DOBES Archive

Roots of the lemeotir tree
This story is about a woman who puts her newborn son under the roots of a tree and gives him a root to suck on, knowing that it will keep him alive. The boy grows and when he is old enough, he makes himself a bow and arrows and goes to shoot some birds. He wants to bring them as a present to his mother and sings a song as he walks to her place. When his mother hears him, she knows it's her son, but her own mother does not believe her. Finally, the son arrives with the fowl and they celebrate their reunion.
Kinship Relations
The intricate kinship system of Ambrym comes with a number of rules which determine how people have to behave towards one another. Taboos hold mostly for those relatives who are eligible as in-laws (see the session about the marriage lineage). They range from a ban on jokes to forbidding a person to be in the same room with certain relatives.
In this story, two men get lost in the bush. Finally, they arrive at the house of a demon who invites them in. He wants to eat them, but they manage to trick him into killing his lifestock and children instead and escape. Later, they come back in disguise to finish him off.
Origin of Kava
The story explains the origin of the kava plant and its use as a drug. As two lovers who haven't had a single fight during their long and fulfilling marriage get old, the wife tells her husband one day that she feels she is going to die. She instructs him to bury her body nearby the house and that a plant is going to grow from her grave. When this plant has grown big, he should take its roots, grind them and mix them with water. Then he should invite all the chiefs of the area to drink. They should repeat this procedure each evening, and whenever they drink the kava, they should think of her. Thus, the drug is a token of her memory to her husband.
Tired of Baiap
The story is about a man from Baiap who, long ago, used to work on ships and on plantations in Queensland, Australia. After spending a long time abroad, he finally returns to Baiap, where he soon gets bored. The story relates the song he sang to express his sadness and boredom and his longing for the life he had in Queensland.
In the story, three boys set out to shoot a bird. When they encounter a pidgeon in a banyan tree, it talks to them and asks them why they want to shoot it. They still shoot it down from the tree, but then the bird sings a haunting song and spooks the children. In the end, they tell their father that the bird became a man.
Aneityum and Tonga
In the story, five sisters from Tonga frequently fly to the island Aneityum to bathe there. One day, Masisipe, a young man who lives on Aneityum, watches them bathe. He takes a shine to the youngest of the girls and decides to hide her wings. When the sisters prepare to get back to Tonga and don their wings, the youngest of them realizes that her wings are gone and starts to cry. Her sisters decide to leave the island without her. Then, Masisipe approaches the girl and asks her for the reason of her grief. She tells him about the wings. He shows her wings to her and invites her to his house, but hides the wings again. They stay together and after a while she gives birth to a child. Still homesick one day she sets out to find her wings and flies back to Tonga with the child. But Masisipe follows her and they stay together.
Speaker FT talks about the kingfisher. He briefly describes its appearance and then explains its prophetic powers: if your on the road, with a certain plan in mind and you hear the kingfisher chirp to your left, you won't succeed, but if it chirps to your right, you will be successful. This audio recording was made in the context of the sand drawing depicting the kingfisher, which is also linked to this session bundle.
The informant tells a story about the origins of the "Simarongrong bones" which are powerful magic objects. In the story, a boy tricks his grandmother into thinking he ate more bananas than he was allowed to. She believes the evidence of her eyes over his own testimony and he burns himself, only his bones remaining. The name `Simarongrong' is apparently a loan version for the Daakaka term `temyar dengdeng', "the crying demon". The story probably was once accompanied by a song, which is however either said to be taboo or forgotten.
Marriage Lineage
Traditionally, a boys father has to choose a bride for him. Who is suitable as a daughter-in-law depends on the intricate kinship system. In short, a woman eligible as the daughter-in-law of a man X should be the daughter of the daughter of one of X's sisters. If it's not one of his direct sisters, it might also be a daughter of one of his father's brothers.Today, people do not adhere strictly to this system and children will often choose their own spouses instead of having their parents decide.
Lisepsep at Malver
The story starts with the people of a village, who plan to clear a new area of the bush for agricultural use. A lisepsep watches them cut down trees and bushes, but after they have left, he makes all the vegetation grow back again. When the villagers arrive the next day to continue their work, they see that all they had achieved so far has been undone and they start anew. But the lisepsep works his magic again and their work has been in vain. So they devise a plan to find out what is making the plants grow back. When they realize that a lisepsep is responsible for their hardship, only the slightly challenged Tase is brave enough to catch him. The villagers carry the captive lisepsep along, despite his plea to let him go. They attack him with weapons and throw him into the sea where he turns into a reef which can be seen to this day.
