Legend of the Origin of Coconut

27 October 2020


New Erima Primary School, NCD

Long long ago, there lived a couple and their two sons along the coast of Papua New Guinea.

The two brothers decided to go fishing out at sea one day. They loaded their fishing gears onto their canoe and departed. The brothers fished all day until late in the afternoon when the elder brother finally suggested to his younger brother that they paddle back home since they had caught a lot of fish by then. But the younger brother insisted on paddling further out to sea to catch some more fish.

So they paddled further away from the coastline to look for yet more fish. While they were busy fishing, the elder brother saw something strange and large in the water moving in on their canoe. It was a shark! Terrified, they began paddling back towards the shore but the shark blocked their way. The elder brother told his younger brother to throw some fish into the water for the shark to eat. He figured they could make their escape while the shark was distracted with eating the fish.

But the shark made quick work of the first batch of fish they threw into the sea then pursued the brothers as they paddled back towards the coastline and blocked their escape again. The brothers threw more fish into the sea and again the shark quickly devoured the fish and continued blocking the brothers’ canoe from reaching the shoreline. They were getting closer to the beach but the same sequence happened a few times until the brothers had no more fish to distract the shark with.

The elder brother then said to his younger brother, “In order for you to survive, you must sacrifice me. Kill me and cut my head off, give my body to the shark and bring my head back home to bury. You must do this or otherwise the both of us will die here.” But the younger brother refused. He did not want to kill his big brother. An argument ensued over what to do, during which time the shark began ramming the brother’s canoe, trying to destroy it and get them in the water where they would be open to its attacks. At last, upon the elder brothers’ insistence, the younger brother reluctantly accepted his brothers’ instructions. He killed his elder brother, cut off his head and threw his body into the sea for the shark to eat. While the shark was busy eating the elder brothers’ body, the younger brother took his elder brothers’ head and paddled back home. The beach was by now just a short distance away.

When he arrived home, his eyes were filled with tears so his parents knew something was not right. They asked him what was wrong and he recounted to them the entire ordeal. Their parents began to wail as the younger brother described what had happened and how the elder brother had sacrificed himself. The family mourned the death of one of their members.  

The very next morning, the younger brother dug a hole beside their house and buried his elder brothers’ head. After a few days, a new plant sprouted on the exact spot where the elder brothers’ head had been buried.

The plant grew bigger and bigger as time passed. But it looked strange indeed, for it was unlike any plant they had seen before. As months and then years passed, the plant grew quite big and tall and bore large hard fruits called coconut.

A coconut fell down from the lofty tree one day and the younger brother collected it to observe what it was like. He held the fruit in his hand, felt its texture then pressed its skin with his thumbs to feel its density. He figured out how to remove the coconuts’ exterior skin and husked it until there was just a strong nut left.

File:Coconut face (2201055109).jpg - Wikimedia Commons

On close inspection, the younger brother could make out humanoid features with two holes lined up horizontally, representing eyes, and one hole situated parallel to the other two, representing a mouth. “Oh my brother!” he gasped and shed tears as he thought about his elder sibling and the sacrifice he made for him just some years ago.

This is the story of how the first coconut came to be on coastal Papua New Guinea.

* Issac is from Central Province and is in Grade 7 (Blue).

Published by Ples Singsing

Ples Singsing is envisioned to be a new platform for Papua Niuginian expressions of creativity, ingenuity and originality in art and culture. We deliberately highlight these two very broad themes as they can encompass the diverse subjects, from technology, medicine and architecture to linguistics, music, fishing, gardening et cetera. Papua Niuginian ways of thinking, living, believing, communicating, dying and so on can cover the gamut of academic, journalistic or opinionated writing and we believe that unless we give ourselves a platform to talk about and discuss these things in an open, free and non-exclusively academic space that they may remain the fodder for academics, journalists and other types of writers alone. New social media platforms have given every individual a personal space to share their feelings and ideas openly, sometimes without immediate censure. The Ples Singsing writer’s blog would like to provide another more structured platform for Papua Niuginian expressions in written, visual and audio formats while also providing some regulation of the type and content of materials to be shared publicly.

2 thoughts on “Legend of the Origin of Coconut

  1. Thank you Betty Wakia for your work with the School Writing Project at New Erima Primary School in NCD. This one reminds me of ToKonao and the story of the first coconut from the “Turtle and the Island” book of folktales from PNG. i used to enjoy those myths and legends. Every place has its own version of how the coconut came to be or how an island was formed or why two particular animals are now mortal enemies. i think these are important anchors of cultural identity for our current generation. Please keep up the good work and keep on encouraging your students to write.

    Liked by 1 person

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