Maretu and the Sea Urchins

Lately I have been posting a lot about the Cook Islands mostly because of my book, Mr. Moonlight of the South Seas (publishded by Dockside Sailing Press), which has a Polynesian backdrop especially in the Cook Islands. So I thought I would share a Cook Islands legend that I found in the book Legends from the Atolls. I really like the imagery of this story that was originally told by storyteller, Tepania Puroku in 1977. Enjoy!

Maretu and the Sea Urchins

In the olden days the church building on Rakahanga was located on the islet of Te Kainga. Maretu was the LMS pastor in those days. When Maretu arrived, he thought of moving the church building from the islet to the new village where the people are living today. This was possible because the church building was on stilts. It was the usual method of building a house in those days- build it and put it on stilts. The house could therefore be moved if desired. So to move the church building would not be much of a problem.

However, there was a problem because no one wanted to help lift the church building through the shallow sea between the islet and the new village. They feared that sea urchins would prick their feet as they walk through the sea. The shallow sea between Te Kainga and the new village was full of sea urchins.

Maretu called for volunteers to help lift the church building but no one was willing. Maretu insisted that they take the church building to its new site. He told them that he would lead the way while the rest followed.

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“Maretu and the Sea Urchins,” illustration courtesy of Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2017.

As they were about to go, the people still feared that their feet would get pricked. They carried the church building with reluctance. When they got to the beach, Maretu was first to walk into the sea. To the people’s surprise, the sea urchins began to move to the sides to make a path for them to walk across.

So they carried the church building without any obstruction by sea urchins and no one suffered from being pricked. They carried the church building to its newly prepared place and left it there. This is where the building stands today. And that is the story of a miracle that happened when Maretu was the pastor of Rakahanga.

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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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