THE ORIGINAL MYTHOLOGY OF SAMOA

Creation Myths

The following are two versions of the traditional Samoan myths of creation. The first version is considered to be the more original since it was recorded only shortly after the arrival of Christian missionaries, and is therefore likely to be less tainted by their influence. The second version below is much shorter and easier to understand, since it is provided as a straightforward narrative.

           

The mythology of Kiribati also incorporates their own version of the mythology of Samoa. This is as a consequence of the Kiribati ancestors being seen as having their mythological roots in Samoa. This version is built around Nareau the Kiribati equivalent to the Samoan god Tagaloa. Click here for the Kiribati version of Samoan Myth of Creation.

The Myths of Creation

The god Tagaloa dwelt in the Expanse; he made all things; he alone was (there); not any sky, not any country; he only went to and fro in the Expanse; there was also no sea, and no earth; but, at the place where he stood there grew up a rock. Tagaloa-fa'atutupu-nu'u (creator) was his name; all things were about to be made, but him, for all things were not yet made; the sky was not made nor any thing else, but there grew up a Rock on which he stood.

  

Then Tagaloa said to the Rock, "Be thou split up." Then was brought forth Papa-ta'oto (lying rock); after that, Papa-sosolo (creep-ing rock); then Papa-lau-a'au (reef rock); then Papa-'ano-'ano (thick rock); then Papa-'ele (clay rock); then Papa-tu (standing rock); then Papa-'amu-'amu (coral rock) and his children.

But Tagaloa stood facing the west, and spoke to the Rock. Then Tagaloa struck the Rock with his right hand, and it split open towards the right side. Then the Earth was brought forth (that is the parent of all the people in the world), and the sea was brought forth. Then the Sea covered the Papa-sosolo; and Papa-nofo (that is, Papa-ta'oto) said to Papa-sosolo, "Don't bless me; the sea will soon reach you too. All the rocks in the manner called him blessed.

Then Tagaloa turned to the right side, and the fresh-water sprang up. Then Tagaloa spoke again to the Rock, and the Sky was produced. He spoke again to the Rock and Tui-te'e-lagi (sky proper) was brought forth; then came forth llu, 'Immensity', and Mamao, 'Space', (that was a woman); then came Niuao (clouds).

Tagaloa spoke again to the Rock; then Lua-ao (two clouds), a boy, came forth. Tagaloa spoke again to the Rock, and Lua-vai (water hole), a girl, came forth. Tagaloa appointed these two to the Sa-tua-lagi (behind the sky).

Then Tagaloa spoke again, and Aoa-lala (aoa, a native tree branch), a boy was born and (next) Ao-gao-le-tai (open sea), a girl; then came Man; then came the Spirit; then the Heart; then the Will; then Thought.

That is the end of Tagaloa's creations which were produced from the Rock; they were only floating about on the sea; there was no fixedness there.

Then Tagaloa made an ordinance to the rock and said:

(1) Let the Spirit and the Heart and Will and Thought go on and join together inside the Man; and they joined together there and man became intelligent. And this was joined to the earth ('ele-ele'), and it was called Fatu-ma-le-'Ele-'ele (Heart and the Earth), as a couple, Fatu the man, and 'Ele-'ele, the woman.

(2) Then he said to Immensity and Space, "Come now; you two be united up above in the sky with your boy Niuao, then they went up; there was only a void, nothing for the sight to rest upon.

(3) Then he said to Lua-ao and Lua-vai, "Come now, you two, that the region of fresh-water may be peopled.

(4) But he ordains Aoa-lala and Gao-gao-le-tai to the sea, that they too may people the sea.

(5) And he ordains Le-fatu and Le-'Ele-'ele, that they people this side; and he points them to the left-hand side, opposite to Tualagi. Then Tagaloa said to Tui-te'e-lagi, "Come here now; that you may prop up the sky." Then lt was propped up; it reached up on high. But it fell down becausc he was not able for it. Then Tui-te e-lagi went to Masoa (starch) and Teve (a plant with very bitter roots); he brought them and used them as props; then he was able. (The masoa and the teve were the first plants that grew, and other plants came afterwards). Then the sky remained up above, but there was nothing for the sight to rest upon. There was only the far-receding sky, reaching to Immensity and Space.

