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The legend of Papetoai's octopus

The area around Papetoai temple has always been a sacred place. In Fa'ato'ai, as this district was once known, there was a marae, a freshwater source and a large octopus.

This octopus, Tau Mata Fee Faatupu Hau, had been sent by the gods of ancient times to bring love and harmony to the population. All the inhabitants came to listen to the octopus, who told them about nature, and the stars and completed their knowledge of the world. For a long time, the octopus accomplished its mission and the inhabitants lived together in peace.

But one day, strangers landed on Vaihere beach, turtle-men who had swum from far away. They told the people that on the other side of the sea, there were other lands, other countries, and other people. The turtle-men then went to see the octopus at the Tapuatea marae and told their story. Curious, the people of Fa'ato'ai asked the turtle-men to take them to see where they lived. At first, the octopus refused to let them go, but to avoid conflict, reluctantly agreed to let some of the inhabitants go.

When the inhabitants returned from their stay in the land of the turtle-men, they began to tell of all they had seen and learned in this new land. They told how the people there lived and what they did.

And soon there was discord among the people, as some had changed their way of life and were arguing, saying:

"No, it's not like that over there, in the land of the turtle-men, this is how things are, this is how they think, this is how they do".

The gods heard these arguments and said to the octopus:

"We gave you a land so you could show people how to love each other and live in harmony, and now they're quarrelling. If you are unable to guide the inhabitants of the island, we will punish you.”

The displeased octopus left its source and decided to leave Fa'ato'ai and take refuge on Mount Rotui. Angered, it spread its ink down the mountainside to Vaihere beach, where the turtle-men had landed.

Then the octopus called all the nohu (stonefish) and asked them to settle down and guard the bay. The name Opunohu has remained ever since (Opu = belly; nohu = stonefish). Today, it's said that you shouldn't fish in this area, as the fish are poisoned by the octopus's ink.

Its head became a rock, while its eight tentacles stuck to Moorea's eight mountain ranges. But before its transformation, this is what the octopus said to Taaroa: "I will return one day. Signs will mark my return, that is, the return of peace and unity."

(Source: tahiti heritage)

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