POKOP - stories of this historic, mythic, folk-hero and introducing the cultural history of a section of Manus people:  the people of Nali, Ere, Kele & Lelemasih who identify with the Pokop stories.


Compiled & Edited by:  Dr. Bernard Minol
[with glossary]

Note - the printed and illustrated version of this book is available from the University of Papua New Guinea Press

In this book, Dr. Bernard Minol records not just stories about a historic Pokop but also introduces the readers into the cultural history of a section of Manus people.  People of Nali, Ere, Kele and Lelemasih identify with the stories.



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.

Stephen P. Pokawin
Member of Parliament
Manus Open Electorate
July 1996


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.

Bernard Minol, University of Papua New Guinea


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




GLOSSARY of Stories Of Pokop Of Pohoyomou

Aria - That's it. Lele equivalent is "akara"

Cut buai - An expression in Nali and Lele languages which literally means to distribute buai. When you get distributed a buai you accept the responsibility of bringing food etc to the feast or function.

Dranou - A Lele village on the Highway. It isabout half an hour's drive from Lorengau. Also spelt N'Dranou.

Hihisuu - A most important, or vantage, spot on a piece of land where a ritual dedication usually takes place before it is cleared for gardening. Usually the crop for the new garden is taro.

Kakiniy - This is the name of a small river on the South of Manus - in the Nohang area just west of Patusi and Old Pere. In the past it was an important market between the inland villagers and the Titans of Patusi and Pere.

Kaliu - A place in the Yiriu (Yiliu) village.It is near the famous Pokop haven of Pwenet.

Karuka - Rain coat made from pandanus leaf (Tok Pisin)

Kaluu - An old name of the mouth of river Lawes (Yowos, Yowes). In the old times an important market thrived there.

Kawar - Tok Pisin word for ginger

Keyau - This is a wooden bed for lapans or chiefly people. Occupies a prominent position in the men's house. Only lapan men's houses have rights to have Keyaus.

Konga - A fictional land and or place outsideof Manus where the dogs settled when they left Manus.

Kopou - A Nali village. It is towards the south coast, about half an hour by car from M'Bunai village. Sometimes speltKapou.

Koyau - A tapa cloth-like garment made from bark of a tree usually worn by women.

Kuiniy - I (will) eat it


Line - This refers to family, relatives. Family group

Liyiu - A term used in both Nali and Lele languages which refers to a certain type of bad spirits or devils.

Masah - A big feast in which the bride price is paid

Mwalah - Light shower. Rain which comes with the sun.

Nambuyum - Your wife or husband. Same as Nali

Nasi - Nali word meaning "grandmother". Lele equivalent is "tato"

N'Dau - Lele word for wild ton. Tok Pisin is pakpak

N'Drawiying - Head rest. Same in Nali/Lele

N92Drop - Manus woven basket. Lele equivalent is n'dop. It is also the name of the tree whose bark is used for the basket.

Nolou - Cordelyne. Tok Pisin name is tanget.

Par - Tree stump, trunk; stalk of a rope. Nali equivalent is "para".

Nosum - Your in law. Same in Nali but produced differently.

Pasinei - Platform used for ceremonial performance during masah and yon. Usually carved and decorated.

Pram - Lengths of valuable beads used in Manus as a means of exchange

Payai - Lele and Nali name for a creeper which is found throughout Manus. It is the most used creeper in the inland villages and both its leaves and sap have medicinal values.

Parahiy - Lele and Nali word for "ginger".

Pihin - Woman, girl. The term "pihi" means "woman of". Same in Nali and Lele

Perei - An edible substance obtained from shale and dried in the sun. A rare delicacy.

Pohyomou - A hilltop near the villages of Tingou and Yirngou. Traditionally famous because of its association with thePokop stories. Today they also call it Polomou.

Pwenet - Another hilltop associated with the Pokops. It is in the present village area of Sirah.


Rauhuh - A Nali word which means clearing theundergrowth. It is the first stage of preparation for a taro garden. Usually a task done by the women. In the Lele language the word is "tauhuh"

Saleu - An expression of yearning or missed opportunity in both Lele and Nali languages.

Salih - Nali word for staghorn. Lele equivalent is "silih"

Sinai - Nali word for devil. Lele equivalent is "sinei".

Sindrik - Word in Lele and Nali meaning to cut or snap

Sohol - Front and extended part of a haus boior haus marit. The Nali equivalent is "sohal"

Sohoniliu - Nali village which borders the Lele villages of Dranou Pnd Yirngou. Also spelt Sohoniriu.

Sumbrelendriy - A point along the Highway just before Pihpun village (Sapon). From the mouth of the Lawes River it provided an ideal spot to rest after the climb from the Kaluu market.

Tambu - 1. Brother/sister/father/mother in law; 2. Means forbid; 3. Valuable beads string together in different lengths.

Tanget - Same as nolou above

Tarau - Another place associated with the Pokops. This is the old name for the larger of the two N'Dropa islands.

Tatom - Your grand son or daughter; grandmother. Nali equivalent is "tuhum".

Tiyiy - Another creeper used in house building. It is stronger than the payai and can last for a long time. Nali equivalent is "taiyiy"

Toroko - Like this; this way. Nali equivalentis "toro"

Walah - Nali and Lele word for moon or areca leaf chewed with buai

Womolo - Two of you. Nali equivalent is "wamolu"

Wuloh - A Lele and Nali word for "thank you".

Yiringou - Last Lele speaking village on the Highway just after Dranou. Yiringou used to be a Nali speaking village. Sometimes spelt - Yirngou.

Yo - Me. Both Lele and Nali.

Yon - A big feast. Same in Lele and Nali. Similar to "masah" but for quite different reasons.

Yopai- Lele - Nali word for temporary bush shelter or leaves carried to keep dry from the rain.

Yowos - A river which starts at Yiringou and Tingou and empties into the sea near Yowes village. In the Nali speaking villages it is "Yowes". Tok Pisin is "Lawes"

Yukuyiy - A river in the South Coast where there was a famous market. It enters the sea between Sowou and Londruu villages.


Copyright © 1999 - 2003 Dr. Bernard Minol, University of Papua New Guinea

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