Added: 2016-08-23

Thomson (2)

"Father mourning the loss of his child"


(4) ina: according to Schumacher (1993:170) negation 'ina is a Mangarevan word that was imported by Roussel in 1866-1867. Fischer (1997a:101), on the other hand, sees it as a Tahitian loan. In 1868, natives used the expression ina vai – ina ina, "no water, none at all", when Palmer's party was searching to relieve their thirst (1870:168).

(11) muhu: Rapanui vocabularies offer only : mumú: "taciturno", "callado", "mudo" (Englert 1974:203); hahumuhumu: "to speak indistinctly", "to mutter" (Churchill 1912:199). POLLEX however has: PN: musu: "mutter"; MRQ: muhumuhu: "murmurer"; MAO: muhu/muhu: "mutter"; RAR: mu'u/mu'u: "mutter", "whisper"; TAH: muhu: "noise", "the din of talking".

(13) moved: alt.: "frightened" (Fuentes 1960:709: vevéri: "to frighten", "to astonish").

(14) above the entrance, lit. "above the door". These circumstances place the chant firmly at 'Ana O Keke. The entrance of the cave is some 20 m below the edge of the cliff on which the parent is standing. Apparently, at some time it had a papare or door made of reeds (cf. Englert 1974:221: papare: "la portezuela de antiguas hare paeŋa; se hacía de totora en forma de cortina, se enrollaba hacia arriba para abrir, se dejaba colgada para cerrar la entrada").

(18) ava: the original notation may have had ana, "cave", as the "n" is often incorrectly replaced by "v" in the conversion from notes to print.

(20) Alt.: "Your beauty will be seen".

This song was collected in 1886 by Thomson and Salmon during the same session as Atu'a Mata Riri. Apparently Ure Vaeiko "read" it from photographs of tablet Échancrée. It was published by Thomson under the title "Father mourning the loss of his child" with the comment: "This is an old song, supposed to have descended from the time the first inhabitants arrived on the island. The father is believed to mourn for his child left in that eastern land, from which tradition states the people migrated" (1891:525). Evidently this explanation was inspired by the word hiva in line 4 (translated as "foreign"). As has been discussed before, Hiva referred both to the mythical land of origin and to the spirit world, meanings which had a substantial overlap. Although the term is actually absent in the text, the remark about a child in a foreign, eastern land is interesting, as it seems to be a faint trace of the neru in the "otherworldly" place of 'Ana O Keke. In two other texts (R5; R6), a neru is called a "beautiful girl in Hiva". The fact that the cave is located in the eastern part of the island may account for the confusion about the location of the legendary homeland, which was sometimes said to lie in the east (Thomson 1891:531; Clark 1899:145) instead of the west (cf. Barthel 1974:32-35). Salmon's translation is very unreliable and does not need to be reproduced here.

How confused (your) look is,

(your) voice stammering, poor child!

(I) am aware of the distresses of the cave!

Is (your) sorrow unimportant? Of course not!

How confused (you) look at me!

How confused (your) look is,

(your) voice stammering, poor child!

(I) am aware of the distresses of the cave!

Surely (they) are not insignificant? Certainly not!

How confused (your) look is, my "hen"!

By the muffled sounds, o child,

of (your) heavy crying,

(my) heart is moved very much, oh!

(Standing) above this entrance into the earth,

(my) heart is very moved, oh!

But (I) promise: this hole in the earth

will have to let (you) go, poor child,

this damp hole, this dripping hole!

(You) will no longer have sorrow, poor child,

(you) will see (your) beauty!

Surely then (you) will no longer be sad  

because of this, poor child?

Ka ihi uiga –  

te ki ati – / Auwe te poki, e – /

Ite maki tana –

Rii te hiva ina. /

Ka ihi uiga – mai. /

Ka ihi uiga –  

te ki ati – / Auwe te poki, e – /

Ite maki tana –    

Honiti ina. /

Ka ihi uiga – moa mai. /

Ha imu, – poki – e –; /

Ta auwe rai – e; /   

Viviri rai, inage – o; /

I – ruga – i; / Te papare hinua /

Viviri rai – inage – o! /

Haki – e! / Avahinua –

ki tagu atu. / Auwe poki – e! /

Ava rai – / Ava mata –

Ina hiva / Auwe poki – e! /

Ite renia

o parapa

moni / Auwe poki – e!

ka hihi u'inga

te ki hati – aue te poki e

'ite maki ta 'ana

riki te heva – 'ina

ka hihi u'inga mai  

ka hihi u'inga

te ki hati – aue te poki e

'ite maki ta 'ana

o 'iti – 'ina

ka hihi u'inga – moa mai


hai muhu – poki e

ta aue rahi e

veveri rahi inanga – o    

irunga i te papare henua

veveri rahi inanga – o

haaki e ava henua

ki tanga atu – aue poki e

ava rari – ava mata

'ina heva aue poki e

'ite renga

'o para-para

mo nei – aue poki e

Text Thomson

























Fig. 1

The cliffs above 'Ana O Keke with Maunga Parehe

Fischer has dismissed the text stating that "the song was obviously composed in the 1870s or 1880s" while describing its theme as "the loss of a son who has left for Tahiti in search of easy cash" (1997a:101) and "a melody about a departing child off to the mangos and money of Tahiti" (1997b:160). The reason given for his verdict is that the song "includes in its vocabulary Tahitian tiare, 'ina negation, the fruit mangō (not RAP mangō 'shark'), paperi hina ('paper moon' from English) and parapara moni (lit. 'paper money,' also from English)" (1997a:101). As can be seen below, there is no mention in the text of Tahiti (1), tiare or mango – neither the tree- nor the sea-born variety – and the identifications of "paper money" and "paper moon" seem rather forced. This does of course not exclude the possibility that some fragments were interpreted in a similar way by Salmon – who was from Tahiti – or that the song had undergone certain changes some time before that.

It is proposed here that while the song's theme is indeed that of a parent longing for his or her child, the child in question has not gone off to the "easy cash" or "mangos" of Tahiti, but has been sent to the cave of the neru at Poike to become white and stout. As can be seen in the comparison of the original and the reconstructed text, the chant must have been delivered fairly accurate by Ure Vaeiko notwithstanding the fact that he may have been partly unaware of its contents – especially of its referring to a neru child.

The reason for the chant being misinterpreted as a poorly transcribed modern love song can be attributed to Salmon's unfamiliarity with the Rapanui and English languages which resulted in a number of awkward spellings and other misunderstandings, to the careless way Thomson's notes were converted into print by the Smithsonian Institution, and, last but not least, to the scholarly failure of placing the song in its proper context.


(1) Fischer is perhaps confusing the song with the one called Ate-a-renga hokan iti poheraa (see text T3) which has ta hi tiena in line 10 fahiti in line 12.