STORIES OF POKOP OF POHOYOMOU
During the time of our ancestors, important information was passed on to the young in the form of stories. Many of these stories have survived to our day.&nbps; Today, Manus is still a story telling society. But reading and writing are becoming a part of our lives.
With the new skills of reading and writing, it is in our communal, cultural and provincial interests that we write the stories that have survived through time and the new stories that have come about during our time for us to enjoy now and at the same time, leave them for those of the future.
The stories you will read in this book are about the Pokop of Pohyomou. These stories not only talk about Pokop but in talking about Pokop they also teach us something about the customs of the people at that time. The stories are like a treasure box containing interesting information about the past of the people from Yiringou, N'Dranou, Sohoniliu, Bulihan and Kopou.
For example, the story of The Old Woman of Polnom and Pokop of Pohyomou tells us that before the old woman of Polnom came to Pohyomou, a mother giving birth to a child died at childbirth. Women live only as long as the birth of their child. The old woman of Polnom introduced the normal child delivery practice as we know it today.
The stories in the book are typically Manus but should be just as interesting to readers from other parts of Papua New Guinea.
Enjoy the stories and know a little more about Manus. And if you get inspired why not write the stories you know.
Throughout the main island of Manus, there are many stories about the cultural heroes popularly known as Pokops. Unlike heroes who belonged to a family and/or a village, the Pokops just appeared out of nowhere, enjoyed a brief idyllic life, and then disappeared into the world of oblivion. All Pokops were males and none of them had a family history leading up to him and similarly none have left descendants to claim and inherit their famous mountain-top havens. This poses many interesting questions in one's mind about their existence. Did the Pokops really live in the time past or did they exist only in the myths? Why is it that many of them attracted beautiful women and yet left no descendants? Maybe they were what the moderns would call male chauvinists? Or maybe they were a unique breed of human beings who were simply impotent? These are some of the questions that future Manus folklorists and historians would pursue in order to shed light on these famous and yet enigmatic heroes.
The purpose of this small collection is to record some of the stories of the Pokop of Pohyomou prevalent among the Dranou, Yi ringou, Sohoniliu and Kopou villages. The stories tell about how the Pokop of Pohyomou socialized and intermingled with the neighbouring people and his other brother Pokops of Pohonanus, Pwenet and Tarau. Most of the stories have been collected and recorded by Kakah Kais formerly of the Institute of PNG Studies and more recently the Director of the Manus University Centre based in Lorengau. Some of the stories are versions of the sameincident but since they are collected from informants from different villages, both versions have been retained.
Words and phrases used in the stories have come fromare the Lele and Nali languages. The Lele sub-dialect used is the N'Dranou subdialect and the Nali words have come from the sub-dialect used in Sohoniliu, Kopou, Pwihan and previously Yirngou. The choice of language used in the stories has been determined by what village the particular story comes from. For example if the story has come from the village of Sohoniliu in the Nali area the name of the river Pokop crossed would be Yowes but if the story has come from a Lele village the same river would be Yowos.
Obviously, the collection is slim especially when there are hundreds of stories even on the Pokop of Pohyomou alone. But I hope that this small collection will stimulate people from other villages to record their Pokop stories.
This story is about Pokop of Pohyomou. He established three big market places away from his home - one at the mouth of Yukuyiy, another at Kakiniy and the third at the mouth of Yowos. Apart from those three big ones, there were other smaller ones starting from Yukuyiy up to the east. But of all his markets the one he liked best was the one on the mouth of Yowos.
Before he set off on the morning of each market day,his wives roasted his taro, packed them in his basket and off he went. When he reached Sumbrulendriy the Masalai of that place changed himself into a dried log, and lying at a place suitable for resting, the log began to burn. As soon as Pokop saw the burning log he said to himself, "Oh, there's a good fire here so I had better leave my taro here". So he hid his taro among the ferns and proceeded to Yowos .
He arrived at the market on time. The Mwanus were just coming in. He bartered all his produce, wrapped up his fish, and started for Sumbrulendriy. Reaching the place he put his fish down, pulled one out from the wrap and roasted it on the fire. When it was well cooked he took out his roasted taro and began eating. After he was satisfied he threw the fish bones as well as the taro skins onto the burning log. He then left for Pohyomou. Since the sea people brought a lot of fish to Yowos market, he always went there. Every morning of each market day was the same. Before he left for the market his wives roasted his taro and carefully packed them in his basket. Then he set off for the market. He did everything as he had done during the previous market days. He bartered all his produce, and on his way back he rested at Sumbrulendriy, ate to his fill, and dumped the remains on the burning log before leaving for home. He thought everything was well, and therefore was not aware of what the masalai of Sumbrulendriy was planning to do. Pokop did not know that this particular burning log was in fact the burning anus of the masalai. All he thought was that this was a good piece of log and therefore never burnt out. Concluding from that he told himself- "On each market day after bartering my produce I'll rest and eat here before returning home". However, there was a surprise ready for him.
One day after bartering his produce he came to the same resting spot, and repeated what he had done in the past. He roasted his fish, took out his taro and ate it with his fish. He had just finished eating when the log on which the fire was burning, exploded and scattered pieces of burning wood all around him. After that moment of frightening experience he looked about him only to find himself surrounded by fire. Pokop sprang from his sitting position and, leaving everything behind, he leapt over the burning ring of fire and raced off down the track.
The race was on, with Pokop in front and the masalai following in hot pursuit in the form of fire. They went down the valleys and up the hills. Each time Pokop stopped to catch his breath the masalai, in the form of fire, jumped in front of him to stop him escaping. But each time, Pokop gathered enough energy and determination to leap over the fire and race away in front. The whole battle of breath, energy and determination took them past the village of Yundret and down to Polsoheiak Creek ( a little way downstream from the spot we ford on our way to and from Lorengau where there is a pot-hole).
Pokop reached the creek ahead of his pursuer and, taking a deep breath he submerged into a big pot-hole in the creek. As soon as he went under the water the masalai came down to the bank of the creek - still in the form of fire. It jumped from one bank to the opposite bank. Then it went downstream, and not finding any trace of Pokop there it went upstream. It could not find Pokop there either.
However, returning to the central spot the masalai felt that Pokop was in the water. Still in the form of fire the masalai jumped into the creek, but every time he did the fire was immediately extinguished by the water. Without much success the fire then turned into the masalai himself and said, "E saleu! If it were not for the water I could have caught my man. What does he think I am? He eats his fish and throws the bones to me. If it were not for the water I would see you properly". When he said that Pokop of Pohyomou replied from the water, "What? Are you talking to me? You're a masalai and so am I. You think you're a masalai and not me? We both are masalais. We both are males. Now you know - this is masalai against masalai. Eat your man. But as for me, today I shall be at Pohyomou chewing betel nut and lime. You can burn my lime, burn my basket and burn everything else I left on the track back there, but the man himself will be resting at Pohyomou today. You're masalai, I am a masalai".
That is how the story ends and this is the normal length it is told.
Stalk of payai and stalk of tiyiy - cut.
Kakah Kais - 1974
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