Crab and Rat
The crab and the rat are literally playing with fire. They clear their respecitve fields by lighting a fire and bet on who finds a better way to stay close to the fire without getting burned. The rat digs a hole, but the crab just covers itself up with leaves. Thus, the crab burns, but the rat survives and hence has an affinity to digging holes.
Rat and Kingfisher
The rat and the kingfisher are playing together. When they see another island across the sea, they want to go there. They carve out a pawpaw to be their boat, but in the middle of the sea, the rat gets hungry and starts eating the fruit. Despite the warnings of the kingfisher, the rat bites a hole into the fruit, which starts sinking. The kingfisher flies away and the rat appeals to various animals of the sea for help. A turtle agrees to rescue it and carries it to the shore on its head. The rat shits onto the turtle's head, before it jumps off to the shore. The enraged turtle then calls for a tidal wave to kill the rat and the rat dies.
Youth Service
The speaker is responsible for the organization of the local youth service. He talks about the local and hierarchic organization of the Presbyterian church in Vanuatu.
Granddad and grandson
This is a story about an orphan child who lives with his grandfather. He discovers a bird in their garden and wants to eat it, but his grandfather secretly eats it himself. At the end of the story, the grandfather throws up and the grandson eventually gets to eat the bird.
Crab and Swordfish
In the story, the crab challenges the swordfish, who is known as the fastest swimmer in the sea, to a race. They agree to swim a race along the cost of Ambrym, from Maranata to Lalinda. After they have settled on a date, the crab goes to the various ports on the course of the race. At each port, he visits a friend of his and tells them about the race. He instructs them to act as if they were him, as soon as they see the swordfish go by. The ploy works, the swordfish thinks that each of the crabs he meets along the way are his opponent and tries to swim ever faster. In the end, it dies from exhaustion and its carcass is eaten by the crabs. The story is very reminiscent of the Grimm's tale of the hare and the hedgehog.
In the story, a married couple lives near Sesivi, on the western shore of the island of Ambrym. On the neighbouring island of Malekula lives the young man Reprepmalao. One day, he takes a bath in the sea and rubs himself off with the leaves of the cottonwood tree and throws them into the sea. The woman from Ambrym sees the leaves float across the sea and collects them and keeps them in her bed. At night, she says: `Reprepmalao, float closer.' Her husband hears this and gets jealous. When the same happens again, the husband goes off to Malekula, finds Reprepmalao, brings him to Ambrym, cuts him to pieces and makes his wife eat him. She is mortified, but brings Reprepmalao back to life with magic. They then escape back to Malekula where they get married.
The tamadu is an insect which drills and lives in holes in the ground. One day it wants to earn a higher rank and it goes to two men to ask them for pigs so it can perform the appropriate ceremony. The tamadu promises to give the pigs back to the men later on. It gets the pigs and has its ceremony. However, when the day of repayment approaches, the tamadu still has not managed to aquire new pigs for the two men. So the tamadu asks the two to shoot it for its failure. It instructs them to stand opposite each other, while the tamadu itself stands in the middle between them. Then it tells them to let go of their arrows as soon as it has counted to three. At "three", the tamadu quickly disappears into a hole, so that the two men instead shoot each other and the tamadu is at once rid of both its creditors.
According to legend, the island of Ambrym has not always had a volcano. This is the story of how it was brought there: Long ago, a man from Ambrym used to watch the coast of the neighbouring islands of Maskilin and Malekula in the evenings. Every time, he saw something glow very brightly on the small island Maskilin. Eventually, he decided to find out what the source of this mysterious light was. To go there, he entered the bweebwi, which is a magical device to move quickly under water, and which according to some accounts looks like a shark skin. When he arrived, he found that the source of the light was a pig; it smoked and glowed and was noisy. He found the owner of this pig, traded it against the bweebwi and brought the pig back to Ambrym on a canoe. Back there, the pig started to dig vast holes into the landscape and continued to make noise, so the man moved it further and further away from his village, towards the center of the island. There, it dug its biggest hole yet, and you can here it rumble and see it smoke and glow to this day.
Baking Chestnuts
A group of people are baking chestnuts. A lisepsep manages to divert them from their activity by making the tide go low: They decide to go look for shellfish. While they're away, the lisepsep replaces the contents of the chestnut shells by his own feces. When the men discover the trick that has been played on them, they devise a plan to catch the lisepsep. The captive creature is cut into pieces and roasted, but to no avail. The meat does not get soft and when they throw away the pieces, the lisepsep is alive again. He can however be tricked into swallowing a burning hot stone, which eventually kills him.