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APPARENTLY one of the clearest characteristics of the mythology of the Melanesian area is the almost total lack of myths relating to the origin of the world. With one or two exceptions, the earth seems to be regarded as having always existed in very much the same form as today. In the Admiralty Islands 1 a portion of the population believed that once there was nothing but a wide-spread sea; and one myth states that in this sea swam a great serpent, 2 who, desiring a place on which he might rest, called out, "Let the reef rise!", and the reef rose out of the ocean and became dry land. Another version differs in that a man and a woman, after having floated upon the primeval sea, climbed upon a piece of driftwood and wondered whether the ocean would dry up or not. At last the waters wholly retired, and land appeared covered with hills, but barren and without life; whereupon the two beings planted trees and created foods of various sorts. In New Britain, among the coastal tribes of the Gazelle Peninsula, 3 we find the familiar story of the fishing of the land from the bottom of the sea, a task which was accomplished by the two culture hero brothers, To-Kabinana and To-Karvuvu, some of whose other deeds will be recounted later. The same story in slightly greater detail is found also in the southern New Hebrides. 4 This conception of a primeval sea is found widely in central Polynesia, Micronesia, and Indonesia, and it is perhaps significant that it apparently occurs in Melanesia only on its northern margin, where contact with non-Melanesian peoples would theoretically be expected. A much closer

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affiliation with Polynesia is shown, however, in another class of origin-myths to which we may now turn.

If there is little interest in the beginning of the world in the Melanesian area, the same cannot be said of the origin of mankind, for on this subject there is considerable and widely variant material. Three types of myths may be recognized: one, that in which mankind is directly created by some deity or pre-existing being; second, that in which man comes into being spontaneously or magically; and, third, that where mankind descends to earth from the sky-land.

In the Admiralty Islands it is said 5 that Manuai was alone and longed for a wife; so he took his axe, went into the forest, and cut down a tree, and after he had fashioned the trunk into the figure of a woman, he said, "My wood there, become a woman!", and the image came to life. In the Banks Islands a somewhat more elaborate tale is told. 6 Qat was the first to make man, cutting wood out of the dracaena-tree and forming it into six figures, three men and three women. When he had finished them, he hid them away for three days, after which he brought them forth and set them up. Dancing in front of them and seeing that they began to move, he beat the drum before them, and they moved still more, and "thus he beguiled them into life, so that they could stand of themselves." Then he divided them into three pairs as man and wife. Now Marawa, who was a malicious, envious fellow, saw what Qat had made and determined to do likewise. So he took wood of another sort, and when he had fashioned the images, he set them up and beat the drum before them, and gave them life as Qat had done. But when he saw them move, he dug a pit and covered the bottom with coco-nut fronds, burying his men and women in it for seven days; and when he dug them up again, he found them lifeless and decomposed, this being the origin of death among men. 7 According to another version from this same area, 8 while the first man was made of red clay by Qat, he created the first woman of rods and rings of

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supple twigs covered with the spathes of sago palms, just as they make the tall hats which are used in the sacred dances.

A tale of the creation of man from earth is told in the New Hebrides. 9 "Takaro made from mud ten figures of men. When they were finished, he breathed upon them, breathed upon their eyes, their ears, their mouths, their hands, their feet, and thus the images became alive. But all the people he had made were men and Takaro was not satisfied, so he told them to light a fire and cook some food. When they had done so, he ordered them to stand still and he threw at one of them a fruit, and lo! one of the men was changed into a woman. Then Takaro ordered the woman to go and stay by herself in the house. After a while, he sent one of the nine men to her to ask for fire, and she greeted him as her elder brother. A second was sent to ask for water, and she greeted him as her younger brother. And so one after another, she greeted them as relatives, all but the last, and him she called her husband. So Takaro said to him, 'Take her as your wife, and you two shall live together.'" A still different version is that from New Britain. 10 In the beginning a being drew two figures of men upon the ground, and then, cutting himself with a knife, he sprinkled the two drawings with his blood and covered them over with leaves, the result being that they came to life as To-Kabinana and To-Karvuvu. The former then climbed a coco-nut-tree which bore light yellow nuts, and picking two unripe ones, he threw them to the ground, where they burst and changed into two women, whom he took as his wives. His brother asked him how he had come to be possessed of the two women, and To-Kabinana told him. Accordingly, To-Karvuvu also climbed a tree and likewise threw down two nuts, but they fell so that their under side struck the ground, and from them came two women with depressed, ugly noses. So To-Karvuvu was jealous because his brother's wives were better looking than his, and he took one of To-Kabinana's spouses, abandoning the two ugly females who were his own.

