Ninipunga (children's story or story told for fun) by Kaloga of Karaiai, Kaliai Recorded February 1, 1976
There once was a couple who lived with their son at the mouth of the Aluri River. The man died hen the child was an infant and, when he was walking well, his mother also died. The child, whose name was Makele, was left alone and his body was covered with sores that covered his head, hands and legs. He head was also covered with worm droppings, and his body was so thick with flies that he looked like an idiot rather than a normal boy.
There were two villages, Kairi on the Kaini River and another called Gaio. One day the girls from Gaio went to collect water. They took their canoes up to a place on the Aluri river where there was a spring, and when they went ashore the child, who was sitting by the water, saw them. He called, "Oh, Sisters, come and get my water shells and draw some water for me."
The girls responded, "No, you stink like shit, like something dead. We don't want to touch your water shells lest we catch your disease." So they ran away. Later another group of girls from Kairi village also went to get water. The boy called to them too, asking them to draw some water for him, but like the others they refused. "You stink. We don't like you. We don't want to come near you for the flies might get on us and give us what you have." Then they also ran away.
As he sat there he saw a little girl, named Momogela, who was following the others. He called to her, "Sister, come and get my shells." The little girl felt sorry for him, so she took his water shells and followed the older girls. They had already got their water and were on the way b
ack down when they saw her coming. They asked her, "Where are you going?"
"I'm going to get some water."
"Are you carrying Makele's shells too?"
"We didn't want anything to do with him. We refused to get water for him. Why are you getting it? We're going on. You come later. We're going now."
The little girl got water for herself and Makele while the other girls went ahead. They were already back at their village when Momogela got back to the little boy. She gave him the water and two green drinking coconuts that she had climbed up and gathered. When he had drunk she said, "I'll come back tomorrow.Wait for me." Then she left and Makele stayed there.
Each time the older girls treated him the same, but Momogela felt sorry for him and each time got water for him. After a while, when the boy had grown up a little, he took his dog and his spear and went into the bush to hunt pig. He followed along the Aluri River for a long time, finally coming to the head of the river at a place called Itnin. There he called for his mother's brother, the bird Vokumu, and asked him to make it rain. Vokumu agreed and told Makele to wait. Soon there were dark clouds and heavy ain in the bush, but not on the coast, and the river began to flood. When Makele saw the flood waters coming he opened a fruit called kaowi and he, with his dog and his spear, climbed into it, closed the opening and drifted on the flood down the river. As he floated he sang, and his song attracted all the girls at the mouth of the river who were gathering firewood from the trash carried down by the flood.
His song went like this
Lile lilee ooooo
Momogela Kao sile
Kao Momogela Kao sile
The girls heard him and excitedly tried to find the source of the singing, but only the girl who had helped the boy knew who it was, and she went on with her work. Soon he drifted to the whirlpool named Bulolo and began to sing again. Now the boy's name was changed to Kao so that no one would know who he was. But when Momogela heard the song she knew and waited quietly while the others fought and argued about who should marry the singer when they found him.
Soon he drew near to the mouth of the river, still singing. Still she waited. As he passed the girls the waves caught the seed and threw it on the beach, but he continued to sing. The other girls searched frantically, but the little girl went straight to the seed, put it inside her fibre skirt, and carried it to the place where the boy ordinarily waited. Then she sat down.
Kao continued singing, and soon Momogela's older sister said to the others, "Hey, we're busy searching, but the singing is coming from my little sister's skirt there. Let's go take a look." So they ran to her, held her fast, and questioned her. Finally she replied, "What do you think. It's nothing but that boy whom you wouldn't even get water for. Now you hear his song and you think you want him. Look here!"
She threw the seed on the ground, and it broke open to reveal, not a child, but a full grown, handsome man standing there. All of them lusted after him, and the oldest sister said, "There's nothing to quarrel about. We'll all marry him." Kao responded that he wished to marry only Momogela, who had cared for him. They talked and argued, and finally reached the compromise that Momogela would be his wife at night and when he went into the bush, but in the village during the day he would be husband to all of them. Soon Momogela was pregnant and bore a son who was named Makele after Kao's father.
Now other people practiced the custom of super-incising the foreskins of their sons and piercing the ears of their first-born sons and daughters. Kao and Momogela did not circumcise their son, however, even though it was time to do it. One day all the children were playing in the river, and Makele hit the child of an old man named Makis. Makis then berated Makele, saying that a boy whose shiftless father was not capable of distributing shell money in his name should not be hitting the child of a real man. You are trash," said Makis, "and so is your father. He is rubbish and the child of rubbish, too. Otherwise he would have given gifts to me, Momogela's mother's brother, when he married. And he would give more gifts now, when it is time for him to bring you into his men's house."
The little boy went crying to his father. "What's the matter, Son?"
"I hit Makis's child and he told me that I am only trash and the child of trash because you have nothing. You have no vula asosonga black shell money, no vula misi gold shell money, no pigs, no garden. He said that my grandfather was a rubbish man, that my father is a rubbish man, and that I too am only rubbish. That's why I'm crying."
Kao responded, "What your 'grandfather' says is true. We have no response to it. What can we say?" After a while he said to his wife, "You go to your mother's brother and ask him if our son can be initiated into his men's house."
Momogela did as she was bid and said to Makis, "Waha, ('mother's brother'), my husband has said that if you agree he would like for our son to join your men's house with the other children." Makis responded, "Have you got enough shell money to pay one of his maternal relatives to dress him and sponsor him?"
She replied, "No, we don't have any." But she lied for they did have enough. When Makis scolded the child he had not seen inside his parents' baskets for they both had a wealth of shell money. He didn't know this, however, so he shamed the child.
Momogela returned home and told Kao, "My waha says that our child may join his men's house if we have shell money. If we have none, he may not join."
"That's ok," said Kao. "I just wanted to see what Makis would say. Let's leave it for now."
So the others held the ceremony and the sponsors super-incised the foreskins of the other boys when they jined Makis' men's house. But Makele was left out.
That night as Kao slept he dreamed of his father, the child's grandfather, who said to him: "Why are you so sad over your son's exclusion from that men's house? Don't think that just because I am dead I am completely gone. I'm still here. Tomorrow you and your wife clear this piece of ground here. Do a good job for the next morning my grandfather's men's house will be standing there."
The next morning Kao told Momogela of his dream and they cleaned the area well, removing all the stones and roots. That night they couldn't sleep but sat watching the clearing as the ghost of Kao's father caused the men's house to appear. First they saw the skeleton of the men's house materialize. As they watched, the roof appeared. At first the house planks were without decoration, but then the designs began to take form and covered the entire building, front and back. Momogela was amazed. "What is this beautiful design?"
"You understand. Your mother's brother called me trash, so this is to show him who we really are. Soon the house was finished, including the beds in the men's house, and the kaluarua 'two barracuda' decorated the carrying poles of the platform where children who are introduced into the men's house are carried. Then a fog descended and hid the men's house from view. Kao said to his wife, "Go and ask your mother's brother for a little pig."
She entreated, "Makis, my husband sent me to ask you for a little baby pig so that I might feed it. When it's grown we can kill it and present our son."
"Oh, I can't do that. I don't have many pigs. I only have one left and it belongs to my daughter. I can't give it to you. Go ask someone else for a pig."
Then she went to another bigman and asked him too, but his answer was the same. So she returned to her husband and told him that neither important man would give them a pig, and he replied, "Well, don't worry about it. We'll do without." That afternoon he took his dog into the bush where the dog found a newborn pig with its umbilical cord still attached and wet. The dog carried it carefully, and Kao ran and took it from him. He gave it to his wife with instructions to fasten it to one of the posts under their house. She did so, and overnight the pig was full grown. Then she asked Kao, "Is one pig enough?
If many men come, one pig won't provide enough pork for everyone." He replied, "That's alright. Let's wait and see what happens."
The next day, while his wife cooked, he slept and once again dreamed of his father who said to him, "When you awaken go to the base of that tree called Aulo. A mother pig has just given birth under that tree." When he awoke he did as he was instructed and found twenty-five baby pigs. He told his wife to tie them under the house, and the next morning the pigs were huge with magnificent curved tusks. "I think that's enough," Momogela said and Kao agreed. "These pigs weren't raised," he observed. "They and the men's house were created through the power of Makele who was sorry for his grandson."
The next day he said, "Well, Momogela, we're ready to present our son now. The men's house is ready." He sent an invitation along with the people of Gaio, to see the presentation of his son and to carry home pork and shell money.Makis responded, "Ah! And do you have enough pigs and shell money? How many bundles of ten fathoms of shell money do you have? And how many times ten pigs?"
"Oh, you're an important man, a bigman, and I am just an insignificant boy. I have only one pig and one fathom of black shell money. It's not even gold; just black."
"And how do you expect to give a ceremony with that? Do you think that's enough?"
"Well, we have nothing so we'll just have to make a gesture. We'll cut his foreskin the best we can so it will be done.
So the next evening all the people of Gaio and Kairi came to the festival, to sing and dance. They danced all night right through until dawn, and as the sun rose they could see the new men's house glistening like a star. The people were amazed. Mothers said to each other, "Why have we been sending our children to men's house which are half rotten and ugly when they could be here in this magnificent place?" Then the women began to berate their husbands about the state of the other men's houses. Makis was there too, and as he looked he was filled with shame and sorrow. "Oh, here I've been gossiping and slandering this child and now his father has produced this men's house." So he sat there ashamed .
Then Makele's father called for the old man and told him to send his son to cut Makele's foreskin. When that was done, Kao called for Makis. "In-law, come here. I'd like you to see the shell money I'm giving your son."
Then Kao began counting shell money, and he kept counting until he had given 500 fathoms. When had finished, Makis was astonished and wondered aloud if Kao were rich. "No In-law. I'm not rich, but I could not ignore your insults of my son, and I wanted you to be here when I distributed this little bit of shell money."
Makis, ashamed, replied, "Oh, I can see how my words caused this and I was wrong. You are a real man. No others that I know of have presented their sons in such a way."
Then the old man addressed the others there and urged them to send their children to the new men's house, and many were presented that day along with Makele. They killed four pigs for each post of the men's house, and then they destroyed the other men's houses so that everyone joined Makele's. They killed five pigs for Gaio, five for Kairi, and five for the village where Kao and Makele lived. Finally five were given to Makis who had insulted the child. At last everyone went home and Kao, Momogela, and Makele were left in their own place in peace.