Folau a Kae

Ko e Folau a Kae: The Journey of Kae

Once on the island of Tonga, in the remotest antiquity there was a chief named Loau. He had two matapule (servants): Kae and Longopoa who he commanded to prepare his canoe. Loau, his two servants and his servants’ relatives sailed to the tafatafakilangi, the place where the sky meets the sea. Then Loau ordered the canoe to be sailed into the whirlpool at the horizon. Kae and Longapoa jumped off the canoe onto a fala tree and a rock, and everyone else sailed into the whirlpool and were never seen from again. Kae said to Longopoa, “I will not stay here I will swim away.” So Kae swam away. He came to the island of the kanivatu bird which is so big that it fishes up whales and sharks.

While he slept the kanivatu bird returned. In the morning the kanivatu bird started to clean its feathers and this made the earth shake which awoke the sleep of Kae. Kae climbed up into the breast feathers of the kanivatu bird and he hung on. The kanivatu flew south with Kae hanging onto its feathers. As the kanivatu bird flew over Samoa Kae saw the house of Sinilau, so he let go and dropped into the ocean. Kae swam to land and went to the house of Sinilau.

Sinilau was surprised to see Kae and he said, “Kae what are you doing here?” Kae told him about the canoe journey and how everyone but him had sailed into the whirlpool at the end of the world. Kae stayed in the house of Sinilau. The next day Kae was weeping. Sinilau said, “Kae, why are you weeping?” Kae said, “I want to go to Tonga!” So Sinilau told Kae, “Wait three days and I will prepare a way for you to go to Tonga.” Kae thought that was very strange because Sinilau did not have a canoe to take him to Tonga.

The next morning Sinilau called his two whales, one whale was named Samoa, the other was named Tonga. These whales were brothers, being the sons of Sinilau’s sister. Sinilau told his whales to take Kae to Tonga. He told Kae that when he got to Tonga he was to go and fetch some unbleached tapa cloth, a coconut and a woven mat and to give these three items to his whales.

Kae departed to Tonga atop these two whales. When they reached Tonga the whales went into the shallow water and Kae waded ashore. He went to his relatives village and told them to gather all the people together so that they could go and kill the two whales that were in the surf. The people went out and fought these two whales. They killed Tonga and wounded Samoa who escaped.

When Samoa returned to Sinilau, Sinilau said, “Samoa, how is it that you have spears in your back?” Samoa said, “This is the work of Kae.” Sinilau inquired to know if Kae had brought the items that he had been asked to gather. Samoa said that he had not. So Sinilau knew that Kae had done wrong.

Sinilau called the gods of Samoa who came. He told them to go down to Haapai and to make large baskets, the kind of baskets which need to be carried by two people. Then they were to continue to Tonga and to gather the bones and teeth of Tonga and to gather the excrement of the people who had eaten of Tonga. Last of all to fetch Kae and bring him to Samoa on the top of the basket.

The gods of Samoa went to Haapai and they made the baskets. Then they went to Tonga and gathered the bones and teeth of Tonga. They got all the teeth except one which had been given to the Tuitonga (the Tongan king) in Mu’a by Kae. Then they gathered the excrement of the people who had eaten Kae and, last of all, they put Kae on top of one of the baskets. Then they carried these things to Sinilau in Samoa.

When Kae was taken he was asleep and he slept through the journey. In the early morning, Sinilau’s rooster crowed. In his dreams Kae heard the rooster crow and thought, “That is funny, that sounds just like Sinilau’s rooster. Why is Sinilau’s rooster here in Tonga.”

Then Kae awoke and saw that he was in the house of Sinilau inside a circle of people who were sitting, watching him. Sinilau asked Kae, “Kae, why did you kill my whale?” Kae said nothing because he had no reason for the treachorous thing that he had done in killing Tonga, the whale. Sinilau turned to the people and said, pointing to Kae, “Here is your portion.” They came at Kae and they cut him up with their knives and they ate him.

Sinilau took the bones and teeth of Tonga and the excrement of the people who had eaten of Tonga the whale and he made Tonga come back to life. Sinilau said to Tonga the whale, “You are missing a tooth but no one will know if you do not smile.”

This story is not done. Longopoa remains at the end of the world and we still have to tell his story. After Kae swam away Longopoa stayed on, then he swam away also. He came to an island which he explored. There was no one on the island so Longopoa sat down on the ground next to a puko tree and he wept. The puko tree said, “Longopoa, why do you weep?” Longopoa replied, “I am starving to death.” The puko tree told Longopoa to break off one of his branches and to cook it in an umu. When Longopoa had done this he opened the umu and saw that the umu was full of Tongan food which Longopoa ate.

The next day when Longopoa woke up he wept again. The puko tree said: “Longopoa, why do you weep?” Longopoa responded, “I want to go to Tonga!” The puko tree said, “When the gods go fishing tonight, ask them if you can hold their fishing basket. Make a hole in their basket so that it will never be full of fish. They will not return until their basket is full. When you are near to Tonga, crow like a rooster and jump in the ocean and swim to Tonga. The gods will think that it is morning and they will return.” The puko tree further instructed Longopoa, “Break off one my branches, when you get to Tonga, before you go see your relatives and before morning, plant the branch and it will grow and give you food which will be a symbol of my love for you.”

Longopoa broke off one of the branches of the puko tree and in the evening he asked the gods if he could hold their basket and they permitted it. Longopoa made a hole in the basket so whenever he put a fish in a basket it would fall out so the basket was never full. When the gods were near Tonga they asked, “Is the basket full?” Longopoa replied that it was not. Then he dove into the ocean and crowed like a rooster. The gods thought that it was morning and they returned.

When Longopoa reached Tonga he forgot to plant the tree until after he had visited his relatives. When he planted the branch it grew, but the puko tree does not produce fruit. (This story is from: Tongan Myths and Tales by Edward Winslow Gifford.)

Kae and Longopoa’s heart’s desire was to go to Tonga. At different times in the story they both wept and said, “I want to go to Tonga!” We each have our hearts desire. It may be for people to respect us, or to have money, or to have lots of koloa, or maybe even to go to Tonga. Maybe our heart’s desire is to have people think that we are tough or that we are beautiful. Maybe we weep sometimes too.

In seeking after his heart’s desire, Kae killed Tonga the whale. He got to Tonga, he ate, he was full, he thought that he had attained his heart’s desire. But in the night the gods of Samoa stole him away and when he awoke he saw that his happiness had only been a dream. However, Longopoa dwelt safely in Tonga all of his days because he did no wrong.

When we seek after our heart’s desire we should be like Longopoa and not like Kae. Because if we get our heart’s desire by doing wrong, like Kae, we will wake up one morning and hear Sinilau’s rooster crowing and realize that our happiness has only been a dream. Kua hope teie reko! (These words are done!)

Papaihia, (Written)

Here is a Tonga Poem:
Vaka ne fa’u i Haamea,
Fai la uta pea fakaheka
Vaka ne hai uta ki he lepa,
He fonua ‘eni e fakahela,
Takitaha ngaohi ha’ane me’a,
Ka tau folau i he puko lea,
Tuku Tongatapu ka tau lelea,
Which means:
The canoe was made in Haamea,
It set sail in a lagoon,
It was loaded in a lagoon,
This land is a boring land,
Each one should prepare his stuff,
We will journey to the island of the talking puko tree,
Leave Tongatapu and run with the wind,

Reference:
Gifford, Edward Winslow. Tongan Tales

Revised: May 26, 1996

Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff