Marshallese Legends and Traditions
The island dropped from a basket
Along time ago, there was a giant man by the name of Latulon. This man was so big that he could walk from island to island in the deep sea.
One time he took one of his big baskets and went to the island of Lib. There he took a portion of land from the middle of the island. He put the dirt inside his basket and walked toward the north.
On Lib island today there is a round pond shaped like Jabwat. This is where Latulon took Jabwat from.
When Latulon was carrying his basket toward the north, he came to rest inside Jeh廣 Lagoon. He set his basket down and took a rest. Then he decided to put Jabwat right where he set his basket. He was pleased because when he looked around, he saw all the islands of Jeh Island surrounding him.
While Latulon was living on this island, he brought his two daughters who were living on some other island waiting for his return. They lived on the island for several months, and one day Latulon got angry with his two daughters. He was taking a bath at the tip of the island in his swimming pool. While he was in the pool taking a bath, his two daughters went peeking at him. When Latulon turned his head, he saw his daughters peeking at him. He got very angry and put the whole island in his basket and walked toward the north again. He went beyond Jeh, but when he was about four miles away from Jeh, his basket broke and Jabwat fell down.
Now inside Jeh Lagoon there is a coral head shaped like Jabwat. The coral head is located right where Latulon placed his island. The coral head is called Jabwat and is one of the best fishing spots inside Jeh廣 Lagoon.
Jabwat fell down when Latulon's basket broke off. There was a hole at the bottom of the basket and pieces of land were falling out on the way from Jeh. Today Jabwat is growing instead of getting smaller from being washed out by the sea. It is a belief that all the pieces that were falling off are now drifting back to their original places. This is why Jabwat is growing.
Latulon liked his island and he decided to live on it. After the island fell down from his broken basket, he planted it with many kinds of trees. He sent out his two daughters to bring food from the other islands. His daughters were two white birds. These birds are always flying high in the sky and they are always flying together. The girls took lots of food to Jabwat and the island became the most beautiful around that area. There was lots of food; many kinds of trees were growing and bearing fruits.
Latulon was very proud of his beautiful island. People on Jeh were very envious of Latulon because of his beautiful island.
On Jeh there was a woman by the name of Lotilan. She had two sons, Jobuk and Joremelim. Today these sons are two large sharks.
One day Lotilan told her sons to wait for her because she was going to Jabwat to kill Latulon. She said to her sons "Wait for me right here and if you see a big smoke on Jabwat a few days from now, then you two can come."
She turned herself into a big shark and swam to Jabwat. The next day she arrived on Jabwat in a place now named after her. Here she turned herself into a beautiful woman. She was sitting inside a pool on the reef right across from Latulon廣 house. When Latulon came out that morning, he found the beautiful woman sitting on the reef.
Latulon went to the reef and took her to his house and she became his wife. They lived together for a few days until one day she became ill. She was not really ill, but she was planning to kill Latulon. She began not to eat for several days. Later she wanted to eat only certain kinds of fish. Latulon began to worry about her. Everything she wanted to eat was very difficult to get, but Latulon tried his best to get everything she wanted. Every day she would tell Latulon to get a different kind of fish using a different fishing technique.
One day Latulon asked Lotilan what she wanted to eat, and she said "I want to eat fish caught by jabuk fishing." Then Latulon prepared all his fishing gear and when he was finished, he took two coconut floats and went fishing. Before he left, he told Lotilan not to touch or pound small Pandanus leaves because he could not get back home safely if she did.
Latulon was swimming on the ocean side, far beyond the reef. He started from his place toward a bay near the other end of the island. While he was fishing toward the bay Lotilan was standing on the shore waiting for Latulon to reach the bay. When he reached it, Lotilan took the Pandanus leaf and pounded it with a rock. As soon as she pounded it sharks took Latulon and tore him into pieces. They ate his whole body except his rectum.
Now Latulon was dead, and Lotilan began to gather all the dry leaves on the island. She put them together along the beach and set them on fire. Her two sons who were waiting on Jeh saw the big smoke and went to assist their mother.
Now Lotilan and her two sons ruled Jabwat after Latulon died. There are remains on Jabwat connected with this story. First, Latulon廣 two daughters are two white birds that are always flying together. There is a belief, and when people see these birds flying over some island, they always say that the birds are stealing food for Jabwat.
Second, Latulon廣 rectum can be seen on the reef. It is like a real rectum. It is red and soft and looks real. People have found out that the rectum can cause some big problems. Bad weather, typhoons and other disasters always occur when someone touches or plays with Latulon廣 rectum.
Third is Latulon廣 swimming pool. His pool is shaped like a shark廣 fin or tail. These are some of the things that are seen on Jabwat Island concerning the story of Latulon and the origin of Jabwat.
Bibliographic citation for this document
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1998). Marshallese Legends and Traditions Second edition.
Dirk H.R. Spennemann,
Institute of Land, Water and Society,
Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789,
Albury NSW 2640, Australia.