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Stories From Kiribati


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Tabaneaki and the request of Baretoa people

Posted by Amota Eromanga on October 11, 2020 at 10:15 AM

An old man named Toantemabine, once lived at Baretoa village on the island of Abemama. He was known to possess a rare skill of ‘binekua’. With this skill, a person could call or make the whales swim all the way from the bottom of the ocean to the shore. At the shore, they would be killed; their meat cut up then cooked by the villagers for food.

There came an occasion, when the people of Baretoa experienced an intense food craving for the meat of the whale. Thus, everyone understood that getting a whale for its meat wasn’t easy at all. Even their skillful fishermen couldn’t do that either. So who on the island could the villagers turn to for help? Yes, Toantemabine was the only village expert in this field, therefore in the end; he was approached and asked for help.

“All right, I will get what you desire, but don’t forget to gather the food required for the job!” said Toantemabine.

The village people began weaving large baskets and started filling them with local food. Few days later, the baskets were full with food that included bwabwai, coconuts, breadfruits and many more. The villagers carried all the baskets to Toantemabine’s home.

“I’m about to carry out the work. Once I go to sleep, be sure that nobody wakes me up!” he reminded those around him.

After that, Toantemabine got under his sleeping mat and fell into a deep sleep. His spirit left his body and went off and down into the world at the bottom of the ocean. Down there, he came to a place where a couple welcomed him to their home. The couple had two children – a daughter named Tinanimone and a younger son with the name of Tabaneaki. The children were currently away playing in the field.

“It’s been a long time since your last visit. What brought you back, this time?” asked the couple.

“My people are dying for the whale’s meat and I had promised to help them.” replied Toantemabine.

Later in their arguable conversation, Toantemabine was thankful his request was accepted. With cold hearts, the parents agreed to let their son go with him. In appreciation, Toantemabine gave the couple all the food he had brought with him. As soon as Tabaneaki returned home from playing, the two headed back towards Toantemabine’s island. Toantemabine walked much faster, so in the end, he reached the island ahead of his companion.

Upon his arrival at Baretoa, Toantemabine woke up and got out from under his sleeping mat. He told the villagers to get ready as their food was on its way. He warned that the whale must be killed and its body cut up quickly before the arrival of another whale. He also added that those whales were siblings and they should never touch each other or something strange would happen.

Back to the bottom of the sea, Tinanimone had just returned home from the field.

“Where’s my brother?” she asked.

“He went with Toantemabine to his island.” the parents replied.

Tinanimone could sense danger hidden in their voice, so she rushed after her brother. She needed to get to Toantemabine’s island before the tide was fully low. On her way up, she kept asking those she met if they’d seen her brother.

“You better hurry! Blood is seen at the ocean side of Abemama.” said the other fish.

Tinanimone went faster as she could. Her huge wave enabled her to reach the shore, right beside her brother. What a sad and horrible view! Over half of her brother’s body had been chopped with sharp axes and knives by the villagers. The sea around and beyond the area had turned red with his blood. Tinanimone acted quickly, and as soon as she grabbed the tail of her brother, they both suddenly turned into a rock. All the meat that had been cut off also turned into rock - even those being cooked inside pots and earth ovens. None of the whale’s meat could be eaten or used at all.

The body of these whales - in the form of a big long rock that lies all the way from the reef to the beach - can still be seen nowadays at the ocean side of Abemama island.


Categories: Legends & Myths

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