The Basket of Souls- Tokelau

Tokelau is an island territory of New Zealand, consisting of three atolls in the South Pacific Ocean and lies about one-half of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand. The three coral atolls are Fakaofo , Nukunonu, and Atafu and arranged in a southeast-to-northwest line. Each atoll consists of numerous islets. The people are Polynesian and are culturally and linguistically linked to Samoa.

Here is a story from the islands of Tokelau. It was found in the book Legends of the South Seas. Enjoy!

The Basket of Souls

Nonu was handsome young man here in Fakaofo who was always out surfing. He would take a piece of old canoe and ride in on the combers- riding, riding, always riding. He lived seaward with his mother Kai.

Lagoonward, not far from Kai’s house, there lived an old woman Kui who had three daughters. Their names were Tauluga, Taulalo, and Sina. These daughters liked the handsome Nonu.

One day Tauluga came across the land to Nonu’s house, but he was out on the surf. His mother came to the reef and called to him, “Someone has come to see you.”

“Who is it that has come?” he asked. When Nonu heard Tauluga’s name he called out, “Send her away. I don’t like her.”

On another day Taulalo came to see if Nonu was home, but he was out surf-riding with his friends. His mother called to him, but when he heard Taulalo’s name he answered, “Send her away. I don’t like her.”

Then on another day came Sina the youngest, and Kai called out to Nonu form the reef to let him know that Sina is here. He rode in on the next wave and came to the house to meet her.

Sina was only a young girl and came to live with Nonu and Kai. She grew up. One day Nonu touched her and asked her, “Am I like a father or a husband to you?” Then the two went off on an island path together. They married and a great feast was held with dancing. Many leis were made. There were necklaces of flowers for everyone. All the relations came to the feast. Even Sina’s sisters, Tauluga and Taulalo were there.

The two sisters sent Nonu a message that they would like some of the leis. Nonu disliked the sisters and declined given them anything. The sisters became enraged. After they had spoken together they stole Nonu’s soul and ran away with it.

Basket of Souls- Tokelau

“The Basket of Souls,” illustration courtesy of Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2018.

Nonu looked dead. Everyone thought he was dead. Not Sina. She said he was only asleep and had him carried to his house and wrapped up in mats. “No one is to touch him. No one disturb him while I’m away,” she said.

Then she ran after her sisters to their mother’s house, but they had left and went away to the family’s coconut trees. “Please call them back for me, Kui,” said Sina to the sister’s mother.

Kui did so. She pretended to be ill and called out to her daughters. When they heard this, Tauluga and Taulalo hurried back to their mother who they thought was ill. When they saw it was only Sina who had come they were enraged and turned away. Their mother said, “You two must wait and hear what Sina wants.”

“I want my husband’s soul which you two took away,” said Sina.

There was a basket of souls hanging in the rafters. Tauluga reached up and took one out and threw it to Sina. “That is not Nonu’s,” said Sina. “I can see his moving in the bottom of the basket. “ In the end they gave her Nonu’s soul. Sina wrapped it up and took it home.

Sina got back to her home and found that no one had interfered with Nonu’s body. It was still wrapped up. She untied the mats, took Nonu’s big toe and began putting his soul back. She pressed it through his toe up through his legs until it reached his head. Nonu lived again.

Nonu and Sina lived quietly together.


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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