bathe in the river he hid and watched them take their bath. When the women were done with their bath they went away. Then the queen of the valley came and she took her bath. The queen’s name was Hina-i-Vainoi. When she was done this man, Kae, came out and introduced himself to the queen. When she saw him she said: “Who are you?” He replied, it is not for you to ask because this is your country.” Then he said, “Who are you?” She replied, “I am Hina-i-Vainoi.” Since she had identified herself, she then asked, “Who are you?” He replied, “I am Kae from Tohuti (Taaoa).” This woman, Hina-i-Vainoi, then asked him, “Come home and be my husband.” Kae agreed with this.
During the next three days when the women would go bathe they would call to the queen, Hina-i-Vainoi, “Come we are going to bathe”. But Hina-i-Vainoi would call back, “I can’t go. I am sick.”
But the women talked among themselves. They thought that Hina-i-Vainoi was not sick, but that she had a husband. On the third day the women said, “You have a scratch on your cheek.” Hina-i-Vainoi replied, “I got scratched by a pandanus spine.” But they thought among themselves, “The scratch is the scratch like a fingernail scratch. She must have a husband.” They were still suspicious.
Chapter 2: Lessons
One day a messenger came to Hina-i-Vainoi. After the messenger left Kae asked his wife: “What was the message.”
She responded: “In three days we are going to cut open the old woman and deliver her baby.” Kae said, “What will happen to the mother.” “She will die, it has always been like that with us.”
Kae said, “This is how you should deliver the baby. Don’t cut open the mother. Tie some noni leaves around her waist. Tie a rope from the rafters of the house for the mother to hold onto. Two women should sit beside her legs, two should sit beside her and one sits behind. Wait until the labor comes. When the baby is born cut the umbilical cord and feed mashed shrimp and coconuts to the baby. Wait until the afterbirth comes. That is how the baby is to be born.”
After three days, Hina-i-Vainoi went down the hill to where the old woman lived. The other women were gathered there to mourn that this woman was going to die after she was cut open to remove the baby. Two men had come with their stone wives to cut open the woman. Hina-i-Vainoi said to them: “Get out of here, we don’t need your help.” They had known all along how to deliver babies but they had remained silent. They were ashamed.
Hina-i-Vainoi told the women what to do, so they delivered the baby and the mother did not die.
Hina-i-Vainoi went home to her husband and said: “If it was not for you my husband, the old woman would have died.”
One day Kae was picking lice out of his wife’s hair. He said to her, “My dear, you have gray hairs among your black.” She said, “Wait until tomorrow and we will go surf riding and that will fix my hair.”
The next day they went surf riding. Kae jumped in and when he came out his hair was just the same as ever, but when Hina-i-Vainoi came out her hair was completely black. Then her husband was ashamed.
Chapter 3: Gifts for the Child of Kae
Sometime later, Hina-i-Vainoi became pregnant. After three months Kae said to her: “I want to go back to my own country in Taaoa. If you give birth to a boy name him Te-Hina-Tu-o-Kae.” Hina-i-Vainoi responded: “Wait three days and I will call my brother and he will take you back to your valley of Taaoa.”
After three days Hina-i-Vainoi called her brother. His name as Tuhunua-Nui (the Great Whale), he was a whale. She said to her brother, take Kae back to his country of Taaoa. Te Tuhunua-Nui said, “I will take him.” Then Hina-i-Vainoi said to Kae, “When you go around Mata-Fenua Point kick the little islands: Motu-tapu, Motu-Ofioi, Mataukaaea, Kakenatetupuna, Motutomotomo and Papaotonioho and then your brother-in-law will know to turn around and go tail first towards the beach at Taaoa.
So the whale and Kae set off. When Kae reached Mata-Fenua Point he forgot to kick the little islands, so his brother-in-law continued to go head first towards the beach at Taaoa. When the whale got there he went headfirst onto the beach and he was stuck on the beach.
Kae climbed down from his brother-in-law, the whale, and he went up the valley. When the people around the beach saw this great whale on their beach they took their spears and knives and went and cut up Te Tuhunua Nui, the whale. When he died, his sister felt his blood on her breast and she said in her heart: “O Kae, what a bad husband you are, because of you my brother is dead.”
