In honor of the “Super Moon” which has now come and gone, I thought I’d share a story/myth about different kind of “full moon” as well as an animal species that doesn’t get much attention these days: the humble rooster.
Sitting directly on the International Date Line in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is the island nation of Tonga. Consisting of over 150 islands, Tonga today is the only surviving monarchy in the Pacific. She also has the proud distinction of being the only Pacific island nation to have never been colonized by a foreign power. Beside my being astonished at the gigantic physical size of the Tongan people (The late king of Tonga, His Majesty Tupou IV, once had the distinction of being listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the heaviest monarch in the world), one of my most vivid memories of our visit to the main island of Tongatapu, was watching how, at low tide, the island’s pigs would venture hundreds of yards out onto the exposed coral reefs that ring the island to forage for seafood.
The northern-most islands of Tonga, the Vava’u group, consists of some forty mixed volcanic and limestone islands, only half of which are inhabited. My wife and I spent five days sailing around the island chain in a chartered sailboat, the M/S Melinda, that came provisioned with a captain and two native crew members.
Our days were spend sailing the pristine, sapphire blue waters around the outer islands, stopping wherever it pleased us to swim at a quiet, private, palm-tree-lined, white sandy beach or to snorkel over an unchartered reef exploding with every species of fish and coral imaginable. Several times as we cruised the straits between various islands, we’d be blessed by seeing humpback whales as they passed us by. At nights we’d feast on fresh fish caught that day on our trolling line, and on the tropical fruits and coconuts harvested by our boat’s crew. The whole experience, I believe, was as close to a tropical island escape fantasy as a person can get in this modern day. It was fabulous.
On our last day at sea, as we sailed up the Ava Pulepulekai channel to return to our anchorage, the first thing I couldn’t help but notice was what our captain told me was called Mt. Talau. The huge, almost un-naturally, flat-topped mountain dominated the harbor and its port city of Neiafu. What made the sight even stranger still, was that sitting several hundred yards from the base of the mountain was the tiny triangular-shaped island of Lotuma. From at sea, the pair of mountain peaks looked as if someone had actually sliced the top off Mt. Talau like it was a big birthday cake, and set its peak down in to the harbor beside it. Noting my interest, our captain told us the following amazing story.
According to Polynesian mythology, in the days before time, Samoan tevolo (devil spirits), envious of their southern island cousins’s great treasure, decided to steal Mt. Talau’s majestic mountain peak and carry it back with them to Samoa. Because these devil spirits turn into stone in the naked light of day, the tevolo snuck over to Tonga under the cover of night, and went immediately to work sawing off the top of the mountain. They wasted not a single second of time because they knew they must complete their dastardly task before the sun arose.
Awakened by the noise of their sinister deed, the Tongan goddess Tafakula realized what was going on and decided that she must do something to stop the theft or else these Samoan devil spirits would be emboldened by their success to then steal all of the other many majestic mountains of Tonga. Greatly outnumbered by the Samoan tevolo, and with many more hours to go before sunrise, Tafakula thought up an ingenious plan.
She called forth all of the roosters of the island and had them gather at the base of Mt. Talau and wait for her signal. Tafakula then went over to the nearby mountainous island of ‘Eua, located just east of Vava’u, and climbed to the top of the island’s highest peak. When she and her roosters were at last all in place, she sent them signal to begin. And it was none too soon!
Just as the mischievous devil spirits were beginning to lift the mountain peak from its base and were starting to haul it away to their island, the roosters—with all of their might—all began a nonstop chorus of crowing. As they did, goddess Tafakula turned away from Mt. Talau, raised her ta’ovala (the traditional woven mat garment worn by Tongan men and women), and aimed her huge naked buttocks towards the Samoan devils.
Upon hearing the roosters crowing, and then looking over and seeing the reflected moonlight shining off of Tafakula’s giant rear end, the tevelo were fooled into thinking that the sun was beginning to come up. Knowing that this would be sure death for them, they dropped the heavy mountain peak which they carried into the bay besides Mt. Talau, where it resides today as tiny Lotuma island. The Samoan devil spirits then quickly flew back to they native island. Days later, when they discovered that they had been tricked by mere roosters and a single Tongan goddess, they were so embarrassed that they never again tried to steal another mountain from their island cousins in Tonga.
And that’s how simple roosters managed to help save all of the beautiful mountain peaks of nation of Tonga.