Ko Au Ra e Pa'o

Ko Au Ra e Pa’o: This Is My Life, Take It!

Some stories from Polynesia are children’s stories. This is not one of those.

In 1650 or so, in Magareva (ESE of the Tuamotu Islands) there was a king named Temagitutavake who asked too much taxes from his people. Because taxes were payed as food, and because there was not an abundance of food in Magareva, these taxes were a burden. So the people of Magareva united themselves behind a man named Teiti-a-tuou and they drove Temagitutavake out of Magareva. (This paragraph is the start of three or four other stories but I am just telling this one today.)

When Te-Magitutavake was driven into exile, some of his supporters were forced to go into hiding. One in particular was named Hiti-a- Honu and he hid with his son on the island of Taravai. At night Hiti-a-Honu would fish with his son, Tuatama. These two fished with a lantern which was seen by some u kaia (savage people) who realized that there must be some fugitives hiding in that place who only came out of hiding at night to fish. These savage people decided then to go and catch those people and to roast and eat them.

So one night the savage people went. Hiti-a-Honu was fishing in the sea, and his son was sleepy, so he sent his son to sleep in their cave. The son went to shore and was caught by the savage people. When the father returned from fishing the savage people followed him to his cave. They threw spears at him through the opening of the cave. But because the opening to the cave was narrow, Hiti-a-Honu was in little danger of being killed. Hiti-a- Honu grabbed one of the spears and threw them at his enemies who were holding his son. One of the enemies was wounded by a spear.

At this point, the enemies decided to kill the son, Tuatama. When Hiti-a-Honu saw that they were preparing to kill his son he called out:

"E te ipo kino e;
Ko au ra e pa'o;
E ora ra toku atariki;
Me tiki vai me koe;
E te ipo kino e."

This means:

"Oh my enemies;
This is my life, take it;
But let my son live;
To carry water for you;
Oh my enemies"

What the savage people did next is recorded in the second part of the Hiti-a-Honu’s poem:

E itiiti a mata no toku atariki no Tuatama,
E era'era e o'o, no toku atariki no Tuatama
E ta'eta'e e toto no toku atariki no Tuatama
E pu'apu'e e 'ate no toku atariki no Tuatama

Fear is in the eyes of my firstborn son, Tuatama
Messed is the hair of my first born son, Tuatama
Dripping is the blood of my first born son, Tuatama
Removed is the liver of my first born son Tuatama.

After Hiti-a-Honu saw his son die he went and jumped off of a cliff and these words are done.

These last three stories all began with Temagitutavake asking for too much food from the people. He was the king and he had the power. But the result was that his supporters and members of his own family suffered greatly. I have left out the stories of the two or three generations of civil war that were started because the descendants of his two sons fought each other for the right to rule.

All the trouble that can be caused by a leader who thinks that his or her office is for his or her own personal benefit.

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

Revised: March 26, 1997

Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff