Marshallese Legends and Traditions

The Story-telling Spirit


Long ago there was a spirit which lived on a beautiful island. His island had an abundance of food. Near the beautiful island there stood a big island with many people on it. These people were starving to death. People were dying from starvation, and the population was decreasing very rapidly. While these people were dying of starvation, the beautiful island was loaded with food. People wanted to go to the small island, but they knew that there was a spirit on it.

One time there were six brothers who wanted to sail to the other island. First the oldest got some men together and they sailed to the small island. When they got near the island, they were deciding on how to arrive on shore. The lagoon was rough. Half of the island was rocky but with small waves. The other half was sandy but with many strong waves. While the men on the canoe were still deciding the place to land, the spirit was standing on the beach, directing the boys. He seemed very friendly. He said to the boys "Don't come in through the rocky site but come in through the sandy site. It is safer for your canoe."

The boys listened to the spirit. They brought in their canoe to the sandy place, but when they got near the shore, a large wave came and destroyed their canoe. Then they went ashore. The spirit said "Well, it seems that you will have to spend the night here. Tomorrow morning we'll fix your canoe and load it with food. Then you can go home."

The spirit took the boys to his house. He gave them food and they ate. Now it was getting dark. In the evening the spirit arranged each boy in order from north to south. Then he told them to tell stories, one after another.

When they were all finished, then it was the spirit's turn. He began to tell stories. He told so many stories that the boys all went to sleep. When he heard them snoring, he stopped.[51] He got up and killed the boys and ate them.

The next day people on the other island were waiting for the boys to come home, but they didn't. The people were waiting from morning until dark, but they didn't see any canoe on the horizon. The next morning the second brother decided to find out what had happened to his brother and his men. He got some men and he sailed to the small island. When they got to the island, the same thing happened. The spirit was already on the beach directing the boys. He told them the same thing that he told the other boys. He told them to land at the sandy site, and the boys listened to him. While they were near the shore, a strong wave came and destroyed their canoe. The spirit told the boys to spend the night there saying they could return the next morning. He took them and gave them food. Now it was getting dark, and they were getting ready for bed.

During the evening the spirit did the same thing to these boys. They were going to tell stories. The spirit told the first boy to raise the sun, meaning for him to start. The next boy was to raise it further, and the boy in the middle was to make it high noon. The other boys would lower it, and finally the spirit would set it. They began to tell stories one after the other.

Finally it was the spirit's turn to tell stories. He began with his long stories, and all of a sudden he heard the boys snoring. So he stopped. He got up and killed them.

When the boys didn't return the third brother wanted to go looking for his brothers. The next day he prepared his canoe and got some men and sailed to the small island. When they got there, again the same thing happened. The spirit was standing on the shore, directing the boys in. The listened to him, and their canoe was also destroyed by a big wave. Now the spirit took them and during the night, he played the same trick. He asked the boys to tell stories, and when they were asleep, he killed them and ate them.

Now the people on the big island began to wonder about what was happening on the other island. Many of them believed that maybe the lagoon was not safe for a canoe. With this idea in mind, many of the people thought that the boys had lost their canoes and that they were still alive on the other island.

Then the younger brother prepared a better canoe and got some crew and sailed to the small island. The boys sailed away and fell into the same trap. They never did return. The spirit did the same trick that he had done before to the other boys.

After all the older brothers got lost on the other island, the youngest brother decided to follow them. He prepared the strongest canoe on the island and selected the best crewmen on the island. Then he sailed to the small island. When they were maneuvering into the small channel, the spirit was standing there on the shore, directing the boys. He told them "Don't come in through the rocks. Come in through the sandy site." But the youngest brother said to his crew members "Don't listen to that monster."

The boys didn't listen to the spirit, and they landed their canoe on the rocky place. Its keel was strong and the canoe got through safely. After the boys got their canoe in a safe place, the spirit came to welcome them. He took them to his house. He gave them food, but now it was getting dark.

The spirit was making a plot for the boys. So he did the same thing. He asked the boys to line up as he had placed the others. Then he asked them to start telling stories. They began telling stories one after the other in the same order as the sun moving from sunrise to sunset. The other boys were now sleeping, and now it was the spirit's turn to tell stories.

While he was telling stories, the clever youngest brother took out two cat's eyes and placed them on both eyes and went to sleep. The other boys were snoring, but the spirit was now bearing down with his stories. He heard the snores, but when he looked at the youngest brother, he saw the two cat's eyes. Then he thought the boy was still awake.

He kept on telling stories, waiting for the boy to go to sleep. Every so often the spirit looked at the boy and saw his eyes were still open. So he kept on telling stories and finally he fell asleep. He slept through until morning.

The clever brother was awakened by the big snores, and he woke up the other boys. Then he asked the spirit if he had seen his brothers. But the ghost lied to him. He said that he had never seen anybody coming to his island.

The boy and the spirit arguing back and forth, and finally they got into an fight. They grabbed each other and started to fight. They began on the lagoon side of the island and fought toward the ocean side. While they were fighting, their song went like this,

"Irere liklok, irere arlok."[52]

When they got to the big rock, the boy lifted up the spirit and bounced him against the rock. Then the spirit got up again and grabbed the boy. They started to fight again from the rock toward the ocean side and back again. When they got to the rock again, this time the spirit lifted the boy and bounced him against the rock.

He got up and fought the spirit toward the ocean side. When they arrived at the same rock again, the boy took the spirit and bounced his head against the rock. Then the spirit lay flat on the rock, and he died soon after the boy had struck his head against the sharp edges on the rock.[53]

After the spirit was killed, the boys loaded their canoe with food and sailed back to the big island. From now on canoes were sailing between the two islands, carrying food to the big island. The spirit had died and the people were free to go to the small island. The famine had finally come to an end, and people were living happily as before.


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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-4-2.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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