Stories From Kiribati

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The First Breadfruit Tree

Posted by Amota Eromanga on September 15, 2013 at 7:20 PM

Long ago, on one of the islands of the Marshalls, there lived a king with his three daughters. The daughters were happy but their father was not happy. The king was thinking hard about how to get some flowers from a special plant called kaura. Every king’s daughter in the Marshall islands had to plait these special flowers into a crown. Daughters had to crown themselves when they became young women.

One day, the king whispered to his eldest daughter. The princess nodded her head. She was ready to do what her father commanded her to do.

kauraDawn was not far away as the daughter hurried to the far end of the island. She was alone. Everyone else was asleep. She murmured a chant, and suddenly her whole body began to rise up into the clouds.

She flew over the ocean and watched for an island.” There you are, my beautiful Makin!” she whispered when she saw an island below her.

She arrived and landed at the special place that her father had described. It was a swamp called Nei Rebwe, the Thunder Swamp. The swamp was surrounded by pandanus trees. After a careful search, the princess found the beautiful small flowers of the kaura. She picked them and made them into a crown.

When the sun was about to rise, the princess went hurriedly back to her landing place. There, she spoke the same spell again. At once she flew back to her home in the Marshalls. Everyone was still sleeping when she landed.

That morning people were very surprised to see their young princess crowned with beautiful orange flowers of the kaura. They knew she had come to the next stage in her life. The king was very happy to have his dream came true. The kaura flowers had a very special meaning for them.

The princess continued to go to Makin to pick kaura flowers. Over the next few years, her younger sisters started to join her. Once a month, during the night, the three sisters would fly together to this beautiful island. Each time they returned before anyone was up.

One day, the eldest princess noticed that there were no breadfruit trees on the island of the kaura flowers. She knew in her heart that she had to leave something special for this island. Well now she knew what she could leave there!

In the Marshall islands, the breadfruit tree was very important. People kept themselves alive by eating breadfruits. However it was forbidden to take this tree to any other places. Anyone who disobeyed would be in great danger. However, the eldest princess thought of a way of taking the plant to Makin without anyone knowing about it.

The time came again for the three sisters to fly to Makin for the kaura flowers. The eldest sister had already hidden the breadfruit seed in her skirt and was ready to go when her sisters joined her at the far end of the island.

The sisters flew off and landed on Makin as usual. They walked about picking the flowers. The eldest sister hid the breadfruit seed in the bush near Buariki village. She hoped the seed would grow and bear fruits.

Yes, it did. Many months later the people of Makin noticed a strange plant. It was a breadfruit tree. It was indeed the first breadfruit tree in Kiribati. The people of Makin were curious and asked each other, “Where is it from?” or in their local language “Mai ia?” Since then, people called that plant ‘mai’. It is derived from “Mai ia?” or “Where is it from?”

Legend from Makin – retold by Takenbeia Atanga.

 

Categories: Legends & Myths

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