Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tongan Legends/ fishing methods

We’ve heard quite a few Tongan legends since being here, Tongans are a very proud people and proud of their history. A lot of legends they truly believe happened.

One that I like is about a rat and an octopus. The rat got stranded in water and was drowning. He called out to an octopus to help him, so the octopus let the rat ride on his head to dry land. Once the rat was on land he yelled out to the octopus “look what I left on your head”. The octopus realized the rat had done his business on his head. Since then octopus’s have hated rats. So the way locals fish for octopus is to make a bait that closely resembles the appearance of a rat. It’s made of some shells and a string like a tail, and I think they even tie on some feathers to look make it look furry. They tie it to a string and dangle it in deep water, and the octopus rushes up to the bait. They still fish like this for octopus.

Other fishing methods used here are large nets in both deep and shallow waters, line fishing (with just a line, not a pole like back home), and spear fishing in reef areas. There’s a certain type of tuna fish, the ‘atu, that can only be fished by line and not netted because of a legend. We also talked to a guy who works at the high school who was a little boy when they were still hunting whale here with spears. Guessing by his age, this was probably only about 40 years ago or so. He said they’d have a couple boats go out in case one got wrecked, and they’d spear the whale, then more boats would come out and help get it to the reef or shore. After that the whole town, or island, would come and take their share of the whale. The Japanese still hunt whale here I believe. The locals also hunt turtle still, (I’m pretty sure they’re endangered,) they eat them here. While we were on Uoleva over New Years the resort owner showed us and dug up a turtle egg nest on the beach. He had it marked off and was watching over it to make sure they were safe.

There are a lot of reef fish you can’t eat, the locals know which are safe. The parrot fish are really good! The Tongans also eat just about anything else in the sea - sea slugs fresh out of the ocean, lots of different snails/clams, etc., sea urchins, jellyfish, and more.

The Tongans are also superstitious about some things or why things happen. If someone gets hurt it’s because they didn’t go to church or they didn’t do their chores or something like that. If you don’t take a shower before going to sleep you might get bit by a molekau (huge nasty centipede that bites).

Another legend is about the volcanic islands of Tofua and Kao here in Ha’apai. The Samoan god (Samoa is another south pacific country just north of Tonga), was mad that Tonga had a higher mountain than Samoa. So he came to steal the mountain, he ripped of the top of Tofua and as he was running away the Tongan god caught him. So he dropped it into the sea which is now Kao. (Kao is a perfect volcanic cone, and Tofua is a sunken volcano with a lake/crater in the middle, still active sometimes).


skypilot said...

Community rituals can be very similar between geographical areas. I remember well the generation of my parents and their parents telling us as youngsters that the reason that something difficult happened was because of something we had "not" done, failed to do, like listening to them or obeying certain traditions or rituals. I supsect it is one way of securing community rituals and practices, I also suspect that each of them are rooted in something truth and honest.

I always enjoy reading your blogs, keep it up!


Anonymous said...

Funny story I gotta try that.

Miss Daydream said...

That was quite hilarious and being tongan myself it was interesting reading it on your blog from your perspective. Super cool