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[paragraph continues] Another version 11 from the same region brings out more clearly the distinction between the characters of the two brothers and serves, moreover, to account for the two marriage classes into which the people are divided. To-Kabinana said to To-Karvuvu, "Do you get two light-coloured coco-nuts. One of them you must hide, then bring the other to me." To-Karvuvu, however, did not obey, but got one light and one dark nut, and having hidden the latter, he brought the light-coloured one to his brother, who tied it to the stern of his canoe, and seating himself in the bow, paddled out to sea. He paid no attention to the noise that the nut made as it struck against the sides of his canoe nor did he look around. Soon the coco-nut turned into a handsome woman, who sat on the stern of the canoe and steered, while To-Kabinana paddled. When he came back to land, his brother was enamoured of the woman and wished to take her as his wife, but To-Kabinana refused his request and said that they would now make another woman. Accordingly, To-Karvuvu brought the other coco-nut, but when his brother saw that it was dark-coloured, he upbraided To-Karvuvu and said: "You are indeed a stupid fellow. You have brought misery upon our mortal race. From now on, we shall be divided into two classes, into you and us." Then they tied the coco-nut to the stern of the canoe, and paddling away as before, the nut turned into a black-skinned woman; but when they had returned to shore, To-Kabinana said: "Alas, you have only ruined our mortal race. If all of us were only light of skin, we should not die. Now, however, this dark-skinned woman will produce one group, and the light-skinned woman another, and the light-skinned men shall marry the dark-skinned women, and the dark-skinned men shall marry the light-skinned women." And so To-Kabinana divided mankind into two classes.

Turning now to the second type of tales of the origin of mankind, the belief in a direct or indirect origin from birds may first be considered. In the Admiralty Islands, according to

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one version, 12 a dove bore two young, one of which was a bird and one a man, who became the ancestor of the human race by incestuous union with his mother. Another recension 13 has it that a tortoise laid ten eggs from which were hatched eight tortoises and two human beings, one man and one woman; and these two, marrying, became the ancestors of both light-skinned and dark-skinned people. At the other extremity of Melanesia, in Fiji, 14 it is said that a bird laid two eggs which were hatched by Ndengei, the great serpent, a boy coming from one and a girl from the other. A variant of this is found in Torres Straits where, according to the Eastern Islanders, a bird having laid an egg, a maggot or worm was developed from it, which then was transformed into human shape. 15

Myths of the origin of men or of deities from a clot of blood are of interest in their relation to other areas in Oceania. One version again comes from the Admiralty Islands. 16 A woman, named Hi-asa, who lived alone, one day cut her finger while shaving pandanus strips. Collecting the blood from the wound in a mussel-shell, she put a cover over it and set it away; but when, after eleven days, she looked in the shell, it contained two eggs. She covered them up, and after several days they burst, one producing a man and the other a woman, who became the parents of the human race. 17 In the neighbouring island of New Britain 18 one account gives a similar origin for the two brothers To-Kabinana and To-Karvuvu. While an old woman was wading in the sea searching for shellfish, her arms pained her, and so, taking two sharp strips of Pandanus, she scratched and cut first one arm and then the other. 19 The two strips of pandanus, thus covered with her blood, she laid away in a heap of refuse which she intended to burn; but after a time the pile began to swell, and when she was about to set fire to it, she saw that two boys had grown from her blood--from the blood of her right arm, To-Kabinana, and from that of her left arm, To-Karvuvu. 20 At several Points in German New Guinea 21 we find similar tales of children

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originating from clots of blood, although here, we must note, they are not considered as the parents of mankind.

