Born in a Stone
Told by Takawai, 1971
In the old days there was a husband and wife. One day the wife said, “I’m going after prawns by torch-light.” The husband went also, to look for prawns.
On another day, the wife said, “Tomorrow I’m going again.” Her husband didn’t come. She left and she went to the Wetu river and she followed it.
She saw a big fish and she followed the fish. It went into a hole in a stone, and she followed it into the hole in the stone, she went inside.
But when she was inside, the hole in the stone closed, and the woman couldn’t get out through the hole.
The woman was pregnant, and she bore her son inside the stone. They stayed in the stone, they stayed there, and the infant grew into a child, and the child grew into a young boy.
The young boy saw there was a small hole in the stone.
His mother said, “Go outside, and if you find fire, bring it back.” She tried to explain what fire was.
The boy squeezed through the hole and went outside into the water and then onto the land.
He walked through the forest and came to a garden. It was his mother and father’s old garden, although he didn’t know it.
He walked around in it, and he saw the remains of a fire, but all he could see were the ashes. He thought the ashes were fire.
He went back into the water and squeezed through the hole into the stone and told his mother, “I’ve brought fire.”
His mother said, “That’s ashes, not fire. Go back.”
So he went back out again. He squeezed through the hole, he went to the garden, and this time he saw some sticks that had been burned, but they weren’t on fire.
He took one back to his mother and said, “I’ve brought fire.”
“That’s caused by fire, but it’s not fire. Go back,” she said.
So he went back out again. He squeezed through the hole, he went to the garden, and this time he saw a fire burning. He saw the fire, he knew it was fire, but he didn’t know how to bring it back to the stone.
He saw some bamboo. He took bamboo and he made a box for the fire, he covered the fire with the bamboo, so that it wouldn’t die when he dove under the water and squeezed through the hole.
He gave it to his mother and she said, “Ah, this is fire.” She was happy.
Another day he went out again, he squeezed out of the hole and he walked to the garden, and this day he saw a kind of banana called siana. He picked some, and he ate them.
He brought one back inside the hole in the rock where his mother was, and she ate it.
Another day he squeezed through the hole and he went again to the garden. He went, and got siana bananas, and ate them. He took some back and gave them to his mother.
His father went to the garden looking for bananas and saw that someone was stealing the siana bananas.
He said, “Tomorrow I’ll go to the garden and catch this thief who’s stealing my bananas.”
The men went, hid, and waited at the base of the banana plant.
They waited, hiding, and the boy came and climbed up this banana, this siana banana.
The boy climbed up while all the men were waiting, he climbed up and took bananas and when he came down the men tried to grab him, but his skin was so slippery they couldn’t hang onto him.
The boy ran away. The men chased him but they couldn’t catch him. He went into the water and squeezed into the hole and went back into the stone where his mother was. The boy and his mother ate the bananas.
On another day, everything happened the same way. Again the boy came to the garden. Again the men hiding and waiting, the men were looking for him, and he went up the banana and again when he came down, they tried to hold him but it was impossible. The men tried to hold him but it was impossible and the boy ran away and went back into the stone.
Another day, Wanagas, who was a useless man, followed the others. When he came up to them he said, “Have you caught that boy yet?”
The men said, “Shut up, you dirty useless man.”
Wanagas said, “I can catch him and I can hold him.”
The men said, “You can’t, so shut up, you dirty useless man.”
Again Wanagas followed them, and watched them as they lay in wait for the boy.
He was watching them and they were lying in wait and while he was watching them, the boy came and went up the banana, the siana banana, and then he came down.
Again the men tried to catch the boy. Again they all tried but they couldn’t hold onto him. The boy ran away, and the men were left holding nothing but each other.
Another day, the same thing. The dirty, useless man Wanagas said, “Have you caught that thief yet?”
“Oh, shut up, you useless man, catching him is beyond you.”
Wanagas said, “I can catch him.”
“Oh shut up, you useless man, you cannot.”
Another day, Wanagas followed the others, but he took a different trail, one that ran near the Wetu river. He stood near the river and picked up some sand and held it in his hands.
The other men were waiting at the banana, as always.
Wanagas saw the boy come out of the stone and come through the water and go up on the land. He saw the boy doing this, he saw the boy go up for the bananas, and he saw that when he came down the men tried to catch him, and as on all the other days, they couldn’t.
The boy ran away from the men, he ran back to the river but when he tried to go into the water Wanagas caught him, and was able to hold him because he had put sand on his hands so the boy couldn’t slip away.
Wanagas controlled the boy, he held him tight, and then everyone grabbed him and took him to the village.
In the village men brought leaves and with the leaves they wiped the slipperiness off his body. They dried him. They dried him completely, and he was no longer slippery. He was dry-skinned.
After the men dried him, his father said, “Where have you come from?”
The boy said, “From the Wetu, where I live inside a stone with my mother.”
His father said, “Really?”
The boy said, “Yes, really.”
His father said, “I think you’re my son and my wife’s in that stone.”
The next day the father said, “How about going back to the stone and getting your mother?”
The boy went into the water and tried to squeeze through the hole, but he couldn’t do it. He became stuck in the hole because his skin was too dry. He came up from the water and said, “I couldn’t, because my skin is completely dry.”
That’s what he told them. He told them that, and another day he tried again, and this time he did slip through the hole, and he did bring out his mother though the hole in the stone.
The two of them came together out of the hole and his father said, “Eh! It’s you! Where have you been?”
The woman said, “I was following a fish and it went into the stone, and when I went inside the stone the hole closed and I couldn’t get out.”
The man said, “I searched and searched for you.”
They went to the village, and the boy’s father made a great feast. He killed many pigs and made a great feast.
When it was ready, he said, “This feast is to commemorate when my wife went into the stone.”