Hela Huli Myth

Compiled by Ron Meshanko

Hela Huli Myth by Daii-Urulu 1

“The woman [Tia Nangumel sitting down there bore all of these things:
the grasses gambe (Miscanthus floridulus), yagua (Pteridium aquilinum) and dangi
(Imperata cyclindrica) and then water which came out.
She placed the sky and the mountains.
First she placed the sky, then the forests and mountains.
Sitting over there she completed these things.
This woman came here along the track.
She went along the track and slept once over there at Koroba,
then a second time at Kiaburege and then she went over there to Hewari Gambeni…
She came to Hewari Gambeni, from Gelote over there. The place Gelote.
She went to Duna, to Hewari Gambeni.
Seated there, she bore Hela.
The man Hela. Hela was born there.
The first born to Hela was Hela Huli,
No, the eldest was Hela Duna.
When he had been born, Hela Duguba was born.
When he had been born, Hela Obena was born.
Then Hela Hewa was born.
Then the woman Gogonabe was born.
Then Hela Huli was born last.
There they made a house and sat.
A long house, going up, they built.
When they were building the house, they called out, ‘Bring some rope.’
They said, ‘Let us build a house,’ but Hewa stood about doing nothing.
He was lazy down there. When he did thus, they beat him with a stick.
When he had been beaten, he said, ‘No’;
when Wana [Hewa] had been beaten, he said, ‘I am going off with my sister Gogonabe,’
and these two went off and slept over there.”

Hela Huli Myth as given by Howardi Halu 2

The first ancestor of all the Huli people was Helahuli. He had five boys: Huli, Obene, Duna, Duguba and Hewa. 

They all lived in one house at Dalu Bepenete. Now one day, they all went to work in a garden and had sent the youngest brother, Duguba, to cook the food. When Duguba went to cook the food, he went to one bush and there found a mushroom. He wrapped the mushroom with a little leaf and carried it with him. Now on top of a tree there sat a little bird who was singing: “delicious, delicious!” Duguba asked the little bird to send a little bit of whatever it was that was so delicious down to him so he could eat it too. The bird sent a piece of the last finger of a man. When Duguba saw the finger he was very much afraid and bound the finger with a little leaf as he did the mushroom. He carried the wrapped finger and mushroom to the house.

Upon arriving at the house, Duguba built a fire. He placed the mushroom and finger, each wrapped in their individual leaf, in the fire to cook them. Then he went to fetch some water. When he returned to the house, all of the brothers were back home. He glanced at the fire and it looked like plenty of food was hidden in the ashes. Duguba’s brothers thought that he had already cooked the food. But he didn’t!

Now Duguba thought that all of the brothers had cooked the food themselves. He was very ashamed about this because his brothers had given him the work to cook the food, and since he had not cooked the food, his brothers had done so. Now all the brothers said: “We are hungry. Take the food you cooked out of the ground.” Duguba answered: “You yourselves cooked the food. You take it out of the ashes. I didn’t cook any food yet. I only cooked a very small mushroom. Then Duguba got up and went to find the mushroom in the ashes. But, sorry for him, his brothers also got up and found something very large in the ashes. Boy, when the brothers found it and placed it by the fire they saw a huge man cooking in it. They became very upset with their little brother and began to beat him.

Now near the house there was a very deep hole. The second brother, Hewa, was very hungry so he began to eat the cooked man. Huli went to get his bow, and so did Obene and Duna. They got little Duguba and threw him in the large hole with the man he had cooked, along with hot coals of the fire, firewood, and all the food until the hole was filled. Hewa was very embarrassed and ran away to the Lake Kutuba area never to return again. He was very much ashamed.

Duguba stayed inside a cave, but did not die. No, he is still alive and is trying to find the way out. Now he found the road inside the earth and went outside to live in the Mount Bosavi area. Now Huli sent Obene, the second brother, to go to the Enga and Margarima areas. He sent Duna to go live in the Lake Kopiago area. Huli stayed in the Tari, Burani and Koraba areas. The father of all the five brothers was Helahuli and his grave is at Kelote. Now all the descendants of the four brothers come to Kelote to give presents and sacrifices to the ancestors of Helahuli. They also took Dauli to make offerings, for they stopped there before.

Huli, Duna, Obene and Duguba are the only peoples that come back to make sacrifices. Hewa, who ate the man who Duguba had cooked, never came back for they are ashamed. They are still angry at the Duguba people and kill them and eat them. The Duguba do likewise to the Hewa. But the Duguba and Hewa do not eat the other three peoples, the Huli, Duna and Obene. The Hewa eat the Duguba becuase Duguba himself cooked the man whom Hewa had eaten by mistake. But Duguba did not do that. The Duguba eat the Hewa because the ancestral Hewa had eaten some of that large cooked man Duguba had cooked. The other brothers tore off part of Hewa’s arm and Duguba ate it, and Duguba thought that it was delicious!

This is why the two tribes eat men and the other three tribes got all the good land and chased the other two tribes to the Lake Kutubu and Mount Bosavi areas. When it is time to make sacrifices and give offerings to the gebeali and make prayers, they all come to Kelote and Dauli. (See Chart IV that shows the genealogy of the Huli deities and clan founders.)

  1. Ballard, Chris. “The Death of a Great Land: Ritual, History and Subsistence Revolution in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea.” A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of The Australian National University, Canberra, January 1995, Narrative B3. []
  2. Personal correspondence with Howardi Halu, 1984. []