Huli Ni and Hana Myth
Compiled by Ron Meshanko
This is the version of the Ni and Hana Myth as given by Glasse: 1
One day, the daughter of Honabe went to the forest, and when she thought no one could observe her, rubbed her body against the trunk of a tree. Unknown to Hana, she was being watched by her brother Ni. One morning, after Hana’s departure, Ni went to the forest and inserted a sharp stone into the tree trunk, placing it so that Hana could not see it. When Hana came again, the stone cut a gash in her flesh and in this way her vulva was formed. When the bleeding ceased, Hana returned to the women’s house, meeting Ni who had secretly followed her. She told him of her experience and when Ni asked to see the the wound he became sexually aroused and copulated with his sister.
Then they were deeply ashamed of their behavior. Unable to face their mother, Honabe, they ascended to the sky; he to become the sun and she the moon. Ni and Hana had no child from their incestuous intercourse and later Ni went to live in the Duna country in a cave. There he wed a female deity who bore him round black stones. As each issued forth, Ni hurled it away, and thus they were scattered throughout the Huli and Duna territories.
The Ni and Hana Myth as given by Lomas 2
One of Helahuli’s offspring called Hana, used to steal away at night and slide across a branch overhanging a river. Ni got to know about this and secretly embedded a sharpened stone in the branch. When Ni next came around, and slid out over the water, the stone cut off his sexual organ, which fell into the river and became the first fish. Meanwhile Ni watched all of this unobserved. And when he next met Hana who had become a beautiful girl, he seduced her. Both of them were filled with shame and fled from the earth to the sky where he became the son and she the moon. From time to time their offspring are hurled to the ground in the form of round black stones.
The Ni and Hana Myth as given by Stephen Frankel: 3
The brother and sister, have come to Bebene Te, the site of one of the major ritual centres for the Huli. In this version of the myth they are referred to as Ni and Dagiwali. It is also common to add their patronymic, when the names become Hona-Ni and Hona-Hana.) Every morning and afternoon she went out. She went to Luya Tale Te (another sacred site about a mile from Bebene Te). He did not know what she was doing. He thought that she just went off to relieve herself. Once he went to Tale Te, and there he saw a Tale tree, and saw that the bark was rubbed off it. So he realised that she came to scratch her arse there. He found a piece of quartz (are yogona). He took it, and made sure that it was sharp. He took it to the Tale, and fixed it to the tree, making sure that some of its blade was protruding. He went home. The next morning she ran down to Tale Te, turned her arse to the tree and scratched. She cut herself deeply, and bled. She looked down and said ‘What has happened?’ Ni said, ‘Eighth, eighth, bachelor (ibagiya) eighth, woman in her house eighth time, take food from her eighth, emerge from spirit houses eighth time, eighth, eighth.’ (halini halini igiri ibagiya halini wali wandia halini ai ina mule haliningi liduanda kebeanda tago hole haliningi halini halini). This is what Ni said. Before his sister had had no vagina. But now he copulated with her. A dog came and saw. Ni thought that the dog would tell everyone what had happened and so he would have been shamed. So he twisted its tongue, which is why dogs can only howl. Ni and Dagiwali had two daughters.
The Ni and Hana Myth as given by Chris Ballard: 4
“There was a man at the Tagali river, draining the water down to its base.
As he drained the water, he saw possum fur floating on it.
He took this and ate it and found it tasty.
It was tasty, so he followed the river upstream and found more fur, which he took and ate and went.
Taking and eating thus; he came up the Tagali to Hewai falls, and looking up from
beneath the falls, he saw that there was no fur coming down them.
He was confused [toba ha] – where was this fur coming from? He looked up and saw
some fur hanging in the crown of a tree.
On the tree leaves. He thought that the stuff he had been eating was up there, so he
When he took it and ate it and climbed up, he saw a woman sitting there and went
He went into where she was sitting.
Where the woman was sitting inside the cave he saw much fur, and he saw that she was sitting on top of the possum, but that there was no fire.
She sat and slept without a fire.
When he saw the fur, he said ‘That is what I was eating,’ so he took it and ate some.
She said ‘I have cooked some possum, take it and eat it’ and she gave it to him.
When she gave him this cooked food, he saw that there were no cooking stones.
She had not made a fire, yet she had cooked the possum,
‘No, if you kill a fresh one give it to me and I’ll do likewise [i.e. cook it, from bo wia
‘I’ll cook it’ he said, and she gave him an unskinned possum.
He made a fire with wood, heated stones, dug a hole and made a mumu.
When he had cooked, he sat and said to the woman, ‘Now let me see how you cook.
He told her to cook and she did.
She took ferns and cut banana leaves.
At the base she put taro, banana, then on top the meat and banana leaves and then she sat on top.
