Tale Tokelau: Sifo

The tales of Tokelau contain many references to mythological characters and events found in tales from other parts of Polynesia. Numerous myths mention trips to Fiji and the people there, a common feature of Samoan tales. This is Sifo's Tokelauan Tale.


The Story of Sifo

Once there was a very beautiful virgin named Sina who had four suitors: Pili, Ulio, and Moko, who were lizards; and Sifo, who was a man. Pili came first to ask her to marry him and as he approached he sang a little song: “I am Pili, the lizard, who has come to ask you to marry me; but, alas, I can not walk and can only creep.” Sina turned to Pili and said, “How can you be my husband? You can't walk and you can't do your work.” 

Then Ulia came to her and sang a little song: “I am Ulia, the lizard, who has come to ask you to be my wife; but, alas, I can only creep and can't walk.” Sina feels Ulia away, for he too could do no work. Moko came next but Sina sent him away too because he was a lizard. Finally the man came to Sina and said, “I am coming. I am a man who walks and does not crawl. I would like you to be my wife.” Her parents agreed to her marriage and Sina became Sifo's wife and went with him to his island to live.

When they were in Sifo's house, Sina made a sucking sound with her lips (Misi). Sifo asked what she wished and she said that she wanted to drink. Outside the house were two coconut trees, one the tree of the gods and the other the tree of men. Sifo climbed the tree of the gods, which was a tapu tree whose nuts no one could drink without dying, and picked a nut for his wife. Tinilau was halfway up the tree, caught the nut, and threw it into the tree of men, thus taking away the tapu before the nut fell to the ground. Sina drank the coconut and ate the kernel without disastrous effect.

After that the man took his wife into the bush which was owned by the spirits. He went along the sea side of the bush but sent his wife by the middle path. As they proceeded he called out to his wife to see if she was still living and to ask where she was. Tinilau was walking behind her and as they came to each spirit place (malae atu) in the bush, of which there were very many, he told her the name and she called it out to her husband. 

Thus with Tinilau she escaped being taken by the spirits of the bush. Finally they came to an old man, Patikole, who was pounding coconut husks to get fiber for rope-making. Tinilau asked Patikoli to put Sina under his leg as he sat there tailor-fashion. Sifo came up to them and just then Sina made a sound with her lips (Misi) calling him. Sifo heard her and asked what it was, but Patikoli said it was his knee making the sound. Patikoli was very angry because Sina had made a Misi and would not let her get up. 

Sifo returned home and brought his flute to the edge of the bush and played for his wife. She heard him but could not go to him. Finally Tinilau took her to his land and married her, and Sifo returned home to grieve for his wife.