THE OLD WOMAN OF POLNOUM AND POKOP OF POHYOMOU - excerpt from Stories Of Pokop Of Pohoyomou Compiled & Edited by:  Dr. Bernard Minol [with glossary]


another advernture story of this Manus historic cultural folk hero

Once there lived in a place call Polnoum an old woman and her grand daughter. In the nearby forest there was a masalai who used to turn into a wild boar and ravage the villagers' gardens. Although the villagers would build fences around the gardens the masalai would go into the enclosure, change into a wild boar and eat up the taro and other food crops. All the villagers were afraid of this wild boar.

One day the old woman told the villagers to dig a hole and then plant sharp stakes at the bottom of the hole. When the hole was finished they put small sticks over the mouth and placed leafs on top to cover the hole. Next morning when the old woman and her grand daughtercame, they saw the big wild boar in the hole. They immediately went to the village and told the men to come and kill the pig and bring it to the village. They cut up the pig and then the old woman began to apportion the pig among all the people of the village. Having divided up the pig the head was kept for the old woman and her grand daughter. When they arrivedback at their house the old woman put the head of the wild boar in the pot and asked the grand daughter to watch it cooking while she went to thegarden to get taro to eat with their pig. When the pot boiled she heard a voice coming out of the boiling pot saying,

"Polok...polok...I will eat you and your Bubu"

When she went a second time to stack the fire she heard the same voice saying,

"Polok... polok... I will eat you and your Bubu."

Then a third time she went to stack the fire and heard the voice again saying,

"Polok... polok... I will eat you and your Bubu"

By this time she had become very frightened and sat at the door to wait for her Bubu to return from the garden.

When the grandmother returned from the garden she said, "Why didn't you light the fire under the pot?" She replied saying, "Bubu I stacked the fire but when the water boiled the voice from the pot s aid it would eat us". Bubu herself then went to stack the fire. As she began stacking the fire the voice from the pot was heard saying, "Polok... polok... I will eat you and your Bubu." As soon as she heard this she ordered her grand daughter to immediately get breadfruit leafs. The grand daughter brought back many breadfruit leafs which they proceeded to cover the mouth of the pot and then fastened tightly by ropes. Having done this the old woman and her grand daughter packed up their belongings and ran away from the village of Polnoum.

The old woman and her grand daughter walked and walked until they reached Walpei. When they looked back they could see Polnoum, so they walked on again. This time they came down to Lah-Weyau and then came up to Powat. At Powat they stopped and looked back, but they couldstill see Polnoum. They walked on. When they got to N'Dranou, they stopped and looked back. Polnoum was still visible. So they continued walking until they came to Yirngou. At Yirngou they stopped at looked back and still they could see Polnoum. This time they went down to the river Lawes and then came to Tulul. At Tulul they stopped and looked back. For the first time they could not see Polnoum. "Now we will stay here", said the grandmother.

The two decided to settle at Tulul and start a new life. That evening the grand mother cooked some food. They ate and then slept. When they woke up next morning their fire had gone out. They had no fire to cook their food. The grandmother started making n'dop (Manus basket) and gave the "kum n'dop" to her grand daughter to throw to different places. She threw the kum n'dop to Pwihan but the kum n'dop came back. She threw the kum n'dop to Sirah, it came back. She threw it to Kopou but it came back. Finally when she threw the kum n'dop to Pohyomou, it did not come back. The old woman then told her grand daughter to go to Pohyomou because there was fire there.

When she reached Pohyomou, she saw Pokop having his morning wash. She took the stalk of the "n'dau" leaf and threw it in the water. Pokop did not see her. Then she threw another stalk in the water. This time Pokop saw her. She then said to Pokop, "I have come to get fire for me and my grandmother". Without saying anything more she followed Pokop to the house. When they arrived at the house she saw that they were getting ready to cut open one of Pokop's wives and deliver the baby. The baby will live and the mother will die. The girl intervened by saying, "Wait, I'll go and bring my grandmother". Then she walked back to Tulul. Having got her grandmother they returned to Pohyomou. On the way the grandmother got parahiy, nolou leafs, membuu leafs and kayal leafs. When they reached Pokop's house the old woman began performing certain rituals on Pokop's wife.

They waited for the wife to go through labour and then the grandmother delivered Pokop's child. This time both the mother and the child survived. However sometime later the child died. After this time they stopped cutting up women to deliver their babies.

While they were in Pohyomou the old woman told Pokopthat they had run away from a masalai pig and that this masalai will be following after them. Pokop told the old woman and her grand daughter to stay with them at Pohyomou. He also proceeded to ask them if there were a ny sign of the coming of the masalai. The old woman said that the coming of the masalai will be preceded by a small shower and rainbow accompaniedby thunder and lightning. On hearing this Pokop instructed his wives to heat stones and boil water while he dug a big hole under the ladder to the haus marit. Inside the hole they planted sharp stakes facing the mouth.They then cut the ladder on the underneath as well as cutting the sticksthat support the sohol.

As they sat and waited the mwalau (small shower) began to fall accompanied by thunder and lightning and a rainbow. The masalai arrived and went straight to the hausboi. Suddenly from Pokop's hausboithe masalai beat the garamut, "Tit...tit...tit...; tit.. tit...tit; tit...tit...tit ". After the third round Pokop called from the haus marit, "Oi! Who are you and what do you want?" The masalai replied, "I am looking for an old woman and her grand daughter". Pokop replied, "They are herewith me in the house. But before I hand them over to you, you must come to the ladder and dance". The masalai came to the ladder and climbed halfway where he started to dance. To his surprise the ladder snapped and the masalai fell on the sharp stakes in the hole. Straight away the ten wives started emptying their pots of boiling water and hot stones on top of the masalai. As he was dying the masalai said,

"Oh Saleu! Tokoro kuini womolo tatom eleheh."

The old woman and her grand daughter stayed at Pohyomou with Pokop and his ten wives and then returned to Tulul.

The name Tulul came from present day Walpei. In the past this region was commonly called Polnoum.

Par payai e par tiyiy, sindrik. The end




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 - 2002 Dr. Bernard Minol, University of Papua New Guinea

On Copyright:  multi-meida content on this web site (articles, stories, photos, graphics, and other materials) remains the property of the original/licensed creators of the materials on this site unless otherwise noted.
© 2002

Manus Island, Manus Province, Papua New Guinea location near northern Australia and south east of SE Asia

Pokop Stories
table of contents

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.

see also
  • Papua New Guinea Books Useful Articles & Information

  • E-mail: