Thursday, December 15, 2016

Witches, sisters, fairy tales (Following folktales around the world 5. - Kiribati)

Today I continue new blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts under the Following Folktales label, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

Tales of Kiribati
Iango Mai Kiribati / Stories from Kiribati
Peter Kanere Koru, Ginette Sullivan
Institute of Pacific Studies of the University of the South Pacific, 1986.  

It was a short read - only ninety pages long, but since it it a bilingual edition, it actually took half the time to get through. The volume contains 8 folktales collected from three female storytellers. The photo and short biography of each of them are included, as well as delightful drawings and black-and-white photos illustrating the tales.


I had two favorite stories in the book (not bad, out of eight...). One was titled Kinibura and the Lions, and it was about a boy who got adopted and raised by lions before he was returned to his human family (Mowgli, is that you?...). I especially liked the scene where his little sister taught him how to speak.
Kiribati coat of arms
The other story, possibly my favorite, was the one called Atutababa and the Three Sisters. It featured three girls (all of them named Ikuiku) who wandered into the house of a cannibal witch, and then tried to escape from her. The flight had quite a few amazing scenes, such as the one where they fled to a tree, and while the hag was trying to chop it down the girls took turns peeing on the tree to make it grown and heal. I also liked that in the end, none of the three got eaten, and they all escaped together, helping each other.
(This is the story featured on the book's cover too, by the way)

Pawpaw fruit
Most stories felt like they had had some Western impact in the past. There were quite a few out-of-place elements in them such as bears, lions, and diamond rings, even though they didn't manage to overshadow the local flavor. There was a "brave little tailor" type story about a boy who tricks two giants (with the usual "squeeze water out of rock" thing), and also a "magic flight" story, the Kiribatian version of the Master Maid. This one was especially fun, since the villain in this case was the King of Cards, a spirit-being who liked to play games with mortals (and eat them if they lost). One of the tasks given to the boy was to poke a pawpaw fruit off the King's tree, which he failed to do at first, because there was a gigantic centipede on it... While the structure of the fairy tale was the same, the decorations were definitely local.

Where to?
The island nation of Nauru.

1 comment:

  1. Atutababa is probably the witch's name, right? Try saying that several times quickly while telling the story! Sounds reminiscent of Baba Yaga, but that peeing on the tree to make it grow is different. Probably loved by the boys and trouble with grown-ups.