by Ron Meshanko
The Huli distinguish over twenty-five species of birds, 1 many of which provide plumes for bodily ornamentation. The bird of paradise plumes, which adorn the top of ceremonial wigs, are the most prized of all the feathers. Here is the story of how they were created:
There lived a man called Hate at Kitokaito, which is between Tari and Koroba, two main towns. He lost his family when he was young and had to look after himself.
One day, while he was out hunting, he was unable to find anything to eat so he returned home. On the way he met a frog. “The frog asked: Can I be your beloved friend?” Hate took the frog home.
Hate and the frog had nothing to eat. Frog said to sit still while he commanded food and riches. Upon receiving the later, Frog told Hate to cut him in half, and one half into half again. When Hate cut the frog, one half became a beautiful woman, and the two quarters became a male and female bird. At that instant, Hate was made very beautiful. Then Hate married the beautiful woman and they had many children.
The birds, because of their beautiful color are known as birds of paradise and the people of Kitokaito are now know as the Huli people. 2
- There are over 900 species of birds in Papua New Guinea
- “How the Bird of Paradise Came to Be,” Legends, (Mendi: Mendi Diocese Liturgical-Catechetical Commission) (This booklet was published via mimeograph in the 1950’s), p. 13. A variant legend is given in the same booklet on page 11.