The Prince of Tahiti

The Prince of Tahiti, written in 1878


Excerpt from: Inn-Nu-Woh To Merhameh,


Drum beats and flute sounds announced the start of the ceremony. A flower-decked altar had been installed under evergreen trees where the ‘pale mitonare’, the English missionary was waiting for the bride. Mahori had gone inside the house to fetch her; he led the young woman along.

Then, a young man pushed his way through the circle of the guests and stepped up to Potomba, who sat near the altar.

“Be greeted, Potomba, father of my wife! When I was away, she came to you and I have come to take her home again.”

“Get away from me, heathen!” was Potomba’s reply. “I have nothing more to do with you!”

Anoui remained calm. He laid his hand on the shoulder of his wife and turned to the preacher:

“Mitonare, this woman has sworn by the skulls of our forebears to be loyal to me; the priest of our nation asked me: Eita anei oe a faarue i ta oe vatrina, will you ever attempt to leave your wife? And I answered: eita, no! Potomba gave us his blessings. Do you have the right to separate us?”

The missionary rolled his eyes heavenward.

“The holy Christian church as the almighty mother can take her daughters and give them to whomever she wants. Leave this place, you infidel, so that the wrath of God’s children won’t get you!”

“Then, come Manina!” the young man said and took her by the hand.

Mahori punched him in the face and at the same time he was apprehended and dragged away. He didn’t speak, but let it happen. Near the beach he tore free from his captors and jumped into his canoe.

“Tell Mahori that I will take my wife back!” he shouted back to them and rowed out to sea. He sailed around the island to Alfareaita, opposite Papeete, where he went ashore to acquire a number of fish in various sizes.

When he thought the time had come, he climbed back into his canoe and rowed out far enough to a spot where he could survey the straight between the two islands. It gradually grew darker over the water; night fell, but the ocean spread around his boat like a liquid, transparent crystal. He tied one of the fish onto a piece of bast and hung it over the side; after only a short while there was a sharp tug. A shark had taken the bait. After a while the young man tossed a second fish into the water, and continued to do so until half a dozen sharks swam around below the boat.

“Be welcome, you servants of the ehri. I will take my revenge and you will receive your meal!”

He continued to lure the insatiable monsters to his canoe, until flickering boat lights told him that the flotilla approached to deliver the newly weds. He slowly rowed towards them, followed by the sharks.

Mahori sailed far ahead of all the others. He crouched aft to steer the boat, Manina sat in the bow. All of a sudden, a vessel crossed the path of theirs. Mahori rose.

“Stop; who’s there?” he asked.

“Anoui, to pay you back for striking my face today!” was the answer.

At the same time the ehri steered his canoe alongside Mahori’s and with two powerful thrusts cut through the bast ties with his sharp kris; the outrigger was cut away. Mahori would be lost at the slightest movement.

“Manina, jump!” Anoui shouted.

His wife joined him in one swift leap; Mahori’s boat, without the outrigger, capsized, he plunged into the water with a scream, and was immediately welcomed by the sharks.

Before the rest of the flotilla closed in, Anoui raised the sail and his well-built, fast canoe raced towards Loga. Nobody ever heard from him or Manina again. His brother, Ombi, left Tahiti a while later and headed for the Tubuai Islands, so they said. Potomba died not long after. His lasts words were a curse against the ‘pale mitonares’ who were responsible for the loss of his daughter.

More: Inn-Nu-WohTo Merhameh