Akono and Silimala

Maria Sapanga and Jakob Mua Laupu

This ninipunga was told by Jakob Mua Laupu and Maria Sapanga of Kandoka village and recorded by Dorothy and David Counts in 1975. It is considered by both women and men to be a humorous tale. Akono and Galiki are stock names for male and female characters in ninipunga. For those interested in the socialization of girls in proper female behaviour, domestic violence, widow killing, relationships between co-wives, and female suicide it is a fascinating story. Especially intriguing is the contrast between the aggression of Silimala and the passiveness of Galiki the wife.


Akono lived with his sister and mother in Pororaipi on the banks of the Vanu River. His wife, Galiki, was from one of the interior hill villages named Mopala. She had moved down to the coast to live with her husband's people when they married. After they had been married for a while, Akono decided to send a message to his mother's brother in the Kove village of Somalani saying, "I'll tell my uncle to expect me. Then I'll go to get some shell money so that I can make a marriage gift to my wife's family." He sent the message with a passing Kove canoe, and his kinsmen prepared to receive him. When he was ready he said to his wife, "Galiki, you and my mother and sister prepare some food for me. I'm going to visit my uncle and get some shell money to give your family." The women prepared the food, completely cooking some and leaving some only partially done. At dawn the following morning they brought the food to Akono's canoe.


Meanwhile, Akrao's uncle on Somalani said to his daughter Galiki, "You wait here and watch for Akono. I expected him to arrive yesterday, so he'll surely come today. You prepare things for him and if he comes, carry his belongings into the house." The girl agreed, and when Akono arrived she went to meet him. While he pulled his canoe up on the beach, she carried his canoe paddles and poles, and his bedding and basket up to the house. Then she firmly tied his canoe so it would not float away.


Silimala's house was at the edge of the far end of the village. She saw Akono and Galiki unloading his things, so she went swaggering up to them exclaiming, "So, here's my husband. I knew he'd come for me and here he is." Galiki responded angrily. "Who's your husband? This is my kinsman. He has come to visit us. Papa is going to give him some shell money so he can make gifts to his bride's family."


"Ah, what did I tell you? What bride is he making the gifts for? Me, of course! For me! I'm his wife, his true love. Me! He's come for me!"


"What are you on about?" Galiki angrily retorted, shoving her out the door. "Get out! You can't come in here and bother us. You come here all the time and we're fed up with you. My mouth pains from trying to reason with you. Akono just got here and you've already come to pester us with your foolishness. If you keep this up my father will fix you when he gets back this afternoon."


"No he won't! He's my in-law now. He can't be angry with me. He knows that Akono is supposed to come for me. Why are you trying to drive me away? Why do you treat me like this?"


Galiki shouted furiously, "NO! He's not your husband. He came to get shell money to give for his wife. Go away! Get out! Get out of here. Go back to your own house and stay there."


"Galiki! What are you saying? Have you no shame? You mustn't talk to me that way. You must control yourself before me and treat me properly. You shouldn't be rude! I think Akono must be hungry, so I'll go cook him a little something to eat."


"Why do you need to cook him something to eat? Look! He's got lots of food right here. I can heat up the cooked food for him if he wants something now. He doesn't need any more food. You can see he has plenty."


Silimala replied, "Forget about that food. I'll go cook something fresh for him to eat." So she made a fire, but it wasn't a proper fire with real firewood. Instead, she gathered scraps and rubbish which flared up briefly when she blew on them and then died. The taro she cooked this way was raw and inedible. She scraped it with a clam shell as though it had been properly cooked, and then she carried it to him. "Akono, here's something for you to eat. I cooked it myself. Enjoy! While you eat, I'll wait for my in-laws to come back."


Galiki said angrily, "This food isn't fit to eat. Take it away."


"Why?" cried Silimala. "Why do you want to get rid of it? I thought of my husband and wanted to prepare him something to eat. This other stuff is cold and has to be reheated, but mine is just newly cooked. I, his wife, cooked it and he must eat it."


"No way!" And so it went. Galiki refused, Silimala insisted. Galiki shoved her out the door and she came back in. Galiki pushed her outside, and she came right back in again. They quarreled and pushed and shoved until Galiki was hoarse and exhausted. Finally, in disgust, she grabbed the taro that Silimala had prepared and threw it out the door for the pigs. Then they sat and waited.


In the afternoon Galiki's father returned. Galiki went out to meet him. "Papa, Akono's here. But you must come and get rid of that pesky woman before you do anything else. I've tried to run her off, but she's too much for me. I've thrown her out, I've hit her, but she's determined and my mouth is tired from arguing with her. She's still here pestering Akono and we've had to endure it. Akono tried to get rid of her, I tried, but neither of us did any good. She won't go and she's too strong. What are we going to do?"


The bigman firmly said to Silimala, "You must leave. Go home. Look, this house isn't big enough for all of us. There are too many of us. You must go to your own house now."


"Oh, where will I go? What house will I go to? Here! This house! My husband and I will sleep on this bed here. The rest of you can sleep anywhere you can find a bed. My husband has come to get me and we should sleep together here on this bed. This is our bed."


The old man scolded and argued and pushed her out the door, but it did no good. She came back again and again, until finally they all gave up. That evening, when they retired, Silimala and Akono slept in the same bed. The next morning they began to scheme. "What can we do to make this woman leave poor Akono alone so that he can go home? What can we do to stop her?"


His uncle called Akono aside and said, "Akono, try to fool Silimala into going to the gardens with you. Then when you get there, trick her and lose her. While she's looking for you in the bush, hurry back here, get your canoe, and sail home. While the two of you are gone, we'll get your things together. I'll put your shell money in your basket. Your kinswomen have already tied your pandanus mats into bundles, and your paddles are ready to go into your canoe. Everything's set. If you can get away from Silimala and return here, all you'll have to do is to hoist sail and get away as fast as you can."


 "Yes, uncle, I think we have to do something like that. If she were to follow me home she'd destroy poor Galiki." So, a little later the bigman said to them, "Silimala, today I'd like you and Akono to go to the garden so that he can clear a little plot for me."


"Oh good! That's a wonderful idea. Akono and I will go and he can clear your garden. He's never done that for you before. I believe that he's been thinking a lot about me and wants to be alone with me. That's great! If you have any taro shoots I'll plant them, and he can clear that part too."


"That's fine. You two go. Akono can clear the garden while you plant the taro."


The two of them left, Silimala sitting while Akono poled the canoe. When they reached the mainland, they left the canoe behind and walked to the garden. They worked for a while, with Akono clearing ground while Silimala planted taro. Finally Akono looked up and saw by the sun that it was mid morning. He called, "Silimala, I'm getting thirsty. Where's the nearest water?"


"Now that's a good question. I'll go and get some for you."


"Oh thanks. Fill a shell container and bring it for me to drink. I'm really thirsty. This hot sun is cooking me and my throat is parched. Go get a little water for me to drink."


As soon as Silimala was out of sight, Akono went looking for Voro, the egret. "Oh, Cousin. Can I bother you to do a favor for me? Stay here at the river and when Silimala comes back and calls me, answer her so that she'll think it's me. If you'll confuse her, it will give me time to return to the village, get my canoe, and escape from her. I don't want anything to do with her. I loathe her." Voro replied, "Sure. Go ahead Cousin. Go ahead. I'll take care of it."


Akono turned and raced to the canoe, pulled it into the water, and poled for Somalani. When he got there, he found everything on his canoe and ready to go. He panted, "Uncle, I'm leaving. We haven't time to talk. I've go to go." 


"What's there to say? You asked for help in getting together shell money for your marriage gifts. I've put it in this basket on the bed of the canoe. Get on board, hoist your sail, and go."


Without further ceremony, Akono boarded his canoe, raised his sail, set his rudder, and ran with the wind. Meanwhile, Silimala had returned with the water and was unable to find Akono. She called, "Akonooooo."


Voro answered, "Hooooo!"


"Where'd you go?" She followed Voro's cry down the river. He saw her coming and stealthily flew up near the head of the river."




"Hooooo!" He went up and she followed.


"Hey! What's going on? Why are you making me walk back and forth like this? I'm carrying the water." She ran upstream, but when Voro saw her he quietly flew back down the river. She called, "Akonooooo."


"Hooo" came from downstream.


"Why are you running me in circles? Here's your water. I'm following you with it. Did you want water? I've got it here." When she went down to the mouth of the river and called again, the answer came from up near the river's mouth. The chase went on like this until finally Silimala realized that something was wrong. "Hmmmm. I'd better not call again. This time I'll just sneak up and find out who it is that's answering my calls." So, when she cried out again and Voro replied, "Hooo!" the answer came from downstream. As she approached, Voro saw her and flew back upstream. Silimala did not shout out again. She said to herself, "If I call him again, he'll answer from the head of the river. Forget that! I'll go quietly and see who this is."


Voro, who was listening for her call, was too busy watching for crayfish and other food in the river to pay any attention to the trail. When he finally became alarmed, Silimala was already there. He arose with a great flapping of wings - parparpar - and Silimala exclaimed, "Ah-ha! An egret! So he's the one who's been tricking me and making me run up and down the river. He's run me ragged. So it was the egret all the time, eh? While he was doing that, I'll bet my husband escaped."


