During his almost five year sojourn there, he adopted a completely Tongan way of life, even taking two Tongan wives. His narrative states:. William Mariner in Tonga All this Mr. Mariner collected partly by their gestures, and afterwards more fully when he understood their language, and conversed with this man, who always prided himself upon his knowledge of the use of a watch, calling himself a Papalangi an European [ sic ] Martin I Most on board, however, thought that this was a trick of Mr.
Mariner to get them out to some distant land, that he might afterwards escape to Papalangi; and even Finow began to doubt his sincerity Martin II Samuel Patterson in Fiji.
At about the same time, the American sailor Samuel Patterson used the word on a number of occasions in the account of his shipwreck in Fiji in These people were well shaped, and of comely features in many instances, their hair black and naturally straight, and their skin of a copper colour, - excepting in a single instance we saw one who was white amongst them [i. While lying in this situation these cannibals would often come and feel of my legs and tell me peppa longa sar percolor en deeni [i.
I then asked them where they thought we came from; and they pointed up to the sun, and said, peppa longa tooranga martinasinger [i. By this time the canoe with the natives came up with us, and they seeing we were white men cried out, taw haw, haw haw, peppa longa na wanka matta [i. William Cary in Fiji. William Cary, who was shipwrecked in Lau in , used the word adjectivally when he wrote:. Cary  The Reverend John Williams in Samoa , During the same period, the missionary John Williams used the word in his account of his two visits to Samoa:.
Everything being prepared, we proceeded to the chief's large dancing house, where we found a great concourse of people waiting to witness this important interview with le alii papalangi , or the English kings Williams We list some of these below in approximate chronological order of first appearance. Vason spoke Tongan fluently, and would have been familiar with its morphology. This etymology was followed by John A.
Fraser, an Australian prospector in s Fiji Fraser , and by the eminent historian O.
K Spate John Stair, missionary to Samoa from to , may have been the first to offer what has become perhaps the most commonly cited etymology:. Tradition says that in former times the people on earth had frequent intercourse with the heavens …. These stories are probably founded on the old idea that the heavens ended at the horizon. They thought that there was solidity there as well as extension; and therefore a distant voyage to some other island might be called a visit to some part of the heavens.
When the white men made their appearance, it was thought that the vessel which had brought them had in some way broken through the heavens; and, to this day white men are called Papalangi, or Heaven-bursters Turner Rowe ; author and aeronautical historian Roderick Owen ; Australian psychologist Ronald Rose ; Pacific historian and editor of Cook's journals, J. Beaglehole ,n. Campbell ; mission historian, John Garrett ; German author Erich Scheuermann inside-front cover ; Pacific historian Malama Meleisea ; travel writer Paul Theroux ; and Meleisea and the anthropologist Penelope Schoeffel When the vessels were seen approaching Hihifo in there was a heated discussion among the Tongans as to whence they came.
The king mimicked the querulous intonation of the old Tongans very funnily. The revered British anthropologist A.
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The truth is that the word papalagi was in use centuries before any European entered the South Seas, and was only transferred to them on their arrival, probably Tasman's arrival in Tonga, from which it passed to Fiji…. Rangi or langi was the sky father, and papa the earth mother… they begat the lesser gods [which] were called Papalagi, or the children of Papa and Lagi. Centuries after when the white men came into the South Seas, they being white were mistaken for spirits, for all South Sea and Australian ghosts are white…, and so the name Papalagi was transferred to them Toganivalu This etymology however did not find much favour among the members of the Fijian Society, immediately eliciting a three-pronged refutation from the Society's secretary G.
Heycock The outspoken and ever resourceful Beauclerc, after dismissing Coleman Wall's idea about ghosts and the conjunction of the Polynesian gods Papa and Lagi, came up with his own original theory, all in one breath-defying sentence to which the reader is invited to supply his or her own question mark or marks :.
What is more likely than when the first English missionaries began their work in Tahiti about the year , they would tell the natives that they came from a far-far land, and that they would reiterate the expression so often that the natives would adopt it as the name of the country from which those missionaries came; and they would probably pronounce it Fafalani, with a long accentuation on each of the first two syllables; then as the name travelled after, or with, or in advance of, the missionaries to Tonga, Samoa and Fiji, it would easily change, through Fafalangi and Papalangi, to Vavalangi, according to which of the sounds F, P or V the different people were able to produce Toganivalu Fellow member of the Fijian Society, George Barrow, subsequently wrote to Beauclerc, reporting that:.
Nonetheless, his reasons are unconvincing and based on inaccurate information. During a seven month sojourn on Niue, Edwin M. Loeb recorded the words of Eua's Niuean version of the tradition of Cook's arrival. One comes or goes upon the feet, hence vava implies that part of the human anatomy; and langi signifies the heavens. Foreign ships first appeared on the far horizon seeming to burst through, and the mysterious white men who came in them were therefore Vavalang-i, comers from the heavens, or walking from the clouds Brewster This etymology was repeated by the journalist and erstwhile Fiji resident, June Knox-Mawer We have classified the above etymologies into three main groups.
The first two are the most popular and reflect the idea that the Polynesians believed the first Europeans to visit their islands to be supernatural beings who came from the sky, clouds, or from under the horizon.