The Production of the Nine Heavens

Then Immensity and Space brought forth offspring; they brought forth Po and Ao, 'Night and Day', and this couple was ordained by Tagaloa to produce the 'Eye of the Sky', (the Sun). Again Immensity and Space brought forth Le-lagi (the sky); that is the Second Heavens; for Tui-te'e-lagi went forth to prop it up and the sky became double; and Immensity and Space remained there, and they peopled the sky. Then again Lagi (sky), brought forth, and Tui-te'e-lagi went forth and propped it up; that was the Third Heavens; that was peopled by Immensity and Space. Then Lagi bore again; that was the fourth Heavens. Tui-te'e-lagi went forth to prop it up; that heaven also was peopled by llu and Mamao. Then Lagi bore again; that was the Fifth Heavens. Then went forth Tui-te'e-lagi to prop it up; that heaven also was peopled by llu and Mamao. Lagi brought forth again, that was the Sixth Heavens. And Tui-te'e-fagi went and propped it up; that heaven was peopled by Ilu and Mamao. Then Lagi bore again that was the Seventh Heavens. And Tui-te'e-lagi went forth and propped it up; that heaven was peopled by llu and Mamao. Then Lagi again brought forth; that was called the Eighth Heavens. Tui-te'e-lagi went to prop up that heaven and that heaven was peopled by Ilu and Mamao. Then again Lagi brought forth; that was the Ninth Heavens; and it was propped up by Tui-te'e-lagi; and that heaven was peopled by Ilu and Mamao; then ended the productiveness of Ilu and Mamao; it reached to the Ninth Heavens.

The Production of Other Gods

Then Tagaloa sat (still); he is well known as Tagaloa-fa'a-tutupu-nu'u; then he created Tagaloa-le-fuli (stable Tagaloa), and Tagaloa- asiasi-nu'u (Tagaloa the visitor), and Tagaloa-tolo-nu'u (Tagaloa the village creeper), and Tagaloa-savali (Tagaloa the walker), and Tuli (a seabird) also, and Logonoa (deaf).

Then said Tagaloa the creator to Tagaloa-le-fuli, Come here; be thou chief in the heavens." Then Tagaloa, 'the immoveable' was chief in the heavens.

Then Tagaloa, the creator said to Tagaloa-savali, `the messenger', "Come here; be thou ambassador in all the heavens, beginning from the Eighth Heavens down to the First Heavens, to tell them all to gather together in the Ninth Heavens, where Tagaloa, the immoveable, is chief." Then proclamation was made that they should go up to the Ninth Heavens, and Chen visit below the children of Night and Day in the first Heavens.

Then Tagaloa, the messenger, went down to Night and Day in the first Heavens, and asked them thus:- "Have you two any children appointed to you?" And they answered, "Come here; these two are our children, appointed to us, Lagi-uli (black sky) and Lagi-ma (clear sky)."

All the stars also were their offspring, but we do not have the names of all the stars (the stars had each its own name), for they are forgotten now, because they dropped out of use. And surely the last injunction of Tagaloa, the creator, to Nigbt and Day was that they should produce the Eye-of-the-Sky. That was the reason Tagaloa, the messenger, went down to ask Night and Day in the first Heavens (if they had any children).

Then answered Night and Day, "Come now; there remain four boys that are not yet appointed, Manu'a, Samoa, the Sun, and the Moon."

These are the boys that originated the names of 5amoa and Manu'a; these two were the children of Night and Day. The name of the one is Sa-tia-i-le-moa, 'obstructed by the chest'; the meaning of which is this:- the boy seemed as if he would not be born, because he was caught by the chest; therefore it was he was called Sa-tia-i-le-moa; that is, Samoa; the other was born with one side abraded ('manu'a' ); then said Day to Night "Why is this child so greatly wounded?" therefore the child was called `Manu'a-tele'.

Then said Tagaloa, the messenger, "lt is good; come now; go up into the Ninth Heavens, you four; all are about to gather together there to form a Council; go up you two also." Then they all gathered together in the Ninth Heavens; the ground where they held the Council was Malae-a-Toto'a, the council ground of Tranquility.

Then various decrees were made in the Ninth Neavens; the children of Ilu and Mamao were appointed all of them to be builder and to come down ,from the Eighth Heavens to this (earth) below; perhaps they were ten thousand in all that were appointed to be builders; they had one name all were (called) Tagaloa. Then they built houses for the Tagaloa; but the builders did not reach to the Ninth Heavens - the home of Tagaloa-le-fuli - which was called the 'Bright House' (fale-ula).

