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Bue the Ancestor

Early writings of Sir Arthur Grimble
arranged and illustrated by Rosemary Grimble

There was a woman of Tebongiroro named Nei Matamona, whose habit it was to bathe on the eastern beach at sunrise. And when the sun rose, he saw her every day; so he loved her, and sent one of his rays to her as she bathed. The ray entered between her thighs. And behold! she was pregnant. These were the names of Nei Matamona's children by the Sun: Tongea and Tangea, Nakianga and Maau-kitekite, and Bue and the youngest child a girl, their sister Nei Te-raa-iti. These were the children of the Sun, but the first four died, and only Bue with his sister Nei Te-raa-iti remained alive. The Sun took Nei Te-raa-iti away, and built her an enclosrue of rock in the East. Only Bue remained in Tebongiroro.

This was the manner of bue: he desired to visit his father in the East, even the Sun. He told his mother that thought of his, and she said, 'It is good. go, make thy canoe.' He made his canoe of the shell of a coconut and named it Te Kuo-n-aine, then returned to his mother and said, 'It is ready.' Then she gave him certain things to take with him to the Sun, and these were the names of them: two smooth stones of red coral, one fruit of the non-tree, and the old coconut; thou salt fan him with the young leaf to make him cold; thou salt bind him with the strong green leaf.'

So Bue set forth in his canoe Te Kuo-n-aine and sped to the east side of heaven, for it was his thought to catch his father as he rose above the sea. But first, he visited the rock in the east where dwelt his sister Nei Te-raa-iti. He came to his sister, and she asked him, 'Who art though?' He said, 'I am Bue, and I go to visit our father the Sun.'

'And what dost thou carry with thee?'

'I carry six things: two stones of red coral, one fruit of the non-tree, one old coconut, the first leaf of a seed nut, and the strong green leaf of an old tree.'

'And what wilt thou do when thou hast caught our father?'
'I will beg him to give me cleverness (te rabakau) and knowledge (te ataibai)?
Then said Nei Te-raa-iti, 'It is good. Visit our father, but when thou hast met with him, return to me.'

Bue set forth. He came to the side of Heaven where the Sun was about to rise. He arrived in the dark before dawn. He waited. The Sun began to rise, and Bue smote him at his six mounting-platforms (kai-ni-katoka), for there were three rocks upon which he began to move up from the depths and three rocks upon which he climbed up over the sea.

When the Sun reached his first rock in the depths, his first ray sprang up to the sky: Bue saw it and hurled his first stone of red coral, and the ray fell dead in the sea. And when the Sun reached his second rock in the depths, his second ray sprang up to the sky: Bue saw it, and hurled his second stone of red coral, and the ray fell dead in the sea. The third ray he smote with the fruit of the non-tree, and the fourth ray he smote with the old coconut. Then the Sun reached his fifth rock, which was a rock above the sea: his face burned fiercely, and Bue was scorched in his fire. But this man was not afraid; he ran forward and fanned his father's face with the young coconut leaf, and when the wind of it came to the Sun he winced and the heat died. Then he spoke to Bue, saying, 'Who art thou? Whence comest thou?' Bue answered, 'I am indeed thy offspring, and Bue is my name.'

The Sun crawled up to his sixth rock, the rock of his blazing (ati-ni-kanenea), but he was tired, and Bue ran forward and caught him in the strong green coconut leaf. He floated on the sea and Bue bound him with the leaf, saying, 'Thou art my father, and I beseech thee.' The Sun said, 'Who is thy mother?' He answered, 'Nei Matamona is my mother.'

'And what is thy request?'
'I visit thee to beg thee to give me cleverness and knowledge.'

Then the Sun gave knowledge to Bue: he gave him the building-craft (katei-bai): the building of the maneaba of Kings, which is called Te Namakaina; and the building of the maneaba called Te Tabanin; and the building of the long maneaba which is called Maungatabu; and the building of the maneaba whereof the breadth is greater than the length, called Te Ketoa. And he gave him the magic for raising the wind, and stilling the wind, and making the rain; and the magic that is done at the new moon, called Te Kabueari, for the protection of children, and the health of men, and the safety of the maneaba and skill in composing dance-chants. And he gave him the manners of burying the dead - one manner for Kings and one manner for the people and one manner which is called the grave of Bue.

All that knowledge bue learned in the east. And before he left, his father gave him the white stick ringed with black rings called Te Kai-ni-kamata, saying, 'Take this staff with thee as a memorial of thy coming to me. It shall go with three always. Set it aloft upon thy canoe-sail, and it shall be thy protection against death at sea.' And Te Kai-ni-kamata, indeed, is the canoe=crest of the children of Bue to this day, the canoe-crest of Ababou and Maerua. And the sun gave Bue the magic called Te Tiri-kua (the slaying of the porpoise) by which fierce fish and the waterspout are prevented at sea.

When Bue returned from the Sun, he went first to the rock of his sister, Nei Te-raa-iti. She accompanied him, and they set forth towards the west, but they did not mount upon their canoe, for they swam in the sea beside it. And while they were swimming their bodies met: they made love.

