The legend of preparing Sago

By Dominic Geva

When the world was new, the crow and the cockatoo were great friends. In those days, they both had pure white feathers all over their bodies and they believed that they should do everything together and help each other always. So together they hunted for food, protected their homes against enemies and in their spare time enjoyed each other’s company.

One day, they set out to make some sago before the wet season began, so that they could store alot of food during the days when they couldn’t go hunting. They came to the river bank and cut down a sago palm with their bamboo tool called shil. They also used shil to scrape out the white flesh from the sago trunk and took all the flesh down to the water, washed it, strain the good part into the big pot.

The crow and the cockatoo worked so well together that they did not need to discuss what they should do or how they should do it, but chatted about other things as they performed their tasks. But once the sago flesh had been strained, the crow flapped his white wings and said: “Bulbul Salsal!” He was saying that the sago flesh should simply be left in the sun so that all the water would evaporate, leaving only the white sago powder in the pot.

The cockatoo, however, did not like the idea, suddenly raised his head with its white crest and said: “Bulbul Tautau!” He simply said that they should continue to strain the sago over and over again until they obtain the white sago through the same process.

“That is too much work!” croaked the crow.

“It is the correct way to make sago!” squawked the cockatoo. They started quarrelling among each other. The cockatoo had a louder voice than the crow and he went on shrieking and squawking for such a long time that at last the crow could stand it no longer. He seized hold of the bamboo shil and hit the cockatoo over the head, bang, right on his crest. Squawking with pain and rage, the cockatoo ran over to the fire they had made nearby, and took a great stick of charcoal out of it and rubbed it all over the crow’s feathers.

From that time on, the crow and the cockatoo were no longer a good friends and they have never lived anywhere near each other since. Today, the crow’s feathers are still black from the charcoal stick, while the cockatoo has a yellow crest as a result of the wound he received on his head.

Today, when Gulf people prepare sago, some still say “Bulbul Salsal” and make it shorter and the easiest way, while others would say “Bulbul Tautau!” and make it the longer and more difficult way.

Dominic is from Gulf and Central province and he’s in grade 8 (Yellow).

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.

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