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Micronesia Mythology - Miscellaneous Tales

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

ONE of the most important myths or series of myths in the Carolines, outside of the more strictly cosmogonic tales, is that describing the exploits of Olofat or Olifat, the eldest son of Luke-lang, the highest deity. In the version from the central Carolines, which is here followed,' he appears as a mischievous, almost malicious, person who stands in marked contrast to his brother or brothers, who are beneficent; and it is interesting to compare this antithesis of malice and goodness with Melanesian types.

Olofat saw that one of his brothers was better than he and also more beautiful, and at this he became angry. Looking down from the sky-world and seeing two boys who had caught a couple of sharks, with which they were playing in a fish-pond, he descended to earth and gave the sharks teeth, so that they bit the hands of the children. When the boys ran home crying with pain and told their troubles to their mother, Ligoapup, who was the sister of Olofat, she asked them if they had not seen any one about, whereupon they said that they had, and that he was more handsome than any man whom they had ever beheld. Knowing that this must be her brother, Olofat, Ligoapup asked her sons where he was, and they answered, "Close by the sea." She then told them to go and get the man and bring him to her, but when they reached the place where they had left him, they found only an old, grey-haired man, covered with dirt. Returning to their mother, they informed her that the man whom they had seen was no longer there; but she bade them go back and bring whomsoever they might find. Accordingly they set off, but this time they saw only a heap of filth in place of a man; and so once more they went home to their mother, who told them to return a third time. Obeying her, they questioned the filth, saying, "Are you Olofat? For if you are, you must come to our mother"; whereupon the pile of filth turned into a handsome man who accompanied them to Ligoapup. She said to him, "Why are you such a deceiver?" And Olofat replied, "How so?" And she _said, "First, you turned yourself into a dirty old man, and then into a pile of filth." "I am afraid of my father," answered Olofat. "Yes," said Ligoapup, "you are afraid because you gave teeth to the shark." Then Olofat replied, "I am angry at Luk, for he created my brother handsomer than I am, and with greater power. I shall give teeth to all sharks, in order that they may eat men whenever canoes tip over." When Luk, who was in the sky-world, became aware of these things, he said to his wife, "It would be well if Olofat came back to heaven, since he is only doing evil on earth"; and his wife, Inoaeman, said, "I think so, too. Otherwise he will destroy mankind, for he is an evil being."

Accordingly Luk ordered the people of the sky-world to build a great house, and when it was finished, he not only commanded that a feast be announced, but also had a large fish-basket prepared, in which they placed Olofat and sank him in the sea. After five nights, when they thought he would be dead, two men went in a canoe and hauled up the basket; but behold! it contained only a multitude of great fish, for Olofat had slipped away and seated himself in a canoe near by. The men asked him, "Who are you?" And he replied, "I am Olofat. Come here, and I will help you to put the fish into your boat." Taking one fish after the other, he handed them to the men, but in so doing he removed all the flesh of the fish and gave the men merely the empty skins. For himself he kept nothing but the smallest ones; and when the people said, "Why is it that you take only the little fish?" Olofat replied,

"Give Luk all the big ones; I am quite satisfied with the little ones." Then the people brought the catch to Luk, who asked them, "Where is the fish-basket? Who took the fish out?" When they replied, "Olofat did that, but has again placed the basket in the sea," Luk said, "Has he then taken no fish for himself?" to which they answered, "Only the very smallest ones." Luk now ordered all sorts of food to be prepared for the feast and commanded that the fishes should be cooked; and when all were gathered in the house, while Olofat sat at the entrance, Luk said, "Let every one now eat. Let the food be divided, and let each receive his share." Nevertheless, Olofat refused to receive any; and when the guests took up the fish, lo! there were only the empty skins, and within was nothing, so that they had to content themselves with fruit.