The Sun saw his children making love and he was angry: he said to the porpoise, "Go, overturn their canoe.' The porpoise overturned their canoe, and they sank down to the land of Mone in the depths. There they met with ancestors. Nei Te-raa-iti was led away to the north by two ancestors, but Bue followed the ancestor who went west, and he was led to the enclosure of Nei-Bairara. There he hid himself, for he wished to steal the magic of that old woman.

He waited until the sun came over the west, and when his father was above the enclosure of Nei Bairaqra he was lucky, for his father said to that woman, 'Repeat the spell for thy first wind.' She repeated the spell, and Bue learned it. Then said the Sun again, 'Repeat the spell for thy se4cond wind.' So all the winds of that woman were stolen by Bue.

The Sun set, and Bue disclosed himself to the old woman and when she saw that he had stolen all her winds, she said, 'Stay. Await thy father.' But Bue feared his father and stayed not, he ran away westwards until the trod the confines of Roro.

In Roro he met the old woman named Nei Temaing (the-left-handed) who was the keeper of the rain and of the winds that carry rain-clouds, so he stayed with her and learned her magic. There was none of the magic of Nei Temaing that Bue did not learn, for he tricked that old woman when the Sun went down over Roro, even as he had tricked Nei Bairara before her.

When Bue was about to leave Nei Temaing, he said to her, 'Woman, I go. With thou come with me?' She refused, so he said, 'Give me, then, I beg thee, that uri tree of thine for making fire-sticks, for I will use it as my canoe for sailing eastwards. She refused to give him her uri tree, saying, 'Go upon thy own craft.' But this was the manner of that uri tree: pieces of broken coral had been washed up by the waves, and they had dug beneath the roots of the tree, so that it was loose. So Bue took hold upon the tree and uprooted it and ran away.

Then Nei Temaing arose and ran after Bue, and Bue knew that he would be caught for she ran faster than he, so he thought how he might save himself. And behold! he raised the winds that the Sun had given him: the Sun's winds blew but stayed her not. He raised the winds that he had stolen from Nei Bairara: Nei Bairara's winds blew but stayed her not. He raised the winds that he had stolen from Nei Temaing herself: the winds blew, the rain fell, and behold! she was stayed by her own wind and rain. He escaped, and he carried with him the uri tree for making fire-sticks that belonged to Nei Temaing: its name was Te Uri-ni-kabuebue (the uri-to-make-burn).

So Bue sailed eastward until he came to Tarawa, and behold! the man Riirongo of Tarawas received and fed him in the midst of the sea. When Rii-rongo came to him, Bue said, 'Who is thy father?' Riirongo answered, 'Iirataa is my father, and Nei Te-tauti (porcupine fish) is my mother. I live in the sea on the west side of Tarawa. This is my place. Then he left, and Bue went up to the land.

Bue on Tarawa

The sister of Bue, Nei Te-raa-iti, had already arrived at Tarawa, for the ancestors had led her there when she separated from her brother in Mone. She had become the wife of Kirataa-Tererei, the second Kirataa, and her son was Kirataa the Third. She welcomed Bue, and her husband, Kirataa, gave him the houseplace called Ababou. There he dwelt on Tarawa.

But there came a day when a wonderful thing happened on Tarawa; for Bue walked about the land, and where he walked the coconut trees and pandanus trees were withered: they were burned up. Then Kirataa said to Nei Te-raa-iti 'Woman, can thy brother help us?' He knew not that it was Bue himself who had sent the trees afire. She went and begged her brother, so he called the rain, and the rain fell and the fire was quenched. but the rain continued to fall when the fire was quenched: it ceased not, day and night. So Kirataa said again to his wife 'Can thy brother help us?' She went to him again, and he say3ed the rain. After that, Kirataa called Bue to build him a maneaba, and he built him the maneaba: Maunga-tabu, and the maneaba Te Namakaina.

Then said Bue to his sister, 'Woman, thou shalt make some string for me.' When that was done he made a dip-net for catching flying-fish; and on a rainy day he went out to the place where he had met Riirongo, to westward of the reef of Tarawa. When Riirongo appeared, Bue caught him in the net and took him back to Tarawa. He led him ashore, he took him into his house and dwelt with him: they lived as brothers (i-taritari).

First they dwelt together at Taratai, on the north side of Tarawa, near Tebonobono; and then they went down to the south end of the island, to dwell at Tabuki-n-tarawa, near Betio. Afterwards, Bue and Riirongo, with Nei Tetauti, the mother of Riorongo, went in their canoes Te Bakakai and Te Kai-ni-kamata to the islands of Beru and Nikunau. There remain their children today, even the people of Ababou and Maerua, who are the builders of the maneaba for the kings of Karongoa. And the boti (sitting place) of Ababou in the maneaba of Maunga-tabu is under the middle rafter (kiaro-matua) on the western side, face to face with Karongoa. That boti was accorded to the children of Bue by the sun, when he gave Bue the building craft, and so it is today.

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(E-mail: -- Rev. 2nd August 2005)