Ina and the Shark- Cook Islands

Last month I posted about how the Cook Islands’ $3 bank note was nominated for the 2021 Bank Note of the Year by the International Bank Note Society. Although the Cook Islands’ $3 bill lost to a bank note from Mexico, it still shows an intriguing legend from the island nation that I thought I would share. The story below was supplied by Ben Bergman… Enjoy!

The legend of Ina and the Shark

Folklore has it that in Eastern Polynesia there was a god of the Ocean called Tinirau. He lived on a floating island called the Sacred Isle Motu-Tpau and his loved one Ina is told of in a song from the island of Mangaia.

The story goes that Ina plunged into the sea to search for Tinirau and first called on the fish to help her. They were too small and she was tipped into the shallow lagoon. Four attempts got her no further than the outer reef and the fish that tried to help her were permanently marked by the beatings she gave them. Then a sea-going shark agreed to carry her on his back.

Ina and the Shark-Cook Islands

“Ina and the Shark,” Illustration by Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2022.

On the journey she felt thirsty and the shark raised his dorsal fin so that she could crack her first coconut. This she did and satisfied her thirst. Again she grew thirsty and this time, as depicted in the design, she cracked the coconut on the shark’s head.

At once the shark shook her off and dived and she was only rescued when Tekea the Great, the king of all sharks, rose from the depths, drove off the other sharks, and took her to Tinirau’s island. However the blow she gave to her first benefactor raised a bump on the shark’s head and to this day that is called Ina’s bump.

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