The Sweetheart of the Flower

This month’s legend comes to us from the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. It tells us the story about how flowers close at night. The legend comes from the book Tales Told in Hawaii. Enjoy!

The Sweetheart of the Flowers

Long ago when the world was young, Koikoi the strong, Koikoi the handsome, lived on one of the islands of the Pacific. He was as brown as the trunk of the cocopalm. His eyes were browner still and they danced with happiness for he loved the earth, the sky, and the sea. He played in the water as a fish does; in the forest as a child does. He could work too. He could fell a tree and hew out a canoe as no other man could, for the mountains loved him. He could tell stories of the gods that no man had ever heard before, for the sky loved him and formed cloud pictures for him alone to read.

Now Koikoi was the first man in all the world to love the flowers. Other men walked over them as if they were grass. Other men did not notice their perfumes nor rejoice that flowers lived forever. They did not wear them for ornaments as they do now. They were ashamed to. But Koikoi loved the flowers. He said they were beautiful women and he called them his sweethearts who bloomed for him alone.

The Sweetheart of the Flowers (Marquesas Islands)

“The Sweetheart of the Flowers,” illustration courtesy of Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2019.

One day Koikoi the strong, Koikoi the handsome, wreathed himself in flower anklets and wristlets, and flower leis, and put a gardenia behind his ear. He looked at himself in a pool and was so pleased with the beauty of his sweethearts that he danced for joy. The gods of earth, sky and sea held their breath. The Great God of Silent Places looked down to see why earth was so quiet. He saw Koikoi faint, for the God of Winds had forgotten to breathe.

The Great God of Silent Places sent down curtains of mist and when they lifted, the flower women saw their sweetheart walking up the rainbow to join the gods. Great was the grief of Koikoi’s sweethearts. For the first time since the world began, tear scorched their petals which fell limply against their green leaves.

And to this day flowers wilt every night remembering their lost sweetheart.

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