Marshallese Legends and Traditions

The Story of Lijebake


Lijebake was the wife of Wullep, a high god living in the land of Eb. Lijebake had a daughter, who married an Irooj (chief) among the people of Kiribati (ri-Pit by the Marshallese) and Lijebake lived with them. Unfortunately, her daughter died, leaving behind Lijebake's grand daughter Limaninbit, who had to work hard and was ill-treated for many many years by the Irooj's second wife. [13] One day, Limaninbit was left at home by her father and stepmother who told her to watch over everything and to clean the house. Limaninbit took all the mats out of the house and spread them in the sun. [14] Limaninbit went back in the house and forgot all about them as she laid down and fell asleep.

Away up in the sky, the big rain talked to its children. First it said "Come now sprinkling rain". The sprinkling rain fell, saying "I am sprinkling, sprinkling. Maybe Limaninbit will wake up and take in the mats". Then the big rain said "Come, short rain, short rain." The short rain fell, saying "It's just me, the short rain. Maybe Limaninbit will wake up and take in the mats". The big rain then called in the rain with the big drops, and it fell saying "I am falling hard, drop by drop by drop. Maybe Limaninbit will wake up and take in the mats". Then the rain called the big downpour and it was the fourth rain to fall. The heavy downpour made so much noise that Limaninbit woke up.

She ran outside and brought in some mats. But she couldn¼t finish the work and some mats were thoroughly soaked. After a time the rain stopped.

When her parents came home, they saw a sleeping mat lying across the roots of a Pandanus tree. It was the mat they valued most. "How come the mat is lying here?" they said. "How come it is wet?" they said angrily. Upon this, Limaninbit was permanently dismissed from the father's family, cast out.

On that day her grand mother, incensed at the bad treatment her grand daughter had received by the people from Kiribati, turned herself into a turtle [15], and her husband into a frigate bird. With Limaninbit riding on her back, Lijebake swam north until she reached Mili.

"Can you see the ri-Pit?" she asked her husband, who flew high in the sky. "Yes" he said "I can see them". So she swam on further to the north until they reached Majuro. "Can you see the ri-Pit?" she asked her husband, who flew high in the sky. "Yes" he said "I can see them". And she swam on further to the north until they reached Maloelap. "Can you see the ri-Pit?" she asked her husband, who flew high in the sky. "Yes" he said "I can see them". And she swam on, yet further to the north until they reached Wotje. "Can you see the ri-Pit?" she asked her husband, who flew high in the sky. "Yes" he said "I can see them". And she swam on further to the north until they reached Jemo. "Can you see the ri-Pit?" she asked her husband, who flew high in the sky. "No" he said "I can no longer see them". And he flew as high as he could, and he could no longer see the islands of Kiribati.

Here Lijebake stopped swimming and put Limaninbit ashore. And from this day on until today, turtles and frigate birds prefer the island of Jemo and the atolls north of it for nesting purposes.


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Bibliographic citation for this document

Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1998). Marshallese Legends and Traditions Second edition. Albury:
URL: http://marshall.csu.edu.au/Marshalls/html/legends/le-1-5.html

CONTACT:
Dirk H.R. Spennemann, Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789, Albury NSW 2640, Australia.
e-mail: dspennemann@csu.edu.au


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