The Turtles of Koro- Fiji

You may or may not recall that the very first legend that was posted on this blog was about the turtles of Koro Island in Fiji. Koro is a volcanic island that is shaped like a shark’s tooth and sits in the middle of the Fijian islands. In 2016 Category 5 Cyclone Winston devastated the island. After a slow recovery, island life is returning to normal.

Below is another story about the famous, yet, mysterious turtles of Koro. The legend can be found in the book Tales from the South Seas. Enjoy!

The Turtles of Koro

This is the story of the vonu nut, and why it resembles a turtle shell. On the island of Koro the people of Nacamaki village have the power to call up turtles from the depth of the sea and to lure them ashore. Dressed for the occasion and garlanded with flowers, they perform an ancient ceremony with chanting and clapping of hands. When it is over, many turtles rise to the surface and swim to land. It was the law in the olden days that all members of that tribe must go away from the scene when the ceremony was over and not return until the following day. If they should fail to obey this law, some evil would be sure to overtake them.

Now among the men present at a certain time, there was one, long ago, who scoffed at the ancient law and did not believe in the ceremony. So he decided to wait and see what happened after the turtles came ashore and his friends had returned to their homes. So at the conclusion of the chanting, he slipped away without being noticed and hid among the mangrove bushes until everyone had departed.

After a while, coming out from his hiding place he peered about cautiously and was just in time to see a figure rise from the water and come out of the sea towards the land. The figure was cloaked in mist and walked slowly along the beach. Quaking with fear the man followed silently behind, hoping to find out whether the mysterious stranger was bound, but after going a few yards the figure turned and saw him.

The Turtles of Koro (Fji)

“The Turtles of Koro,” illustration courtesy of Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2018.

“Rash and foolish man,” it said. “You have not listened to the wise ones, and have broken the law and followed me, therefore, you shall be punished. So that it will be a lesson to others you shall be turned into a tree, the seeds of which shall resemble a turtle. These seeds shall serve as a reminder to those who are of a disbelieving nature.”

After it said this, the stranger disappeared, and where the man had stood a short time before, there quickly grew a tree. All who saw it wondered at the fruit, for the hard shells of the seeds closely resembled the back of a turtle.

To this day these trees grow and flourish on the island of Koro.

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