Sanalala and Folasaitu

Malieatoa La’auli

Malietoafaiga, the cannibal king, was succeeded by his son Uitualagi who became the husband of Gatoloaiaoolelagi (Gatoloai), the daughter of the prominent Chief Tunavaetele of Vaimauga, which is east of Apia. At the time of the marriage, Gatoloai had been made pregnant by her brother Aliamanaia (Ali’a) and subsequently bore a son named La’aui who Uitalagi adopted. Uitalagi and Gatoloai had another son named Fuaoleto’elau (Fua). When La’aui grew up, he married both of the daughters (named Guiafaleai and Totoga) of the King of Samoa.

Here is the story of this complex family within the gafa (family or succession line) of the Malietoa title, and how La’auli came to marry these most prominent sisters of Faelili, near Atua, Upolu. It begins with the seduction of Gatoloai:

One evening, when Ali’amania (Ali’a) returned home after a feast, he found his sister alone and asleep in the fale. Noticing that she was only half covered, he approached her stealthily, and, tearing up his lei of flowers, started to cover her body with the petals. Gatoloai awakened, and, seeing what her brother was about to do, she said, “A ‘ua teu, ia ma teu; ‘a ‘ua fai ia ma fai,” meaning, “Whatever you do, do it with all your strength!”

Ali’a immediately grasped her brazen words of invitation, and impetuously acted upon them, just as she demanded. But once he realized what he had done, he was stricken with shame and remorse and immediately fled to another island to live with a relative. He knew that if his father learned of his forbidden conduct, his very life would be at stake.

Gatoloai soon discovered she was with child, and decided to tell her father in order to have him protect their good name. Unon learning of this violation, Tunavae was very angry, and, had his son been nearby, he would have been dealt with very severely, if not required to pay with his life. Tunavae was very anxious to to keep this shame and disgrace from the community, (ufiufi le manu gase) and cunningly resolved to offer his daughter to Malietoa Uitualagi, since Uitualagi had already expressed his desire to marry Gatoloai.

The scheming Tunavae did not disclose to Uitualagi that Gato was carrying her brother’s child. But, as this Malietoa was as salacious as his own father had been ambitious, he readily accepted, and Gatoloai became his wife.

When her child was born, after only a few months, he was named La’auli (“a step taken in the dark”). Like Tunavae before him, fearing disgrace, Uitalagi adopted La’auli, who was generally believed to be his son. The couple lived peaceful and uneventfully, and had another child, a son named Fuaoleto’elau (Fua).

One day after the brothers had grown up, they went to Faealili, a district in the southwest of Atua, Upolu. La’auli went to catch seabirds or terns (gogo), while his brother Fua set off in another direction to court the prominent daughters of Tuisamoa named Gauifaleai and Totogata, specifically to persuade one or the other to become his wife. It did not matter which, since he only sought the advantage of the Malietoa line. The hours passed, but while La’auli had great luck in catching many birds, he barely noticed the time passing. Then suddenly he heard the laughter of a girl quite close to the place where he was lying in wait for the birds. He turned his head to discover the eldest daughter of Tuisamoa standing right behind him.

La’auli was so dumbfounded by the sudden appearance of the Taupou (village virgin) that he even forgot to welcome her. But the girl, not the least bit shy, said, “Why do you sit here with such uncombed hair, all shaggy and ragged?”

La’auli, having recovered his self-possession and composure, answered, “E valavalaa tumanu.” (“Yes, it must look as if bananas are growing out of my head in every direction.”)

Again the girl teased saying, “My friend, you look so dirty, how do you account for that?”

La’auli answered, “E lafulafu a tama seu gogo.” (“This is how dirty boys get when they catch many sea birds!”)

La’auli then went off for a bath, and when he emerged, only then did Gauifaleai notice that he was not only witty, but also very handsome. Then and there, she decided to win him for her husband instead of the stiff and boring Fuaoleto’elau who had come courting that very morning.

Fua had realized that neither of the sisters would marry him, and returned the same day to Malie with his brother, who knew, but did not tell him, that the refusal was due to his meeting Gauifaleai. Being very diplomatic and kind, he did not mention this. He was further convinced by the refusal that he would have better luck, and returned the following day to Faleafili full of hope and expectation.

When he met Guiafaleai and proposed to her, she accepted on the spot. She was even willing to risk the wrath of her father by eloping with her lover the following night. This would, she said, simplify matters and hasten their union (avaga).

When Fua heard what happened, he was surprised but took it calmly, declaring wisely, “O le lau o fiso, O le lau o le tolo,” meaning “Marrying him or me does not matter as we are brothers; the family of Malietoa will profit by it, so why would I worry?”

Gauifaleasi’s sister Totogata felt very lonely after her beloved sister’s marriage and departure. So she resolved to join her in Malie. More to the point, she reasoned, she realized she too loved La’auli and she was convinced that her future happiness depended on her living with them so she could be near him.

(Note: here Brother Henry explains, “In those times it was not a rare occurrence that a high chief lived with two or more wives. Furthermore, if the first wife was barren or found out that her husband might stray, she might contrive to procure him his second wife, her own sister in preference to a stranger.”)

So it was in the case of La’auli; he took both sisters for wives. In due time he had children with both- Gaufaleai became the mother of Gato’aitele, and Totogata bore him Gasoloaiaoolelagi (“scattering the clouds of Heaven”), who Brother Henry explains were destined to become famous in the history of Samoa, and who married Sanalala and Folasaitu (see elsewhere)

Brother Henry notes: The History of the succession of the title of Malietoa in modern history is well established and originates in Samoan lore (as opposed to myth) which has a factual basis and legitimates the title as the highest in the land, signifying the liberation of the Samoan people from the Tongan occupation and oppression which ended in c. 1300.



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