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Cave in Mitiaro Cook Islands
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Young Cook Island Woman

The Black Lip God

by Johnny Frisbie

 There was once a man who killed and ate his victims - a god from the far off land of Samoa.  He came to the atoll of Puka-Puka for he had heard that the people of this atoll were lazy and gullible. 

He made his home in the central village of Loto by digging a very deep hole into the coral sand.  He was very black and thick lipped, and that was why he was named Ngutu-uri by the people of the atoll.

Like all gods, he had mana; and his was put to good use in order to fill his huge stomach.  He was always hungry. 

All day long he would sit cross-legged in the hole hissing continuously until someone, anyone at all, would hear him; and whoever that victim may be, would still be alive as long as they did not look Ngutu-uri straight the eyes, glaring and hot unforgiving eyes. 

On the island were two courageous warriors named Teyoa and Wotoa, protectors of the people for they possessed certain fighting mana. Big and strong they had fought many battles together and were much admired and loved by the people. 

Most importantly, their mana was more powerful than that of the foreign god. After an important meeting of the village fathers, the decision was made to send the two young warriors to rid the people of Ngutu-uri.  It was time to bring peace again to the island and her people. 

First, Teyoa and Wotoa must visit Po through the ocean floor to reach the underworld - or heaven of the after-life - it would only be in that world a certain magical cowry shell was to be found.

Securing the canoe to a coral Teyoa and Wotoa swam in search of the entrance, the First Gate to Po; and finding it they entered the sacred world of the spirits.  In their search they came upon a giant cave, curious they entered. 

To their surprise they found pinned to the walls and ceiling thousands of precious fishhooks. 

There are none of these that I recognize,” Wotoa announced.

“I see several that once were my grandfather’s,” Teyoa replied.

“Let us move on.  We must find the cowry shells for time is running out for our people,” Teyoa reminded his friend.

As they were leaving the cave a giant tuna fish slowly swam towards them.

Look,” Wotoa whispered. “Look at the tuna fish with our own hooks stuck to its mouth.  Let’s catch it.”

But they were too slow.  From the darkest corner of the cave two long and powerful arms grabbed the fish by its tail and gracefully removed the hooks from the fish’s mouth, then carefully pinned them to the ceiling of the cave.

“Those are our hooks! Give them back to us,” Wotoa demanded.

A giant arm reached out to Teyoa and handed him the hooks.

“Atawai wolo.”

“We are thirsty,” Wotoa said, after thanking him.”

“There is no water in Po,” the friendly giant replied.  “But upon that coconut tree is a single nut filled with sweet juice.  You may drink it, providing you put the coconut together again shell by shell and husk by husk and return it to the tree for others to drink.”

After Teyoa and Wotoa have satisfied their thirst they thanked the friendly giant.

“Atawai wolo.”

“We are in search of the magical cowry shell; show us the way to find it.”

“Follow the channel west until you reach the guardian of the Second Gate – there are many Gates before one reaches our paradise.  There, he will lead the way.  I know why you are in need of the cowry - good luck.”

The journey to the cowry bed took many moons, and once there, it did not take long for them - with the help of the kind guardian of the Second Gate - to collect the shells needed to thread  two necklaces.

“Atawai wolo, guardian of the Second Gate,” Teyoa and Wotoa chanted in appreciation. 

Then guided by the shimmering light of a sunray they reached their canoe, well and truly prepared to rid their island of Ngutu-uri. They paddled hurriedly to land, churning powerful whirlpools behind them with their paddles. 

The canoe skimmed and glided lightly, as a flat stone across a fishpond.

Reaching the shores of their island they crept stealthily, silently to the place where Ngutu-uri sat awaiting his next dinner; there, they began to clack together the cowry necklaces, rattling them as hard as they could; chanting incantations, yelling rudely and never stopping knowing the noise would force Ngjutu-uri to come out of his own underworld. 

At last, the giant’s black head slowly appeared into the light, hissing at them, revealing giant-size, sharp white teeth.  The noise of the rattling cowry necklaces and the giant’s menacing call reached every corner of the island. 

Luckily, Teyoa and Wotoa possessed extraordinary mana and they could not be weakened or fooled into looking at the giant straight in the eye. They stood dangerously close to the rim of the cave, digging their bare feet into the sand. 

"By my back hold me tight!” Teyoa whispered to his friend.  “Ngutu-uri’s power frightens me right now; he is pulling me down like a magnet; his strength is of a thousand sharks.”

But the thoughtful god of Puka-Puka was with them, and from the heart of a nearby coconut grove, the voice of a woman called out to them.

“Teyoa e, lift up your sacred foot and strike Ngutu-uri on the head; rattle the cowry necklaces, do not stop whatever happens.  I will feed fighting mana into you.”

The giant reached up to grab Teyoa by a leg, but he was struck on the face. 

Realizing that Teyoa’s sacred foot would be the death of him he leapt out of the hole and ran as fast as he could to his homeland, never to return, thank goodness.