Airai Header Palau Home Babeldaub Island Pacific Worlds Home



The Sea

The Land





Ngerduais |  Feasts |  Fooling the GodsPranks |  Oikull Ladies  |  Language |  Sources & Links


Story of the Kingfisher and the Shark. Painting in the Bairamelengel.


Here are various stories of Medechiibelau, told by Rurecherudel and translated by Johnson:

The Shark:

“Medechiibelau joined another god from the village of Ngchesar, one of the Airai villages on the east side. And the name of that god is Ngaid. So Medechiibelau and the Ngaid went to the hills to carve their toys. Medechiibelau was trying to carve a kingfisher out of wood and Ngaid was trying to carve for himself a shark, a black tip shark."



“And while they were carving their toys on the hills, Medechiibelau began to like the shark better than his own kingfisher. It looked much better. So he began to think how to get the shark. So he told his friend, the god from Ngchesar village, Ngaid,‘Oh, lets go back to the village and spend the night and come tomorrow.’

"Now when you would carve things out of wood you would have your work areas. One was working in one area and then there was another area. And he said, ‘if we go there and sleep and spend the night and we return tomorrow, if somehow my carving is placed at your work site and yours on mine, then you would not complain, just let things be that way'."



Palauan Kingfisher, perched on a wire near Uchulangas landing place.


Storyboard Sharks

The shark is a prominent motif on the end beams (ongiau) at the Bairairrai.


"And then they came to the village and spent the night. Then while they were sleeping, Medechiibelau went back at night and switched the carvings and placed the shark on his area and put the kingfisher on his friend’s area. But when he went to the site that night, he walked backwards, so his foot prints were always in reverse, so he would not be accused of having gone back previously. He went backward all the way, and then forward to the village.

"So when they went the next day the shark was on his side. So he started working with the shark and his friend was working on the kingfisher. So the friend was still being true to his commitment—he didn’t say anything. He just started working on the kingfisher."



Blacktip shark

Matukeóll, the blacktip shark. Photo by Ethan Daniels.


"Medechiibelau finished the shark and he brought the shark back to his home in Ngerkiklang. It was a beautiful shark. Matukeóll is the Palauan name."



She clears her throat

Upon returning from the taro patch, his mother clears her throat to alert him. Painting in the Bairamelengel.


"Then after he brought this wooden shark to his home, he told his mother—he somehow had a mother, maybe an adopted mother, but a mother—he told her, “when you go to the taro patch at Ngerduais, do so but please, when you come home, before you step to the perimeter of the house yard, be sure to "ahem"—do that. It’s clearing the throat.

"That is the Palauan way for visitors to alert people in the house, so that they can get ready to meet you. Houses were open, so if they were doing something that was kind of private, they could react properly to receive the guest.

"So he told his mom, ‘when you come please make that noise, before you come to the yard, so I know that you are returning'."


"But when his mother goes to the taro patch in the morning, he would remove the flooring materials— you know you can lift the floor boards. He would remove the floor and turn the house into a pool. And he would play with his shark by beating on the house, and barking like a dog. Whooh! Whooh! And the shark would be swimming back and forth.

"So if you go to the lagoon and a black tip shark shows up and you bark, they react. Because that was conditioned by Medechiibelau. And the reason why he asked his mother to make that noise, is so that he can then convert the house back to its normal condition. But when the mother returns, the floor is kind of wet."


Shark Storyboard

Storyboard in the Bairairraishowing the shark swimming around in the house.


Sharks adorn the walls of the Bairamelengel. as a symbol of Medechiibelau.


"So the mother did that for some time and everything was okay, but then one day the mother became kind of curious because the floor is always wet when she returns. So one day when the mother returns she says to herself, ‘I am going to find out what my son is doing.’

"So she walked stealthily and started peeking through the door, and saw her son playing in this pool with his shark. So she says, ‘oh, my son what is happening here?’ Because this god can play like a child. So he felt bad about the way the mother felt about what he was doing, this kind of supernatural thing.

"So he took his toy shark to the pier, to the dock below, and threw the shark into the water. And the shark was always seen in that area in the lagoon here. Presumably the same shark which is the pet of Medechiibelau; it hangs around that area now.”



Bending his knees

Medechiibelau standing next to the brown coconut fronds. Instead of bending the coconut fronds, he was bending his knees. Painting in the Bairamelengel.


Bending the knees:

“One day the mother said, ‘I am going to the taro patch, and we don’t have any firewood, so while I am gone, please get some firewood.’ She was referring to the long stems of the coconut fronds. She said, ‘bend some for me.’ By 'bend' she means you bend them and bring them into the house.

"But when his mother returned from the taro patch in the evening, there were no coconut fronds. So the mother says ‘what happened?’ He said, ‘you told me to bend, so I went under the coconut tree and I was bending my knees continuously all day.’

"It is a Palauan kind of play with words. Because if you speak Palauan, when you say to 'bend the frond,' you can also say just ‘bend.’ So he was bending himself instead."




"One day when there was an early morning low tide, it is a good time to go fishing. And the mother was craving for fish or sting ray liver. She said, ‘Son, if you can, go and catch and bring me the liver, I will be very happy.’

"But the word ‘liver’ in Palauan is chad, which is synonymous with ‘human.’ So when the mother left, he went out and chopped somebody’s head off and brought the head to the house in a basket and covered it. And when the mother came, the mother opened the basket and there was no liver, but a human head. And he said to his mother, ‘you are asking for chad, which is either liver or human. So that is it for you.’

"Kind of an impossible kid!"



"He went out and chopped off somebody's head and put it in the basket."



The chief of Ngerechelong and several elders (rubak) in front of what might be the chief's house. Belau National Museum photograph.


"Is it straight?"

"One day Medechiibelau went to the village of Ngerechelong, that is the northern tip of Babeldaob. And when he went there, the rubak there, the elderly men, were building a bai. They were digging the ground for the posts, and they were working toward the lunch break.

"And these rubak were kind of contemptuous of Medechiibelau. He always kind of looks rather lowly, and is not an honorable-looking person. So they were contemptuous."



“And they looked at him: he had no lunch, nothing there, and he knew that. So while the food was stored somewhere in the bai or someplace where they were working, he organize his troops, the ants, to go there and try to haul the taro, the feast, the sweets to one corner where he had put some leaves.

"So at the lunch break the rubak kind of looked at him and said ‘look at the poor, poor soul over there, you know, he is not going to have any lunch.’ When they went into their baskets, all the food was gone, only shells, the peels and the bones were left! And Medechiibelau went to the corner and started enjoying his lunch, because his ants were helping him."


A Palauan dish of sweetened taro with coconut milk.



Posts of the Bairairrai.


"The rubak got mad. They realized this is a kind of an unusual person. So after the lunch break they told him to take a coconut shell and go into one of the pits that they were digging, and told him to scrape the dirt there to help.

"But they conspired to kill him while there. They took a big log and they were going to crush him in the pit, so they went and dropped that huge post or log. It is a local tree called blacheós. And they thumped him.

"But when they hit him, he went inside the log to the top, and looked down at the rubak and says, ‘is it straight?’ "



"So today that very tree, blacheós, when you cut it, there is a hole in the middle, which was done by Medechiibelau. Kind of a playful god."



Ngerduais |  Feasts |  Fooling the GodsPranks |  Oikull Ladies  |  Language |  Sources & Links
Arrival |  A Native Place |  The Sea |  The Land |  Footprints |  Visitors |  Memories |  Onwards
Airai Home  |  Map Library |  Site Map |  Pacific Worlds Home