On the island of Raiatea in the Leewards Islands near Tahiti there is a mountain called Mt. Temehani. Near the summit of Mt. Temehani on the side facing the village of Avera there is a cave with a pool of water in it. In earlier times there was a pandanas tree of very great age that grew next to this pool of water. This tree originally grew far to the west on the island of Moperia. This is the story of how that tree got to be there near the empty pool in the cave.
A man named Tii went to Moperia from Tahiti, when he got there he found this pandana tree and he also found an eel. He adopted the pandanas tree as his daughter and he adopted the eel as his son. The pandanas tree’s name was Tupaitupai-i-te-fara-roa (Pound the Long Pandana) and the eel’s name was Nana-i-Tahiti (Look to Tahiti). He said to the eel, ‘Behold, this pandanas tree is your sister.’ To the pandanas tree he said, ‘ Behold, this eel is your brother.’
After this man had stayed for awhile on Moperia, he wanted to go to Raiatea with his two children. He transplanted his daughter, the pandanas tree tino a hollowed gourd cut in two and he placed his son the eel with some water in a section of bamboo. This is how he carried his children to Raiatea. He planted the pandanas tree alongside a pool of water in the cave and he put the eel in the water. They lived there for a long time in happiness.
Afterwards this man wanted to return to Tahiti so he left the eel and the pandanas tree in the cave on Raiatea and he went to Tahiti. He came back often to visit his children and when he did he would always see a flock of birds on the mountain near the mouth of the cave which meant that his two children were safe in the cave where he had left them.
One day there were two fools in the village of Avera who looked up on the mountain and saw the flock of birds flying around the mountain and they thought that surely there must be a pond of water up on the mountain with fish in it. So, one morning these two took a fishing pole and some hooks and went up the mountain to look for a place to fish. They soon found this cave and saw the huge eel that was in the pool. They dropped the hook into the pool and shortly thereafter the eel was hooked. He put up a great struggle but he eventually grew tired and could not fight these two fishermen.
As he was being pulled out of the water he passed by his sister the pandanus tree and he wrapped his tail around her. Because he held tightly to his sister he could not be pulled further. But the two fishermen pulled even harder. Their pulling on the eel was transmitted to the tree and she started to be pulled out by her roots. When the eel saw that his sister’s life was threatened he let go and that was the end of him. But his sister lived on in the cave by the empty pool of water.
‘Ancient Tahiti’ by Teuira Henry
Revised: June 13, 1996
Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff