Nukunonu Myths and Legends

The Story of the Half Man & Half God

Long long ago, there lived a great man on a beautiful islet of one of the islands of Tokelau, also called Tokelau.

This great man was well known to Tuiwhiti, Tuitonga and Tuimanua as a half man and half god because of his immense mana and strength.

These great chiefs or kings called him Tuimingimingi because of the way he appeared when the strangers visited his island. He often visited his best friend, Tuimanua because they enjoyed playing their favourite game called “utu lupe” catching pigeons by trickery.

One day two Pacific Chiefs Atuainuava and Atua’aitele decided to sail to the Tokelau islet to challenge Tuimingimingi’s mana and strength. The Chiefs sailed with their orators named Ulupo’o and Fe’e. They brought with them the “Fale’ula”, the distributing houses.

Tuimingimingi had a rule about anyone entering the islet or crossing the reef. They had to first ask permission to cross the islet or reef. Atuainuava and Atua’aitele arrived at Tuimingimingi’s islet and tried to cross the reef channel without first seeking permission. Their canoe got stuck on the “whotu” the God of the coral heads and the canoe was broken into pieces by the strong waves. The two Chiefs with their orators had to swim to the beach shore to safety.

When they arrived on the sandy white beach they were so tired because of the strong currents they faced. They did not humble themselves before Tuimingimingi to seek permission once they arrived on the beach. They walked over to Tuimingimingi who was lying on the sand as a shrunk coconut husk. Tuiminigimingi ordered them to go back into the sea to kneel before him and to kneel-walk out of the sea and say “tulou”, excuse me! They listened and did exactly what Tuimingimingi told them. They kneel-walked out of the sea to the “malae”, the meeting house.

They had the meeting and before Atuainuava and Atua’aitele challenged Tuimingimingi, one the orators, Fee, challenged Tuiminigmingi with the game known as the Taua uku, to see who can stay under water the longest.
Fee and Tuimingimingi started before the cocks crowed the following morning and stopped just before the sun set. Two days passed and before noon on the third day Fee gave up and Tuimingimingi had won the first game. Tuimingimingi penalised him for challenging him as he was not yet a Chief. He told him off, changed him into an octopus and ordered him to live in holes, “kaoa”.
Atuainuava then challenged Tuimingimingi in the game of Taua inu kava, who can drink the most kava. Atuainuava thought it was going to be the same kava he used to drink, but unluckily it was niumata, the Tokelauan kava, the very fully and matured coconut.
The same rule applied to this game, it started just before the cock crowed and stopped just before the sun set.
A new rule was added, that no-one was allowed to go to the toilet during the whole game. The same thing happened. Before noon the third day, Atuainuava could not carry on. He vomited and had a very sore and sick stomach. Tuimingimingi ordered him to wait until he finished a game with Atua’aitele.

Atua’aitele challenged Tuiminigimingi in the game called Taua kai, who could eat the most. Atua’aitele thought they were going to have pork, chicken, taro, luau, and breadfruit, but unluckily they had raw lu, the terminal buds of the laumea (a fern). Atua’aitele tried his best on the third day because he knew, Tuimingimingi would give up that day. He was in a very sick state as he longed to go to the toilet. He tried his best to keep holding on but the same thing happened. Before noon, Atua’aitele started vomiting and had a very bad stomach ache. He had pain all over his body and dropped down half dead. Tuimingimingi saved his life because he tried his best. They then went to the malae at Te Mati and Tuimingimingi said to them, “The Faleula will remain here. One of my puikainga will be called the “Whaleula”. This islet, Tokelau, will be divided into a brother and his sister. The titles are omitted and I will take you back to where you came from and warn you not to come back.

I am going to see my best friend Tuimanaua for the last time and I will tell him to announce that I am no longer Tuimingimingi. The future generations of Tokelau will call me Tuitokelau. I will look after and care for them and I will distribute the Tapuvae whenua (landmarks) and Tapua whenua (mana or sacred power) for them.

My people will live in peace and harmony.

No more warriors or strangers can challenge them because the whole island has already been ‘mokotia’ or blessed.”