Cook Islands

Nina and the Shark

3 Dollars

Long ago, there was a maiden who lived on the Cook Islands. Once, she had met Tinirau, the god of fishes, and she fell in love with him. But Tinirau lived far away on a floating island, and Ina still lived with her parents.  

 

One day, as Ina was working in the fields with her parents, her mother saw that it was going to rain and she told Ina to run home and take their belongings inside so they would not get wet. Ina ran home, but soon became tired and she lay down to sleep. Soon it started to rain, and when Ina’s parents came home, Ina was still asleep, and the family’s belongings were soaked. Ina’s mother was very angry and she chased Ina outside. Saddened by her mother’s actions, Ina went to the beach and cried for her love, Tinirau.

 

Ina so wanted to see Tinirau that she asked some fish to take her to him. The angelfish agreed, so Ina gathered two coconuts and stepped into the water. The angelfish tried to gather round her and take her to Tinirau, but Ina was too heavy for them to carry her to the floating island. Ina became angry with the fish and she beat them soundly with a stick, which is why the angelfish have black stripes on them.

 

Then a larger fish offered to take Ina, and she jumped on the fish, but she was still too heavy. The poor fish was beaten so badly by an angry and disappointed Ina that it was pounded flat and is today known as the flounder.

 

The brave soldierfish then came to Ina’s aid and was able to carry her easily, but it swam so fast that Ina had to hold on to the tail, and she cut her thumb, leaving a red stripe that can still be seen today on this fish. This made the soldierfish angry, and he left her all alone in the water.

 

Ina was so saddened now, that she began to cry and moan. A shark passing by heard her wailing and offered to help. Ina asked the shark to take her to the floating island of Tinirau. The helpful shark agreed and Ina crawled onto the back of the large fish and they swam for a long time. After a while, Ina became thirsty and she took one of the coconuts and cracked it open up on the shark’s dorsal fin. After drinking the milk, Ina had to relieve herself and did so on the back of the shark. This made the shark angry, and he warned her to be more grateful or he would abandon her. They say that this is the reason that shark meat smells of urine to this day.

 

When they were about halfway to the floating island of Tinirau, Ina again became thirsty, and wanted to open another coconut. But this time, Ina cracked the coconut over the shark’s head, which has left a bump passed down to all sharks since and is known as Ina’s bump to this day. This hurt the shark considerably and he shook Ina off and left her floating on the surface as he dived below, reeling in pain.

 

Ina was all alone and far away from anywhere, but she so wanted to see Tinirau, that she started to swim. Tekea, the great king of the sharks swam up to her. Tekea told Ina that Tinirau had sent him to help her. She crawled onto Tekea and he sped her off to the floating island, where, waiting on the shore, was Tinirau, her lover. Ina became Tinirau’s wife and they lived the rest of their days on the floating island.

 

One version of the story says that when Ina cracked the coconut on the sharks head, she created the Hammerhead shark. Another version says that after cracking the coconut on the sharks head, the shark became so angry that he ate her.