Marshallese Legends and Traditions

Origin of the coconut tree

When a woman from Ebon failed to deliver a child her husband speared her and threw her into the ocean. She did not die but drifted to a sandbank where she lived in the shadow of a tree trunk.

Some time later this woman gave birth to a son and a coconut. As the son grew so too did the coconut - it sprouted and grew into a tree. The mother prevented the boy from eating the tree, and when nuts formed she had him make sennit from the husks of the nuts.

From another bunch of nuts they saved the shells of the coconut to make containers to collect palm syrup, wrapping the shells with sennit and hanging them to collect the sap. Also at his motheržs instructions, the boy made a fish trap out of the ariel roots of a Pandanus tree and caught a sea cucumber (holothurian).

It was then that two brothers of the woman came looking for her. The boy gave them drinking coconuts. The brothers ordered him to take the sea cucumber he had caught to different parts of the islet, and once at each spot, to step on it. Each time he did this he would lift up the sea cucumber and there would appear many growing coconut trees, Pandanus trees and breadfruit trees. Then, when he stepped on it in the ocean, many fish appeared.

The brothers returned home, leaving their sister and her son at Moniak. Moniak is now the most fruitful islet anywhere on Ebon.

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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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