From Rarotonga in the Cook Islands
Taakura lived in a small village near the beach. She spent her time when she was not working on the black rocks by the sea, sunning herself and enjoying the cool breeze, and combing her long black hair.
She was the most beautiful of all the girls on the island but rather than flirt with the boys she was quiet and spent her time in solitude.
The village fishermen rowed past her every day as she sat on the black rocks and were awed by her beauty. They stood in their canoes to get her attention and slapped the water loudly in frustration but she never raised her eyes to look at them.
The young men felt nervous because of her beauty & her aloofness and found it difficult to be natural and friendly with her. The local custom was that the fishermen would share their daily catch of fish with all the villagers, but they had never shared with her. Her beauty was like a barrier to them.
Although Taakura did not pay attention to the young fishermen as they rowed past her each day, she did not do so because of she was haughty. She hardly noticed them passing by in their canoes because she was caught up in her daydreams, but her indifference eventually roused them to anger.
The fishermen secretly watched Taakura as she went about her quiet business and one fateful day they decided to follow her. They had never had the courage to approach her openly so they stalked her instead, creeping behind trees and in the shadows until they saw her sit down in front of her own hut and take up her weaving.
They drew lots. One of them was elected to touch her.
He crept up behind her as she sat engrossed quietly in her work. She had a bright red hibiscus behind her ear and her long black hair floated around her in the cool breeze. The elected fisherman reached out from the shadows behind her and ran his hands all over and through her long black hair.
Taakura was startled at this intrusion and when she turned around she was terrified to see the lurking man, leering at her so closely. She pushed him away with undisguised annoyance and contempt.
Her rejection and her contempt once more roused the frustration and fury of the fishermen. This time their anger turned to brutal cruelty.
Waiting until the dark of night when Taakura was asleep, the fishermen crept up to her hut armed with flaming torches and set fire to her flimsy grass hut on all sides. The raging fire was swift and sudden. There was no escape for Taakura. Within seconds of her frightened awakening and choking with smoke, she was wrapped in a fiery cloak of scarlet flames. As the flames consumed Taakura she summoned up a terrible curse. In torment she vowed to return and have her revenge on the men.
Not long after her death, the time of the full moon came around. As the moon grew fuller and rounder and the night grew brighter, the spirit of Taakura was seen walking on the beach. She made her ghostly way at night from the island of the black rocks to keep her dreadful vow of revenge.
Naked in the moonlight except for the red hibiscus in her black hair, she called seductively to any men who rashly happened to be in that area. Few men could resist her call. As they came close to her she mesmerized them and led them out into the sea to watch them drown in the huge waves. Or sometimes she would smother or strangle them with her long black hair. As they die she sends them a frightening vision from the last fiery moments of her own lost life. It seems to them in their last moments, even in the sea, that they are being consumed by flames - just as the spirit of Taakura is consumed by a remorseless longing for revenge.
Legend does not tell us if the cruel fishermen were among her victims, but Taakura would not have rested until she had lured them to their death.
There is s red hibiscus named after her now.
I started collecting a few of these stories from different cultures that are all associated with a beautiful blood red flower indigineous to the area - usually the story tells us how the flowers originated, such as this one and The First Waratah, and all involve a beautiful young girl, and often her young lover. Very interesting.
F. Watters 1997-2005
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