‘Aho’eitu the first Tu’i Tonga

This story is about the first Tu’i Tonga, ‘Aho’eitu.

A video presentation by Malosi Pictures

There was a chief from Niue who wanted his daughter, ‘Ilaheva to marry a Tongan. He commanded his servants to take his daughter to Tonga, so they departed to Tonga in a canoe. When they passed Vava’u she didn’t want to stay there because Vava’u had a mountain. When they reached Ha’apai she did not like it either because there is a volcano in Ha’apai and she was scared of it. When they reached Tongatapu the servants left her on a beach and returned to Niue.

This woman lived near Popua in the bush. Sometimes the people of Popua saw her in the distance and so they named her ‘Ilaheva Va’epopua, which means, ‘Ilaheva-who-lives-near-Popua. There was a god in the sky named Tangaloa ‘Eitumatupua who also saw this woman. He came down to earth and made friends with her. Out of this relationship she became pregnant. After she became pregnant Tangaloa stopped coming to see her because he already had a family in the sky. In time this woman gave birth to a boy that she named ‘Aho’eitu. Although his father, Tangaloa, lived in the sky, he still took care of ‘Aho’eitu and his mother because he dropped down some clay from the sky so that ‘Aho’eitu would have good dirt to grow food.

When ‘Aho’eitu had grown to be a man he asked his mother to tell him where he could find his father. She pointed to a certain tree and told him that if he would climb the tree then he would see a path that goes through the sky. ‘Aho’eitu climbed the tree, saw the path in the sky and then went along the path. He soon came to a plantation where his father was working. He stopped and talked and those two soon realized that they were father and son, so they were very happy to meet one another.

The father, Tangaloa, told ‘Aho’eitu to go further and he would come to some people playing games near a hill. ‘Aho’eitu was told that he would find his five half-brothers near the hill. So ‘Aho’eitu went on and found his brothers. When ‘Aho’eitu approached the hill, he was introduced to the people as being the son of Tangaloa. ‘Aho’eitu’s brothers were jealous of him because he was so handsome.

So they took him away secretly, chopped off his head and threw it underneath a hoi bush. Since then the hoi bush is poisonous. Then they roasted ‘Aho’eitu and ate him. Their father returned from the plantation and asked his sons if they had seen their brother. They denied having seen him. But their father could tell that they had eaten their brother. So the father took a kumete (a large wooden bowl) and placed it in front of his sons and told them to tickle their throats so that they vomited into the kumete. Then they took the head of ‘Aho’eitu and put it into the kumete and covered the kumete with a mat. They placed the kumete behind the house. Through the evening they kept returning to the bowl and looking underneath the mat. They could see that the body of their brother was taking shape from the vomit in the bowl. The next morning they looked under the mat and their brother had come back to life in the kumete.

At this point ‘Aho’eitu wanted to go back down to Tonga. His brothers felt sorry that they had eaten their brother, so they asked their father if they could go down to Tonga with ‘Aho’eitu. The father agreed. But he told his sons that because they had eaten their brother, that they and their descendants would have to serve ‘Aho’eitu. The descendants of the older brother have become the Tu’ipelehake chiefs and the four other brothers became the falefa, that is, the four houses. When the king of Tonga has a kava drinking ceremony or a funeral, they organize it. These words are done.

There are several symbols that I see in this story. ‘Aho’eitu was a great king in Tonga. He was the king who conquered Samoa. Sometimes, if someone in Tonga acts like they are very important, people will get mad at that person and say to him, “Are you the king who came down from the sky?” When they say this they are talking about ‘Aho’eitu who really was the king who came down from the sky.

Once I was telling some stories to some Tongan boys. One of the boys recognized another boy as being half Samoan. This Tongan boy started to mock that boy by saying, “The Samoans are slaves to the Tongans.” This made me mad, but I did not say anything. But I was thinking, that young man thought that the Tongans should conquer Samoa again, maybe he thought that he is the king who came down from the sky.

This is another thing. These brothers killed ‘Aho’eitu, then later they felt sorry. How many times has someone done something bad, then later, they wished with all their heart that they had not done the bad thing. The brothers of ‘Aho’eitu were very lucky. Because, you see, their father was able to bring their brother back to life. We should consider our actions, because if we do something bad, we may not be able to go back in time and undo the bad thing that we did.

Sometimes there are young men who think that they are strong because they have a gun and that gives them the power to take someone’s life. If you have the power to take someone’s life, you should not be proud because almost everyone can do that. But if you can bring someone back to life after they have died, that is a very great thing. Destroying or killing things is nothing. But if you can fix or build things, or make them come back to life, then you are worthy of respect and honor, like Tangaloa ‘Eitumatupua, the father of ‘Aho’eitu. Papaihia

Gifford, Edward Winslow, Tongan Tales and Stories Revised: February 26, 1996 Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff