March 25, 2021

#08-063: Sina and the Eel

half a coconut lying on the beach, with three holes resembling two eyes and a mout
This coconut shell shows the eyes and mouth of an eel.

Note: Every traditional society has one or more plants of crucial importance to its survival. Legends about these staples are rife. In the Pacific islands of Oceania, many such legends feature the coconut. One of these tells how a king's love for a great beauty led to the origin of that useful tree.

Get Ready: What food would you consider to be a "staple" in your culture?

A Samoan girl named Sina was known throughout the islands for her great beauty. Hearing of this, the King of Fiji used his magic to turn himself into an eel, so that he might approach Sina without revealing his true identity.

One day as the girl collected water for her mother's cooking, she saw a young eel and, gathering it into her gourd dipper, took it home and kept it as a pet. It soon outgrew its bowl, so she placed it in the pool of a nearby spring, but in time it grew too large for that, too. At last she put it in the village's bathing pool, where it hid under a ledge, revealing itself only to Sina.

The eel would often emerge when she was bathing, encircling her playfully. She became fearful, though, and undertook a journey to escape her suitor. But wherever she stopped to drink along the way, even on other islands, the eel appeared in the water!

At last she went to the tribal elders and told her story. The eel, too, appeared to plead his case. "I am the King of Fiji," he announced over the hush of the awestruck Council. "When I heard of this young woman's beauty, I came to see for myself, in the form in which you see me now.

"I fell in love. When she took me home, I decided to stay, and as the years passed, I lost the magic needed to transform myself back into a man. Now it is time for me to die. But because of her kindness, I leave this gift to her and her people: After I'm dead, cut off my head and bury it. From it will spring a tree that will provide lumber for building , and leaves for weaving, and a fruit that provides meat and milk to eat and drink--and that will remind you all of me."

And so from its head sprang the coconut palm. After its husk is removed, the three holes in the fruit resemble the eel's eyes and mouth. And the people say that every time Sina drank from coconut, she was kissing the eel on the mouth.


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Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. awestruck
  2. elders
  3. encircling
  4. husk
  5. ledge
  6. outgrew
  7. resemble
  8. rife
  9. staples
  10. survival

  1. the ability to remain alive
  2. a flat rock protruding from the side of something
  3. basic food items
  4. the outer covering of something
  5. became too large for
  6. leaders, usually older
  7. commonly occurring
  8. look like
  9. filled with admiration or reverence
  10. wrapping around

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for March 25, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. i; 2. f; 3. j; 4. d; 5. b; 6. e; 7. h; 8. g; 9. c; 10. a