Tearikimunanui: Munanui the Chief
This story is from the island of Hao in the eastern Tuamotus. The true name for this island is Haoroagai.
There is a poem from Haoroagai which talks about a chief named Munanui who was born about 1600.
“He [Munanui] was a king of here in Hao. There is a poem about him and a story also. It is told that some warriors came, kings from other islands. They came to look at this man, the king of Hao. Because his reputation had come to them. The reputation of Munanui had reached these different islands. For that reason kings from different islands came to this island. They were warriors. They came and saw for sure that he was a real king. A real warrior. There was this one man, he came to this part of the islands, because of the stories that he had heard. It is said that his name was Kahi. He came to this island of Hao and he met this man Munanui. This is what they said to one another at that time.
“This man came. He wanted to kill this man [Munanui]. But he came with his group, that is, they came before Munanui. There was a place for Munanui, a place that was set aside for him to sit and meet people. His people came before him and they met Munanui, they were received. Munanui said, “Is this the warrior?” The people said, “He is not.” That man went and he stood to one side. The second one came. “Is this the warrior?” His people said that he was not. The second stepped aside. That was how it was with all the men. Then he [Munanui] came to this warrior [Kahi] who had come before him. So this was the real warrior. This warrior had come to visit. Munanui said to him, “Is this the warrior?” The people said, “Yes, this is the warrior.”
“So he [Munanui] called out, “Come here.” This warrior came forward and the two met each other and he [Kahi] said “Greetings to you.” This warrior answered, that is, Munanui answered, “Greetings to you.” So they greeted one another. When they were meeting Munanui asked, “Why did you come here?” This warrior answered that he had come because of the things that he had heard about Munanui. “For that reason I have come to meet you today. Now I have met you and I see that it is you who is called the king of Hao.” This is how they talked.
“Then this king of Hao said, “So what will we do now?” This king answered, “I want to see if we two are real warriors, because the things that I have heard say that you are a real warrior. For this reason I have come here today, before you, to see if you are a real warrior.” Munanui answered, “So that is why. Thank you very much for thinking to come and see me and for our way to test for the real warrior. Therefore, I accept your idea.”
“At this time they started to talk about how they will fight. “How will we fight?” That was the question of Munanui, “How will we fight?” This man said, “With clubs.” That is with a stick that you hit one another with. Munanui said, “No, that is the strength of a man, the strength of a stick, it is not for the man because it is the tool of a man.
“The question came again, “What will we fight with?” Kahi answered, “With a tiri (stone).” Munanui answered, “No, because the strength is in the stone.” Tiri was the word for a stone in the ancient times, like what David used. Munanui this king said, “No, because the strength is in the tiri,” that is, the strength is in the rock. For this reason this king kept asking, “What will we fight with.” A komore, that is, you spear someone with a komore. A komore is called a oe (sword) in these days. It was called komore in the ancient times. For that reason Munanui answered, “No. The strength is in the wood. The strength will be yours.”
“So, this man again answered, “We shall wrestle.” Munanui said, “That is it, the strength is the strength of men.” Wrestling is like what the Japanese do in these days. Paumotuans called Japanese wrestling ‘kuru’. That is, ‘man-to-man’. No knife, no sticks, no stones, no swords. Hand-to-hand. That is what Munanui said. He accepted it because the real strength of a man would be tested. “You take me, I will take you. We will see our strength.” They started the battle, by doing it like the Japanese wrestling that we have seen.
“This old man, Munanui, recited a poem about himself. He did it before his battle. He was saying, “A battle, Munanui waged a fighting battle right in the common ground until he fell.” That was it. He kneeled down and waved his knee back and forth into the ground. That is he sat on his buttocks… . . That was it. He started to kneel on the ground. He moved his knee to and fro on the ground and he [Munanui] asked the warrior to come and he came. They fought their battle. He broke free. The warrior who had come to Hao died.” (from the Genealogy of Tapora a Tinomano, told by Kuranui a Meitai, translated into English by Daniel Longstaff)
Those men who had come with Kahi from Fakarava island (that is where they had come from) stood around they did not know what to do. They were scared. They wanted to run. All of these people who had come from Fakarava were dead, except for the wife of Kahi. She alone remained. Munanui married her and she was his wife from that time forth. Her name was Tevahinepipikura. (Kuranui a Meitai, the teller of this story was a descendant of hers.)
Don’t ask if she had children that she left on Fakarava who she never saw again. You don’t want to think about that.
The strength of a man is not seen by the weapons that he carries. The strength of a man is seen from his heart; from what is inside. In some Polynesian legends, it is seen that little old men (or women) can exhibit far more power through their personal mana (power) than warriors with weapons.
This story came from the oral genealogy of Tapora a Tinomano which is available on microfilm in genealogy libraries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Kuranui a Meitai is the one who told this story.
Revised: June 13, 1996
Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff