Marshallese Legends and Traditions

Legends of Creation

People from all cultures, through all time, have tried to make sense of the world around them. In this way, the stories in this section were told to explain what the story-tellers saw on their islands.

As these stories explained, they also justified what people did and how they felt: the coconut is used in these ways because Tobolar told his mother that it was to be so; the outrigger sail was given to the obedient son so sons must be obedient. The stories helped the community to believe they were doing the right things.

The central theme or subject of each legend is the creation of a plant, or a pattern of behaviour, or a useful tool, but within these story-lines is also information on traditional social custom and practice. We learn, among much else, about the value of woven mats and how to play the children¼s game anirep; are warned of the dangers to children in second marriages, the need to obey parents; and told of the importance of family ties. If there was to be social stability - peace on an island - the contents of the stories were valuable lessons for past generations.

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Bibliographic citation for this document

Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1998). Marshallese Legends and Traditions Second edition. Albury:

Dirk H.R. Spennemann, Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789, Albury NSW 2640, Australia.

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