An origin of the human race from plants seems definitely stated only in the Solomon Islands, 22 where it is said that two knots began to sprout on a stalk of sugar-cane, and when the cane below each sprout burst, from one issued a man and from the other a woman, these becoming the parents of mankind. 23 With this we may compare the tales from New Britain. 24 Two men (sometimes described as To-Kabinana and To-Karvuvu) were fishing at night, and while they were so engaged a piece of wild sugar-cane floated into the net, where it became entangled. Disengaging it, they threw it away, but again it was enmeshed and was once more discarded. When, however, it was caught for the third time, they determined to plant it, and did so. Taking root, the cane grew, and after a time it began to swell, until one day, while the two men were absent at work, the stalk burst and from it came out a woman who cooked food for the men and then returned to her hiding-place. The two came back from their work and were much surprised to find their food ready for them; 25 but since the same thing occurred the next day, on the following morning they hid themselves to see who it was that had prepared their food. After a time the stalk opened and the woman came out, whereupon they immediately seized her and held her fast. In some versions, the woman then became the wife of one of the men, and all mankind are supposed to be descended from the pair. An origin of the first woman from a tree and of the first man from the ground is given by the Papuan tribes of Elema in British New Guinea; 26 while in the New Hebrides 27 the first female being is said to have sprung from a cowrie-shell which turned into a woman.

An origin of man from stone is told by the Baining of New Britain. 28 At first the only beings in the world were the sun and the moon, but they married, and from their union were born stones and birds, the former subsequently turning into

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men, the latter into women, and from these the Baining are descended. The origin of Qat himself is ascribed in the Banks Group 29 to a stone, which in the beginning burst asunder and gave birth to the culture hero--a concept which recalls the tales of the source of the first supernatural beings in Tonga, Celebes) and the Union and Gilbert Groups. The third type of myths of the beginning of mankind has thus far been reported apparently only from one portion of German New Guinea. 30

Although Melanesia seems characteristically to lack myths of the origin of the world, a tale recounting, the source of the sea is quite widely spread. As told by the Baining in New Britain, 31 the story runs as follows. In the beginning the sea was very small--only a tiny water-hole, belonging to an old woman and from which she got the salt water for the flavouring of her food. She kept the hole concealed under a cover of tapa cloth, and though her two sons repeatedly asked her whence she obtained the salt water, she refused to answer. So they determined to watch and eventually surprised her in the act of lifting the cover and dipping up the salt water. When she had gone they went to the spot and tore the cover open; and the farther they tore, the larger became the waterhole. Terrified by this, they ran away, each carrying a corner of the cloth; and thus the water spread and spread until it became the sea, which rose so that only a few rocks, covered with earth, remained above it. When the old woman saw that the sea constantly grew larger, she feared that the entire world would be covered by it, so she hastily planted some twigs along the edge of the shore, thus preventing the ocean from destroying all things. 32

Of the origin of the sun and moon various tales are told. In the Admiralty Islands it is said 33 that when the sea had dried so that man appeared, the first two beings, after planting trees and creating food plants, made two mushrooms, one of which the man threw into the sky, creating the moon, while

