I really like this story that I came across a couple of months ago on the Matangi Tonga Online new site. I’ve been meaning to share this with you and I’m glad that I finally got a chance to do so…
The first copy of a new Tongan translation, ‘Ko ‘Ulukälala ‘i Feletoa, ko e Talanoa ‘a Toki Ukamea‘, (The Story of Fïnau ‘Ulukälala: Told by Iron Axe) was presented to Princess Angelika Latufuipeka Tuku’aho, Tonga’s High Commissioner to Australia in Canberra early this year. The book was presented to the Princess by Author Nigel Statham, who is a translator of Polynesian languages, and his Tongan wife Melenaite who helped with the translation.
Their Tongan translation of An Account of the Natives of the Friendly Islands by John Martin and William Mariner has an introduction and extensive genealogical, sociological and theological footnotes composed by Pacific historian Dorothy in collaboration with the late Queen Salote Tupou III.
William Mariner was a teenage ship’s clerk aboard the British privateer, Port-au-Prince, which was sunk off the island of Lifuka in the Ha’apai island group of Tonga. He and several of his shipmates were spared. Mariner was taken under the protection of the king, Fïnau ‘Ulukälala and lived in Tonga for four years, taking the name Toki ‘Ukamea (Iron Axe).
When Mariner returned to England he dictated a book of his experiences to John Martin who wrote, An Account of the Natives of the Tonga Islands, in the South Pacific Ocean, which became a major source on pre-Christian Tonga.
“Mariner’s account has been called a fantastic tale of adventure of an English boy of exceptional intelligence and personal attractiveness,” said Princess Angelika. When Mariner lived in Tonga, he quickly became fluent in the Tongan language and his story is essentially an account of life, intrigues and wars of his adoptive father. It is one of the most reliable primary historical sources for the period in Tonga.
There have been English language editions of Mariner’s account, with the original English edition first published in 1817. Since then there have been French and German translations.
Princess Angelika said, “This is a great gift to the people of Tonga. So much of our history is locked away from the Tongan mind because it is in a foreign language. This time, the people of Tonga can now discover and enjoy first-hand reading experience, the excitements and events in Tonga during Mariner’s and Fïnau ‘Ulukälala’s time.”