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10 thoughts on “Legends, traditions and tales of Nauru

  1. says:

    Ratings on books of folklore, especially from outsiders, shouldn t be taken too seriously I can rate my experience with a book, and can give my opinion on its literary merits, but am in no position to judge the contribution it makes to the preservation of cultural information, nor the importance it might have to people who actually belong to the culture in question That said, this proved a bit of a challenging read, and the presentation could be improved It is unclear exactly who the book is intended for there is no introduction to put the work in context or explain how it came to be According to the bookjacket, it was compiled and translated by Head Chief Timothy Detudamo in 1938, based on lecturers by unidentified native teachers, but not published until 2008.This is a very slim volume, and as it turns out the title refers to the three sections of the book First come 34 pages of legends, 11 stories which remind me of the Old Testament, both in their content origin myths and historical legends, preoccupied with the lineage of their characters and in their dryness despite dramatic content Clans go to war, young men kill each other or old people or children, often without any sense that this is seen as inappropriate shorn of emotional content and without getting inside the heads of any of the characters, it s difficult for someone outside the culture to appreciate the meaning of any of this.Next up are 18 pages on traditional culture, brief descriptions of aspects of traditional life on Nauru, from hygiene to food storage to inheritance, and with a focus on tools and fishing This is interesting but quite short It is all told in the past tense, but without any information on how long ago these traditions existed or on sources did this traditional culture exist during the lifetimes of the people who put the book together, or did they rely on what older people had told them Finally, there are 33 pages of tales, of which there are 17 These feel relaxed and have narrative flow than the legends they are like fairy tales, starring regular people or animals Perhaps it s because they re rendered in so few pages that the tales seem odd, leaving me confused about what a listener might get out of them, or perhaps it s just the cultural divide But for the foreign reader, it would have been helpful to have some explanation of repeated motifs, such as all the families consisting of a husband, wife and 30 daughters.And then, as other reviewers have commented, there is the world s least helpful glossary The scant information contained in the glossary is available from context, so why anyone would think to include the following I can t fathom Eaeoquar A type of fishEakaberere A type of sportEaru n eded A type of fishing line made from hibiscus barkEaru n eiror A type of fishing line made from hibiscus barkEaru n gati A type of fishing line made from hibiscus barkEaru n kagaga A type of fishing line made from hibiscus barkEaru n oquoe A type of fishing line made from hibiscus barkEatu n anape sic A type of fishing line made from hibiscus barkEbaba A type of foodEbawo A type fish sic All in all, for a reader unfamiliar with Nauru this book is likely to be confusing than enlightening whether folklorists or modern Nauruans might make sense of it, I can t say It isn t necessarily a bad book it may not have been intended for readers like me at all but I can t claim to have gotten much out of it.


  2. says:

    Does very much what it says on the tin a section of legends origin myths, broadly speaking then traditions clothes, tools, fishing techniques and so on , and then 17 other folk tales The book packs quite a lot of stuff into its 98 pages And it s all quite interesting There is something fascinating about these Pacific island cultures where people were so isolated, and Nauru is isolated even by Pacific standards one island two or three miles across which is hundreds of miles from anywhere.I find the stories from oral cultures intriguing and slightly baffling I just don t understand the narrative logic of them often they just seem to develop by a process of free association There probably is a logic there, but it s not what I m used to.The book also has a glossary which is so wilfully unhelpful that it s actually rather brilliant here s a sample of it Demauduru A type of food seen only at feasts and special occasionsDeneno A type of food seen only at feasts and special occasionsDenodoro A type of food seen only at feasts and special occasionsDenuwanini A plant a type of creeperDerugu A type of fighting weaponDoboj A type of food seen only at feasts and special occasionsDobwidu A type of fighting weaponDogoro A type of fighting weapon


  3. says:

    Timothy Detudamo, Head Chief of Nauru from 1931 1942 and 1946 1953 his governorship was interrupted by the Japanese occupation during WWII , wrote down these stories and descriptions of life on Nauru in 1938, though why it remained unpublished until 2008 is something I have not been able to determine The title pretty much says it all it s a slim volume, divided into three unequal sections for legends mythology, or less , traditions descriptions of customs and rituals , and tales folklore It s hard to say exactly what distinguishes the legends from the tales, except that the tales are less boring and have animals in them It s the kind of thing I m generally trying to avoid reading, being, as it is, not so much literature as anthropology though at least this was written by a Nauruan and not by an outside observer , but this was fairly painless due largely to its clarity and less than 100 page length The section on traditions was unexpectedly interesting the legends were a series of tales about mythical warriors and their parentage, and tended to drone on a bit The tales, though, were often startling and for folk tales mostly had unexpectedly upbeat endings Throughout all three sections, it was the little details that made the book for me such little nuggets as the fact that after a woman gives birth, all the local men have a boxing match so that she won t have been the only one to suffer Or this wonderful quote His parents did not want him to be a warrior for they did not want to lose him They wanted him to be a snarer of fish or a frigate bird expert If I had a penny for everyone whose parents pushed them to be a frigate bird expert Or the fairly obscure moral of the story in which a man takes an inexplicable dislike to his wife and thirty daughters and goes off to live by himself in a hut by the sea until they all commit suicide, after which he hurried away to try to stop them But he was too late, for they were all dead when he arrived Now he bitterly regretted what he had done, so he picked up a large stone and beat his head with it until he too died I mean, I guess the moral is, don t abandon your wife and tell your daughters that they stink and you hate them and refuse to explain yourself if you re going to be upset when they kill themselves, but that seems like weirdly specific advice for a folk tale.I ve published this review, along with a few of my favorite excerpts from the book, on my blog, Around the World in 2000 Books.


  4. says:

    I agree with the review before me, the Glossary was spectacularly unhelpful and most rhymes or chants in the book are not translated either The book could also have done with an introduction, because we learn nothing about how these tales were collected, who told them, etc But other than that, it was a fun read Some of the legends get complicated with all the similar names and clan warfare, but many of them were also really beautiful and entertaining Worth reading.


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