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the woman tossed the other upward and formed the sun. A different account is given by the people of southern British New Guinea. 34 According to this, a man was digging a deep hole one day when he uncovered the moon as a small bright object. After he had taken it out, it began to grow, and finally, escaping from his hands, rose high into the sky. Had the moon been left in the ground until it was born naturally, it would have given a brighter light; but since it was taken out prematurely, it sheds only feeble rays. With this we may compare a tale from German New Guinea 35 which recounts how the moon was originally kept hidden in a jar by an old woman. Some boys discovered this, and coming secretly, opened the jar, whereupon the moon flew out; and though they tried to hold it, it slipped from their grasp and rose into the sky, bearing the marks of their hands on its surface. The people of Woodlark Island have another tale in which the origin of the sun and moon is connected with the origin of fire. According to this, 36 in the beginning an old woman was the sole owner of fire, and she alone could eat cooked food, while other people must devour theirs raw. Her son said to her: "You are cruel. You see that the taro takes the skin off our throats, yet you do not give us fire with which to cook it"; but since she proved obdurate, he stole some of the flame and gave it to the rest of mankind. In anger at his action, the old woman seized what was left of her fire, divided it into two parts, and threw them into the sky, 37 the larger portion thus becoming the sun, and the smaller the moon.

In all of these myths the sun and moon seem to be regarded as inanimate objects, or at least as such in origin. Another group of tales, however, considers them to be living beings. As an example we may take the version given by one of the tribes of the Massim district of British New Guinea. 38 One day a woman who was watching her garden close to the ocean, seeing a great fish sporting in the surf, walked out into the water and played with the fish, continuing to do this for several

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days. By and by the woman's leg, against which the fish had rubbed, began to swell and became painful until at last she got her father to make a cut in the swelling, when out popped an infant. 39 The boy, who was named Dudugera, grew up among the other children of the village until one day, in playing a game, he threw his dart at the other children rather than at the mark, whereupon they became angry and abused him, taunting him with his parentage. 40 Fearing lest the others might really harm him, Dudugera's mother determined to send him to his father; so she took the boy to the beach, whereupon the great fish came, seized him in his mouth, and carried him far away to the east. Before he left, Dudugera warned his mother and relatives to take refuge under a great rock, for soon, he said, he would climb into a pandanus-tree and thence into the sky, and, as the sun, would destroy all things with his heat. 41 So indeed it came to pass, for excepting his mother and her relatives, who heeded Dudugera's advice, nearly everything perished. To prevent their total annihilation his mother took a lime-calabash, and climbing upon a hill near which the sun rose, cast the lime into his face as he came up, which caused the sun to shut his eyes and thus to decrease the amount of heat. 42

The concept that originally there was no night is rather characteristic of Melanesian mythology: day was perpetual and night was discovered or brought to mankind. In the Banks Islands, after Qat had formed men, pigs, trees, and rocks be still did not know how to make night, for daylight was continuous. His brothers said to him, "This is not at all pleasant. Here is nothing but day. Can't you do something for us?" Now Qat heard that at Vava in the Torres Islands there was night, so he took a pig, and went to Vava, where he bought night from I-Qong, Night, who lived there. Other accounts say that Qat sailed to the edge of the sky to buy night from Night, who blackened his eyebrows, showed him sleep and taught him how to make the dawn. Qat returned to his brothers,

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bringing a fowl and other birds to give notice of the dawn. He begged his brothers to prepare beds of coco-nut fronds. Then for the first time, they saw the sun sinking in the west, and they cried out to Qat that it was crawling away. "'It will soon be gone,' said he, 'and if you see a change on the face of the earth, that is night.' Then he let go the night. 'What is this coming out of the sea,' they cried, 'and covering the sky?' 'That is night,' said he, 'sit down on both sides of the house, and when you feel something in your eyes, lie down and be quiet.' Presently it was dark, and their eyes began to blink. 'Qat! Qat! what is this? Shall we die?' 'Shut your eyes,' said he, 'that is it, go to sleep.' When night had lasted long enough the cock began to crow and the birds to twitter; Qat took a piece of red obsidian and cut the night with it; the light over which the night had spread itself shone forth again, and Qat's brothers awoke. 43

Myths of the origin of fire present a number of interesting types in the Melanesian area. We may begin with the form widely current in British New Guinea. According to a version told by the Motu, 44 the ancestors of the present people had no fire, and ate their food raw or cooked it in the sun until one day they perceived smoke rising out at sea. A dog, a snake, a bandicoot, a bird, and a kangaroo all saw this smoke and asked, "Who will go to get fire?" First the snake said that he would make the attempt, but the sea was too rough, and he was compelled to come back. Then the bandicoot went, but he, too, had to return. One after another, all tried but the dog, and all were unsuccessful. Then the dog started and swam and swam until he reached the island whence the smoke rose. There he saw women cooking with fire, and seizing a blazing brand, he ran to the shore and swam safely back with it to the mainland, where he gave it to all the people. 45

Some of the Massim tribes of eastern British New Guinea 46 give quite a different origin, according to which people had no fire in the beginning, but simply warmed and dried their

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food in the sun. There was, however, a certain old woman called Goga who thus prepared food for ten of the youths, but for herself she cooked food with fire, which she obtained from her own body. 47 Before the boys came home each day, she cleared away all traces of the fire and every scrap of cooked food that they should not know her secret; but one day a piece of boiled taro accidentally got among the lads' food, and when the youngest ate it, he found it much better than what was usually given him. The youths resolved to discover the secret, so the next day, when they went to hunt, the youngest hid at home and saw the old woman take the fire from her body and cook with it. After his companions had returned, he told them what he had seen, and they determined to steal some of the fire. Accordingly, on the following day they cut down a huge tree, over which all tried to jump, but only the youngest succeeded, so they selected him to steal the fire. He waited until the others had gone, and then creeping back to the house, he seized the firebrand when the old woman was not looking, and ran off with it. The old woman chased him, but he jumped over the tree, which she was unable to do. As he ran on, however, the brand burned his hand, and he dropped it in the dry grass, which caught the blaze and set fire to a pandanus-tree which was near. Now, in a hole in this tree, lived a snake, whose tail caught fire and burned like a torch. The old woman, finding that she could not overtake the thief, caused a great rain to fall, hoping thus to quench the fire, 48 but the snake stayed in his hole, and his tail was not extinguished. When the rain had stopped, the boys went out to look for fire, but found none, because the rain had put it all out; but at last they saw the hole in the tree, pulled out the snake, and broke off its tail, which was still alight. Then making a great pile of wood, they set fire to it, and people from all the villages came and got flame, which they took home with them. "Different folk used different kinds of wood for their firebrands and the trees from which they took their brands

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became their pitani (totems)." A snake in this tale plays the part of the saviour of fire; but in other forms of the myth the is the real source or bringer of flame. A version from the Admiralty Islands 49 runs as follows: The daughter of Ulimgau went into the forest. The serpent saw her, and said, "Come!" and the woman replied, "Who would have you for a husband? You are a serpent. I will not marry you." But he replied, "My body is indeed that of a serpent, but my speech is that of a man. Come!" And the woman went and married him, and after a time she bore a boy and a girl, and her serpent husband put her away, and said, "Go, I will take care of them and give them food." And the serpent fed the children and they grew. And one day they were hungry, and the serpent said to them, "Do you go and catch fish." And they caught fish and brought them to their father. And he said, "Cook the fish." And they replied, "The sun has not yet risen." By and by the sun rose and warmed the fish with its rays, and they ate the food still raw and bloody. Then the serpent said to them, "You two are spirits, for you eat your food raw. Perhaps you will eat me. You, girl, stay; and you, boy, crawl into my belly." And the boy was afraid and said, "What shall I do?" But his father said to him, "Go," and he crept into the serpent's belly. And the serpent said to him, "Take the fire and bring it out to your sister. Come out and gather coco-nuts and yams and -taro and bananas." So the boy crept out again, bringing the fire from the belly of the serpent. And then having brought the food, the boy and girl lit a fire with the brand which the boy had secured and cooked the food. And when they had eaten, the serpent said to them, "Is my kind of food or your kind of food the better?" And they answered, "Your food is good, ours is bad." 50

Similar to this in that the igneous element was obtained from snakes, but on the other hand suggesting affinities with the fire-quest of the Polynesian Maui, is a myth current in New Britain. 51 There was once a time when the Sulka were


