by Marau Taaroa & Henry Adams


Eight generations ago, about the middle of the seventeenth century the next great revolution occurred, and again tradition says that it was caused by women. If one is to believe history, men never fought about themselves.

Yet the woman was hardly to blame for the misfortunes and overthrow of Tautira, which ended in shifting the centre of power among the Tevas. I have said that Tautira was a large and powerful chiefery on the eastern side of the peninsula Taiarapu, which was balanced by Teahupoo, another large chiefery at the southern end. If Cook and Forster were right in thinking that Taiarapu might contain at least forty thousand people, the chief of Tautira, whose authority extended over Pueu and the ancient district of Afaahiti, covering some twenty-five miles of coast from the isthmus of Taravao to the Palisade, must have controlled nearly twenty-five thousand persons, and have commanded an army of six or eight thousand men. He was certainly a great chief, equal to the chief of Papara in military power.

About the year 1650, Tavi was chief of Tautira, and prided himself on being as generous as he was strong. All chiefs were obliged to be generous, or they lost the respect and regard of their people; but Tavi was the most generous of all the chiefs of Tahiti. He had a wife, Taurua of Hitiaa, the most beautiful woman of her time, and a son. Tavihauroa.

The chief of Papara and head of the Tevas at that time was Tuiterai or Teuraiterai. Like Hurimaavehi of Papeari, Tuiterai could not hear of a handsome woman without wanting her; but Tavi's wife was a person of too much consequence to be approached except in the forms of courtesy required between chiefs, and therefore Tuiterai sent his messenger to Tavi to request the loan of his wife, with a formal pledge that she should be returned in seven days. In the Polynesian code of manners, such a request could not be refused without a quarrel. It could not even be evaded without creating ill-feeling that might end in trouble. Had Tuiterai asked for Tavi's child or anything else that he regarded as most precious, the gift would have to be made, subject of course to reciprocity, for every chief was bound to return as good a gift as he received. Tavi did not want to lend his wife, but his pride and perhaps his interest required the sacrifice, and with the best grace in the world, like the grand seigneur that he was, he sent her to Papara. Apparently she made no objection; if the husband was satisfied, the island code had nothing to say to the wife.

Taurua came to Papara, like a Polynesian queen of Sheba, and made her visit to Tuiterai, who immediately fell madly in love with her, showing it by some acts that were amusing, and by others that were too serious for us to laugh at quite heartily even after eight generations. One of his amusing acts was to take the name Arorua (Aro, breast; rua, two) as a compliment to Taurua's charms, and Tuiterai arorua he is called to this day. The more serious act was that, at the end of the week's visit, he broke his pledge to Tavi, and refused to return Tauroa to her husband. This was an outrage of the most grievous kind, such as he might perhaps have inflicted on a very low man -- a man fit only for a human sacrifice -- but not on a chief; least of all on a chief of equal rank with himself. It was a challenge of force; an act of war. Tuiterai did not attempt to excuse it except on the plea of his infatuation. The Tevas still sing the song of Tuiterai arorua replying to Tavi's messenger who came to demand Tauroa:

"Why should I give up Tauroa? I will not give her up -- I, Tuiterai of the six skies -- her, who has become to me like the Ura to my eyes, brought from Baratoa -- my dear treasure. I have treasured her, and I treasure her yet as the Uras of Faau, and I will not give her up now. No, I will not give her up. Why should I give her up? -- I, Tuiterai of the six skies -- her, who has become like the Uras of Raratoa."

This song is a famous bit of Teva history and literature, and yet I am not sure either of its text or its exact translation. I have given it as it is often sung, but nothing is more difficult than to render the exact meaning of such a language. The song, as the Tevas sing it, is made up of two separate parts; the first is Teuraiterai's refusal to surrender Taurua. The native text, with an attempt at literal translation, runs thus:


E ore e pa iau. no fea e pa iau.
I will not give her up! Why should I give her up!

