Today I continue new blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts under the Following Folktales label, or you can follow the series on Facebook!
Fiji is our last stop in Melanesia. It was a great way to say goodbye.
A. W. Reed & Inez Hames
A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1967.
I have to admit that out of all the volumes I have read so far for this challenge, this one was probably my favorite. I am aware that I might be subconsciously biased, since the tales were "re-told" by someone not native to the islands, and therefore probably told in a way that rang familiar to Western readers - but still, as a collection of stories, this one was both enchanting and entertaining, with dozens of stories that I instantly fell in love with. It is not an academic folklore publication by any stretch, and it lacks background information - but it was, none the less, a fascinating read.
One of the most endearing stories was The god that turned into a rat. In this, a deity visited a neighboring island in the form of a rat, but was so exhausted by the voyage that he could not change back - and no one believed that he was in fact a god. In another rather fun tale the god of an island tricked his neighbor into swapping his fruit trees for all the mosquitoes of their home - by saying that mosquitoes were magical, invisible creatures that sang beautiful songs.
This volume also contained a very beautiful description of the journey of the soul into the afterlife. Interestingly, this time bachelors were at the highest risk of being punished, and even pure souls had to fight their way through numerous dangerous creatures.
One of the most obvious connections to "Western" tales was the motif of sky-high trees, vines, and stalks; some were used to visit the kingdom of the Sky King, while another was utilized as a vehicle by a hero to travel to the faraway island of Tonga. There were not one, but two "tortoise and the hare" type animal race tales, one featured a heron and crabs, and the other a heron and a butterfly (heron lost both, go figure).
I was reminded of the Whale vs. Octopus story of Micronesia - here, the Shark God Daquwaka fought a giant octopus over who gets to be the protector of the reef (Octopus won again). Several stories mentioned giant clam shells that trapped the hands or feet of unsuspecting people or animals, and drowned them - I have seen similar stories in Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. I was reminded of Japanese and East African folktales by the story where someone traveled into the Underwater Realm on the back of a giant turtle.
Where to next?
Tuvalu. We will be making our entrance into Polynesia.