The Origin of the Name of Samoa

O Le Lagi Ma Mea Oi Le Lagi

Na talitonu tagata Samoa fa’apea o le lagi na palasi ma solofa i se tasi aso ma taomia ai tagata uma, ona fetolofi lea ma sosolo i le ‘ele’ele pei o meaola. Na mavae ni aso ona tutupu ai lea o la’au e iai le masoa ma le teve ma isi la’au fa’apena ma latou tete’e le lagi i luga ma fa’aigoa ai o Te’egalagi. A e ui lava i lena, na le mafai ona tutu sa’o tagata, e taia o latou ulu i le lagi, ae maise le vevela tele.

I se tasi aso, sa ui ane se fafine ma vai sa alu e utu vai, ona fa’afetaui lea e se tamaloa i le auala. Sa ole atu lenei tamaloa i le fafine mo sina vai, a’o lea na tete’e i luga le lagi ia matua maualuga ina ia aua ne’i toe papa’i ai ulu o tagata. Sa tali atu le fafine i le tamaloa, “Tete’e muamua le lagi, ona fa’ato’a avatu ai lea o ni ou vai.” Sa tu loa le tamāloa ma tulei i luga le lagi i ona tau’au ma faiatu i le fafine po’o lelei lea, ae fai atu le fafine, “E le’i taitai lava.” O lea na matuā fa’asaga loa le tamaloa tulei le lagi ma ua alu mamao ai i luga.

Ona ua alu mamao le lagi i luga, o lea na tago ane loa le fafine ma avatu vai i le tamaloa.

E fa’apea se isi tala, o le sau’ai tagata e igoa ia Ti’iti’i sa na tuleiina le lagi i luga, ma o lo’o iloga lelei le mea na tu ai o ia i luga o le papa; ma e tusa o le ono futu le u’umi o tulagavae.

The Origin of the Earth

Sa iai se manatu o tagata Samoa anamua fa’apea e fepi’ita’i fa’atasi le lagi ma le lalolagi i tafatafa’ilagi. Ona iai lea o se talitonuga a iai se malaga e si’i mamao atu i se isi motu, ona fa’apea lea o lo latou tāofi ua si’i atu le malaga i se isi vaega o le lagi. Ina ua o’o mai tagata papālagi, na manatu tagata Samoa e o mai ia tagata ma o latou va’a mai le lagi. Ma e o’o mai la i nei aso, e ta’ua nei tagata papa’e o papālagi, auā na papā mai le lagi.

The Origin of the Name of Samoa

Before “Samoa” was so named, there was at first only rock (papa) and soil (‘ele’ele). The rock’s sovereign deity was Salevao; ‘Ele’ele had no particular deity. After Papa and ‘Ele’ele married, the islands began to form. Salevao observed the ‘Ele’ele’s middle- the center sections of the earth- moving in the mire of the ground. This movement was their son growing inside her. They would name him Moa, meaning “center”. When Moa was born, according to custom, the deity ordered the midwives to “Place the cord of the boy up in the tree and cut it.” They did as he ordered, and this pleased him. But soon Papa and ‘Ele’ele wanted water to drink, not just to bathe Moa, and begged him for some, to which the elder deity replied, “Bring me a bamboo shoot and I will draw the water from the rocks, to create the streams to quench the thirst of everyone.” Thus, water is obtained from the rocks. This is why there are streams beneath mountains. Salevao ordered the parents to cut off all of Moa’s hair, but they disobeyed, and the sacred commandment was broken; this disobedience angered Salevao so greatly that to punish them he banished Moa, forbidding him from the presence of Papa and ‘Ele’ele. They- the lands formed by Papa and ‘Ele’ele- were thereafter named “Sa Moa,” literally meaning “a land without Moa.”Another version of the story begins with the supreme deity of the Heavens – Tagaloa- and his sister, who was a bountiful breeze who was married to the sun and had a daughter with him named Lu. Lu bore a son, also named Lu, likely with Moa, her cousin and nephew, since Tagaloa had two sons, Moa and Lu, in that order.