Then said Tagaloa, the creator, to Night and Day: "Let those two boys go down below to be chiefs over the offsprings of Fatu and 'Ele-'ele." But to the end of the names of the two boys was attached the name of Tagaloa-le-fuli who is king ('tupu') of the Ninth Heavens; hence the Samoan kings ('tupu') were named 'Tui of Manu'a-tele ma Samoa atoa' (King of Manu'a and whole of Samoa).

Then Tagaloa, the creator, said to Night and Day:- Let those two boys, the Sun and the Moon, go and follow you two; when day comes; let the Sun follow; also when Night comes, the Moon too comes on. These two are the shades of Tagaloa; they are well known in all the world; the Moon is the shade of Tagaloa; but thus runs the decree of Tagaloa, the creator. "Let there be one portion of the heavens, in which they pass along, in like manner also shall the Stars pass along."

Then Tagaloa, the messenger, went to and fro to visit the land, his visit began in the place where are (now) the Eastern groups, these groups were made to spring up; then he went off to cause the group of Fiji to group up; but the space between seemed so far off that he could not walk it; then he stood there and turned his face to the Sky, (praying) to Tagaloa, the creator, and Tagaloa, the immovable; Tagaloa looked down to Tagaloa the messenger, and he made the Tongan group spring up; then that land sprung up.

Then he turns his face to this Manu'a; and looks up to the heavens, for he is unable to move about; then Tagaloa, the creator and Tagaloa, the immovable, looked down and caused Savai'i to spring up, then that land grew up.

Then Tagaloa, the messenger, went back to the heavens, and said "We have (now) got countries, the Eastern group and the Fiji group and the Tongan group, and Savai'i." Then, as all these lands were grown up, Tagaloa, the creator, went down in a black cloud to look at the countries, and he delighted in them; and he said: "it is good," then he stood on the top of the mountains to tread them down, that the land might be prepared for people to dwell in. Then he returned (on high). And Tagaloa, the creator, said (to Tagaloa, the messenger), "Come now; go back by the road you came; take people to possess the Eastern groups; take Atu (group) and Sasa'e (Eastern)"; that is a pair, they were conjointly Atu-Sasa'e; these two people came from the heavens among the children of Tagaloa.

Then Tagaloa, the messenger, went again to the Fiji group; he also again took two persons, a pair - their names were Atu and Fiji - from among all the children of Tagaloa; so that group of islands was called Atu-Fiji.

Then he turned his face towards Tonga, he took (with him) a couple; their names were Atu and Tonga; these two peopled that group of islands; their names were the Atu-Tonga; these two were the people of Tagaloa.

Then Tagaloa, the messenger, came back to this Manu'a, to Le- Fatu and Le-'Ele-'ele and their children; because the command of Tagaloa, the creator, (had gone forth) from the heavens, that Le-Fatu and Le-'Ele-'ele should go there to people this side of the world. Then went out Valu'a and Ti-apa to people Savai'i; these two are the children of Le-Fatu and Le-'Ele-'ele; these two people are from this Manu'a; Savai'i and this Manu'a are one; these two were the parents of I'i and Sava; I'i was the girl, and Sava was the boy; that island was peopled by them, and was named Savai'i.

And Tagaloa, the messenger, went again to this Manu'a; then he stood and faced the sky, as if he were making a prayer; then Tagaloa, the creator looked down, and the Land of Upolu sprang up. Then Tagaloa, the messenger, stood and again faced the heavens towards Tagaloa, the creator; and Tagaloa, the creator, looked down from the heavens, and the land of Tutuila sprang up.

