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Malagan Pole


Malagan Pole
Malagan Pole
19th century
Polychrome wood
Gift of the Morse Foundation

Key Ideas
Discussion Questions

The people of Lesu (LES-sue) fled their New Ireland homes to a nearby island to escape a frightening monstrous pig named Luana (loo-AH-na).1 Luana ate people. The people left behind the old woman Tsenabonpil (sen-ah-BON-pill), fearing that her severely swollen leg would sink their boat.2

Listen to Story of Tsenabonpil and Luana the wild pig, 4:49 minute duration (1.05 MB AIFF)

Tsenabonbil gave birth to twin boys, Daror (DAH-roar) and Damuramurari (dah-moo-rah-moo-RAH-ree). When they were older, Tsenabonpil told the boys they must kill the evil pig, Luana. After many adventures they managed to capture and kill the pig. Tsenabonpil then attached some of the pig's hair to a coconut and floated it out to the exiled Lesu people to let them know that Luana was dead.

When the Lesu people returned in their canoes, Tsenabonpil assigned them their social structure. She designated the two marriage classes - the Eagle and the Hawk - and gave names to the many clans. She gave the Lesu knowledge of magic, medicine, and crafts. When Tsenabonpil was done, she and her sons disappeared forever.

1 This is an adaptation of the story as related in Hortense Powdermaker, Life in Lesu: The Study of a Melanesian Society in New Ireland (New York: W.W. Norton, 1971; New York: Norton, 1933). Return to Text
2 The old woman Tsenabonpil is considered the source of all knowledge in parts of northern New Ireland. Her story, which explains the traditional social organization of the people of New Ireland, is told with many variations. According to Powdermaker, Life in Lesu, p. 35 she probably suffered from elephantiasis. Return to Text

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