As in the first version, Tagaloa became angry with the boy because of complaints about the water, saying, “If you would bring me a proper tool, I can drive a hole into the rocks and bring up water for you”. This explains why water comes from the rock. Tagaloa became very frustrated that he had to call Moa him eight times.

One night when the old man Tagaloa was asleep, he heard a melody about his beloved daughter in law float through the air to his ears. At first he was unaware that he had he overheard his son Lu singing, “Moa Lu, Moa Lu,” but then observed to his surprise that the song changed to the voice of the boy singing, “Lu Moa Lu Moa.”

Upon hearing these lyrics change the order of birth, putting Lu first, the old man grew upset with the boy for his thoughtlessness, as it seemed as though the boy Lu thought himself elevated above his first son Moa. To teach Lu a lesson in respect, Tagaloa then pretended that his back had an itch and called out to Lu to come and scratch it. Lu fell for this ruse.

Tagaloa grabbed Lu by the arm and dragged him out of the house, set upon him beating him on the throat with his fue. The boy was very upset and ran away fleeing forever to the earth, producing the name for the islands Sa Moa. Because he was banished forever and separated from Moa and his heavenly family, meaning “without” (Sa) and “Moa”, his father’s name.

This means that Lu, the son of Tagaloa’s daughter, was forbidden from residing in Heaven were brother, the firstborn Moa lives. Another way to view this is that Lu, the son, is forbidden to live together with Lu, his mother.

In Samoan communal life, to be separated from family would be an unthinkable cruelty, an unbearable pain for any Samoan to endure; hence, this version cures that pain and restores Lu at the final ending, “In fact, Lu, the son of the daughter of Tagaloa was born again, and lived in Heaven where the oldest son Moa also lived.”

The Origin of the Earth

There are many, many different stories of the origins of the earth. Here are several brief renditions of the text in the original Talitonuga Anamua offered by our translators:

One day the Heavens crashed and unfolded, crushing every single person, who then began to crawl and spread across the earth like insects. As days passed, from the earth trees grew such as the Masoᾱ, the Teve, and many other similar trees and poisonous herbs that had all stretched tall and spiraled upward into the heavens thus earning the name Te’egᾱlagi. Regardless of their development, the people could not stand up straight, and continued to crawl. If they tried, their heads collided into the Heavens above them making it impossible to stand erect. Moreover, they could not overcome the unendurable, blistering heat which covered the land.

One day, a woman was on her way from fetching water and was encountered by a man crawling on the road. This man begged the woman for a drink, assuring her that he would stretch up so high into the heavens that the heads of people will no longer collide with it. The woman answered in a skeptical tone, “Go ahead. You stretch up to the Heavens first, and if you succeed, then I will give you water to drink”. The man then rose and threw himself upward towards the Heavens, pushing them up with his shoulders, and asked the woman if that was good enough. The woman answered with disdain, “No. Not even close.” Determined to earn the water, the man heaved himself upward, pushing the Heavens further beyond. Only when she saw that the Heavens had extended farther up, did the woman give him water to drink.

Another version of the story tells of a man-eating demon named Ti’iti’i who himself pushed the Heavens upward; the place in which he stood is clearly marked by the mound which arose wherever he set his feet; each of his footprints is six feet long.

A third ancient belief of the Samoan people was that the Heavens and the earth were woven together at the horizons. In view of this belief, when a journey takes place to a far away village in another part of the island(s) it is understood that the voyagers are setting off to another part of the Heavens.

When the white, European people arrived, the Samoans believed that they, along with their ships, descended from the Heavens. To this day these white people are referred to as papᾱlagi because they exploded (pᾱpᾱ) from the Heavens (lagi).

Note: The reader is referred to Lafai, The History of Samoa, “The Creation” for a more fully developed treatment of the subject of creation of Samoa.

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