National Geographic : 1898 Jan
THE SAMOAN COCOANUT water vessels used by the Samoans consist of cocoanut shells in pairs, connected by cords in such manner as easily to be slung on a stick laid across the shoulders or conveniently carried in the hand, the shells being emptied of their original contents by the simple and effective method of knocking out the " eyes," drink ing the milk, and then permitting ants to consume the meat. One of the apertures produced by removing the " eyes " serves as the mouth of this natural jug, which is remarkably light, strong, and durable, and has accordingly relieved the Samoans of the necessity of developing the art of pottery-making. Al though so convenient in many ways, this type of water vessel is not easily filled, particularly from a sh allow stream or spring; but the Samoans have invented a neat device, by which this difficulty is easily overcome. The maiden who goes to the spring carries with her a cup made from the stem end of a cocoanut shell, with one of the " eyes " removed, so as to trans form it into a funnel. This she dips in the water with her finger over the aperture, then, holding it over the neck of the cocoanut jug, removes her finger and directs the stream into the carry ing vessel. These utensils-the pair of cocoanut jugs and the cocoanut funnel--have well-established names in the Sa moan tongue, and these names apply to no other objects, while the utensils are never made of other material than cocoanut shell. Now, according to the tradition, a village virgin of the long ago went down to the spring for water. While dipping with her cocoanut funnel and directing the stream into the cocoanut vessel she perceived a slender, shadowy eel in the water, and was so entranced by its beauty that she decided to carry it home in the funnel cup and preserve it as a pet, and this she proceeded to do. As time passed the creature grew, and it became necessary to remove it to larger and. larger receptacles, until finally it became a terrific monster, threatening to destroy the people. So the people gathered, and, under pretense of placating the monster, supplied it so freely with a Samoan beverage that it became intoxicated and slept. Then they cut off the monster's head, and, to prevent reclama tion of this useful organ when the creature should awaken, re moved it to a distance and buried it deeply in the earth. Their virtue was duly rewarded when, some time later, the earth swelled and opened, and a strange plant pushed out, delicate in form and graceful in movement as the eel in its infancy. And this mag ical plant was the first cocoanut tree.