Marshallese Legends and Traditions

The Invention of the Boat

Leoa and Lamedal of Bikini built the first boat out of hard keno wood. But they did not know about the sails yet; they merely paddled. First they travelled toAilinginae (an aolet fish towed them), and stole bob fruit of the robijen variety,[6] and then went to Kwajalein to the island of Arbwe ; here, too, they stole bob fruit of the anberia variety. Then they travelled to Rongerik. When they arrived, a man stood there in the entrance and killed the fish; then the boat drifted away. Thereupon they used the paddles and by that means managed to reach Woja in the Ailinglaplap Atoll.

The woman, Liktanur lived there in a kone tree; she had come from the sky and had five sons:

  1. Timur; nowadays the name of a small hill
  2. Mejlep
  3. Titata
  4. Lojalaplap (nowadays one hole in the rock)
  5. Jabro (nowadays 7 holes in the beach rock of Woja are still supposed to be reminiscent of him.)

All of them wanted to go to the east, for it was said that whoever got there first would become a great Irooj. So they all made boats after they had seen that of the two strangers. Their mother, however, made masts, sails and rigging, deck houses and an aji (drum) .[7] Timur's boat was ready first. When he wanted to depart, his mother said"Take me with you!" she wanted to show him the art of sailing, but he was afraid, and for that reason only wanted to paddle. He also did not want to take along his mother's big bundle for she was also the first to know how to plait mats.

Then, Mejlep wanted to travel east, and again his mother wanted to come along, but he did not want that. The exact same happened with Titata and Lojalaplap. Only the fifth, Jabro, was willing to take his mother along with him. She came aboard, and said to him; "You will be Irooj!" "Oh" he answered "how is that possible? My four brothers have already left. I'll never overtake them." His mother said "You'll see." She then erected the mast. "What is that?" Jabro cried angrily; but his mother soothed him and got the rigging out. Again he called in exasperation "What is that supposed to be for?" She soothed him this time, and attached the belaying pins, ierukli . More angry outbursts from Jabro followed, which his mother knew how to hush down. When his mother finally brought the sail, the son became angry and anxious, all over again but when she showed him its use, he calmed down gradually. Then she instructed him in the use of rigging, hoisted the sail, brought the bow jabrik into the wind, and put Jabro in the stern of the boat, the jablap , where chiefs are accustomed to sit. There she taught him the use of the rudder. Then they set sail and the boat flew along rapidly, soon overtaking the other four boats. When they passed Timur, he shouted "Stop! I want to sail with you!" They took him aboard. But when he was in the middle of the boat, his mother said to Jabro "Cast off the pennant, let it fall." Then the heavy sail fell on Timur and broke his back. He fell into the water and died.

Jabro was the first to reach the eastern land Reat, and became Irooj, whereas his brothers became commoners, kajur.[8]

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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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