When she sat thus, her heat [pobo] and steam [hagua] burst forth with a noise.
It was like when* water is poured over cooked food and heat and steam rises.
When it was all cooked, she came off it and everything was cooked and deboned.
The possum was cooked through and the bones were all stripped [of meat].
‘Ai, this is how you cook’, he said.
‘Ai, it’s night, let’s sleep’, they said and they went inside.
He made a fire in the cave and slept by it, but she didn’t make a fire and slept in a cold area.
Where she slept, the house was thoroughly blackened [as if from fire, in reference to her “hair].
Thus it was done, and he slept.
When they slept at night, while the man slept,
the woman went out to hunt possum.
She carried the possum back and the man saw that she had brought many.
‘Ai, I’ll cook it in the morning’, [he] said.
When this was said, she divided them and gave some to him.
She would cook as she did.
The man said, ‘Give me my share’.
Of his share, he took one possum and hid it.
When he had hidden it; he said, ‘I’m going to cook my possum, so I’ll go and get some wood’, took his axe and went.
He took this possum and carried it with him.
A tree stood leaning over the Tagali river.
He saw this tree and thought, ‘If this tree breaks she will fall into the water’.
He cut this tree with his axe.
When he cut it… [first] he placed the possum in a forked branch, then came down and cut the base of the tree.
This done, he returned.
When he came back, he said, ‘Woman, I saw a possum sitting over there so I came
‘Come and kill it to give to me’.
`Come,’ he said, so the two went for her to kill and give it to him.
They came to where the possum sat and he showed her.
The woman climbed the tree.
She climbed up, grabbed the possum, and when she did this,
when she held it [the possum], the tree broke while she was in it.
When she fell into the Tagali, steam rose together with fire.
This was the woman’s heat.
The man watched this steam from above.
He watched for some time till she had cooled down.
When she was cold, he went down.
When he came to the water’s edge, he dragged her out of the river.
He put her on his back and carried her up the hill.
He carried her up to the cave and went inside.
When he came into the cave, he put her by the fire.
He stoked the fire up,
She turned round in her sleep next to the fire.
The fire dried her and she got up and sat.
When she got up, he said, ‘Woman, cook. your possum and I’ll cook mine.’
‘Are you afraid to do what you did before?’
He said to cook, and she cooked in her way and he in his.
She cooked as she was accustomed to.
But she saw that it wasn’t cooked.
The food cooked the way the man cooked it was cooked.
The two went and dug up the man’s mumu and ate it.
The food cooked the way the woman cooked it was uncooked.
So the two lived together. . .
When they bore, the first was a boy.
When this son was born, the second was a girl.
The girl would go out in the morning before dawn.
She would not return till late in the afternoon, so he said [to his son], ‘Follow her and
see [what she does].’
The parents agreed and told their son to follow his sister and find out [goriama] what she did.
He followed her to find out, up there to Yurnu Nene, and then across [domade] the
Dagia river over there.
Over there to Bebenite gebeanda where he saw her.
He found her where she sat and the two had intercourse,
Brother and sister slept together.
`When they had slept together, they said, ‘Ai, what shall we say when we return?’
‘When we go back we shall be shamed [taga].’
They said thus, so they placed the mountains Ambua, Doma and Gereba.
They dug [the channels of] the Piwa, Alua and Doma rivers.
They placed the salt sources [here libi iba] and the red ochre sources [digi hare iba].
This done, they returned.
When they returned, their parents asked, What have you been doing?’
‘Placing these mountains, digging these rivers, placing these salt sources,’ [they replied].
‘Now what will you do? “0h, we’ll go to Duna.’ So they went to Duna.
When they came over there to Duna they […] sat together at the Strickland river.
They placed Lake Kopiago. They planted the dombobuli [Nassashell] tree [popular
Huli belief has it that Nassashells grow on a tree].
They placed all of the Duna mountains and then returned.
‘What have you done?’ Placed the Duna mountains and Lake Kopiago.’
It was said thus. That they placed the Strickland river.
That they placed the Duna mountains and the salt sources.
When the two came back, their parents had borne five children.
‘What are .the names of all these children?’ said the boy.
‘That one is Heyolabe, that on is Parindali, that on is Giraboli, that on is Yuguale and
that on is Dabuale,’ they replied.
‘You have borne well, but what are our two names?’
‘You, the boy, are Mona Ni [the sun].’
‘Who is the girl?’ She is Hona Hana Wali [the moon].’
‘Where shall we go?’ the two said.
The two were told to go up into the sky. That is all.”
- R. Glasse, “The Huli”, p.33 [↩]
- 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 B1.[↩]
- Stephen Frankel, The Huli Response to Illness. University Press, Cambridge. 1986. p. 98 [↩]
- 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 B1. [↩]