Then Tagaloa, the messenger, turned to the heavens, and said "Two lands are now gotten for me to rest in." And Tagaloa, the creator, said, "Come now, go you with the Peopling vine; take it and place it outside in the sun, leave it there to bring forth; when you see it has brought forth, tell me." Then he took it and placed it in Salea-au- mua, a council ground, which is now called the Malae-of-the-sun. Then Tagaloa, the messenger, was walking to and fro; and he visited the place where the Fue was; he went there and it had brought forth. Then he went back again to tell Tagaloa, the creator that the Fue had brought forth. Then Tagaloa, the creator, first went down; he went to it; he looked and it had brought forth something like worms; wonderful was the multitude of worms; then Tagaloa, the creator, shred them into stripes, and fashioned them into members, so that the head, and the face, and the hands, and the legs were distinguishable; the, body was now complete, like a man's body; he gave them heart and spirit; four persons grew up so this land was peopled; there grew up Tele and Upolu, which are the children of the Fue; Tutu and Ila that is a pair; these are the children of Fue; four persons Tele and Upolu, Tutu and Ila. Tele and Upolu were placed to pople the land of Upolu-tele; but Tutu and Ila, they two were to people the land now called Tutuila.

Fue, the son of Tagaloa, that came down from heaven, had two names, Fue-Tagata and Fue-sa; he peopled the two flat lands.

Then Tagaloa gave his parting command thus; "Always show respect to Manu'a; if any one does not, he will be overtaken by calamity; but let each one do as he likes with his own lands."

The Alternative Mythology of Creation

The son of Tagaloa was Tuli, and he in the shape of a bird went down from the heavens to the surface of the ocean, but finding no place to rest he returned and complained to his father, who thereon threw down a stone, which became land, or, according to another account, fished up the stone from the bottom of the sea with a fish-hook. The son took possession of this his dwelling-place, but found that it was partly overflowed by the swell of the ocean, so that he had to move from place to place to avoid becoming wet. This annoying him, he returned to the skies and again complained, when Tagaloa by means of his fish-hook raised the rock higher: The name of it was Papa-taoto (the Reclining Rock); it was succeeded by Papa-sosolo (the Spreading Rock), and Papa-tu (the Upright Rock). The rock was covered with earth, or mould, which was then overspread with grass. After this a fue (convolvulus) grew and overcame the grass. Having obtained his land, Tuli returned to Tagaloa as there was no man to reside on it. His father said to him, " You have got your land; what grows on it " Tuli answered, "The fue." His father bade him go and pull it up, which he did; and on its rotting it produced two grubs, which moved a little as Tuli watched them, when again he returned to the heavens and told Tagaloa what had taken place. Upon this he was told to return, taking with him Tagaloa-tosi (or Gai-tosi) and Tagaloa-va'a-va'ai (or Gai-va'a-va'ai), who were set to work on the two grubs. They shaped them into the forms of men, beginning at the head, and naming each part as finished. Both were males. One day, while net-fishing, one of them was injured by a small fish called the Io, which caused his death.

Again Tuli returned to the heavens, and complained that one of his inhabitants was lost to him. Gai-tosi was told to return to earth and reanimate the dead body, first changing the sex from male to female. The two beings formed from the grubs then became man and wife, and from them sprang the human race.

Following the example set by Tuli, the descendants from these two made occasional visits to Tagaloa, returning to earth with some benefaction. Losi in this way is said to have brought the taro to man.

Tuli is also known as Kuri, when he is called a daughter of Tagaloa, and as a bird flew down to look for dry land. She found a spot, visiting it frequently as it extended, and at one time brought down the earth and the creeping plant to grow in it.

A 'Solo'

Rollers flooding, rollers dashing,
Rollers fighting, rollers clashing; -
The sweep of waters and the extension of waves,
Surging high, but breaking not; -
Waves reclining; waves dispersing;
Waves agreeable; waves that cross not;
Waves frightsome; waves leaping over;
Waves breaking; waves warring;
Waves roaring; waves upheaving;
The peopled waves; waves from east to west.
Whose companion is the wandering current.
Rollers flooding, rollers dashing,
Rollers fighting, rollers clashing; -
The sweep of waters and the extension of waves,
Surging high, but breaking not; -
Waves reclining; waves dispersing;
Waves agreeable; waves that cross not;
Waves frightsome; waves leaping over;
Waves breaking; waves warring;
Waves roaring; waves upheaving;
The peopled waves; waves from east to west.
Whose companion is the wandering current.
 

