Tale of Rilon, Told by Samuel Leto
to Newton Lajuan, April 19, 2008
translated by Newton Lajuan
War Episode from the Tale of Rilon, the Giant Irooj
This legend is from Arno Atoll. The man in the tale was a man of great size and strength, what we would now call a giant, and very fearsome. His name was Rilon and he was an Iroij (chief). Since birth. his guardians constantly moved him place to place to hide him from the other Iroij of Arno who wanted him dead, until finally deciding that an exposed reef platform in the northeastern part of the lagoon was the safest spot.
Each day at nightfall, the boy would be brought ashore to Bikarej Island to rest and at dawn would be returned to his reef-flat sanctuary. In early childhood, a man who originally came from the Gilbert Islands became his chief guardian and mentor. And as the years went by, the Gilbertese began to train him the art of war; use of the spear and knife, hand-to-hand combat, and other methods of Marshallese warfare. Shortly thereafter, his retinue stopped any further attempts to hide him. He left Bikarej Island and the reef-flat and came to reside here on Arno, Arno.
On Arno, Arno he met and married a woman from Majuro Atoll who had recently taken up residence there. She was the sister of Iroij Lanilojab of Majuro. In due time, a son was born and named Lomonen.
In the meantime, Chief Lanilojab of Majuro made plans to assemble a great fleet to make war against Arno. So great was the fleet that once it had reached midway between the two atolls, it was literally impossible to look across from the leeward side of Arno and see Delap Point (Majuro) as you normally could. As the war fleet was sighted, Iroij Rilon moved his people into the jungle in-land and charged his son Lomonen and select warriors to monitor the fleet’s progress.
As the first of the Majuro war canoes made landfall on the ocean side of Ulien Island and southward at several adjoining islets, teams of runners were dispatched to keep Iroij Rilon and his war leaders informed. Canoe after canoe unloaded their complements of warriors, weapons, water carriers, drum beaters, and other assorted followers. Each disembarking contingent made its way south along the windward side of the island. And runner after runner kept Iroij Rilong abreast of events as they unfolded.
Finally, when told that the entire windward side was in the hands of the enemy, and the last canoe had off-loaded what was assumed to be Irioj Lanilojab and his war leaders, Iroij Rilon became deeply melancholy at the realization of inevitably doing battle with his own brother-in-law. His son, Lomonen, knowing the dilemma facing his father, and wishing to avert possible fear and uncertainty amongst the Arno warriors at the sight of their Iroij in such a state, offered to go in his father’s place to meet his uncle, Iroij Lanilojab.
With much effort and sadness, Iroij Rilong roused himself, donned his war regalia, and went forth to meet his wife’s kinsmen. The two Iroij met where Kabito and Monlomar (names of land parcels) intersect and began to duel with spears. With the passing of the hours and first hints of the evening trade winds wafting away the heat of the day, and neither Iroij able to inflict a mortal blow, the Gilbertese called out to Iroij Rilong “Kwo-melele ta kwon kommane” (You know what do).
Upon hearing this, Iroij Rilon, raised the arm clenching his spear aloft and thereby leaving that entire side of his body exposed and vulnerable. Iroij Lanilojab sensing the opportunity to strike a death blow, sprang forward and lunged to impale his opponent on his spear. And just as quickly, Iroij Rilon parried the thrust and sent Iroij Lanilojab’s spear deep into the underbrush. Seeing that he had been outmaneuvered and left defenseless, Iroij Lanilojab stood and calmly awaited death at the hands of his sister’s husband. Iroij Rilong, however, had no wish to bear that responsibility and simply embedded his spear in [the ground in] front of Lanilojab, turned and walked away. It was his nephew, Lomonen, and the Arno war leaders, who put an end to Lanilojab, and thus brought the war to an end.