The legend of the yellow lizard of Moorea

This legend talks about the origin of the name of the island of Moorea.

MooreaA long time ago, Temaiatea and his wife were living at Tupuai-Manu which is now called Maiao. The wife became pregnant and gave birth to an egg. Her husband took this egg and brought it to a small cave located near the shore named Vaionini where he left it. One night, the woman had a dream. She saw that she had given birth to a yellow boy. When she woke up she told her husband about her dream. The man went back into the cave in order to observe the egg but once there he saw that the egg had hatched: it was a baby lizard. Temaiatea gave him the name of Moo-rea. The couple fed the lizard in the cave until he grew up and became a huge lizard. This is why the wife who was now afraid, told her husband: “we have to abandon Moo-rea otherwise he will eat us”. The husband did not agree to this and said: “he is still our eldest son!” The woman insisted and the man built a canoe for two and they left the island to go to Tahiti. On his side, Moo-rea did not stop to linger and think about his parents who used to feed him. After some time without any visit from them he realized that he was abandoned. He threw himself into the ocean and swam towards the east. He faced three currents: Teara-Veri with currents similar to the shape of a scolopendra, Tefara which looked like a pandanus tree and Tepua, with its powerfull currents covering the ocean with a soapy like froth. He had fought against the first two but was too exhausted to brave the last one which was too strong for him. So Moo-rea died and his body drifted around and failed on Aimeho. Aimeho is the former name of the island of Moorea. In the early morning two fishermen found the huge yellow lizard on the beach. They ran into the village screaming “a yellow lizard, a yellow lizard”. This is why from that day on, Aimeho became Moo-rea, Moorea.

*Te moo: the lizard in Tahitian language and rearea : yellow
*Te veri: the scolopendra
*Te fara: the pandanus tree
*Te pu’a: a piece of soap

© Extract from the newsletter of the Society of Oceanic Studies n°138.