'O Tagaloa, who sittest at the helm (of affairs),
Tagaloa's (bird, the Tuli) desires to rest;
Tuli from the ocean must rest in the heavens;
These waves below affright my breast.
Where is the land which first upsprang?
Great Manu'a first uprose.
Beats on (Manu'a) rock his well-loved waves;
On it the Moon's desired light looks down;
The Sun, like statue, changeless found,
(Darts his refulgent beams around).
The waters in their place appear;
The sea, too, occupies its sphere;
The heaven ascends, the sky is clear.
To visit (the scene) Tagaloa comes down;
To the west, to the east, his wailing cry he sends,
A strong desire to have a place whereon to stand
Possesses him; (he bids the lands arise).
Savai'i with its high mountain then sprang up,
And up sprang Fiti and all the Tongan group;
Arose Savai'i; and afterwards,
The Tongan group and the group of Fiji,
Together with the group of small lands;
With the home of Alamisi (the two Samatas Arose)
- Samata-inland and Samata-by-the-sea;
The seats of Tagaloa, and his footstool.
But great Manu'a first grew up -
The resting place of Tagaloa -
After that, all other groups of islands.
 

Abide in thy mountains, these visit and rest;
abide, Tagaloa, on Manua's high crest,
But fly now and then to thy group in the west;
To measure and compare the space
Which lies between, from place to place.
The ocean between is long and breezy;
Terrific waves affright Tagaloa;
'Oh for a little coral strand.' thus to heaven he cries;
Upolu, a very small bit of rock,
And Tutuila, a little stony land,
Are isles that thereupon immediately arise;
Where chiefs in after times may find a place of rest;
And gods, tho' pinched for room, have many a feast.
 

And hither came from heaven the peopling vine,
Which gave to Tutuila its inhabitants,
And to Atua and A'ana, with Le-tuamasaga in Upolu.
 

The bodies only move, they have no breath,
Nor heart's pulsation.
The godlike Tagaloa learns (in heaven) above,
The sacred vine to gender life has now begun,
But that its offspring only wriggle in the sun;
No legs, no arms they have;
No head, no face,
Nor heart's pulsation
Tagaloa then, descending to the west,
Speaks but the word and it is done:
These fruits, the product of the vine are worms,
But them I fashion into member'd forms,
To each of you from above I now impart a will
Opacity must be the portion of your bodies still,
Your faces, they must shine, (I so ordain),
That they may Tagaloa entertain
When he comes down to walk this earth again.
 

O Great Fiti, with all thy eastern isles.
And thy mountains scattered throng,
You each and all to Great Manu'a look:-
Fiti, Tonga, the Slippery Rock,
The spreading Masoa
Which raised again the fallen heavens;
Savai'i, leafy like the teve,
In vain displays its lofty range;
She cannot supplant the firm seed stone of Manu'a
(Their father) the Stone, and (their mother) the Earth.
 

The Rock produced and sooncould show
At least ten hundred sons.
Let none the truth again say (in unbelief)
Alele was Manu'a's first known chief;
The son of Tagaloa; he wrought unrighteous judgment.
Where is that land which first upsprang?
I answer, great Manu'a first upsrang.
The eastern point Saua is thy eastern bound
At Ofu and Tufue'e thy west limits are found.
 

Descend, ye gods, to the fono of Confusion.
But rest quietly at the fono of Tranquility.
Here Tagaloa the Builder's council was convened,
The council of the circle of the chiefs on high -
While thus he spake a solemn silence reigned:
'Let the Builder have the first kava cup in the circle,
Then perfect will be the ship whose keel is laid!
To heaven's disposal leave all fish besides
But offering unto Tagaloa made must be bonito.
Let fisher Losi ply his craft the wide seas o'er,
But offer unto heaven the choicest of his store.
And ye of Tagaloa's race, when ye desire to meet,
May make the heavens your noble council seat,
Or fono of the Rock, or where Confusion reigned,
Or peaceful fono which Tranquility is named;
The fono of Asia, the fono of Assembly,
Or of Lologo, or Pule-faatasi.
At fono of Tranquility, yaur councils you must hold,
When ye build ship or house;
But whether ship or house be first, (this is my will).
In heaven will Tagaloa sit at peace, with his peers,
Rut the Builder and his workmen will come down.
Pray, who was first, a work so honoured to begin!
The first to own a ship was great Manu'a's king.
This errand brought the people of the Builder down -
A class of workmen as ten thousand known,
With Architect-in-Chief, but one alone.
The rafter-breaking god came down,
(With wrath inflamed and angry trown;)
Alas! my building all complete
Is scattered in confusion great.

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Jane Resture
(E-mail: jane@janeresture.com -- Rev. 22nd November 2012)