Plate XIII

Mask worn in dances in which the participants represent ghosts and sprits. The mask is made of a light bamboo frame, covered with tapa, or beaten bark-cloth. The fringe covers the wearer down to the ankles. Elema tribe, Gulf of Papua, New Guinea. Peabody Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts.


ignorant of fire; but one day a man named Emakong lost one of his ornaments, which fell into a stream. Taking off his loincloth, he jumped in and dove to recover the lost object, but was amazed, on reaching the bottom, to find himself in the yard of a house.. Many people came up and asked him his name, and when he replied that he was called Emakong, one of them said, "Oh, that is also my name," whereupon he took the bewildered man to his house and gave him a new loin-cloth. Great was Emakong's astonishment to see a fire in the house. At first he was afraid of it, but after he had been given cooked food and had found this much better than the raw viands which he had always eaten before, he lost his fear of the new thing. When it became night, the crickets began to sing and this also alarmed him, for in the world above there was no night, and crickets were unknown. His terror became still greater, however, when the heard resounding claps of thunder from every side and saw all the people turn into snakes in order to sleep. His namesake reassured him, however, and said that he need not fear, for this was their custom, and that when day should come again, all would return to their human form. Then, with a loud report, he also changed into a snake, and Emakong alone retained the shape of man. In the morning, when the birds sang to announce the coming day, he awoke, and with a crash all the serpents again turned into men. His namesake now did up a package for him, containing night, some fire, some crickets, and the birds that sing at dawn, and with this Imakong left, rising through the water. On reaching the shore, he threw the fire into dry grass, but when the people saw the blaze and heard the crackling of the flame, they were greatly alarmed and all fled. Emakong, however, ran after them and telling them of his adventures, explained to them the use of the things that he had brought.

Although not cosmogonic in the stricter sense of the term, we may conveniently include here the myths given to account for the origin of death. According to the version current in

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[paragraph continues] Ambrym, 52 the good and the malicious deities were discussing man after he had been made. The former said: "Our men seem to get on well, but haven't you noticed that their skins have begun to wrinkle? They are yet young, but when they are old, they will be very ugly. So when that happens, we will flay them like an eel, and a new skin will grow, and thus men shall renew their youth like the snakes and so be immortal." But the evil deity replied: "No, it shall not be that way. When a man is old and ugly, we will dig a hole in the ground and put the body in it, and thus it shall always be among his descendants." And because the one who has the last word prevails, death came into the world. 53

With this we may compare another form of myth as told in the Banks Islands, 54 according to which, in the beginning men did not die, but cast their skins like snakes and crabs, and thus renewed their youth. One day an old woman went to a stream to change her skin and threw the old one into the water where, as it floated away, it caught upon a stick. When she went home, her child refused to recognize her in her new and youthful form, and to pacify the infant, who cried without ceasing, she returned and got her old skin, and put it on again. From that time men have ceased to cast their skins and have died when they grew old.

According to other tales, death was due to a mistake. Thus in the Banks Islands it is said 55 that in the beginning men lived forever, casting their skins, and that the permanence of property in the same hands led to much trouble. Qat, therefore, summoned a man called Mate ("Death") and laid him on a board and covered him over; after which he killed a pig and divided Mate's property among his descendants, all of whom came and ate of the funeral feast. On the fifth day, when the conch-shells were blown to drive away the ghost, Qat removed the covering, and Mate was gone; only his bones were left. Meanwhile Qat had sent Tagaro the Foolish to watch the way to Panoi, where the paths to the underworld and the upper

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regions divide, to see that Mate did not go below; but the Fool sat before the way of the world above so that Mate descended to the lower realms; and ever since that time all men have followed Mate along the path he took.

Still another explanation is that death was due to disobedience. Thus the Baining in New Britain say 56 that one day the sun called all things together and asked which wished to live forever. All came except man; so the stones and the snakes live forever, but man must die. Had man obeyed the sun, he would have been able to change his skin from time to time like the snake, and so would have acquired immortality.

