Camakau 2
Drua 2

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“‘THEY tell me,” said old Tui Nayau, ” that you have been to the hill of Kau-vandra, where stands the temple of Dengei, the Great Serpent, In the old times our -fathers feared that spot, and reverenced it greatly, for there dwelt the Great Serpent whom they worshipped.
” In those days Bau was not the greatest kingdom in Fiji, as it is now. There were then no boat-builders among us, and our fathers made no canoes, for they knew not how to fashion them. They were living in a wretched way, each tribe dwelling apart in its own land ; for there were no canoes wherewith to sail from one island to another. So the Great Serpent took pity upon them, and chose a
I tribe whom he called ‘ The Boat-builders,’ and them he taught the art of canoe-building, giving them also the entire rule over Great Fiji, so that in those days they were a great and powerful people, and Bau was of little account. “And indeed it was easy for them to become great, for they alone of all the dwellers in Fiji knew how to build canoes ; so that men came from afar, begging to be taken as their servants, that they too might learn how to make the wonderful vessels which would carry men over the waters in safety. Thus, in the course of time, they grew proud and haughty, and were often disobedient to the Great Serpent ; but he bore with them, for he loved them well.
” Now the Great Serpent dwelt on the hill of Kau-vandra, in Great Fiji ; but all the country round about he gave to the tribe that he had chosen ; and they built their town on the top of a high hill, where they dwelt in safety, for no enemy could get at them ; and often did the god come among them, and talk with them, teaching them many things, so that they were wiser than all other men. These days were good days, for they dwelt in great peace and plenty.
” When it was evening, the Great Serpent used to go to a cave in the hill of Kau-vandra, and there laid him down to sleep. When he closed his eyes then it was dark, and men said, ‘ Night is come over the land ; ‘ when he turned himself over in his sleep, the earth shook, and men said, ‘ It is an earthquake ; ‘ and at dawn of day, when he opened his eyes, then darkness fled away, and men said, ‘ It is morning.’
” Now there was a beautiful black dove, whose duty it was to awake him when it was morning. It slept always on a ‘ Baka ‘ (or banyan) tree, which grew hard by the mouth of the Great Serpent’s cave, whence its voice, ‘ Kru, kru, kru, kru,’ always roused him when it was time for the night to depart, and for the day to come over the land. Then he would get up, and call across the valley to the Boat- builders, saying, ‘ Rise up, my children, and work ; for the morning has come.’
“Therefore Rokola, chief of the Boat-builders, and Kausam-baria, his brother, hated the dove ; for they had grown proud and idle, and they said, ‘ Why should we thus work, work, work for ever ? Work is for slaves, but we are chiefs, great and mighty. Let our slaves work, for they are many ; as for us, we will rest. Come, let us kill the dove ; and if the Great Serpent be angry, let him be angry. We will fight with him ; for we are many and strong, and he is but one, though he be a god.’
” So they took their bows and arrows, and crept beneath the banyan tree, where the dove was sleeping. Then said Rokola to his brother, ‘ I will shoot first. If I miss, then do you shoot ; ‘ and his brother replied, ‘ It is well. Shoot. I am ready.’ So Rokola shot, and his arrow pierced the breast of the dove, so that it fell dead to the ground, and the two brothers fled away to their town.
” When the Great Serpent awoke from his sleep, he wondered that he did not hear the voice of his dove ; so he came forth from his cave, and looked up into the banyan tree, saying, ‘ Ah, lazy one, must it be my business to wake you nowadays ? But where are you ? ‘ for he saw that she was not in the tree, on the branch where she always sat.
” Then, looking on the ground, he spied the dove, with the arrow sticking in her breast. Great was his grief for the dove, and great also was his rage ; for he knew the arrow of Rokola, and, shouting across the valley with a terrible voice, he cried, ‘ Woe to you, Rokola, and unto you all, O Boat-builders, ungrateful ones, because you have killed my dove ! Now is your kingdom taken away.
and given to the children of Bau. And I will scatter you among all the peoples of Fiji, making you their servants.’
” But the Boat-builders shouted back across the valley : ‘ We fear you not, Great Serpent. We are many, and you are but one, though you be a god. Come, let us fight together. As we have served your dove, so also will we serve you ; for we fear you not. Great Serpent, though you be a god.’ And they built a war-fence, strong, and wide, and high ; whilst the Great Serpent sat on the hill of Kau-vandra, mocking them, and crying aloud, ‘ Build your fences strong. Carry them up to the sky ; for a god is your enemy.’ They also defied him, for they trusted in their war-fence, and in their numbers.
” When they had finished, Rokola shouted across the valley, ‘ It is done. Come, let us fight, that our children may say in the days hereafter, ” Our fathers ate the Great Serpent, the god who lived on the hill of Kau-vandra.” ‘
” Then the god arose in his wrath, and threw his club up into the sky ; and the clouds were broken in pieces, and fell down to the earth in a deluge of rain. Many days did the rain continue — it was not like the rain which now falls upon the earth, but a great and terrible pouring out of waters — and the sea rose, flowing in over the land, a dreadful sight. Higher and ever higher rose the wave, till it swept away the war-fence of the Boat-builders, and their town with all its people. Rokola and many more were drowned ; but many also (some two thousand, perhaps) floated away on trees and rafts and canoes, drifting along hither and thither over the waters, till they landed, some here and some there, on the mountain tops which were still above the waves, and begged their lives of the dwellers n the lands, who had fled thither before the rising waters. So that, when the sea went back again to its own place, they were taken down into the valleys in every kingdom, and became the servants of the chiefs, building their canoes, as at this day.
” As for the banyan tree, on which the dove used to sit, it was carried away by the great flood to Vatu-lele. Now Vatu-lele, in those days, was nothing but a reef, like Navatu, with no land upon it ; but so much earth was still clinging to the roots of the banyan tree, that it became a land, and men came and dwelt thereon.
” And this is how we, the men of Fiji, learned to build our canoes.”
Credit: Tales from old Fiji
Lorimer Fison 1832-1907