30 June 1994

The Storyboards of Palau

While in Micronesia and Palau I bought some woodcarvings. The most important among them is a Palauan storyboard. These are high quality works of art made by local artists on hard wood, and their subjects are local legends.

The storyboard I bought tells the legend of Osile Ra Ulong, which I report below as taken from the National Palau Museum website.

Osilek was the chief of Ulong. Very wealthy, he was known to have the biggest fish net in all of Palau. People envied him for his fast canoes, his many servants, and his wealth. Every mother wanted him for a son-in-law. One day, he fell in love with a beautiful young lady named Oreng, but she was already in love with young Ngiramariar, a poor fellow from her village. As traditions dictated that marriages were to be arranged, Oreng was forced to marry Osilek when he proposed. Her mother said, "Oreng, don't you want to marry rich Osilek and give your family a happier life?" So Oreng did as her mother decided. However, poor Ngiramariar was heartbroken when he became aware of the situation.

Oreng went to live with her new husband on his island. One day, a sad and lonely Oreng went on a walk around the beaches of the island, then saw a coconut cup with oil floating toward her. This was a sign that her sweetheart was either sick or dead, and she immediately started plans to get back to her village and see Ngiramariar. She told her husband that she wanted to go to visit her parents and her husband approved.

On her arrival, she heard that Ngiramariar was dead so she went straight to the house where the funeral was held. She asked the family if she could see Ngiramariar under his death blanket to say her farewells and present him with her gifts. Permission was granted, but as she took a long time to do so, the family asked someone to check Oreng. They found her embracing Ngiramariar, but she was already dead.

A messenger was immediately dispatched to Osilek with the sad news. Osilek was sitting on his cliff lookout point and saw the canoe coming in a hurry. He immediately knew that his beloved Oreng was dead. He cursed and stomped his feet so hard that he lost his balance and fell into the sea and turned to stone. People still say that this particular stone can still be seen on a visit to the island.

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