Thursday, October 8, 2009

The giant and his swing

The giant and his swing

Degei...the all powerful snake god

We've all heard of the value of hard work and the danger of idleness. In the Western world, this moral is told through the story of the grasshopper and the ant.

In Fiji, this moral is told through the story of the giant and his swing. High in the mountains of Kadavu, in a small village in Naceva, there lived a family.

They were your average Fijian family, except the youngest child, Bulai, was a giant and was more prone to go off and play rather than go off and work like the rest of his hard-working family.

Bulai left home when he was young and went to live on the mountaintops where he could play all day, uninterrupted.

Bulai, decided to go for a nice swing and sat upon a massive creeper that hung from the biggest tree in the mountain forest.

The meagre sashaying of the normal-sized playground swings we're accustomed to was incomparable to the immense stride of the giant vine swing of Bulai.

With one swift movement, Bulai could soar across the mountains and valleys until he reached Nabukelevu, some 20 miles away from where he started.

With one sweep back on the swing, Bulai passed over the valleys and mountains on the way back and went right across the island until he was right over the sea at the other end of Kadavu.

Bulai would swing backwards and forwards over Kadavu all day long, even swinging right about his family's village. Every time he passed it, he observed his family hard at work.

One swing forward, he could see them hiking to the forest to the yam gardens; on the swing back, he saw them digging up the yams.

Another time, he saw them climbing the coconut trees and cutting the leaves to weave into baskets; another swing back and Bulai observed them placing the yams into the completed baskets and lugging the heavy loads to the village.

Again, with another swing, he saw them struggling on their way home through the slippery mud up and down the rough terrain.

Bulai continued swinging into the evening and continued to observe his family each time he passed overhead.

As always, they were never idle, always attending to some task. The women gathered the firewood and at night fires were lit to roast the yams they had collected laboriously.

Just as his family were about to enjoy the fruits of their labour, Bulai swung down and snatched the delicious yams before they could even get a taste of the fresh, piping-hot treat.

They were undoubtedly miffed at this, but being the genial, industrious people that they were, they simply went out to get more yams.

However, when Bulai continued to nick their food and quickly escape with the help of his massive swing, they agreed that he must be stopped, somehow.

They tried yelling at him, but Bulai simply laughed and ignored their scolding. One day, two men from his village decided on another tactic.

They hiked up the mountains until they reached the top and found the giant tree, which held the notorious swing. They climbed the tree and found the particular creeper that Bulai used as his swing.

In fact, Bulai was still swinging gleefully on it, not even realizing that there were two intruders just above him.

With stone axes, the two men hacked at the vine until it broke in two and fell down far into the valley below. The vine coiled and entangled Bulai on the way down. Bulai met his doom and died instantly.

It is said that in a small village somewhere in Naceva there are two large white stones that look like the bones of a giant.

The villagers refer to them as Bulai's bones and every time they look at them, they are reminded of his idle folly and say, "Those who think only of pleasure and leave all the work to others will come to a bad end!"

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