The Story of Tapuitea

There was a girl by the name of Sina Tapuitea; her brother’s name was To’i-va-i-totonu-o-le-ato-a-tufuga. This girl wanted to eat her brother To’iva. So the boy jumped into the sea and swam to Samoa. Tapuitea followed him. Their swim ended in Falealupo where they reached a sandy flat near Vaotupua.

To’iva arrived first. He went to a place where the waves break on the shore and walked inland to look for a hiding place. He resorted to the following scheme: He did not face his destination but walked backward, so that his sister seeing the footprints would think he had walked towards the sea.

The boy reached a pool called Salia, some distance inland. This water is used as a bathing pool by the people of that part of Falealupo called Vaotupua. Overhanging the pool there stood a fasa - a pandanus tree. To'iva climbed up this tree and hid there.

Sina arrived from her swim and reached the place where To'iva had landed. The girl walked inland to look for her brother. She saw the footprints on the shore, but they pointed towards the sea and not towards the land. Then Sina said to herself, "Ah, To’iva must have returned to the sea to swim to another village."

Then Sina examined closely whether the boy had returned or not. The scheme she used was as follows: She bent down over the footmarks and tasted them with her tongue to find out whether they were salty or sweet. If they tasted salty she would know that To’iva had tricked her; if they tasted sweet, she would know that he was really gone. When she tasted the footprints she found they were salty and know they had been made by a person who had recently left the sea. So the girl hurried and looked everywhere for To'iva’s hiding place.

Finally she reached the pool Salia. She stepped down into it to wash the salt off her body. She was startled when, looking into the water, she saw the reflection of the boy sitting on the fasa tree. Immediately she began gnawing at the shadow. Whenever the boy moved, his shadow moved, too; so the girl jumped at it and opened her mouth wide to devour the boy.

To'iva looked upon his sister’s forceity and said, "Shame on you! Is my sister crazy? You are not very loving, are you?" Sina gazed up at the boy and said, "Alright; come down; I am off." She, indeed, went away.

To the west of Salaia there is a little hill and beyond the hill there is a place called Fa’agalo. When the lady had passed the hill, she looked whether the boy had descended the tree, purposing to go back and devour him. She saw that To'iva was just coming down; so she retraced her steps and waited. The boy saw his sister return.

Then To'iva said to her, "Sina, where is your affection? You were on the point of going away and now you return again." Sina replied, "Alright, To’iva. Come down; I will depart. I am going to leave you and I will not return. This is my parting promise; I will go up to the heavens. When I appear in the east, you shall set out to net pigeons. (She thus appears as the morning star.) When you see me in the west, you shall take your supper." (This is the evening star.)

These parting words are now referred to by the orators as "The promise given by the pandanua tree."

George Thurman, 1999