Tangiia and the Sea Turtle

Our last legend of the year comes from the Cook Islands and can be found printed in the book Legends of the Cook Islands. I’ve been sharing a few stories from the Cook Islands the past couple of months mainly because of my book, Mr. Moonlight of the South Seas, where a big portion of the story takes place in the Cooks. It was recently published by Dockside Sailing Press. Feel free to view the book at Amazon.com.

Until the next post- Merry Christmas!!

Tangiia and the Sea Turtle

Many generations ago there were two boys born on the island of Tahiti, one called Tangiia and the other called Tutapu. Both boys were adopted by their uncle Pou-vananga-roa. Time passed and both boys grew to be great warriors. Pou-vananga-roa selected Tutapu to be an ariki, a high chief, and Tangiia to be a tavana, a minor chief.

Throughout their youth the two men had fought often, and now that they were great warriors, Tangiia was not happy about being bestowed the lesser title. With every confrontation, Tutapu’s arrogance and confidence grew. On day they fought over the rights to the sea creatures; the raratea, the white-finned shark, and the onu, the green sea turtle. The shark was seen as king of the seas and the turtle was believed to be the navigator of the seas. Tutapu believed he should have rights to both sea creatures.

Tangiia became so furious that he decided he could no longer stay on the island of Tahiti. In the following months, he crafted a canoe which he called Takitumu. One fine morning he put his canoe out to sea in search of the island of Mauke in the Cook Islands, where his two sisters lived.

After three days at sea the sun rose red in the skies, the seas grew rough and the winds howled. The waves tossed Tangiia’s canoe about like a piece of driftwood upon the open sea. Tangiia became confused as to which path he should navigate his canoe on. Suddenly a large, friendly green sea turtle appeared alongside his canoe. The turtle grinned at Tangiia and beckoned him to follow her. Some days later Tangiia arrived safely to the island of Mauke and was greeted by his two loving sisters.

Tangiia and the Sea Turtle

“Tangiia and the Sea Turtle,” illustration courtesy of Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2017.

As time passed on the island of Mauke, Tangiia learnt to control his anger. Instead he used his energies to acquire mana and respect from the Cook Island people. For just as the green sea turtle is confident on land and at sea, so to was Tangiia. He eventually fell in love with a beautiful girl called Mokoroa. They married and raised a family, living many years happily together on a neighboring island called Rarotonga.

Over the coming years Tangiia made many voyages to distant islands, all the time guided through strong currents and great waves by the friendly green sea turtle. When Tangiia died, Tangaroa, the god of the sea, took his spirit to the great god Rongo and asked that the spirit of Tangiia become a god. Rongo agreed and placed Tangiia’s spirit into the onu.

To this day the green sea turtle calls the Cook Islands her home, and can be seen in the seas near Suwarrow, Palmerston, Manihiki, Pukapuka and Aitutaki.

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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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