Teuraiterai ono rai ono. e ura piria mai tau orio.
I, Teuraiterai of the six skies! the Ura that clings to my eyes!

E ura ahuahu mai Raratoa mai e te ipo iti e.
The Ura, sunshine from Raratoa, my dear treasure.

E tahi arii haamoe ite ura here.
One king lulled to sleep his dear Ura.

Mai piti e mai faau. tau mate ono i aia.
Like two united. I should die without her.

Ruruu te rai ma fau hia
Tie up the heavens like a net.

Fau hia te rai mai ata. e ata pua e ata rai.
Tangle the clouds of the sky, the clouds of Pua.

Mahiti te pea ma te paora
Open the net, make me dry.

Paora te pa ma tuatini tuatini te pito i haafifi
Dry the thousand thousand bonds that unite us.

Anapea anapea ia mau maitai.
The net, the net holds well.

Poetry is not supposed in any language to have an exact equivalent in prose, and I do not pretend to give an English equivalent for anything Tahitian. Whatever these verses mean in prose, at all events they show that our great-ancestor Tuiterai arorua was regarded as an uncommonly arbitrary chief even by his own people, much as they may have admired an act which appealed to the sympathy of every true South Sea islander. Fortunately this story, at least, is too modern to be suspected of being a myth. Taurua of Tautira and Helen of Troy belonged to the same society; Tavi and Menelaus were relatives; the coincidence runs through every island in the South Seas, where no traveler has been able to keep the Odyssey out of his mind whenever he has approached a native village; but the truth of the Trojan story might be proved by that of Papara; for no sooner did Tuiterai's refusal reach Tautira than Tavi-Menelaus, acting up to his high reputation, summoned his warriors and sent them against Papara, with orders to destroy it and to kill its chief. Papara had no walls like those of Troy to stand a siege; its forces were beaten in battle. Tuiterai was taken, and Taurua recovered.

Among the score of wars fought in early societies about women, and then made the subjects of poetry or legend, the Tahitian variety has a charm of its own because its interest does not end as most of such stories end, with the revenge of the injured party. It should have ended in the usual way, and Tavi had intended to do what any Greek or Norse chief would have done: kill his rival and sack his villages; but the affair took another turn. Tuiterai was wounded, captured, and bound; but when his captors were about to kill him he remonstrated, not with any feeble appeal for mercy, but with the objection, much more forcible to a Polynesian, that a great chief like himself could not be put to death by an inferior. None but an equal could raise his hand against him. None but Tavi must kill Tuiterai.

Tavi's warriors, in spite of their orders, felt the force of the objection, which was, no doubt, in reality an appeal to religious fears, for Tuiterai, as head-chief of the Tevas, was a person of the most sacred character. They carried him, bound and blindfolded, along the shore, some thirty miles, to Tavi. The journey was long, and the wounded chief, feeling his strength fail, urged them on, and as they passed each stream he managed to dip his hand in the water to mark his progress, for he knew the touch of the water in every stream.

When Tavi learned that his warriors had brought Tuiterai alive, he reproached them for disobeying his orders. Even he found it hard to live up to his reputation. The pride of generosity had cost him his wife and a war; and still he must forfeit his character if he put Tuiterai to death with his own hand in his own house. The wars of Tahiti were as cruel and ferocious as the wars of any other early race, but such an act as this would have shocked Tahitian morality and decency. Tavi felt himself obliged to spare his rival's life, but between complete vengeance and complete mercy the law knew no interval. A chief spared was a guest and an equal. Tavi gave Tuiterai his life and his freedom and Taurua besides. The legend repeats his words in a song which is still sung, like the answer of Tuiterai to the demand for Taurua, as one of the best-known Teva ballads:


A mau ra i te vahine ia Taurua.
Tou hoa ite ee. e matatarai maua e.
Taurua horo poipoi oe iau nei.
To aiai na pohe mai nei au ite ono.
Nau hoi oe i teie nei ra.
A mau ra ia Taurua tou hoa ite ee.
Matatarai mauai maua e.
"Take, then, your wife! Taurua! my friend! we are separated, she and I! Taurua, the morning star to me. For her beauty I would die. You were mine, but now -- take, then, Taurua! my friend! we are separated, she and I!"