She threw down her water and ran to the beach where she found that the canoe was gone. She dove into the sea and swam underwater until she reached Somalani where she surfaced and looked around. "Ah-ha! All the gifts for my husband's canoe are gone. Hey! You people! Where's my husband?"


"Why, you and Akono went to work together. What happened?"


 "Don't give me that! You've tricked me. He duped me into leaving him, and when I got back the egret fooled me. Akono's been here, and his canoe's gone. I think he's left."


She followed Akono, swimming close to shore until she reached Milimata. She went ashore and scanned the sea until she saw him at Kapo. "Ah, too bad, Akono. I thought you'd be gone, but you're still close. Where do you think you're going without me? I can catch up." So she dove back into the sea, and when she reached Kapo he was at Nutanavua. "Ah, I'm almost there." She swam until she was near the Aria river. "Ah, there you are." She passed the Aria, dove again, and when she came up the last time she found him at Mohea. She grasped the outrigger of his canoe and pulled it down. "Ah, Akono, too bad! Why did you try to escape from me? If you run away, who will you marry, eh? Who do you think is more of a woman than I am? This woman you left me for? Paddle Legs? Her legs are as scrawny as canoe paddles. Look at me. Look at my legs. My legs are shapely. My arms are soft and smooth. I'm a beautiful woman. Why do you want to leave me for that other one?"


Infuriated, Akono killed her. Then he pounded her into little pieces, threw the pieces overboard and sped away. When he was gone the pieces of Silimala began to rejoin, and she took shape again until she was whole and as good as new. She swam after him and grabbed his outrigger, pulling it down again.


"So! You thought you could get away if you killed me and broke me into little pieces, did you? But here we are again. You can't kill me. I'm telling you, I'm your wife. Your one and only. You can't kill me."


She climbed on the canoe and Akono cried out in despair, "Do you believe that I'm single? I've already got a wife at home. Why do you persist in this? What am I supposed to do? I don't want you."


Once again he beat her to death, tore her to bits, and scattered the pieces. Then he took hold of his rudder and left. Once again the pieces of her body rejoined until she was whole. Then she swam after Akono and pulled his outrigger down for a third time. Akono realized that he was unable to kill her, so he gave up and let her sit on the bed of the canoe. He took the rudder and they sailed past Iboki into the mouth of the Vanu river. Then he lowered the sail, turned the canoe, and entered the river. Galiki, his wife, was watching for him and saw the canoe coming up the river. "Oh, I think Akono is coming. That's him!" Then she looked again and saw another person sitting there. "He, Mama, I think Akono's coming, but who's that sitting there as a woman would? It must be his cousin, his uncle's daughter, come with him for a visit. Who else could it be?"


They watched as the canoe drew nearer and then Akono's sister exclaimed in horror, "Oh-oh! Mama, look! He's brought back Paddle Legs! Silimala! He's brought Silimala back with him from Kove. You were wondering who it is? It's Silimala, that's who." She turned to her sister-in-law. "Hey, Galiki, when Akono gets here with Silimala let's kill her."


Galiki replied sadly, "I'm sorry my friend. What right have we to kill her? Maybe Akono wanted her and went to get her. That's all right. Why should we kill her? Leave his new wife alone. Who am I? Am I so beautiful? I guess he fell in love with her and that's why he brought her home. It's all right. We can't kill his wife. Let's just wait here."


As they came ashore, Akono called his true wife, "Galiki, come and get these things." Silimala arise, shrieking, "What? Who are you telling to get the things from this canoe? Who do they belong to? Me! They're mine! All this shell money, all these paddles, all these bundles of sleeping mats. My in-laws - my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law - prepared them for me. That bigman, my father-in-law, collected this shell money just for me. Who is this Galiki you're calling to get my things from this canoe? Eh, Akono? These things all belong to me."


Akono wearily replied, "No, they are not yours. They're for Galiki, not for you."


"What? Never! When they got these things ready they told me, 'They're for you and your husband.' All right, I'll take charge of them. Now, Akono, where's my house?"

Akono replied, "Ah, now where is your house? You have no house."


"And what about that big house there? Who does it belong to, eh?" She triumphantly carried the things into the house that belonged to Akono and Galiki. Then she kicked Galiki aside. "What's this creature sitting in my house? Get out! I'm bringing my things inside. Is this your house? Did they prepare it for you, eh? It's not your house. It's my house. Clear out! Get out of the way so I can bring my belongings inside."


She drove Galiki out of the house and her sister-in-law, Akono's sister, angrily hissed, "Hey, Galiki. Don't let her get away with that. Let's kill her. Now!"


Galiki responded, "Oh no, we can't kill her. This is the way Akono wants it. He's the one who wanted her and brought her from Kove. It's all right. Forget it." And there the matter stood.


Silimala carried the pandanus mats and everything else - the paddles, the basket of shell money - into the house and threw out Galiki's skirts and all of her belongings. "Get your junk out of here and find your own house. This isn't your house to enjoy. Is it your house? No, it's mine! I own it! Akono came to Kove to get shell money to give to my kin. My relatives will receive it as Akono's marriage gifts for me."


Now, what could they do about this state of affairs? Akono said nothing, and neither did his wife. So Silimala threw Galiki out of her own house. She was sitting outside with Akono's sister and mother when he came to her. "Galiki, you mustn't pay any attention to that creature. My mother's brother and all of his sisters tried to deal with her in Kove, but no one was able to. See here, while we were at sea I killed her. I tore her apart and scattered the pieces, but her body grew back together again and she was just as she was before. She pulled my outrigger down and climbed on the bed of the canoe, and there was nothing that I could do to get rid of her. Look at what she's done now. No sooner do we get here than she's claimed everything of yours for her own. Now you two must beat her up. You must help me to get rid of her."


Galiki replied, "I'm sorry, Akono, but I can do nothing about her. You have to deal with her. It's your fault that she's here. You brought this woman to be your wife. It's all right. What's my body good for now? It's fuel for her fire if she wants to burn me. It's all right."


Well, Silimala did just that. She burned Galiki so many times that her skin was covered with wounds. Just as an old sore would heal, there would be a new one. That one would start to heal and Silimala would burn her again. Akono watched the way she mistreated Galiki and his stomach churned with fury and pity for his wife. "What can I do about this horrible woman?"


One day he pretended to be sick. He acted restless and unable to sleep. He huddled by the fire and blew on it crying, "Oh, Silimala. I feel awful. My insides are burning up. I'm dying for some good, pure, fresh water to drink. If I have to drink this brackish swamp water any longer I'll surely die. I must have pure, cold water. You must find some good water and bring it to me to drink so that I'll get well. Look at how I'm shaking all over. I think I'll not be with you much longer. I'm dying. I must have good water before I can get better. If I have good water to drink I'll be all right, but if I keep drinking this foul water it will kill me."


Silimala cried in alarm, "Where is there some good water? Akono, where is it?"


"Oh, I need water from Mondumo, up in the hills."


Silimala quickly gathered all her coconut shell water containers and Akono told her, "Please, take all of your water shells and all of my mother's and those of the two Galikis too. Hollow out a bamboo to carry on your shoulders as well. I need plenty of water to drink all the time and cool my fever so I can get well."


 She gathered all of the shells belonging to the women, and when she had several baskets full she then hollowed out a bamboo pipe and put it across her shoulders. Then she took up the containers and left. After she had disappeared over the first rise, Akono got up and cried, "Quick! Come and dig a hole! Hurry! Dig a grave for me."


When they had finished digging the hole, Akono said, "Go and cut the stalk of that banana, the tuanga aitama (father of the village). Bring the center portion here and we'll wrap a pandanus mat around it and put it in the grave. Then when you think it's about time for Silimala to get back, start your mourning cry."


They prepared the middle of the banana stalk, wrapping it in pandanus mats and tying it with vines. Then they lowered into the hole and waited. Meanwhile, Silimala had finished filling the shell containers and the bamboo pipe with water and began walking home. As soon as she started to descend the last ridge the women began to wail. "Aiaoo, aiaooo, aiaoooo! Aiaoooo aaaa! Oh, Silimala, who's going to drink your water? Your husband has died."


Galiki cried, "Oh, my brother! My brother is dead!"


Akono's mother wailed, "Oh, my child! My son! There was only one and now he's dead. My only son is dead. What will become of me now? I had only one son. Oh Silimala, who will drink your water? Akono is dead." They wept and mourned. His wife Galiki cried, Oh, how I grieve. My husband is dead! Akono is dead! We weren't married long and now he's dead. What will I do?" His sister cried again, "Silimala, hurry! Why are you bringing water? Who will drink it now? Your husband is dead."


When she head these cries, Silimala threw her water containers - the shells and the bamboo - onto the ground and they broke into pieces behind her as she came running and crying: "Ooooh, you made me go and I wasn't with my poor husband when he died. Move aside so that I can see him. I want you to kill me so that I can follow him. I can't live any more. I don't want to live. Kill me. Get the vao (carved club used in warfare) and break my skull so that I can sleep in this grave, in the same grave as Akono. I don't want to live without him. If I live, who could I marry?"


Akono's sister leapt up at once to get the vao that had belonged to her father and which had been passed down for many generations. She struck Silimala on the back of her head, killing her, and she fell into the hole beside the banana stalk. They quickly covered them with dirt so that Silimala and the banana lay together in the same grave. This time she did not come back to life but remained dead. And so Silimala died and was buried with a banana. Galiki returned to her husband and the two of them lived happily ever after.