How the Bat Got Its Wings

Our first Pacific Islands Legend of the new year comes to us from Fiji. I found the story in the book Tales from the South Seas. Bats in the region are also known as the flying fox, and believe me, some of them seem to be as big as a fox! If you ever wondered how the bat got its wings, then, please, read on…

How the Bat Got Its Wings

In the olden days there was a rat who became tired of running to and fro upon his short little legs. He envied the beautiful wings of the heron, and watched it fly from rock to rock as it fished for food at low tide. One day he thought of a plan, and asked the heron to have a race with him, and the heron agreed. They chose a bay where the sand was firm and on which the rat could run easily, and the heron allowed the rat to start first.

“You are very kind,” said the rat. “See, here under this tree it is cool and shady. Rest here awhile and sleep a little, for you fly so swiftly. When you think that I have gone about half way, wake up and follow, for it will not be difficult for you to catch up with me with those strong wings of yours.”


“How the Bat Got Its Wings,” Illustration courtesy of Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2017.

So the heron folded his wings and went to sleep under the tree and the rat set off in the direction of the winning-stone. He had not gone far, however, before he stopped and looked round to see if the heron was asleep. Then running back he quietly started to gnaw off the heron’s wings. The heron having eaten a large meal slept soundly and did not wake. When the rat had finished has task he fastened the wings to his own furry body, turning himself into a “flying fox” or bat, and flew off.

By and by the heron awoke, and finding that his wings had gone he uttered sad cries and ran about peering here and there under stones and behind bushes looking for them, but not even a feather could he find.

It is said that in olden days there was a wingless bird in these islands that looked like the kiwi. We have not seen him nor do we know where he has gone. But ask the bat- he knows!

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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