After Kae was at Taaoa he told the people of his tribe that his wife was going to have a baby. They went and prepared gifts for the child. Some of them went and planted bananas. Others grew sugar cane, and some others went and raised pigs. Another group went and made a bathing pool so that the child could bathe in the river.
Chapter 4: A Search For His Father
Six months later Hina-i-Vainoi gave birth to a baby boy. She named him Te-Hina-Tu-o-Kae like her husband had asked her. This boy grew and grew there in Vainoi. Sometimes he would play games with the other children in the valley. One day he came home to his mother and he was crying. He said, “I haameemeetia ai au. (I have been mocked.) “The other children say that I have a father and that he is a stranger. Mother, who is my father?” His mother replied, “You have no father, it is just us two.” This boy replied to his mother, “Mother you are lying to me.”
This boy, Te-Hina-Tu-o-Kae, aoe oia i kai i te kai (he would not eat.) His mother saw that he would not eat so she came to him and she said, “My son, eat the food, your father is named Kae and he lives in Tohuti (in Taaoa valley).” This boy wanted to go and see his father.
The next day Hina-i-Vainoi called her brother Te Tuhunua Iti (Little Whale) to come and take her son, Hina-Tu-o-Kae, to see his father in Taaoa. When Te Tuhunua Iti came this mother told her son that when he went past the little islands by Mata-Fenua point that he was to kick them so that his uncle would know to turn around and go tail first towards the beach at Taaoa. The mother said to her son, “Your father forgot to kick the islands and for that reason your other uncle is dead.” The boy climbed on his uncle’s back and he departed to Taaoa.
When they went past Mata-Fenua point the boy remembered what his mother had told him and he kicked the islands. His mother heard the sound of him kicking the little islands and she wept because her son had remembered what she had said.
When the boy kicked the islands his uncle turned around so that he went tail-first towards the beach at Taaoa. When the uncle reached Taaoa he went up onto the beach, but he was not stuck like his older brother had been. The boy got off his uncle’s back and he stood in the surf in Taaoa and he rubbed noses with his uncle the whale, to thank his uncle for bringing him to Taaoa.
When some of the people of Taaoa saw this great whale on their beach they came down and they climbed on this whale with their spears and knives. Then this whale swam out into the sea and those people who had climbed onto him were all drowned. And so this whale took revenge for the death of his older brother.
Chapter 5: A Capture and A Reunion
When Hina-Tu-o-Kae arrived at Taaoa he went up the valley and ate the bananas that the people had planted for the child of Kae. The people at that place said, “Oh what a bad boy this is. Those are the bananas for the child of Kae.” Then he went and chopped the sugar cane. The people at that place said, “Oh what a bad boy this is. That was the sugar cane for the child of Kae.” Then this child went and butchered some pigs and ate them. The people at that place said the same thing. Then this boy went and bathed in the pool that the people had made for the child of Kae. He made a poko (booming) noise and some people heard the noise and they came and saw him bathing in the river. All these things that the boy had eaten or done, were tapu (sacred) things that were only permitted for the child of Kae. The penalty for breaking the tapu was death.
They took Hina-Tu-o-Kae and they put him into a hole in the ground that night. The next day they came and pulled him out and they were going to hang him. When they put the rope around his neck this boy started to chant:
Oi, oi, oi, oi,
Now the people thought that this was a very funny thing that this boy was singing. So they sent a messenger to go and fetch Kae. This messenger went up the hill and told Kae, “We were going to kill this boy and he started singing a song about you.” Kae said, “What was the song?” The messenger recited the song to Kae. When Kae heard the song, he came down the hill with his club.
When the people saw him coming with a club in his hand and tears in his eyes they moved away from the boy. Kae asked the boy, “Who is your mother?” The boy replied, “Her names is Hina-i-Vainoi.” Kae asked, “What is your name.” The boy replied, “My name is Te-Hina-Tu-o-Kae.” So then Kae knew that this was his son.
He took his son and he put his son on his back and shoulders to make the boy tapu sacred.
The theme of a child relying on his mother’s brother is seen when this child rides on his uncle the whale to Taaoa. This is a similar story as the Tongan story that is called ‘Ko e Folau a Kae (The Journey of Kae)’.
‘Marquesan Legends’ by E. S. Craighill Handy
Revised: June 13, 1996
Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff