The Greedy Giant and Palau

The Palau Islands in Micronesia is the setting of our next featured legend. It tells the story on how the islands of Palau were formed. Today, the Palau island chain consists of about 200 islands located in the western Pacific Ocean, but only eight of the islands are permanently inhabited. Enjoy the story!

The Greedy Giant and the Palau Islands

In Angaur Island, long ago, there was born a child whose parents named him Uwab. He was no different from other children, except that he was very greedy. He ate entirely too much. He grew so fast that it was a surprise to all who saw him.

From the very beginning, he ate more each day than his father and mother together. He ate so much that when he was a few years old, he was much larger than either of them. The more food they gathered and cooked for him, the more he wanted, for he was selfish as well as greedy. He became taller and taller and fatter and fatter. He became too large to live in his home. It took many men to build a house large enough for him.

Like all selfish persons, Uwab had a mean temper. He was always shouting at his poor father and mother to bring him more and more to eat and drink. At last, they had only a little food left. They went to the chief of Angaur Island and said, “Oh chief, we come to you in great trouble. Our son Uwab is growing to be a giant. We can no longer feed him. He is very angry when we cannot feed him. We’re afraid of him!”

The chief was surprised. He felt sorry for the parents of such a son. “You shall have help,” he said.

He told the people of Angaur Island to help feed the monster son. Uwab ate and drank everything that the people brought. He had fifty large baskets of food each day and dozens of basins of spring water and coconut milk, but he shouted for still more.

The time came when he was so tall that his mouth was hard to reach. So the people fastened long pieces of bamboo together to make a very long pole. They tied Uwab’s food to the end of the pole and fed him in that way. Almost every day, they added another pole.

At last, Uwab became so very fat and tall that nothing in the island could reach his mouth. Then he lay down inside his great house and let the people bring him food and drink. In a short time, he became too large for that house also, and he had to leave one enormous leg outside. Soon the other leg had to stay outside. By and by, both of his arms also were outside.

Giant and Palau

 “The Greedy Giant and the Palau Islands,” illustration courtesy of Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2017.

The people became so frightened that they met secretly in a forest, where Uwab could not hear them. “What are we going to do?” they asked each other. “One of these days, Uwab will break out of his house and walk around the island. All our gardens and food trees will be destroyed. He may harm our children.”

“Then let’s kill him without being near him,” said another. And so it was agreed.

By that time, Uwab was so large that he could keep only his head in the house. The rest of the body lay outside on the beach. The people made long ropes out of fibers of leaves and bark. They waited until the giant was asleep. Then some of the bravest men climbed up on his house and tied his long hair to the roof. The other people gathered together hundreds of pieces of firewood and piles of dry coconut leaves and husks. They put them around Uwab and his house and built fires.

Uwab could not get away. He roared loudly and he kicked with his legs and feet. He fought so hard that the island of Angaur shook. He died quickly, but his last kicks were so strong that he kicked himself into many pieces, large and small. They scattered far and near and settled into the ocean as islands. Many of the people finally went to live on them.

The Palau Islands remain in the same places today. Uwab’s head is one part of the island of Ngerechelong.  Some people say that Peleliu is part of his legs, and for that reason, it is rocky and rugged.  Other say that his legs, pulled up and kicking, are the high land at Aimeliik. The large island of Babelthuap is the trunk of the giant’s body.

The people of Ngiwal, a village on Babelthuap Island, like to tell visitors about their own part of Uwab’s body. “We live right in the middle of Uwab’s stomach,” they say. “That gives us the right to eat seven times a day.” Some Palauans say that the people who live on the part of Uwab that was his mouth, talk too much, and those who live on the part that was his legs, can run very fast.

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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