Marshallese Legends and Traditions

Why sharks inhabit Lowakalle reef

Before the foreigners came to the Marshall Islands there lived a man called Lowakalle on Arno Atoll. He is remembered as a very big and strong man and a fearful fighter.

One day Lowakalle left his people and went to live alone on an isolated islet called Ijoen. No one would visit him because he had warned all of the people to stay away. A long time passed and Lowakalle was nearly forgotten. In fact, his people did not even know if he was dead or alive. Those who passed Ijoen saw no trace of Lowakalle, but no one dared to go ashore.

Later on, the people of Arno began to complain about a stranger who visited each village, stealing their most precious possessions. No one knew how the stranger got to each village as there was no sign of footprints or a means of transportation. Then they remembered the mysterious Lowakalle, and began to suspect that it was he who was the thief. And they were right. Lowakalle would raid villages both day and night, and the way he would travel was by swimming. The people could not find a way of stopping him on the land as he was so very strong and powerful.

Then Lowakalle began his worst crimes. From his isolated island he would watch for cooking fires. He would then swim to the smoke, take all of the food, and kill anyone who got in his way. The people were terrified, but Lowakalle could not be stopped.

The situation was desperate, and so a meeting was called of the leaders of all of the villages. They had all suffered gravely and tried to figure a way of destroying Lowakalle. After much discussion, they decided that the only way to eliminate the monster, as they called him, was by deception. They would use Lowakalle's greed against him. After three weeks, everything was prepared. Many canoes set out for the best fishing ground of Arno. After arriving, they caught many fish. They then cut all of their catch into pieces and scattered the intestines about the area. This attracted many sharks.

Lowakalle, meanwhile, watched the fleet from his distant home. When he decided that many fish were being caught, he began to swim toward the area to steal them. Because he was so greedy, he swam very rapidly, right into the center of the sharks. They attacked Lowakalle, and he was killed and eaten.

The fishermen then returned home happily to spread the news that Lowakalle had been killed. The people of Arno felt safe again. To honor the event they named the reef where he was killed Lowakalle, and it has this name to this day.

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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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