How Women Got Their Decorations
Told by Tevu, 1972
There were four people, two women and two men. One day the women went to get prawns from the river. When they had caught prawns, one said, “Where shall we go now?”
The other answered, “Why don’t we go to that place where a man made a prawn trap?”
They went there, where the trap was, they put their hands in the trap, and they took prawns from it. Then they climbed up out of the river.
They saw a tree with many breadfruit on it.
One woman said, “How will we get the breadfruit?”
The other said, “Get a leaf and put it on the ground at the base of the tree.”
That woman lay down on the leaf, on her back. She opened her legs, and something began to emerge from between her legs, something like a snake.
It emerged and climbed up the breadfruit tree’s trunk, just like a vine. It climbed and climbed until it covered all the breadfruit’s branches entirely and when it held them all, the woman said it was ready, and her thing began to carry the breadfuit down.
Her thing began to go back inside her. It went back slowly, slowly. It went inside slowly.
Then it was all back inside her and the breadfruit were on the ground.
The two women went back to the village and cooked the breadfruit. The two men asked, “Where did you get the breadfruit? And how did you get them?”
The women said, “Oh, the wind blew them down, and we picked them up.”
Another day, the two women went again.
One of the men hid himself at the base of the breadfruit tree because he didn’t believe what the women said.
The women went for prawns, as before, and then they went to the breadfruit tree and saw that some new breadfruit had ripened.
The man was waiting at the base of the breadfruit. He was watching.
One woman put another leaf down, and the other woman did as she had done before. When her thing was fully emerged, the man leapt out from where he was hiding. He cut her thing off with a knife and then he cut it into pieces.
The pieces that he cut turned into the long, slender nose-bones and ear-shafts that women decorate themselves with.