Nevertheless, the overthrow of Papara was too serious a revolution not to affect the politics of the island. Tavi became by this triumph the most powerful chief in all Tahiti, and asserted his power by imposing a rahui for the benefit of his young son, Tavihauroa. A rahui was a great exercise of authority, and was more than royal in its claims. The rahui, which might last a year or more, was a sweeping order that everything produced during that time in the whole territory subject to the influence of the chief should be tabu or sacred to the young prince. Not a pig should be killed; not a tapa cloth or fine mat should be made; "not a cock should crow," except for the child; and at the end of the rahui, all was to belong to the infant.

Tavi's direct and full authority extended only over his own chiefery of Tautira, but by rank or courtesy, through his family connection or his influence it extended over the whole island, and only Eimeo or Moorea was exempt. A rahui was a form of corvée to which other great chiefs seldom willingly submitted; but even if a chief were himself anxious to avoid a war, which was the penalty of breaking it, his wife or his sisters or his relations were always ready to urge him to conspire against it. Tavi's chief rival was Vehiatua, head-chief of Tea-hupoo, which backs against Tautira on the south. Vehiatua had a daughter who had married the head-chief of Pare Arue, the district in the extreme north where the city of Papeete stands; and this daughter, Tetuaehuri, was about to give birth to a child.

This is the first appearance in history of the family which has since become famous and royal under the accidental, missionary title of Pomare. As every one knows, Pomare was merely one of several nicknames successively taken by Tunuieaite atua, the grandson of Tetuaehuri. Every Tahitian chief took such names, usually to commemorate something that happened to him, and very often out of regard for a child; but these nicknames were not permanent like the official titles that carried with them lands and rank. The official name of the chief of Parue Arue, Tetuaehuri's husband, was Taaroa manahune, who traced his descent from Fakaroa, an island of the Paumotus. In rank, Taaroa manahune stood in the third or fourth class -- at least, in the opinion of the Vaiari and Punaauia chiefs who wore the Maro-ura; of the Papara chief who wore the Maro-tea; of Vehiatua of Taiarapu, and Marama of Haapiti in the Moorea, and of Vaetua of Ahurai. Except as the husband of Tetuaehuri, he made no great figure. Ghiefesses like Tetuaehuri were apt to do much as they pleased when their husbands were less important than their fathers. Tetuaehuri was with child, and her midwives or attendants, or, as we now say, her medical advisers, told her that she must eat pig every day. If Vehiatua was consulted he gave his assent, for Tetuaehuri broke the rahui and eat the pig. Tavi acted at once as though this were a declaration of war by her father; he crossed with his warriors into Teahupoo and was totally defeated by Vehiatua.

The quarrel must have been unusually bitter, for this was one of the few instances where a great family was driven fairly out of the island. Vehiatua did not imitate Tavi in generosity, but seized his land. Some say that Tavi went to the Paumotus, but certainly after the war of the Rahui he was never again seen or heard of in Tahiti. His son, Tavi-hauroa, the cause of the disaster, came back and was protected by his old neighbors and relations, the chiefs of Hitiaa, Mataoae and Vaiari. By giving him land and servants they made up a small district for him, the modern Afaahiti, five or six miles of the coast beyond the isthmus of Taravao. He had also the names of Teriitua in Hitiaa and Terii oite-rai in Vaiari.

One day the unfortunate young chief was flying or racing his kite, a common amusement in ancient times when the men made kites as big as a house, and raced them against each other. The strong southeast trade wind which blows across the isthmus of Taravao carried the kite some miles to the westward, and he pursued it until it lodged in a tree within the Marae of Farepua in Vaiari. The high-priest happened to be conducting some sacred ceremony in the Marae, and at such a time the intrusion of a stranger was death. Terii oiterai climbed the tree to recover his kite, and was then and there instantly killed.

