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Manape's Short Snake

Told by Otoloi, 1972

 

 

     In the old days, there was a village in Siwai. Some men attacked it. They killed the good men, they killed the good women, they killed the good children. But one man was unable to join in the fight, and they didn’t kill him. He was a useless, ineffective man.

     After the attack, the man lived by himself. He couldn’t rebuild his house. He couldn’t make a garden. Even so, he kept living there. Then his house fell down. One side fell down but the other side still stood. The bush covered up the house.

     There was a man named Manape, who was a pig hunter. He used dogs to hunt pigs.

     One day, Manape came near the fallen-down house. His dog went into the patch of jungle where the house was. The dog went inside the house and sniffed at the body of the man, whose name was Matailawa.

     Matailawa shooed the dog away and it barked. The dog went back to Manape and they left to go hunt pigs.

     When they passed by the place on the way back, the dog went in again, sniffed Matailawa again, Matailawa shooed the dog away again, and again the dog barked.

     On another day Manape and his dog went out to hunt pigs, and the same thing happened. And when Manape and his dog returned, from hunting pigs, again it was the same.

     One day, Manape got to wondering why his dog was barking in the same place every time. So Manape went into the bush and saw the fallen-down jungle-covered house. Manape looked inside the house and saw a man so thin that he looked like a spirit.

     Manape was afraid, but said, “Is this a spirit or a man?” He was afraid. There was no answer.

     Manape saw a dried branch so he broke it off and poked at the thing.

     Then Matailawa answered Manape, saying, “Who are you?”

     Manape didn’t want to answer because he thought it might be a spirit. Matailawa said again, “Who are you?”

     Manape said, “Me. And as for you, are you a man or a spirit?”

     Matailawa replied, “No. I’m a man, but I look like a spirit. Men killed everybody in my village but they left me because I’m worthless, I can’t make a house, I can’t start a fight, I can’t do anything.”

     The two started talking. Matailawa asked Manape, “Are you a Big Man in your place, or do the men of your place make you their errand boy, their fool?”

     Manape said, “Unfortunately, I’m nothing, all the Big Men at my place do make me the errand boy, the bloody fool. When they want something they make me get it.”

     Matailawa said, “Do you raise pigs?”

     Manape said, “I have one.”

     Matailawa said, “All right. Go home now and build a house.”

     Manape went home and built a house, and when it was finished he went back to Matailawa and said, “The house is finished.”

     Matailawa said, “Now you must prepare taro, get coconuts and shell them and make coconut oil, kill the pig, and when that’s done come and get me.”

     Manape went back and did as Matailawa said.

     When the people had cooked the taro and made the coconut oil and everything was ready, Manape said to the people, “I’m going to bring something that you must not laugh at. It doesn’t look like a man, it looks like a stick man. There’s no fat in his buttocks.”

     The people said, “All right. We’ll do as you ask.”

    Manape went back. He went back to Matailawa’s place and carried him to the village. He put            Matailawa down close to the fire.

     Matailawa said, “Unfortunately, we left my bag behind.”

     Manape went back to look for the bag, but he didn’t see it. He came back and said to Matailawa, “I couldn’t find your bag.”

     Matailawa said, “It’s there, go back and get it.”

     Manape went back and looked for the bag, but didn’t see it. He saw a flying fox all folded up, but no bag. He came to Matailawa and said, “I didn’t see your bag. I only saw a flying fox.”

     Matailawa said, “That’s my bag. Go get it.”

     Manape brought back the flying fox and gave it to Matailawa.

     Matailawa said, “Unfortunately, we forgot to bring my pillow.”

     Manape went back to the house to look for the pillow, but he didn’t see it. He came back and said to Matailawa, “I couldn’t find your pillow.”

     Matailawa said, “It’s there, go back and get it.”

     Manape went back and looked for the pillow, but didn’t see it. He saw a very short fat snake, but no pillow.

     He came back to Matailawa and said, “I didn’t see your pillow, I only saw a short fat snake.”

     Matailawa said, “That’s my pillow, go get it.”

     Manape brought back the short fat snake and gave it to Matailawa.

     Matailawa took the snake and squeezed it over the coconut oil, and the snake’s semen squirted down over the oil. When the oil was completely covered with snake semen, Matailawa said to      Manape, “Eat this now.”

     When Manape had eaten it, Matailawa said, “Now, no one here can best you in anything. You will become the Big Man of this place.”

     This came to pass. Life went on in Siwai, which is where this happened.

     Then Manape came up to Nagovisi, and when he did he brought some dirt from Siwai. In Nagovisi there was a man named Wapolanala who lived at Wapola, the place Wapola between Biroi and Pomalate. Manape put the dirt at Wapola. Wapolanala and Manape lived at Wapola for a long time.

     One day, Wapolanala found the short snake.

     He said to Manape, “Hey! I saw a snake and it was really short. The snakes we have here aren’t like this. This one was very short.”

     Manape said, “Ah, that’s my snake. He’s followed me here.”

     He said to Wapolanala, “Make a feast.”

     Wapolanala made a feast just like the one that Manape made in Siwai. Wapolanala got the pigs, shelled the coconuts, got taro from the garden.

     When they cooked the food, when they made coconut oil, Manape held the short snake and squeezed it and the snake’s semen covered the coconut oil, just as before.

     Manape repeated Matailawa’s words: “Eat this, and then no one here can best you in anything. You will become the Big Man of this place.”

     Wapolanala ate it and he became the Big Man of Wapola.

     And so it was. Time passed and the two men lived on.

     One day, a crow cawed and cawed. It cawed, and Manape said, “Unfortunately, I have to go back to Siwai because some men have killed everybody in my village. I can’t stay here now.”

     When he was ready to leave he prepared a cutting from a kengere tree. Manape planted it and then he said to Wapolanala, “Pay attention to this tree. If lightning strikes it, you’ll know I’ve been killed.”

     Wapolanala kept watch, and lightning did strike the tree, so he knew that Manape had been killed.

     The dirt Manape brought remains at Wapola, and became the source of Mesiamo’s power.