Traditional stories from Vanuatu

French
 
Version française


 

 

text

 

Selected stories from the oral literature

My encounter with Maten Womal, the last storyteller in the Olrat language.  

 

Exploring the islands of Melanesia allowed me not only to learn new languages, but also to discover a whole new world of mythology and literature, through the many stories of the oral tradition: myths, legends, folktales and other narratives. During my years of fieldwork (1997–2011), I recorded 389 such stories, in 21 different languages. txtSetting aside a few secret myths not meant to be released in public, all these pieces belong to the 940 fieldwork recordings I have archived and made publicly accessible online – mostly through the Pangloss Collection, the open archive of my department CNRS–LACITO.

Among those archived recordings, I here propose a selection of 73 stories, which stand out for various reasons – whether due to their subject, their structure, the light they shed upon past or present societies, or due to the talented style of the storyteller. Not only can you listen to the original sound, but also read a transcript of the text in the language [these languages are presented here]. As much as possible, texts come with a translation, either in French or in English.

To read a text, click on its title.
The table below shows what features come with the text:
French audio – French transcript of the text in the vernacular–
French French translation – English English translation.

 

Stories from Vanuatu

 

Araki The rat, the hawk and the octopus – see page Lele Moli  
Araki A myth of origin: the island of Araki Lele Moli  
Araki Hunting for coconut crab Ropo  
Araki How the village of Sope was exorcised Sohe Moli  
Dorig Wrisris, the Guardian of the Underworld – §1§2§3 Charles Maklen  
Dorig The woman who became volcano John Collection  
Dorig The mysterious pixies John Star
Dorig The barracuda boy Selwyn Wesur
Hiw The mat from the Other World Jimmy Tiwyoy  
Koro The battle between Gods and Men Banabas Womal
Koro The boy who became a Flying fish Derik Bogo  
Koro In love with an Eel Man Banabas Womal  
Lakon Wuwut the orphan Klera Romalev
Lakon Kpwat and his brothers Moses Steven Weting  
Lakon On the significance of Hawks Nelson Vagēl
Lakon The origin of Gaua's great lake Nikson Wevales  
Lakon The origin of dances magh and leng Nikson Wevales
Mwerlap On the people of Gaua Rokatson  
Mwesen Kpwet, the trickster god Tevēt Mesigteltōk
Mwotlap The dancing dead Hansel  
Mwotlap Romanmangan, the fairy from the Other world Jenifa to Toglag
Mwotlap The Cordyline man Masiro Numleas
Mwotlap The three wives of the gecko Moses Meywēlgen
Mwotlap The unyielding woman and the murdered prince Railey  
Mwotlap How Ikpwet brought back the Night Taitus Lōlō  
Olrat John Young, one who went to Queensland Maten Womal
Olrat The curse of the Eel Maten Womal
Olrat The boy who bullied the Ogress Maten Womal  
Volow The Chief and the Orphan Wanhan  

 

Stories from the Solomon Islands

 

Lovono The shipwreck of Lapérouse §1§2 Rubenson Lono  
Tanema The shipwreck of Lapérouse Emele Mamuli  
Teanu Dragging the canoe to the sea Mofet Bwana    
Teanu Lapérouse's treasure chest Teliki Thomas  
Teanu The message left by Lapérouse Teliki Thomas  
Teanu The origin of the kauri tree Teliki James Pae  
Teanu Mwasu, guilty of incest Teliki James Pae    
Teanu The origin of Tamate dances Teliki James Pae    
Tikopia The shipwreck of Lapérouse Kaspa Niu Maketi  



 

Some stories have no translation yet, and are only provided with a transcript: these may be of interest to members of the speaker communities, as well as linguists or other curious readers.
 

Dorig The two sisters and their cruel mother Charles Maklen    
Hiw The two yams Jimmy Tiwyoy    
Hiw Talking of the olden days Jimmy Tiwyoy    
Hiw Spirits and demons Jimmy Tiwyoy    
Hiw The origin of newēt music Jimmy Tiwyoy    
Hiw Mer̄ëmpē, the river eel Jimmy Tiwyoy    
Hiw Mer̄avtit and his brothers Jimmy Tiwyoy    
Hiw Toyöë and Wor̄tötë Jimmy Tiwyoy    
Hiw The coconut crab of Metoma Stanley Elfrik Vēniwyōy      
Lehali The mother resurrected Stanley Lengson    
Lemerig The rock that floated to the Torres Islands Wolta Robin    
Lemerig Kpwet and his brothers against the Ogre Wolta Robin    
Lo-Toga The origin of yams Aisak Rongroriw    
Lo-Toga Merawehih creates Night and Day Aisak Rongroriw    
Lo-Toga Merawehih and his brothers in the oven Aisak Rongroriw    
Lo-Toga Merawehih and the coconut crab Aisak Rongroriw    
Lo-Toga The Ogress who killed her own children Ben Rana    
Lo-Toga A demon Ben Rana    
Lo-Toga Qaheteveri the Cannibal Elton Gëgeliqe    
Lo-Toga The story of Rëlol beach Livai Metrië    
Lo-Toga Merawehih and his brothers against the Ogre Peretin Wokmagene    
Lo-Toga Merawehih frees his mother Peretin Wokmagene    
Lo-Toga The octopus Pita Woteqō    
Löyöp The giant swine of the Reef Islands Fred William Qasvarong    
Löyöp The two ogres Al and Oydin Fred William Qasvarong    
Mota Two sisters-in-law Ro Pansi Salevaglea    
Mwesen Varvang against the Giant Tevēt Mesigteltōk    
Mwotlap The revenge of Qētlas Charley Wesley    
Mwotlap The two princes and the origin of mosquitoes Charley Wesley      
Mwotlap The origin of kava Edga Howard    
Mwotlap The great dance of the fish Morris Emboi    
Mwotlap The shark born amongst humans Moses Meywēlgen      
Mwotlap Venventey and the mystery island Wit Samson    
Vera'a How Sēwēes'i'i songs came to be Eli Field    
Vurës The dancing dead Alban Mofet    


All these stories were first transcribed by hand in the field, with the help of native speakers of the languages; later on, I would type these notes and add them to my digital text corpus (in Toolbox). This work of transcription and translation is still in progress. Later again, the workflow included a stage of time-aligning text and sound, sentence by sentence (using LACITO's SoundIndex software), aimed at a web publication on the Pangloss interface. The 50+ texts listed above were time-aligned mostly thanks to the support, in 2013, of the LabEx EFL "Empirical Foundations of Linguistics", to which I am grateful.

I intend to keep enriching these corpora in the future, by adding in more stories or more translations. The present selection, however, already gives a fair idea of the diversity of narratives that can be heard in the field, on an evening of storytelling.

 

 

 

 
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©   Alexandre François 2017