Olofat, however, ate his own fish; but Luk said, "See, we have nothing, whereas Olofat is able to eat his own fish, and is still not finished with them." Thereupon he became very angry and sent word to Thunder to destroy Olofat; but since Thunder lived in a house at a distance, Luk said, "Take Thunder some food." So one of the gods took some of the viands in order to carry them, but Olofat, snatching them from him, himself carried .them to Thunder; and on arriving at the house, he called out, "O Thunder, I bring food." Now Thunder had found a white hen, and coming out, he thundered; but though Luk cried, "Kill him," and though Thunder blazed, Olofat merely placed his hand before his eyes. Nevertheless, Thunder followed him and thundered again and again behind him; but from under his mantle Olofat took some coco-nut milk which he had brought with him, and sprinkling it upon Thunder, he quenched the lightning. After this he seized Thunder and bore him back to his own home; and when Olofat had returned to the feast house, Luk said, "Why has the man not been killed?" Notwithstanding this, Olofat again took his place by the door, while Luk now ordered another of the gods to take food to Anulap. Thereupon Olofat stood up and walked along behind the one who carried the food and he took the viands away from him, saying, "I myself will take the food to Anulap." So he went to the god and said, "Here are viands for you"; and then he turned about and came back to the great assembly house, whereupon Luk said to Anulap, "Why have you not killed the man?" Then Anulap took his great hook, which was fastened to a strong rope, and throwing it at Olofat, he caught him around the neck; but Olofat quickly seized a mussel-shell and cut the rope, after which he hastened to the house of Anulap, where he sat down upon the threshold. When Anulap saw him, he seized his club to strike Olofat; but as he stretched it out, the latter changed himself into a wooden mortar. Thereupon Anulap called, "Where is Olofat?" and his wife, answering, "He must have run away," they lay down and slept. After all this Luk said, "We can do nothing with Olofat; I believe he cannot die. Go, O Laitian, and tell the people to come in the morning to make a porch for the house." When the people had come and asked how they should construct the porch, Luk said, "Go to the forest and bring great tree-trunks"; and when this was done, and the tree-trunks were laid by the house, Luk commanded, "Now, go and fetch Olofat." Olofat came and said, "I shall go, too"; but Luk replied, "You must aid us to build the porch. You must make three holes in the ground, two shallow and one deep; and in these the tree-trunks must be set." Accordingly Olofat dug three holes, but in each of them he made an excavation at one side; after which Luk asked, "Olofat, are you ready yet?" Thereupon Olofat, taking a nut and a stone, secreted them in his girdle; and Luk said, "Now set the tree-trunks in the holes." In obedience to this, three men seized the upper end, while Olofat grasped the lower part; and they pushed Olofat so that he fell into the hole, only to creep quickly into the space which he had made on the side. Not knowing this, however, they then raised the tree-trunk high, and dropping it into the hole, they made it firm with earth and stone.

All now believed that Olofat had been caught under the great post and had been crushed to death. He, however, sat in his hole on the side, and being hungry five nights later, he cracked the nut with the stone which he had brought with him and ate it; whereupon ants came, and taking the fragments which had fallen to the ground, they carried the food along the trunk to the surface, going in long rows. The man who sat in the house above, seeing this, said to his wife, "Olofat is dead, for the ants are bringing up parts of his body"; but when Olofat heard the speech of the man, he turned, him-self into an ant and crept with the others up the post.' Having climbed high, he allowed himself to drop upon the body of the man, who pushed the ant off, so that it fell to the ground, where it was immediately changed into Olofat. As soon as the people saw him, they sprang up in fear, and Olofat said, "What are you talking about?" When Luk beheld him, he said, "We have tried in every possible way to kill you, but it seems that you cannot die. Bring me Samenkoaner." After Samenkoaner had come and sat down, Luk asked him, "How is it that Olofat cannot die? Can you kill him?" To this Samenkoaner replied, "No, not even if I thought about it for a whole night long, could I find a means; for he is older than I." Thereupon Luk said, "But I do not wish that he should destroy all men upon the earth"; and so the Rat, Luk's sister, advised that they should burn Olofat. Accordingly they made a great fire, to which they brought Olofat; but he had with him a roll of coco-nut fibre, and when Luk ordered them to throw him into the flames, he crept through the roll and came out safely upon the other side of the fire. Then Luk said, "Rat, we have tried everything to kill him, but in vain"; and the Rat answered, "He cannot die; so make him the lord of all who are evil and deceitful."

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