by Elizabeth Inia

Tarsua is the smallest village of Itu‘ti’u district and next to Tuai of Juju. It is famous for its brackish water pools, one of which is where Puku lived hundreds of years ago. She loved her pool and kept it clean when the tide ebbed. The coming in of the tide usually brought in all kinds of debris but fortunately the ebbing of the tide helped to clear a lot or almost the whole lot, so that was easy enough to clean the pool for there was a constant visitor who had never missed an eve’s dip before retiring after a day’s work and that was none other than King Ar who lived above the cliff facing Porporo hill of Tarsua. To clean her pool as she was the sole occupant, she would creep on the sand at the bottom of the pool nibbling here and there and at the same time swallowed the dirt as well.

One red–letter day of Puku’s life when after her daily cleaning of the pool she miraculously got something to her fallopian tube which changed her whole life. Day after day the dirt of King Ar swallowed by mistake grew in her. Her belly got big and some strange movement  was felt inside her. Puku was pregnant and King Ar was innocent.

After ten moons Big Lizard from her cave nearby saw a babe floating and crying. Soon the current would take the baby to the deep sea. Immediately Big Lizard jumped into the water, grabbed the baby with her long mouth and her fore-hands and took the baby with great care to her warm cave.

“You must be Ar’s baby for you are an image of him all over”, said Big Lizard, “therefore I name you Ar-manaki for he left you floating face upwards, poor baby, and went home.  What a silly forgetful old king”.

Big Lizard did not know that both parents of Armanaki, King Ar and Puku were not lovers in a sense, and were not conscious that such a beautiful baby should be a reward to Puku as a pool cleaner and a god-send to Big Lizard to nurse a little Tarzan for Tarsua.

Armanaki grew and thrived by eating coconuts flesh brought by Crab Aruru, the pieces of yams, taro and cassava gnawed off by rats for his dinner every day. His skin was oiled by good smelling oil mixed with tumeric powder to cure mosquito bites and sores. Soon Armanaki was famous for his strong well-built body, good in sports and most handsome. His favourite game was throwing ‘Urto’a (a reed mounded with a wooden head) because he had strong arms and the boys of neighbouring villages of Tua’koi and Tuai know Armanaki’s talent very well.

At King Ar’s Tokagsau (or Kingdom) there was Tinrau a good looking young man of noble birth who was mad in love with Princess Sian Fakian’efa who had grown up more beautiful each day. But every time Tinrau tried to woo her, she vomited. Not only Tinrau but all the young men of the place seemed to be on the same boat. That was how she was known to everyone as Sian Fakian’efa (Sina who detested the sight of men). King Ar wanted to find a good husband for his daughter therefore he wanted his herald to inform everybody of a tournament of Tika to be held on Saturday week at his royal Park. The winner of “Tika” would be the lucky man to marry Sina. The announcement was an unwelcome bit of news not only to Tinrau but to other young men who were bold enough to approach Sina for her hands in marriage and failed.

Down at Tarsua the young men encouraged Armanaki to go to the tournament as a contestant. One of the boys said “u-la-la, Armanaki, you are sure to be the winner of Tika game, and sure to bring down Sina for a wife because that was heralded the other day”.

Armanaki was not interested in Sina (not because of a same father) but because there was one very pretty girl named Metfaksau living in the next village, and she was a bird in hand.

The date set for the tournament dawned and Big Lizard gave Armanaki his breakfast before she dressed him up for the show, a grass skirt of Ji leaves with a waist band of jasmine and honeysuckles, a garland of all ordiferous flowers that creeping and climbing creatures of Tarsua could fetch for Big Lizard to make the garland or “tefui”, with well-oiled skin and cheeks tinted with ‘mena’ (oil mixed with tumeric powder) and “urto’a” in hand, Armanaki set off for the tournament. As he approached, the atmosphere of the place filled with the aroma of the sweet flowers round his neck and waist. Whenever Armanaki glanced he saw young girls who stole glimpses of him. Suddenly turned away to hide their blushes, and some busy bodied mothers busied themselves with match making thoughts. The news of the young handsome newcomer’s arrival came to Sina’s ears and her nose too could smell his scent. Her shutters that never opened while young men were around in the past were all up. Sina wanted to watch the game because by sunset she would know her husband to be.

The game had started and there was much rejoicing and shouting of joy as the crowd followed the footsteps of the ‘urto’a thrower’s from one end of the park to the other. The scores for Armanaki’s throwings was still on top of the list. Tinrau was in Armanaki’s team, and he saw Sina bent down from her window unnoticed when Armanaki picked up his ‘urtoa’ right under her nose. An idea flashed in his mind. He said to himself, “Tonight, if Armanaki be the luckiest of all the contestants, I’d ask him for his today’s outfit to wear and thus pulled the wool over Sina’s eyes. Ha! Ha!. I would be mistaken as Armanaki and be accepted at last without a throw up”.

The evening came, the tournament was over, and Armanaki wa the luckiest of all young men, for Sina would be given to him for his wife that very night. When it was twilight two men were seen entering the royal compound, Aramanaki for sure and his companion. But Armanaki stopped outside the door of Sina’s apartment and let Tinrau entered, dressed in grass skirt of ji leaves around his waist and round his neck was Armanaki’s garland. Darkness approached quickly and Sina could not tell the differences of the two men except that the outfit was Armanaki’s. With cooing and wooing Tinrau lulled the princess. No throw up anymore, only making lover to one another the whole night. As for Armanaki he was fully entertained by Sina’s maids outside.

A new day dawned and Armanaki took his leave and returned to Tarsua. Big Lizard was in tears when she hugged Armanaki saying “Welcome home, my dear, I was really sad last night thinking that you would prefer a place to a cave. But now, I know that you are a true and loving God-send son.

For Tinrau, he was free of all spell, and he asked Sina, “Can we be friends now?” Sina smiled and said “It would be a pleasure”. They were soon married and lived happily ever after.