The Fire-walkers of Beqa

We return to the Fiji Islands for our next legend. On the small island of Beqa the mystic gift of walking barefoot on hot stones is a widely told folklore, and little is known about the rare gift of healing bestowed upon this privileged group of people. Here’s the story that shows how people of this tiny island began walking on fire. This version of the legend was taken from book Pacific Island Legends. Enjoy!

The Fire-walkers of Beqa

Long, long ago the tribe called Sawau lived on the summit of a hill at a village called Na Valeisese. The large common house used by the men there was called Kauma. The people would gather in this house nightly to chat, and listen to story tellers and it was the duty of each one of the audience to provide food for the entertainer the next day.

One night, it was the turn of an old man named Dredre to be the story teller, and there was much discussion among the people as to what they would present to him by way of a feast on the morrow.

Another old man named Tui promised to provide some eels which were considered a great delicacy, so at dawn Tui went down to a small pool and found that a large stone had fallen into it, turning the water very muddy. Climbing on to the stone, he sat down and thought that perhaps the muddy water was caused by a big fish. He bent down and proceeded to dig around the base of the stone with a stick. By and by, he came across some leaves in the mud which interested him as they were of an unusual kind, so he jumped down into the hole he had made, and went on digging harder.

Then reaching down into the hole, he heaved out a great eel, which he threw over his shoulder to take as his contribution to the feast.

He had not moved far away when his burden spoke and said, “Don’t kill me. I will bring such good fortune to you that you will acquire great wealth,” and the eel slipped off his shoulder, the spirit within appearing in the form of a young man.

Tui replied, “All my tribe are poor- excepting me- I am rich.”

Then said the spirit, “My name is Tuimoliwai. Please let me live and I will make you the champion veitiqa player.”

But Tui replied, “All my tribe play veitiqa and I am their champion!”

“Please let me live,” begged Tuimoliwai, “and I will make you the handsomest man of your tribe, so that wherever you go or whoever takes part in festivals you will always be looked at and admired.”

“Oh no!” laughed Tui. “Whenever my tribe takes part in festivals, I alone am looked at.”

So Tuimoliwai pleaded again. “Let me live, I beg of you, and I will make you an expert navigator.”

“No you will not!” replied Tui. “I am the only navigator on Beqa. I possess a large canoe of my own, but I don’t like sailing.”

“If you will let me live, I will teach you how to be safe from terrific heat,” promised Tuimoliwai, getting desperate by now.

Firewalkers

“The Fire-walkers of Beqa,” illustration courtesy of Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2017.

“Say that again,” replied the old man, at last interested. Tuimoliwai did so adding, “Let us gather firewood for four days. After that we will spend yet another four days digging a pit. The fire will be lit in this oven and we shall bury ourselves in it and bake for four days and four nights, then we will come out of it and go our separate ways. I shall then have fulfilled the promise that I made to you for saving my life.”

Tui agreed to this, and the pair proceeded to a place called Na Maca. There a great oven was prepared and the stones heated for four days and nights, as explained by Tuimoliwai. After the embers were removed and the stones levelled, the two walked over the hot stones and then climbed out of the oven.

Tuimoliwai, taking the other by the hand cried out, “Let us now bury ourselves in this oven.” But tui was afraid that once he allowed the other to bury him in the hot stones he would run away and leave him to be cooked alive. So he said, “No, let us rather just step down into the stones, but not stay there long, lest my ornaments be burnt.”

This he safely did, and from that day to this, the tribe of Sawau have been able to walk on heated stones as their ancestor did long, long ago.

About islandculturearchivalsupport

Island Culture Archival Support (ICAS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of records pertaining to the cultural identity of island peoples in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia whose national and public archives, libraries, cultural centers, and business organizations are underprivileged, underfunded, and understaffed. The specific purpose for which this nonprofit corporation was formed is to support the needs of these South Pacific cultural heritage institutions by helping to preserve and make accessible records created for business, accountability or cultural purposes. The organization will endeavor to add value by providing resources or volunteers to advise, train, and work among island residents to support their efforts in building their future and preserving their collective memory through the use of modern archival techniques.
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