Once upon a time, in a dense Pacific jungle on the island of Samoa, a young hunter named Tama followed his curiosities, limited only by his grandma’s ghost stories. His unfinished chores left behind, he wandered deeper into the jungle and came across a chirping bird’s nest perched high up in a tree.

Tama playing with smoke.

Tama knew of the value the parent birds would provide for his family, but he also knew that the parent bird is difficult to catch. So, he devised a plan to catch the birds by using the nurturing spirit of the parents as a weakness. Something he once heard his uncle talk about to the older kids.

Hanging on high up in the tree with a piece of long coconut fiber, Tama carefully pulled it through the nostrils of one of the young birds and tied up its bill so that it could still cry out, but not swallow. He then climbed down from the tree and hid in the bushes, waiting for the mother and father birds to return.

When the parents returned to the nest, they were horrified to see their young one unable to eat. They cried out in distress, hoping to get help from each other, but no help came. Only Tama who again climbed the tree.

Tama reached out and grabbed the birds one at a time, as their fear was with their young. With a big smile on his face, young Tama the hunter, returned to his village with the birds as his prize. Hoping this catch would release him from the punishments of his abandoned chores.

“Ta te gase a uluga.” | “Let us die together.”

PROVERBIAL ESXPRESSIONS OF THE SAMOANS, Collected and Translated by Dr. E. Schultz 1945

Tava’e (white-tailed tropicbird) was a common bird prized for its feathers in the making of fishing lures. Despite the most valued prize, its nice to think very little of the bird would go to waste. The meat variety in Samoa mostly came from the sea, so land creatures were often a prize in their own right.

This short story was inspired by the Samoan Proverb and is a part in a whole series of short stories re-imagined through Don’s experiences here in American Samoa.

About Author

Don is a Navy vet. Grew up on a swim team as a competitor in the water. He has been consecutively CPR certified since 2004; his experience with surfing, open ocean life-guarding, pool safety, freediving, and vessel survival, keeps him in familiar waters. Don doesn't get in the water everyday, but has the weather dialed in and chases any solid day that comes this way. He specializes in digital infrastructure, adores opensource philosophy, and holds a masters in Cyber-Security.