Tonga is made up of 169 islands, but only 36 of them are inhabited.
Folk tales of Tonga
Tupou Posesi Fauna
Friendly Islands Bookshop, 1982.
I was really happy to find a folktale collection written and translated by a Tongan author, and published by a Tongan publisher. The volume was practically falling apart in my hands, but it was very much worth the read. It contains eleven traditional folktales, and one story made up by the author herself - so much like a folktale that I would have never picked it out of a lineup. Even more interesting was the author herself. Tuopu sounds like a remarkable lady. She was raised in the Tongan tradition, and learned the tales from her grandmother; on top of being a grandmother of sixteen herself, she was also an accomplished lecturer in Tongan folklore, and a helper to all visitors interested in it. She came from an old Tongan family, one of her ancestors being a famous blind (!!!) navigator named Kahomovailahi, who could navigate the ocean by dipping his hand in the water and feeling the currents (your move, Moana).
|Pretty pretty giant clam|
I also loved Tupou's own tale, The daughter of the Rainbow. It followed folktale motifs and plots, and flowed beautifully. I loved the part where two boys descended into the under-water Otherworld, where their grandmother helped them fish the soul of their murdered father up, and bring him back to life.
|Tongan royal wedding, 1976.|
Another familiar motif I knew from the Maui legends - it featured a girl who had relations with a giant eel. Eventually, the eel was killed, and from its buried head grew the first coconut palm.
There was a version of the ever-depressing "mother killed me, father ate me" folktale type - a jealous brother killed his spoiled sister and buried her in various places. The wind carried her voice to her parents and told the sad story; the girl was eventually brought back to life.
Where to next?