CHAPTER XIX. THE ORIGIN OF FIRE, AND OTHER STORIES.
1. The Samoans say that there was a time when their ancestors ate everything raw, and that they owe the luxury of cooked food to one Ti'iti'i, the son of a person called Talanga. This Talanga was high in favour with the earthquake god Mafuie, who lived in a subterranean region where there was fire continually burning. On going to a certain perpendicular rock, and saying, "Rock, divide! I am Talanga; I have come to work!" the rock opened, and let Talanga in; and he went below to his plantation in the land of this god Mafuie. One day Ti'iti'i, the son of Talanga, followed his father, and watched where he entered. The youth, after a time, went up to the rock, and, feigning his father's voice, said, "Rock, divide! I am Talanga; I have come to work!" and was admitted too. His father, who was at work in his plantation, was surprised to see his son there, and begged him not to talk loud, lest the god Mafuie should hear him, and be angry.
Seeing smoke rising, he inquired of his father what it was. His father said it was the fire of Mafuie. "I must go and get some," said the son. "No," said the father; "he will be angry. Don't you know he eats people?" "What do I care for him?" said the daring youth; and off he went, humming a song, towards the smoking furnace.
"Who are you?" said Mafuie.
"I am Ti'iti'i, the son of Talanga. I am come for some fire."
"Take it," said Mafuie.
He went back to his father with some cinders, and the two set to work to bake some taro. They kindled a fire, and were preparing the taro to put on the hot stones, when suddenly the god Mafuie blew up the oven, scattered the stones all about, and put out the fire. "Now," said Talanga, "did not I tell you Mafuie would be angry?" Ti'iti'i went off in a rage to Mafuie, and without any ceremony commenced with, "Why have you broken up our oven, and put out our fire?" Mafuie was indignant at such a tone and language, rushed at him, and there they wrestled with each other. Ti'iti'i got hold of the right arm of Mafuie, grasped it with both hands, and gave it such a wrench that it broke off. He then seized the other arm, and was going to twist it off next when Mafuie declared himself beaten, and implored Ti'iti'i to have mercy, and spare his left arm.
"Do let me have this arm," said he; "I need it to hold Samoa straight and level. Give it to me, and I will let you have my hundred wives."
"No, not for that," said Ti'iti'i.
"Well, then, will you take fire? If you let me have my left arm you shall have fire, and you may ever after this eat cooked food."
"Agreed," said Ti'iti'i; "you keep your arm, and I have fire."
"Go," said Mafuie; "you will find the fire in every wood you cut."
And hence, the story adds, Samoa, ever since the days of Ti'iti'i, has eaten cooked food from the fire which is got from the friction of rubbing one piece of dry wood against another.
The superstitious still have half an idea that Mafuie is down below Samoa somewhere; and that the earth has a long handle there, like a walking-stick, which Mafuie gives a shake now and then. It was common for them to say, when they felt the shock of an earthquake, "Thanks to Ti'iti'i, that Mafuie has only one arm: if he had two, what a shake he would give!"
The natives of Savage Island, 300 miles to the south of Samoa, have a somewhat similar tale about the origin of fire. Instead of Talanga and Ti'iti'i, they give the names of Maui, the father, and Maui, the son. Instead of going through a rock, their entrance was down through a reed bush. And, instead of a stipulation for the fire, they say that the youth Maui, like another Prometheus, stole it, ran up the passage, and before his father could catch him, he had set the bush in flames in all directions. The father tried to put it out, but in vain; and they further add, that ever since the exploit of young Maui, they have had fire and cooked food in Savage Island.