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Adapted English translation for Edward Beijiko
Story Title: “Lobbeibat”[Octopus] – A Traditional Tale

interviewd by Newton Lajuan, May 2008

Adapted English Translation by Andrea & Terry Hazzard

The Octopus and the Two Ladies

EB:  At this time, I would like to thank the two of you for giving me this time to talk about this [story so that the students of today [can listen and better understand this story to benefit their current and future lives].

My name is Edward, and I am from the atolls of Kili, Bikini, and Kwajalein. My father is from Kwajalein, and my mother is from Kili. Thank you again for this time. Before I proceed on, again, I would like to thank the two of you. 

I would like to start my story about two women.  They lived on the far right end of the atoll.  These women, although I do not know their names, lived off of the sea, and also from land, [from whatever they could find] under the coconut trees, [and] pandanus trees – [basically they lived off of] whatever they could get their hands on. [One day], they went to the lagoon and saw an octopus, and one of the women said, “Let’s go and kill it!”

But before they went towards the octopus, they called to it, “Octopus!” The octopus replied “Why worry about the tide? I am here. Come roast me and eat me.” One of the women spoke to the other, “Woman, [do] you hear that? The octopus says to come roast him and eat him.” So the two women went and caught the octopus, and brought it home. 

But before they put the octopus into their earthen oven, they asked it “What kind of leaves [should we cover you with as you cook]?”  The octopus called out “Oh, [use] atat [a plant which is a vine]”. The one of the women looked to the other and said, “It’s lying, [we should use] leaves/flowers.” So they asked [the octopus] again, “What kind of rocks [should we use to cook you]?” The octopus replied “[Use] tilaan [pumice stone, a basaltic rock which floats]”.

One of the women retorted “It’s lying, [we should use] bottom rocks [black stones which retain heat for a long period of time].”  But instead of doing what they said they would do, the women followed what the octopus said; they brought small vine leaves and the pumice stones and covered it. When they threw the octopus into the fire, it didn’t protest [since the materials used protected it from getting burned]. The women covered the earthen oven and went to rest near it. Without them knowing, the octopus released its black ink into the earthen oven and crawled back to the lagoon. Later when they uncovered the earth oven, they found that the octopus had released its ink in the earthen oven. “What [should we] do?” they asked themselves, since the octopus [was gone].

They slept that night. The next morning, they went again to the lagoon. They found the same octopus hanging out on the rocks, teasing them. One of the women said, “This time, we will really [kill that octopus].” Again, they called to it; however, [they] did the same thing the did before [and failed again in killing the octopus].  On their third try, they realized [they needed to reconsider the] kind of stones and leaves they were using.  They called out to the octopus and asked [once again] what kind of leaves [they should use].   The octopus replied, “[Use] konnat [beach scrub flowers].”

One of the women replied, “It’s lying, [we should use] real plant leaves.” They were determined that this time, they were going to use real plant leaves. So they asked the same question [about the rocks] again, “What kinds of rocks?” they asked. [The octopus] replied with the same answer as before, “Tilaan.”  Both women asserted, “It’s lying, [we should use] bottom rocks.” So they brought the octopus back to shore and started the earthen oven.  They put the octopus inside it and covered it. The octopus cried out “Take me out, take me out! I’m cooked.” [One of the women said], “It’s lying, just keep covering it.” The octopus cried out for the third time before its voice faded away and finally stopped. The women kept covering the earthen oven with sand and finished it up.  Afterwards, they went to rest under the trees.

Interviewer: But when did they make their jera [traditional Marshallese food plate made from coconut leaves]?

EB:  Well, right after they uncovered and dug out the earthen oven. So the women said to each other, “It should be done by now!” They started digging to uncover the earthen oven and when they took out the octopus, it was well-cooked; it was so done that it had turned dark brown.  They then brought out their knives to cut the octopus, wondering what kind of bones the octopus had [EB comments: I don’t know what kinds of bones they [thought they] were dealing with.] They brought coconuts and cut out the coconut meat to eat with the octopus.

After they ate, they put the leftover food in a basket and hung it. That evening, around midnight, while they were sleeping, they heard the chant of the octopus’ mother, “Uuwa takele, uuwa takjen kabilon ijo; rej umin ni ko ie, raatiki ko ie, kojo, kojo enlok ijen.” [I am coming out of the water onto the reef from a far away place; you are cooking under the coconut tree; I want some [of what you are cooking], I want some of what you have.”]  One of the women sat up and asked, “[What] is that sound coming from far away?  Are there people singing?”  The other woman replied, “Don’t wake me up, because I’m too full, and I’m trying to sleep.” The voice kept coming [closer], and when they looked out their window, the mother octopus was nearing their house.

Interviewer:  What was the mother octopus saying again?

EB: Uuwa takale, uuwa takjen kabilon ijo, rej iumin ni ko ie, raatiki ko ie, kojo, kojo, enlok jen. [I am coming out of the water onto the reef from a far away place; you are cooking under the coconut tree; I want some [of what you are cooking], I want some of what you have.”]

Interviewer:  So when they looked…

EB:  So when they looked, [the women] saw the mother octopus approaching the house; [she was] coming [towards] under the coconut trees.”  So the women jumped out of the house and fought hard with the mother octopus. Now, the women . . . [sentence not completed by interviewee.]

EB stops the story to share the following: Today when we chant, we say, “Letok joko eo joke bwe in joke bwe in joloke, letak joko eo joke bwe in joke bwe in joloke.” [Meaning: Give me one of your tentacles so I can cut them one by one and throw them away.] 

EB continues the story:  The women continued to fight with the mother octopus until, at last, the mother octopus died.  In the end, they cooked the mother octopus and ate it, as well. And that is the end of our story.