Polynesia's octopus & rat myth

another clem

Jun 26, 2003
Hello all. I thought some of you might enjoy the Polynesian myth that explains the origin of the octopus lure and also how octopuses came to have ink in their bodies. I learned it in Tonga, but it's told all over the South Pacific.

Many years ago, on a Polynesian beach, the rat took a nap in a dugout canoe. He awoke hours later to find that he'd been pulled out to sea by the outgoing tide. Worried that he would never see land again, he began to cry for help. The octopus ascended from his lair to investigate.
"Please help me!" the rat pleaded. "Carry me to shore and I'll give you a reward."
The octopus agreed, and the rat hopped on his head to be shuttled ashore. Upon reaching the beach the rat hopped off and scurried away, cackling wickedly.
"Hey," the octopus yelled. "Where's my reward!?"
"I gave it to you," the rat replied. "Check the top of your head!"
The octopus felt the top of his head and.....

Ever since, the rat has been the sworn enemy of the octopus. (And the octopus has dark stuff in his "head.") Fishermen took advantage of this animosity by crafting rat-shaped lures out of cowrie shell, stone, twigs, and twine. In Tonga this lure is called the maka feke, or "octopus stone."
Small squid and cuttlefish go by the general name nguu feke. The brittle star is called feke teevolo, or "devil octopus" - a name that must've come about after the missionaries swooped in and forever made Sundays no fun at all.
Avast Brother Clem,

The moral of the story: octopus are too kind, and need to be meaner. No squid would ever take that **** lying down. "Mystery Squid 2" would have slapped that rat up and down Vava'u's shoreline.

Many thanks for that great tale, Taniela.



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