The extinction of this line must have been a serious matter for the island, because it gave to Vehiatua so great an increase of power as to make it a mere matter of time when he should do to Papara what Papara had done to Vaiari, and become the political head of the Tevas, and therefore the most powerful chief of the island. The Papara chief could escape the danger only by an alliance with Vehiatua, and accordingly in the next generation Vehiatua had for a wife Teeva Pirioi, an elder sister of the Papara chiefs Aromaiterai and Tuiterai Papara managed to retain its supremacy for that generation, but the danger was always there; the hour was sure to come, and so was the woman.

The revolution in Taiarapu is the starting-point of what we may call island history. It happened about a hundred years before Wallis discovered Tahiti; for the beautiful Taurua and Tetuaehuri were contemporaries, and while Taurua by her second marriage with the Papara chief, Tuiteral i arorua, became the source of our Papara family, Tetuaehuri by her marriage with Taaroa manahune became the source of the Pomares.

From this point our Papara genealogy seems clear. Amo of Papara, Cook's friend, was a gray-headed man in 1774, and his wife was five-and-forty in 1767; Amo was therefore born about 1720; since he was regarded by Cook as brother of Hapai or Teu, who must have been born as early as 1720. Amo's father, Tuiterai, must therefore have been born about 1690 or 1700; Tuiterai's father, Teriitahia, the son of Taurua, would be born between 1660 and 1670, which cannot have been very long after the date of the Rahui and the birth of Tetuaehuri's son.

Unfortunately these dates differ by two whole generations from the record of the Pomare genealogy. According to this, Tetuaehuri's son was Teu or Hapai, and lived until 1802, when he died, a very old man, well known for more than thirty years to all Europeans who visited Tahiti. He was about seventy years old in 1797, according to the misssionaries, who knew him intimately. He was supposed to be the oldest man in the island when he died, but no one seems to have supposed him to have been born before 1720. Even by shortening ten years each generation of the Papara genealogy, it cannot be made to coincide with the Pomares. Tetuaehuri should be not the mother but the great-grandmother, of Teu. Amo and Teu were contemporaries; their grandmothers should have been contemporaries; but, according to the genealogies, Teu's mother, Tetuaehuri, and Amo's great-grandmother, Taurua, were bearing their first children at about the same time. The Rahui, imposed after the birth of Taurua's first son, was broken by the birth of Tetuaehuri's first son.

Between the breaking of the Rahui and the arrival of Wallis in 1767, the Pare Arue family disappears, and I must leave them aside till I come to the generation of Amo and Purea, Teihotu and Vavea, Auri and Tetuaraenui, Tutaha, and the rest of Cook's friends. In the Papara family the intervening period was filled by a lively struggle between an elder and a younger branch -- an Aromaiterai and a Tuiterai -- which has left some pretty and graceful bits of family tradition.

The beautiful Taurua i Hitiaa, who had born her first son, Tavi-hauroa, to Tavi, bore a second son, Teriitahia, to Tuiterai of Papara. All these events in Taurua's life must have been crowded into a short period. Beauty does not last long in Tahiti. Taurua must have married; had her first son; gone to Papara; been recovered by Tavi's war with Tuiterai; been restored to Papara; and probably born her second son to Tuiterai, before the time of the Rahui war. This child, our ancestor in the sixth generation, was named Teriitahia i marama.

Teriitahia married a daughter of the chief of Vairao in Taiarapu, and had four children: two daughters and two sons. The two daughters were older than the two sons. The eldest, Teeva, married in Raiatea and left Tahiti. The second, Teeva Pirioi, as I have said, married the Vehiatua of her generation, and was usefully occupied in keeping peace on that side. The two sons were not so well employed.

Table I: Descendants of Taurua i Hitiaa

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Tahiti - Marau Taaroa & Henry Adams