The Phantom Canoe- Fiji

I could’ve saved this next legend for Halloween time, but it’s too good to wait. The story comes from Fiji, and it’s a ghostly tale that also has witches and giant clams. How can I wait to share? Enjoy!

The Phantom Canoe

The Phantom Canoe (Fiji)

“The Phantom Canoe,” Illustration courtesy of Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2020.

The young chief Raluve and his grandmother lived all alone on the island of Burotukula. Although he was greatly loved by his grandmother it was a lonely life for a young man. Sometimes young women came over from other islands by canoe, but the ever-vigilant grandmother made sure that no girl was ever left alone with Raluve.

Occasionally, Raluve complained so much that he and his grandmother paid a visit to other islands; but while they were away from home the grandmother was as watchful of him as ever.

It was but natural that such a handsome and closely guarded young man should become attractive to girls, and he had many admirers. Some who were of noble birth sent servants to him with gifts, and it is said that every day canoes arrived at Burotukula, piled high with coconuts, yams, woven mats, tapa cloth, shells and turtles. Sometimes the servant brought whale’s teeth and presented them ceremonially, with a request that Raluve should marry the sender. The young man himself was not tempted by these gifts; he always gave a whale’s tooth to the servant and asked to be excused.

One day while he was bathing in a pool of fresh water near his home, he was startled by a loud cry. The sound seemed to come from his own house. He ran there as quickly as he could, and was horrified to see that two witches were clutching his grandmother by the throat. In a few moments she would have been strangled.

As soon as Raluve appeared they dropped the old lady, slipped through the door, and scuffled quickly away, with Raluve in hot pursuit. They sped along the reef with Raluve following, but unfortunately he did not notice that a great clam shell, or vasua, was lying there, and he put his foot right inside it. The valves clamped shut, and the young chief was caught firmly by the foot. The witches disappeared in the distance and he was left alone on the reef with his foot caught firmly in the giant clam, knowing that before long the tide would rise and he would be drowned.

It was fortunate for the young man that at this time a lovely young chieftainess from a nearby island happened to be traveling in her canoe in search of shellfish from the reef. Seeing his plight she went to his rescue, and managed to release him. It was a happy day for both Raluve and the young woman who had come to his rescue. It was a terrible danger that had brought them together, but it was love that bound them closer to one another.

Supported by the girl, they young man hobbled ashore and managed to persuade his old grandmother, who had now recovered from the witches’ attack, that it would be a good thing if they were to get married.

The wedding was held on the island where the bride lived, and Raluve was accompanied by his grandmother. Feasts and dancing and songs continued until late in the night. But when the celebrations were over, Raluve and his wife said farewell and prepared to leave for their own island home. The bride’s relatives invited the grandmother to stay with them a little longer as their guest, and with difficulty she was persuaded to stay. It may well be that it was a lucky decision for the old woman!

The morning sun shone and the sea sparkled as everyone crowded down to the beach to see the happy couple aboard their canoe. When the last farewells were said, the little craft sped across the lagoon, and the cries of, “Moce,” or goodbye followed it as the wind filled the three-cornered sail, and it glided through the gap in the reef.

The canoe did not reach the island. It was never seen again. Raluve and his bride disappeared, and the canoe became a phantom canoe, which is never seen by day. But at night the canoe still sails amongst the islands and coral reefs of Fiji.

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