White and Dark King

The White King and the Dark King

There are things that are seen and things that are unseen. One of the latter is ghosts.

There is an island called Mangareva which is so far east in Polynesia that there are only two populated Polynesian islands further east from it: Mata-kite-ragi (Pitcairn) and Rapa Nui (Easter Island). In Magareva there are five or six islands located in a large lagoon. One of these islands is Agakau-i-tai. No one lives on Agakau-i-tai and I doubt if anyone even visits the place. This is because sometimes people have gone to this island and they could stand in a banana grove and hear voices all around them, speaking in the old language of Mangareva. But there would be no one there.

There are two caves on Agakau-i-tai on the side of a cliff. In one of the caves the bones of the Mangarevan kings are buried, thirty in all. The other cave contains the bones of a man who was also a king of sorts but was buried separately from the other kings so as not to desecrate their bones. That man was named Te-Akariki-Tea (The White King) and this is his story.

Between about 1650 and 1700 there was an old king on Mangareva, Temakorotau-Eriki, who retired and passed his title to his son, Temagitutavake. Temagitutavake had two wives and had a son by each one. The oldest son of Temagitutavake was the crown prince and he was named Te-Akariki-Tea. Te-Akariki-Tea’s half brother was named Te-Akariki-Pagu (The Dark King). Temagitutavake, the king, could have dwelt safely in Magareva, however, he asked too much in taxes from his people in the form of food. Due to the scarcity of food in Magareva, this was a great burden and the people revolted. The revolt was led by a man named Teiti-a-Tuou. Although Teiti-a-Tuou was a commoner he had the support of the people and several notable warriors.

In the revolt, Temagitutavake was quickly defeated and he had to flee Magareva on a raft with his wives and various relatives. In the open sea the raft was quickly capsized and all aboard drowned. It was thought that the crown prince, Te-Akariki-Tea, was on the raft and had drowned also. However, he and his brother, Te- Akariki-Pagu, had been secretly adopted by a couple who knew that these two brothers were princes. The foster parents of these princes told others that these princes were distant relatives whose parents had been killed in the recent war.

At one point the foster father took the oldest prince, Te-Akariki- Tea, to another part of Magareva on a raft. This was done because some people wished to restore the royal line to power and if it was known that the crown prince was still alive it would be much easier to overthrow the commoner king, Teiti-a-Tuou. During this journey, the other people on the raft decided that Te-Akariki-Tea must be the son of the late king because he looked so much like Temagitutavake. They wanted to cast Te-Akariki-Tea into the sea. The foster father exclaimed to them: “He is not a noble.” Then the foster father pulled the head of Te-Akariki-Tea into his lap and started to pick the lice out of his hair. When he did this the people decided that he was indeed a commoner, because no one would dare pick the lice out of a king’s head.

Te-Akariki-Tea and his foster father completed their journey and when others on Magareva learned that the Te-Akariki-Tea was still alive it was the start of a movement to overthrow the commoner king and to restore the royal line to power. Little by little, the warriors who supported Teiti-a-Tuou, the commoner king, were killed and Teiti-a-Tuou was eventually cast out of power and killed.

During the time that the young princes were living with their foster parents, they also had a foster brother who was the true son of their foster parents. This boy, Pokirikiri, was older than they and was a little jealous of his two foster brothers, the princes. One day Pokirikiri was helping his foster brothers climb out of the water by extending a fishing spear to them to grasp. He presented the point of the spear to Te-Akariki-Tea to trick him. Te-Akariki- tea who was constantly scared for his young life was startled by the point, but said nothing. Another time, when Pokirikiri and the two princes were returning from fishing, Pokirikiri made them carry the fish. Pokirikiri’s mother cautioned him to be respectful to those two princes because one day they would be in power again. Pokirikiri did not believe his mother and continued to treat the two princes with disrespect.

When the princes were eventually restored to power the uncle of these two princes came privately to Te-Akariki-Pagu and cautioned him thus: “Now that your brother and you are in power again, your brother will freely take revenge against all the people who drove your father out of Magareva. If you do not take revenge, then the favor of the people will turn from your brother to you and you will rule Magareva.”

Te-Akariki-Tea had suffered because of the death of his father. His grief and his fear made him grow old quickly. Even when he was little more than a boy his heart and thoughts must have been like a grown man. This is sad.

During this time Te-Akariki-Tea’s heart had also become full of thoughts of revenge and once he came to power, he filled Magareva with revenge. Magareva was a violent place, but Te-Akariki-Tea’s violence was too much and the favor of the people turned to Te- Akariki-Pagu and for this reason Te-Akariki-Tea is not buried with his fathers in the cave of the Magarevan kings.

We spoke of the foster parent’s who had risked their lives to protect and hide these two princes in their time of difficulty. If Te-Akariki-Tea was punishing those who had fought his father, did he reward the foster parents who had helped him and his brother in their hour of need? He did not, instead he killed their son, Pokirikiri, because Pokirikiri had made him carry the fish.

Some say that revenge is sweet. Te-Akariki-Tea’s revenge was not sweet, it was bitter and the taste has lasted for hundreds of years.

from Ethnology of Mangareva by Te Rangi Hiroa [Peter H. Buck].

Revised: March 26, 1997

Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff