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(no. 272-278; cf. Index, Culture Myths).

HOW FIRE CAME (no. 272-276; cf. Index, Fire).



272. A little boy living at Manávete was once taken by a crocodile (cf. no. 1 and 2 C), and his father, whose name was Dáve, launched a canoe and set out to see whether he could not find him or his spirit somewhere. Paddling along, he came to Dorópo on Kiwai island which at that time was a mere sandbank with no trees. Dáve spent the night there and the next day arrived at Sanóba on the same island, where lived a „long time man“ named Méuri (or Meáuri). He had no garden and no fire, and spent his time catching fish which he dried in the sun. You got no fire?" Dáve asked him, and when Méuri said that he had none, the new-comer promised to get him fire. Dáve had in his possession an extraordinary bird which knew many things and could speak like a man. The name of the bird was Kapía, and he was the black cockatoo. Dáve sent the bird to fetch fire from Manávete, whereupon he flew away and after a time returned with a glowing fire-stick in his beak. Kapía was wont to carry fire in that way, and from the effect of the fire the black cockatoo still has a red spot round the corners of his mouth.

Méuri went and caught fish, and Dáve lighted a big fire and prepared a meal. When it was ready, he called Méuri to come and eat, but the latter who had never before seen a fire was afraid at first, thinking to himself, "By-and-by (if) me go close to fire me dead." 13 After a time, however, he got used to the fire.

Some time later Dáve parted from Méuri telling him to expect his return. He went over to Manávete and said to the people there, „I find him good place, you me (we) altogether go that place, make him big." The Manávete people were living in two separate camps, and Dáve said to the people in the one camp,,,You fellow stop," and to those in the other, "You me (we) go altogether man, woman, girl, boy." So these latter put all their things and all kinds of fruit together and set off in their canoes. On arriving at Méuri's place they went on shore, beached the canoes, and built small huts to sleep in. In the evening they all sat together, Méuri and the others. The place had no name, and they were thinking of what to name it. Kapía, the cockatoo, was there too, flitting about and crying out, Iá, iá, iá!" and the people understood that he meant, „Oh, that Iása, I give good name.“ Since then the place is called Iása.

The next morning Méuri and Dáve called all the men to come to the bush. There they pegged out the sites of everybody's garden with sticks. At each garden thus marked they said to the owner,,,This belong you, you make garden. You plant coconut, sago, banana, any kaikai belong you me (us)."

Méuri always kept the fire-stick which Kapía had brought him. The people lived there together, and as their children grew up, the village became larger and larger. The present inhabitants of Iása are their descendants. (Káku, Ipisía).


A. The same narrator also gave the following variant. Méuri, who had no fire, at first lived alone in Kíwai, and after a time was joined by some Manávete people. Their fire had gone out, and they sent Kapía to get them some from Manávete. After a while Kapía returned, carrying a fire-stick in his beak. But the fire burnt the corners of his mouth, so Kapía dropped the stick and cried out, „lá, Iá, Iá!" The bird then flew away, but the people picked up the brand and lighted a fire on which they cooked food for Méuri and themselves. Méuri was afraid of the fire and fainted on tasting the food, but after a time he liked it. (Káku, Ipisía).

B. A third variant by the same narrator. A man named Baráni lived in Kiwai exactly like Méuri in the first version. As he had no fire, Kapia who came flying from Manávete one day brought him a fire-stick. Baráni was afraid of the fire, but Kapia cooked some fish for him and persuaded him to eat in spite of his remonstrances. On cating the strong food Baráni first fell down in a swoon but after a time learnt to like it. Kapía flew back to Manávete leaving the fire-stick with Baráni. (Káku, Ipisía).

C. Méuri, who had no fire, used to dry fish in the sun by placing it on a large tree, which was lying on the beach. Kapía came flying from Manávete with a fire-stick in his beak, and taught Méuri how to kindle a fire and cook. He stayed some time with Méuri in the shape of a man, but later on resumed the form of a bird and flew back to Manávete. (Obúro, Iása).

D. Méuri lived in a hole in the ground at Iásamúba and used to dry fish by putting it on a stranded nipa-palm. His mouth had a bad smell from all the raw fish he had eaten. Kapía brought him fire from Manávete. (Mánu, Ipisía).

E. Like version D. Kapia's cry was, la-ha, ia-ha," and the fire had burnt a red spot at each side of his beak. Méuri first fainted from the effect of the fire, but soon learnt to use it and to eat cooked food, following Kapía's example. Kapia flew away, but left the fire with Méuri for the use of all the Kiwai people. (Bogéra, Ipisía).

F Méuri, who lived alone in Díbiri, had no fire and used to dry fish on a tree. One day some people came and settled down in the same place, and they gave him a girl in marriage. She offered to prepare his meal, and he asked her to dry some fish in the sun. But she did not approve of that kind of cooking, which left the food very hard, and went to her own people to fetch fire. When Méuri returned from fishing she had lighted a big fire and was cooking his meal. It took Méuri a long while to get used to the fire and smoke and to eat cooked fish, and he even fainted on first tasting the new food. Méuri, ignorant of everything, was also taught by his wife to have connection with her. (Támetáme, Ipisia).

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G. In Rep. Cambr. Anthrop. Exp. vol. v. 17. How Fire was brought to Kiwai. The animals and then the birds tried in turn to bring fire to Kiwai from the mainland. The black cockatoo succeeded, but burnt himself with it; and since then it bears the red scar round its bill.


273. A man named Turúma, who lived at Gíbu in Kíwai, used to catch fish which he dried in the sun on a large tree, for he had no fire. Gíbunogére, a mythical being belonging to Gíbu, lived there beneath the ground. He used to watch Turúma, thinking to himself, „Oh, Turúma put fish on top along wood, make him dry, he no got no fire, I sorry him." One day while Turúma was away spearing fish Gíbunogére dug a hole in the ground and lay down there, covering himself with earth, so as to hide himself from Turúma. On his return Turúma found Gíbunogére's footprints and wondered, "Who that walk along here? No man he stop, me one man (alone) stop my place."10 All of a sudden Gíbunogére got up and said, "Who you? What name (what is it) you talk?" "Oh, father," Turúma exclaimed terrified, where you come?" — it was in order to ingratiate himself with Gíbunogére that he called him father". Gibunogére said, „Me stop inside along ground, that my place. He good place, he got fire, you no got no fire, more better you go my place." Turúma who was still afraid, did not want to go, but Gíbunogére promised to give him fire and urged him to come. They went to Gíbunogére's place beneath the ground, and when Turúma sat down close to the fire he fainted.18 Gíbunogére bled him, made him drink water, and washed his body, and at last he came round. Turúma received Gíbunogére's daughter in marriage, and his penis was so large that the girl died when he slept with her in the night. They buried her, and Turúma, who was a chief man, went home and brought Gíbunogére many stone axes and necklaces of dogs teeth in payment for the girl. Turúma and Gíbunogére continued to live together. (Káku, Ipisía).

Turúma of Gíbu is mentioned in another rather incoherent tale. (Epére, Ipisía).


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274. At one end of Bádu island there lived a man named Hawía with his mother, and they had no fire, and at the other end a crocodile lived, and he had fire. One day Hawía and the crocodile were spearing fish at the same time, and returning home the crocodile kindled a fire to cook his catch. Hawia came and asked him, „You lend me some fire, I want cook fish." "You stop shore," replied the crocodile,,,I stop water, what's the matter you no got no fire?" and he would not give him any. The man returned home and he and his mother cut up the fish and dried it in the sun, but they had to eat it raw. On many other occasions too, Hawia went and asked the crocodile for fire but to no avail.

One day Hawía prepared to go and seek fire elsewhere. He donned the white feather head-dress called dóri, painted his face black, and put on many ornaments. Thus adorned, he jumped into the water and swam over to Búdji singing on the way,



,,Oh, kéke kéke ke káibar ke ngái mámutu káua. — Smoke there, man he burn him bush, I swim along water, go take fire."

At last he reached Búdji. A woman lived there who was burning the bush in order to make a garden. Between the thumb and index of her right hand a fire was constantly burning. 30 On noticing Hawia she put out all the flames in the bush, so that the stranger should not know that she had any fire. Where you come from?" she asked Hawía on his landing. „Oh, I come from Bádu." What name (what thing) you come look?" "Oh, I come look some fire. I kill fish,

I no cook him along fire." "All right," said the woman, you sleep, to-morrow I give you some fire."

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The next day the woman again began to burn the bush. Hawía said, "Come on, you me (we) shake hand, I want go away." She first gave him her left hand, but he asked for the right one and suddenly tore away the fire from her hand. Off he went and jumped into the water. He swam over to Bóigu singing the same song as before. On reaching Bóigu he lighted a fire, and as the smoke rose into the air, his mother over in Bádu said, "Oh, smoke there, my pickaninny he come back now, he got fire." Next he came to Mábuiag and lighted a similar signal, and the mother taid, "Oh, he been catch Mábuiag, smoke he come close to." Lastly he landed on Bádu and told his mother, I got fire, me two fellow kill him fish, cook him along fire." The crocodile, who saw that Hawia and his mother were in possession of fire, went and offered to give them some, pretending to show them a kindness, but Hawía said, "No, I no want take you (your) fire, I been take from other place." And he added, "You no stop shore, you crocodile, you go stop water. You no man all same me (we who) stop shore." The humiliated crocodile went into the water, saying, "My name alligator, all over country I go catch him man." (Gibúma, Mawáta).

A. A man named ĺku lived in Mábuiag with his mother at a time when the people did not know the use of fire. There was a crocodile who could speak like a man, and he had a fire but would not give the people any, telling them to get it for themselves. One day ĺku went to a place called Skábadara near Daváne, where lived a woman who had a fire in her hand, which he meant to steal. He told his sister to keep the matter secret and promised to light a fire in Daváne for a signal, if he were successful. İku went in a canoe to Skádabara, and the woman offered him fire from the bush which she was burning, but he wanted the fire which she kept in her hand and stole it exactly as in the first version. He lighted a signal-fire in Daváne for his sister. On arriving home he gave fire to all the Mábuiag people, and after a time they became used to eating cooked food. The crocodile offered them fire, but it was too late, and filled with rage the animal, who had lived on land till then, took to the water. (ĺku, Mawáta).


275. Formerly all the people used to eat their food raw. A Gúruru (or Glúlu) man once dreamt that a spirit came to him and said, "You (your) bow he got fire inside." The man woke up and thought, „Fire - what name (what is) that?" He fell asleep again, and the spirit returned and said, "To-morrow you try bow, rub him along wood, cut that wood." In the morning the man fetched a piece of wood which he began to saw with his bow, using the bow

string as a blade. He found that the friction made the wood hot, „Try like that, like that," the narrator described, „he smoke, I think he come, try, try, tryah, fire he come up!" He used some dry coconut-fibre for tinder and soon lighted a bright fire. He was very pleased with his invention, for when feeling cold he could soon get warm at the fire, and he cooked his food with it. At first he roasted a taro-root, and when it was done, he broke it in two and smelt it, uncertain whether it was good or not. „I think," he said hesitatingly, „suppose I kaikai I die." But after tasting it he exclaimed, "I say sweet!"

The man returned to the people in the house and brought them fire. Everybody was frightened and wanted to run away, but he said, „You fellow no run away, that's fire, make you me (us) hot. No good you me kaikai anything raw, that's fire more better." He showed the people how to cook their food, at first they were afraid to eat it, but after a time they all adopted the new method of cooking. All right," the man said, "no more kaikai raw anything, ripe banana kaikai raw, that's all." (Séggium, Dírimo).

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276. In former times the Másingára people had no fire, and their only food consisted of ripe bananas and fish dried in the sun. „Teeth he very sour," they lamented, "all time kaikai ripe banana." They therefore sent some animals to fetch them fire and chose the rat first for this task. They prepared gámoda for the rat and said, "You drink, gámoda here, you go look what place fire." The rat drank the gámoda and ran away into the bush, where it remained without troubling about the fire. Then the people gave gámoda to the iguana and sent it to get fire, but the iguana too ran away into the bush. Next they tried the snake, but like the rat and iguana it took to the bush. At last they turned to the ingua (in Mawáta iku, a kind of iguana) and gave it gámoda, and the tngua drank it and ran off. "I savy now, I go," it shouted and off it went to Túdo island, swimming all the way. The ingua found fire in Túdo and kept it in its mouth the whole way back, carefully lifting its head at each wave as it swam, and the fire was kept alight in its mouth. Since then the people in the bush have fire. Nowadays they make it by rubbing or drilling a stick of wárakára-wood or bamboo with another piece of the former wood previously smeared with a little beeswax. (Some Máringára men).

A. In Rep. Cambr. Anthrop. Exp. vol. vi. pp. 29 sq. How Karom the Lizard stole Fire from Serkar. Serkar, an old woman of Nagir, had an extra digit beetween the thumb and forefinger of each hand, and that on the right hand she employed for kindling wood. 30 Various animals on Moa wanted the fire, but only karom (the monitor lizard) could swim across. Serkar did not want to give him fire, and at parting she offered him her left hand which he refused, then he bit off the finger of the right hand and swam with it to Moa. In another version the animals who tried to get the fire were originally men.


277. Kagáru was not yet married when once upon a time some Mawáta people, herself included, went to Páráma. While they were there the Páráma men sailed out to the reef, but the Mawáta men stayed behind as it is not customarry for visitors to accompany their hosts

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