Alo and the Giant Fish

Samoan Mythology - Alo and the Giant Fish

Elsewhere we learned that Safata was founded by Fata the son of Atiogie. In accordance with the last will of his father, his establishment was to act as Alataua. ‘

Later Safata became a district of Tuamasaga . It consisted of two parts: Alataua and Satunumafono, divided by a large lagoon, called Leasaga.  According to tradition this lagoon was once a lake containing fresh water, but the water is now brackish. How this lagoon came into existence is told in the following story.

There lived, once upon time, an enormous sea monster called Pa’itele. His home was in Apolima Strait. This sea monster was dreaded far and wide for it would attack any canoe that came within its reach. Many had become victims to this fish or beast, and none had lived to describe it.

After the disappearance of so many people, no one dared to cross the strait except in a big double hulled boat. The pa’itele was a real danger, but what could they do?

Now it happened that Alo, a young chief from Palauli, had to go to Upolu. He was a fearless man, and resolved not only to try the crossing but to kill the monster, if possible.

From what he had learned about the beast, he knew that it was its habit to swallow its victims whole (Folopa’o). Taking advantage of this knowledge, he prepared a bundle of sharp bamboo knives (polo) and then set out in his canoe.  When Alo had passed Apolima, he saw his enemy the giant fish swimming straight towards him. He nevertheless kept his course, his eyes steadily fixed on the pa’itele. The decisive moment was now at hand. Would his scheme succeed? It was now too late to change plans, for the beast was there ready to devour him. At that fateful moment he threw himself at the bottom of his fragile canoe, taking care to have his knives at hand.  To his great surprise a second later he found himself in the belly of the fish that had swallowed him together with his canoe. He immediately set to work cutting up the fish as fast as he could handle his knives.

This, of course, caused the pa’itele terrible suffering. Blind with rage and pain, it swam on and on until it finally reached the reef beyond Safata. Here it made such frightful contortions that the reef broke open, pouring the former lake to the sea.  When the Safata people saw the enormous, dreaded beast stranded on their beach, they rushed out ready to finish it off with their stone axes. While they were cutting away they suddenly saw a bamboo knife sawing to the left and right and at the same time they heard a faint voice coming from the belly of the monster.

They wondered what it might be and continued to cut the pa’itele open. In a short time they had set the prisoner free. The first thing the latter did was to thank his aitu for help and protection.

“Who are you and how came you to be in the stomach of this beast?” the people asked.

“I am Alo, the son of Lilomaiava from Palauli”, he replied. “While crossing over to Upolu, the beast attacked me; but, as I had provided myself with a dozen bamboo knives, I was able to wound him to such an extent that he would have perished here on the beach even if you had not come to my help”.

When the people heard that the beast was the dreaded pa’itele, they felt very grateful to Alo their saviour. Soon the news spread all over Samoa and Alo’s mighty deed was recounted everywhere in speech and song.His own people conferred upon him the new name of I’aulualo, i..e Alo the Fish Enterer.

This name still exists in Palauli in remembrance of the first Alo and his adventure.

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