Vaea and Apa’ula of Fiji

Vaea and Apa’ula of Fiji

In Apia, close to the mountains, lived a man named Vaea. He was a person well known for his exceptional strength, especially for his large body and great height. He was thought to be a gentle giant. Vaea became the high chief of Vaimauga when his father died. His younger brother was then sent to Savai’i to be taken care of by their family there while Vaea and their mother lived inland of Apia. Vaea was famous for the stories of his victories in the wars of Samoa. Stories also went out to other islands of the Pacific. When the sons of the Tuifiti (the King of Fiji) heard these stories so they resolved to raise a war against Vaea and defeat him in Samoa.

Four of Tuifiti’s children set out from Fiji to wage a war against Vaea. The boys were ‘Aloiva’afulu, Tauaputuputu, Tauatigiulu, and their sister was Apa’ula. They traveled in a very large boat, befitting their status. The boat was so large that when they arrived in the night, the bow was in Mulinu’u and the stern reached to the other side of Toamua, named Safune. Coincidentally, when their boat arrived, Vaea’s mother was night fishing in Mulinu’u.

The boat caused a reflection of light from the old woman’s coconut torch onto the water, and she was angered at this interruption of her fishing, for the light would chase away the fish. Despite her annoyance, the old woman continued to fish alongside the boat. She was surprised when she heard mutterings of the voices inside the boat as they mentioned her son Vaea’s name. So the old woman moved closer to the boat, listened carefully, and became alarmed when she overheard their talk of their plans for a battle with Vaea. The old woman quickly threw away her fire, and went inland to Vaea. She arrived at the house and told Vaea about the arrival of the gigantic boat and the plot of the brothers that she had overheard. Vaea, however, was not disturbed, and did not talk, but only sat and thought for a long while.

Eventually, around midnight, Vaea stirred. He went down to the harbor, and lifted the huge boat and put it carefully on top of the trees, while the brothers and their sister were in a deep sleep inside. The dawn began to break in the early morning and ‘Aloiva’afulu awoke and instructed his brother Tauatigiulu to drop the rudder of the boat and prepare for war with Vaea. Tauatigiulu grabbed the bailer and began to bail the water out of the boat. He was surprised when he didn’t hear the water hit the ocean but instead was trickling downward. He told his brothers what had happened and then they were all afraid because they knew Vaea had lifted their boat and placed it on the top of the trees.

When the morning light came Vaea went to the boat and called out to the brothers “Gentlemen, welcome to our harbor! Where did you come from?”

None of the brothers dared to speak, but all gazed around at one another and then at Vaea. But their sister Apa’ula was so frightened she crouched down to hide from Vaea’s view.

Vaea waited for one of the brothers to answer but none of them would do so. So Vaea continued in a different tone, saying,

“None of you will live because of what you planned! I will kill all of you.”

‘Aloiva’afulu heard those words of Vaea so he finally spoke and said to Vaea, “Please, your highness, spare us, and we will give you our sister as a way to redeem us.” Vaea accepted the exhortation of ‘Aloiva’afulu and took ‘Apa’ula for his wife, and required her brothers to live as his servants.

Vaea and ‘Apa’ula lived together and ‘Apa’ula soon became pregnant with child. When it was time for ‘Apa’ula to give birth, she desired that her child be born in Fiji. Vaea accepted her desire, and ‘Apa’ula and her brothers prepared to leave for Fiji. Before they left, Vaea stood on a boulder and bid farewell to ‘Apa’ula and said “My dear, you see this rock I’m standing on? If our dear child is delivered, then name him after this rock. The name of the rock is Tuisavalalo”

As ‘Apa’ula and her brothers headed out to sea, Vaea remained standing on the rock where he bade farewell to her until their boat disappeared from sight. ‘Apa’ula was in labour while they were under sail on the boat, and delivered her child before they arrived in Fiji.

‘Apa’ula was afraid to tell her brothers of her baby lest they kill him and eat her child. She therefore hid her child in the ocean and the ferocious fish fed the child.
‘Apa’ula named her child Tuisavalalo as she had promised Vaea. ‘Apa’ula and her brothers continued their journey and finally arrived safely in Fiji. Still fearful that her brothers would eat her child, she left Tuisavalalo to be cared for and fed by the fish of the sea.
The fish finally delivered the child to his mother when he was old enough, however the boy continually loved to go to the ocean.

Every day he would go to the beach to surf in the waves. ‘Apa’ula was also very happy for her son to go to the ocean, concluding that he would be protected from her brothers who sought to kill the boy to avenge their anger towards Vaea for humiliating them. Not only that, but ‘Apa’ula’s brothers were suspicious of her, as she had hidden her son in the sea.
One day while the brothers of ‘Apa’ula were drinking ‘ava, they heard someone cheering in the ocean. They looked to see who it was and they recognized their sister ‘Apa’ulu’s child. The brothers sent a message to their sister to give her child to them as food for their ‘ava. ‘Apa’ula was saddened by her brothers request, so she went to the beach and cried out to her dear son and these are her words:

Tuisavalalo e, ‘ina se’e mai ia, (Tuisavalalo, come here)
Fa’aoga se galu ‘e te gafatia, (Use a wave, if you can)
‘A fati mai ‘a e fati sisina, (If it breaks, and water is white)
‘Ou te masalo ‘ua alofaina, (I will know all will be well)
‘A e ‘a fati mai e fati toto, (But if it breaks and I see blood waves)
‘Ou te masalo ‘ua ‘e malolo. (I will assume you have been killed)

‘Apa’ula lifted up her head and saw her son surfing on the bloody waves. ‘Apa’ula was saddened because she knew then that her son was going to die. The boy arrived on the shore and said to his mother, “Dear Mother, what has happened?”
His mother said to him, “The message that came from my brothers was to give you to them for food for their ‘ava.”
The boy was distraught when he heard these words of his mother, and he cried out his desperate plea:

“Oi! Le masina e o fe’e tetele (Oh, the moon and the large octopus)
Se’i suluia ane ai Vaitele, (Lighten the way to Vaitele)
Le mea e iai Taufa’apu’e ma Magele (Where Taufa’apu’e and Magele)
Vaiafe’ai ma Mutiatele, (Vaiafe’ai and Mutiatele)
Se’i latou fa’ato’ilalo nei ali’i faisautele (So they can defeat these men)
‘Ae ola ‘ita, si tagata ‘ese (And I, a stranger shall live!)

But ‘Apa’ula could not save her son. Her brothers came to take him by force and killed him. However, ‘Apa’ula commanded her brother, Tauatigiulu that if they were going to kill her son, all she asked for was that his head be brought back to her. Tautigiulu did as his sister commanded him. The boy was killed by his mother’s brothers and Tautigiulu brought the head of the boy to give to ‘Apa’ula. ‘Apa’ula was stricken by this awful thing that her brothers had done to her only son. She had thought of a way she would seek revenge on her brothers for this dreadful thing they had done, but then, she thought that it would be better to return to Samoa and tell her husband Vaea what had happened.

‘Apa’ula then traveled again to Samoa. ‘Apa’ula arrived at the place where her husband Vaea was, but to her shock and dismay, only the head of Vaea was visible. His whole body had turned into rocks and into dirt. ‘Apa’ula saw the condition of her husband Vaea and then ‘Apa’ula cried and fell at the feet of Vaea which had now completely turned to stone. Her tears fell like rain on the hardened feet of Vaea and created a river that now runs next to Mount Vaea. This river has been named “The Tears of ‘Apa’ula.” Vaea’s head drooped and he looked at ‘Apa’ula then he asked “My dear, what has happened?”

‘Apa’ula continued to cry and answered, “I came to tell you that my brothers ate our son Tuisavalalo together with their ‘ava. That is why I came, so that you would go to seek revenge of my brothers for the awful thing they have done to Tuisavalalo.”

Vaea said, “Oh dear, ‘Apa’ula you have come, you have served well. There is nothing that I can do, only my head remains. But here, come and go to Savai’i to find my brother Va’atausili, then tell him that you two will go to avenge our son for the dreadful thing your brothers did to Tuisavalalo.”
‘Apa’ula then left Vaea for at this time, Vaea’s head and face had begun to turn into a rock. She traveled to Savai’i to look for Va’atausili. ‘Apa’ula arrived in Savai’i and began to ask people where she could find Vaea’s brother named Va’atausili. People said to her that Va’atausili lived in the village of Lealatele. ‘Apa’ula left for that village.

When ‘Apa’ula arrived at one end of the village of Lealatele, she saw a child playing with butterflies and stick insects in the garden. ‘Apa’ula asked whether the child knew Va’atausili but the child answered and said that he himself was Va’atausili. ‘Apa’ula had difficulty believing in the words of this boy because he was so small in stature he looked insignificant and harmless. However, the boy said to ‘Apa’ula that if she didn’t believe him then they should go to his family in Falealupo to prove it. They went to Falealupo and ‘Apa’ula had it confirmed when the people said that he was indeed the same Va’atausili that she sought. ‘Apa’ula’s doubts disappeared and then she told Va’atausili about the reason she had come. Va’atausili heard the sufferings of ‘Apa’ula, and his compassion rose for her and he said to her, “Very well, I know of your suffering and pain, but we can’t go with my body as it presently is to face up to your brothers. For this reason, you will wait here at the house while Va’atausili will moea’itino.” (meaning that Va’atausili was going to sleep to grow his body). Va’atausili then went into the cave and slept. While Va’atausili slept, his body began to grow and became strong and beautiful. However, Va’atausili kept sleeping until his body got so big, the cave couldn’t stop it from growing. When Va’atausili came outside of the cave, his body was like the body of a sau’ai (ogre). This is the reason for the Samoan saying, “Ua atoa tino o Va’atausili.” (Va’atausili’s body is now complete). When ‘Apa’ula saw the state of Va’atausili’s body, she was happy because now Va’atausili could defeat her cruel brothers and fulfill her desire to her seek vengeance on brothers for the dreadful thing they had done to her son Tuisavalalo.

Everything was prepared, and then ‘Apa’ula and Va’atausili traveled to Fiji. When they arrived on the shores of Fiji, Va’atausili pulled an entire coconut tree out of the ground to use as his weapon to fight ‘Apa’ula’s brothers. The brothers of ‘Apa’ula saw from afar the appearance of this frightful, large person and his formidable weapon, and ran away in terror as fast as they could. However, they were all quickly found, and Va’atausili promptly killed them all, to his and Apa’ula’s satisfaction.

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