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Little Friends
a Fijian Folk Tale rewritten by Phillip Martin

I took some creative license in writing this story.  Kambara and Oneata are neighboring islands in eastern Fiji.  In the original story I found, the chief lived on Kambara.  H O W E V E R, everyone I talked to mentioned two island that were known for their tapa cloth.  And, they weren't Kambara or Oneata.  I kind of thought a nod of credit should go to Vatulele or Moce for a story about their cloth.  I opted for Vatulele only because I thought it sounded a little more exotic.

Long ago on the island of Vatulele, the people had a problem.  Actually, they had thousands and thousands of problems.  Millions of them! Their lovely island was infested with mosquitoes.  When the sun went down along the beautiful shores of this little paradise, the mosquitos came out to play.  And, nobody wanted to play with them.  But, they really didn’t have a choice.  There were droves of those hungry little creatures and they made themselves welcome in everyone’s home.

No, they weren’t invited in.

Now, the people of the island were clever.  And, they needed some way to protect themselves from the mosquitoes.  Using the resources they had on the island, they created tapa cloth, pounded from tree bark, to make screens to protect themselves at night.  But, creating the cloth wasn’t enough.  Traditional patterns were printed on the cloth making them both useful and beautiful.

One day, a prince from a neighboring island of Oneata came for a visit.  He was royally welcomed with a feast and all the hospitality that the chief had to offer.  But, as the sun settled over the horizon, the chief brought his guest to the room where he would spend the night.  It was adorned with incredible tapa screens and the prince had never seen anything like it.

“Why are these screens in the bedroom?” he gasped.  “They should be in the main rooms for everyone to admire.”

“We must keep the screens in the bedrooms because of the mosquitoes,” replied the chief.

“I don’t understand,” confessed the prince.  “What are mosquitoes?  We don’t have these in my home.”

The chief wasn’t sure what he should say to the young prince.  Who never heard of mosquitoes?  But, he didn’t want to embarrass his guest.  So, the chief explained, “Mosquitos are our little friends that come to visit us in the evening.  Every night their little chorus sings us to sleep.”

“How very lucky you are,” replied the prince.  “I wish we had mosquitoes in my home.”

“We would be extremely happy to share them with you,” the old chief smiled.  “I promise you, we have more than any of us need.”

With a yawn, the prince excused himself and crawled into bed behind the tapa screens.  It wasn’t long before he heard the chorus that the old chief talked about.  And, a couple of the mosquitoes found their way inside the screens.  As the prince swatted them away, he mumbled, “These are their little friends?  They come every night?  I think I’ll be very happy to go home where we have no beautiful woven screens and no need for them either!  Little friends like these are no friends at all."

Copyright 2016 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.