As a last example of this class of myths we may take one which attributes the origin of death to ingratitude. In the Admiralty Group one account 57 states that a man once went out fishing; but since an evil spirit wished to kill and eat him, he fled into the forest. There he caused a tree to open, and creeping inside, the tree closed again, so that when the evil being came, he did not see his victim and went away, whereupon the tree opened, and the man came out. The tree said to him, "Bring to me two white pigs," so the man went to his village and got two pigs, but he cheated the tree in that he brought only a single white one, the other being black whitened with chalk. For this the tree rebuked him and said: "You are unthankful, though I was good to you. If you had done what I had asked, you might have taken refuge in me whenever danger threatened. Now you cannot, but must die." So, as a result of this man's ingratitude, the human race is doomed to mortality and cannot escape the enmity of evil spirits.

Of deluge-myths from the Melanesian area, only a few have been reported which do not bear the marks of missionary influence. As told in British New Guinea, 58 the story runs that once a great flood occurred, and the sea rose and overflowed the earth, the hills being covered, and people and animals hurrying to the top of Tauaga, the highest mountain. But the sea

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followed and all were afraid. Yet the king of the snakes, Raudalo, did not fear. "At last he said to his servants, 'Where now are the waters?' And they answered, 'They are rising, lord.' Yet looked he not upon the flood. And after a space he said again, 'Where now are the waters?' and his servants answered as they had done before. And again he inquired of them, 'Where now are the waters?' But this time all the snakes, Titiko, Dubo and Anaur, made answer, 'They are here, and in a moment they will touch thee, lord.'

"Then Raudalo turned him about, and put forth his forked tongue, and touched with the tip of it the angry waters which were about to cover him. And on a sudden the sea rose no more, but began to flow down the side of the mountain. Still was Raudalo not content, and he pursued the flood down the hill, ever and anon putting forth his forked tongue that there might be no tarrying on the way. Thus went they down the mountain and over the plain country until the sea shore was reached. And the waters lay in their bed once more and the flood was stayed."

Another tale 59 from this same region presents features of interest. One day a man discovered a lake in which were many fish; and at the bottom of the lake lived a magic eel, but the man knew it not. He caught many fish and returned the next day with the people of his village whom he had told of his discovery; and they also were very successful, while one woman even laid hold of the great eel, Abaia, who dwelt in the depths of the lake, though he escaped her. Now Abaia was angry that his fish had been caught and that he himself had been seized, so he caused a great rain to fall that night, and the waters of the lake also rose, and all the people were drowned except an old woman who had not eaten of the fish and who saved herself in a tree. 60 The association of snakes and eels with the deluge in these tales strongly suggests the type of deluge-myth current in parts of Indonesia, 61, and known also apparently in the Cook Group. 62

p. 121

From the examples given it may be seen that the origin-myths of Melanesia show clear evidence of composite origins. From small groups like the Admiralty Islands several quite different legends accounting for the same thing have been collected, and throughout the whole area a striking variety exists. in how far we are justified in attributing one set of myths to the older Papuan stratum and another to the later Melanesian layer is very difficult to say, since but little from the purer Papuan tribes of the area has as yet been recorded. Comparison with Polynesia and Indonesia suggests that the myths of the origin of the sea, of mankind as originally having had the power to renew their youth by changing skins, and of the obtaining of fire from or with the aid of snakes, were primarily Papuan, for no traces of either appear in Indonesia, and only the former is found in somewhat mutilated form in Samoa, but nowhere else in Polynesia. Other themes, however, such as the origin of human beings from eggs or from a clot of blood, are widely known in Indonesia and also occur in western and south-western Polynesia, and would seem to be immigrant elements from the great culture stream which, passing from Indonesia eastward into the Pacific, swept with greatest strength the north-eastern and south-eastern parts of Melanesia.

Next: Chapter II. Culture Hero Tales