Marshallese Legends and Traditions

How the Hermit Crab won a Race

This is a very short story about the great race between the needlefish and the hermit crab. One day this needlefish came to the crab as he was crawling on the beach along the shore, and the needlefish told the crab "I bet I can beat you if we race."

The crab said "What makes you so sure about that?"

The needlefish answered "Well, from just the way I see you crawling along the shore, I am very positive I will beat you in a race if such race exists between us."

And the crab said "Well, it seems that you have made your point and I'm willing to take this race. If you insist that we should race and see who is the fastest, then I'm willing to run the race with you."

So the needlefish said "Okay, let's race tomorrow morning."

Then the crab said "That's very good. Yes, tomorrow I'll be here and then we'll race. We'll determine who is the fastest."

So they went. They separated that day, and the needlefish went home very happy, thinking that he was going to win the race. And I think it seems very realistic, since as you know the hermit crab is just a crawling animal and can't do much running around.[57]

But the crab didn't wait. As soon as the needlefish left, he contacted the closest hermit crab that was beside him and told him that starting tomorrow morning if he heard anybody saying "Hermit crab, where are you?" the answer to that question would be "Here I am. I am here right with you." And also this hermit crab, number one hermit crab, told number two hermit crab to pass on the word, the same word, all the way along the shore. So before the next morning all the hermit crabs along the shore knew that the race, this great race between hermit crab and needlefish, was coming on the next morning.

On the next morning every crab, including the little crabs, they all knew that this race was coming and they were all prepared for it. When the sun started rising above the horizon, number one hermit crab was at the starting point and seconds after that the needlefish was right there. So then they decided they wanted to start. Then they counted: "One-two-three. Yotung!" Then they started.

The needlefish jumped. Oh, he went very high into the air, then came down, down back into the water. Then jumped again and he had gone miles. He had put many miles between him and the hermit crab, that was hermit crab number one. So needlefish started swimming and jumping and really running as fast as he could, and then after some time, he called ashore "Hermit crab, where are you?"

Then some hermit crab along the shore there playing said "Here I am!"

Then the needlefish said "Hmm. The hermit crab is tied up with me right now." So he ran all the harder, and then swam some more and really made himself run faster than ever. Then after some time he would ask where hermit crab was and he would get the same answer, and this needlefish knew that hermit crab was just going almost the same with him. So he ran all the more.

This same thing went on for the whole day until the evening, when they were reaching the goal, that is, the tip of the island. When needlefish finally reached the shore, hermit crab was there. When needlefish was traveling along the shore, very exhausted, then hermit crab came around and said "Oh, you just arrived, hey?"

And the needlefish was very sad and tired and he said "Oh, yes. Yes, I'm sure I was here before you. You cheated. Somehow you cheated."

The hermit crab said "No, you asked me, didn't you and you were asking me where I was, and every time you asked, I answered and that, I think, is enough to tell you that I am as fast as you, or even faster, since I got here first."

But the needlefish didn't hear him anymore because he was dead. He died from exhaustion.

This little short story is rather funny but I think that at times we should not be very proud and think we are really something when in reality we are not really anything. Just like the needlefish. He thought that he was really fast and could beat the slowest animal on this earth. He won the race, yet he did not live long enough to realize that he had won and that he had been cheated.[58]

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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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