by Dr. Laurence Goldman

Informant: Kundu (Mirila Aba) of Tobani

There are many Bi Te (folk stories) about Iba Tiri which manifest the connotations of disorder and deceit discussed for this character in chapter 3. The following example is widely known (in one form or another), and the critical withdrawal of ‘penis’ is interestingly paralleled by certain actions of the Daribi culture-hero Souw (cf.Wagner 1967:40).

There were two Wanelabo (girl Dama) and an Iba Tiri staying in one place. The girls had pigs but everyday they were mysteriously losing some. Pigs were disappearing from inside the house as well. Previously they had seen a log outside from a Pandanus tree and had brought it into their abode. Iba Tiri had been hiding in a hole in the log and had been stealing pigs and leaving the bones in the cavity. “When we brought this log in the pigs started to go”.

The two girls split the log and Iba Tiri ran away. In the afternoon Iba Tiri returned and slept under the ashes raising his penis up. He made the fire die and put water on the ashes. The two girls saw the fire had died and began to blow on it (i.e. had the effect of masturbating Iba Tiri’s penis). One of the girls was really tired and got a stick to poke the fire at which point Iba Tiri ran away again.

The two girls decided to trick Iba Tiri by dressing their breasts as a Keromi(?) fruit to lure Iba Tiri. When he came to pick the fruit they took their breasts away. A flood then came to the valley and the two girls were carrying a heavy load of sweet potatoes. They wanted to cross but the bridge had been washed away. They saw a log in the river and used this to go across but when they were in the middle Iba Tiri withdrew his penis and the girls fell in the water. When they got home the girls decided to trick Iba Tiri, one stayed in the house and the other went to the garden. When Iba Tiri came to steal a pig the girl hit him.

The story reveals that interaction with Iba Tiri is one of ‘reciprocal’ trickery. To be an Iba Tiri is to display the negative characteristics of speech, decoration, dress and behaviour noted in chapter three. However, even as an insult there is always a ‘humorous’ aspect to any use of the name. As a form of ‘institutionalised disorder’, the derogatory is always mitigated by the ‘positive’ features related to themes of ‘fertility’. G. Giles (private communication) has informed me that the Duna concept of Iba Tiri also incorporates both ‘malevolent’ and ‘playful’ characteristics. Among both the Duna and Huli particular types of ‘pain’ are said (though not believed) to be caused by the “arrow of Iba Tiri” and must be ritually exorcised.

(An extract from Talk Never Dies: An Analysis of Disputes Among the Huli. A thesis submitted by Laurence R. Goldman for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, University College, London. February, 1982., p. 476.)

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