Marshallese Legends and Traditions

The Tricky Octopus

Once there were two women who lived on an island. There was not enough food on this island, and the women didn't know how to fish, so they had to live on coconuts. Every morning the two women went to the beach and looked at the low tide. The tide was so low that the reef was almost dry, and the women wanted to go fishing, but they didn廠 know how.

One morning the women got hungry and went to look for food. They went to the beach and were watching the tide. One of them looked at the reef and said "It is low, low tide today. "

While she was saying that, an octopus answered "What about the low tide? I am here. Why don廠 you come, take me, and cook me and eat me? "

So first the two women decided on what kind of um they should make or have to cook the octopus in. They decided to ask the octopus what kind of um should be prepared. One of the women asked "What kind of firewood should we use? "

"Marjej" answered the octopus.

"What kind of leaves should we use? "

"Atat" the octopus replied.

"What kind of stones should we use? "

"Tilan" the octopus replied.[54]

The women agreed with the octopus, so they went to the reef and picked him up. But the octopus was more clever than the women. He knew that the firewood, stones, and leaves he told the women to get wouldn廠 burn him, but the women didn廠 realize that they had been tricked by the octopus. They prepared the um, and when it was ready, they put the octopus inside and covered him up.

After they covered up the um, they prepared some ripe coconuts. They were using a coconut grater called ranke. They grated some coconuts, and when they were finished, they went over to the um and uncovered it. When they opened it up, the octopus was gone. He had discharged his ink fluid, which was like mud, in the um, and had run away. The women put the black stuff in a bowl and ate it with the grated coconut for supper. Then they went to sleep.

Early the next morning they got up and went to the shore again, looking at the low tide. While they were standing on the shore, one of them said "It is really a low tide today. " Then the octopus called out "What about the low tide? Why don't you come get me and cook me for supper? " The women first asked him the same questions: " What kind of firewood would you like for your um? "

"Marjej" answered the octopus.

"What kind of leaves should we use?"

"Atat" the octopus replied.

"What kind of stones should we use? "

"Tilan" the octopus replied.

So the women agreed and went over and picked up the octopus. They started their um , using everything the octopus told them to use. When the um was ready, they put the octopus in and covered it very carefully. Then they grated some ripe coconut and waited for the octopus to be ready. When they were finished, they went over to check the um . When they opened it, the octopus was gone, but he had again discharged his black ink inside the um and had run away.

The women were getting very mad. They were very hungry, but the octopus was playing tricks on them. So the women picked up the black mud and ate it with the grated coconut meat. Then they went to sleep, thinking what they should do to the octopus the next morning.

The next day the tide was even lower than the previous days. The two women got up early that morning and went down to the shore. When they said "Look, the tide is even lower today" the octopus answered "What about the low tide? I am here. Why don廠 you come get me and cook me for supper? " Again they asked the same questions. One of them asked "What would you like for firewood? "

"Marjej" the octopus answered.

Then the second said to the other "Don廠 listen to him. He is lying. Let廣 make it kone. "

Then the first woman asked "What kind of leaf? "

"Atat" he said. The other woman said "No let廣 make it utilomar. "

The first woman then asked "What kind of stones? " "Tilan" he replied. But the second woman said "No, he is lying. Let廣 make it dekarol. " [55]

Then they went over to the reef and picked up the octopus. They prepared the um , and this time they changed everything the octopus told them. They used kone , a hard wood. This wood can produce a great deal of heat. Secondly, they also used dekarol, a very hard stone. When this stone gets hot it takes a long time to cool off. The octopus didn廠 realize that he was going to die. The women prepared the um, and when it was ready, they put the octopus inside it.

The um was very hot, so the octopus was crying. He said "Take me out; I幢l be cooked! Take me out; I幢l be cooked! " But the women were saying to each other "He is lying! Cover him up. Cover him up. " They covered up the um and again prepared some coconut milk. They brought some ripe coconuts and grated them. Now they were hoping to eat octopus that evening.

While they were grating coconuts, the mother octopus found out that her baby was killed by the two women. The mother octopus, a giant one, was coming from the south toward the island. She was singing a song: "I, the mother, am coming looking for my baby. I know where they are cooking him. "

The women were so busy grating coconuts they didn't hear the mother octopus. Now the giant octopus was getting close to the island, and one of the women heard her. She said "I hear something. " The other got mad and told her "That's nothing. Get busy. " Finally they both heard the mother octopus. Now they decided to hide. First they divined to see just where to hide.[56] They tried the coconut trees and everything else on the island, but the oracle didn't agree with their proposals. Then finally it agreed that hiding on the second floor of the house was all right. So they took their axe and crawled up to the second floor.

Later on the mother octopus arrived on the island and headed for the house. The octopus got to the house, and spread out her tentacles, trying to get the women, but the women were cutting them off one by one each time the octopus tried to grab them. Finally they cut off all the tentacles and the octopus died. Now they had another but bigger octopus to cook. They first ate the small octopus which was already cooked and then cooked the other one in a bigger um . The two women had finally killed the silly octopus who had been fooling them.

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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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