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Fooling the Gods


Rock Islands

Airai State's Rock Islands.


"Medechiibelau played a lot of tricks on most of his friends throughout Palau," Walter told us. Here are two such stories, told by Rurecherudel and translated by Johnson:



"One day Medechiibelau and his friends, the gods, seven of them, were residing at Belualaruchel, their place up in the hills of Airai. They decided to have a canoe race. I think they began in the place in Airai Village called Omuchel, and they were to sail through the Rock Islands along the way to climb and to take the pine tree branch and to bring it back.

"And Medechiibelau knew that there is a place in the Rock Islands called Ongebítel Klemát. Klemát is the rope for controlling the sail of the canoe, and the name Ongebítel Klemát is a ‘place where the mast are dumped,’ ‘the dumping grounds for masts'."




Sail on a traditional Palauan canoe, at the Etpison Museum in Koror.


Canoe Race Map

Course of the canoe race.


"And Medechiibelau knew that there is a god there, a supernatural person there, who loves to cause the canoes to capsize or to sink. He has a long hook. When a sailing canoe goes by, he would hook the mast and then pull it, so that they would not be able to sail beyond. And Medechiibelau knew that.

"So on his canoe, he prepared seven masts with seven sails, and when all the gods went by, all of their sails were destroyed. But when Medechiibelau went by, every time the god hooks his mast, he put another one on, and the seventh time he was able to flee from him and escape his reach."


"While splashing his canoe, racing his canoe to Kayangel, he saw another god, called Uchelkebesadel—he is the god from Ngerekebesang— whose canoe was moving very fast, because he was able to avoid that too. So on the way to Kayangel, he realized that he may not be able to get the pine tree ahead of his friend from Ngerekebesang.

"So he created a storm, to create invisibility, then he took a detour: instead of going to Kayangel at the northern atoll, he went to Ngerechelong at the northern tip of Babeldaob, and took his pine tree and returned, winning the race because nobody saw him."



"So he created a storm, to create invisibility..."



Pine Tree

The pine tree (ngas) can still be seen atop the ridge today.


"And then he planted that pine tree on top of the Rock Island ridge below Airai View Hotel, and it is still standing there today as his trophy for winning that race among all the gods. It is still there today.

"And the name of his canoe was Titímelukáll. And the fast canoe belonging to Uchelkebesadel from Ngerekebesang is called Ikibala. Titímelukáll, titímel is a tree in Palau with a round, tart fruit. And you don’t make a canoe with titímel. It is not good timber, it is very soft. Ukáll is a big tree. You make canoe out of ukáll. So Titímelukáll means a combination of a very soft wood and a big wood. Medechiibelau carved his canoe using the good tree, ukáll, but he put the bark of titímel, the lousy tree, on the outside to mislead his opponents!"



"Medechiibelau and his good friends the gods went out one day. It was like a picnic and having a good time. And he didn’t have any lunch because he didn’t have a home, you know. While his friends had nice baskets of food: coconut candies roasted with honey, and local nuts, and fish and all the good stuff.

"So before lunchtime came, he went out into the woods and collected some fruit. It is a long green fruit, and very tart, more tart than a lime. He went and collected some of the fruits in his basket and took some taro leaves and kind of covered them."


He went into the forest....



Tet, a Palauan bag for holding betel nut


"Then when the mealtime came, all his friends were eating this good food, and he went aside and started kind of eating the fruits, and salivating and making noise like it is a very great meal. Licking his lips. And all the gods became began to be curious about what is he eating, and they wanted to grab his lunch, but he just keep hiding it.

"And his friends finally took his basket, which he kind of begrudgingly gave to them, and when they got his basket he took over their lunches, which was much better. So he fooled his buddies."



Medechiibelau did not fool only the gods. There were many others on whom he played pranks.



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