We list the three groups below. Other Etymologies. We agree with this conclusion and believe that the word is not a Polynesian coinage, but a loanword. Folk-etymology or popular etymology is a process whereby the structure of a word is re-analysed by identifying parts of it with synchronically attested independent words or morphemes which are a phonetically similar and b related in meaning. In doing so, it gives the word an etymology it previously lacked. Folk-etymology can apply also to words which simply look like compounds.
Sornig ,90 also points out that folk-etymological manipulation sometimes is supported by legend and the need for historicity i.
The etymologies of our first two listed groups are based on the assumption that the Polynesian world, prior to the arrival of the Europeans, was a limited one, bounded by an unassailable, uncrossable horizon. Samoans and Tongans conceived of their islands as a complete universe of sea and lands, contained by the dome of the sky and divided into invisible layers containing the living places of gods. Below the sea was the realm of Pulotu, entered by the spirits of the aristocratic dead through the entrance under the sea, off the westernmost shore of the islands.
The idea that the horizon delineated the edge of the world, beyond which lived spirits and gods, was also widespread in Melanesia. Meleisea apparently derives this information from the missionary John Stair, who writes extensively, and fancifully, on what he was told by the Samoans of the supposed happenings when Europeans first came to their shores.
It is worth citing Stair in full:. The Samoans of the day were accustomed to describe in a vivid manner the astonishment of their ancestors at the arrival of the first European vessel. They thought the world was flat, and supported by a pillar ascending from the regions below, or salefe'e , whilst the sky was supposed to cover them as a canopy, forming a junction at the distant horizon. If by chance inhabitants of other islands visited them, they resembled them in person, and came to them in canoes similar to those in use among themselves, so that the arrival of a big ship with sails off their coasts might well excite astonishment and awe.
It is impossible now to say whether the visit of Jacob Roggewein [ sic ], in , was alluded to, or whether some prior but unrecorded visit of Europeans to their shores had occurred. But whoever the visitors were, they created a profound astonishment, were looked upon with awe, and received with divine honours. The first European visitors are stated not to have landed, but to have remained sailing about at some distance from the shore; whilst many and varied opinions were formed respecting them by the wondering crowd of onlookers who lined the shore, or who, to obtain a better view, climbed the tall cocoanut-trees that grew around, and watched with intense interest the motions of the mysterious ship as she held on her silent way.
What can it be? Whence does it come? What does the strange thing contain? It was generally felt that it must be an arrival from the spirit-land, and it would be well to propitiate the gods supposed to be on board by offerings of food. Such were speedily placed upon the beach, in the shape of O le Matini , or offerings to the gods, and petitions offered, praying the supposed spiritual visitors to be satisfied with the offerings presented; but if they had come to take away men for food or sacrifice, that they would mercifully spare them, and go further to other settlements, where the population was greater.
After a time, some more courageous than others ventured off to the vessel in their canoes, when their astonishment was even greater than before, on finding the strange object to be the abode of living men, but of white colour, speaking an unknown tongue, and presenting a most extraordinary appearance.
This party of visitors returned to their countrymen on shore to describe their astonishment at what they had seen and heard. The big ship, with her tall masts; her sails, her rooms, or rather caves below; but above all, the wonderful people who dwelt there, with their white colour, their feet not divided into toes, and their skin provided with bags, into which they were accustomed to put various articles as they wished.
This led them to think that the visitors had come to get fresh victims to eat; and hence they endeavoured to hasten their departure … Stair n.
There is much in Stair's account that is patently fanciful and ridiculous, such as the implication that Samoans could not distinguish between pork and human flesh, but we shall restrict ourselves to refuting the idea of the horizon circumscribing the Polynesians' minuscule world.
The notion is hardly compatible with the well-known fact that the Polynesians were very accomplished ocean travellers D'Arcy , Dening , Geraghty , , Irwin We know from Cook that the Tahitians knew of Rotuma Dening , and that the Tongans knew of Kiribati Geraghty , and from the 16th to the 18th centuries Micronesians from Kiribati and the Caroline Islands were often found in Melanesia and the Philippines Quanchi We therefore doubt that the horizon was seen as a conceptual barrier; nor is there any evidence to suggest that it was of any great importance in Polynesian culture.
There is no conclusive evidence that Polynesians considered the first European visitors to be divine beings. What is the reason for this misconception? We believe there are several.
The so-called divinity of Europeans may, therefore, be due to lagi being interpreted in this way. Another reason is the European presumption of superiority. The idea that prior to European contact the Polynesian world was a limited one, bounded by an unassailable, uncrossable horizon is also founded on just this view. Europeans often assumed they understood the actions of the Islanders perfectly well; and in giving trinkets which they deemed of little or no value, they assumed that Polynesians lacked any conception of the true or European value of things.
With such attitudes, it is perhaps not surprising that Europeans eventually bestowed divinity upon themselves. Moreover, Europeans were probably quite happy to go along with their apotheosis; it stood them in good stead, and it would certainly do them no harm to perpetuate it. A case in point is Captain James Cook.
He arrived at Kealakekua Bay Hawai'i in during the Makahiki festival—the celebration of the annual return of Lono god of peace, fertility, crops and rain from Kahiki. However, the circumstances of and reasons for the killing of Cook have been the subject of much debate. Kennedy , Bergendorf et al. Finally, the claim that early European visitors were deified may also have been based on a misunderstanding of early accounts of European persons and manufactures being designated by words, such as Fijian kalou , that subsequently came to be used as translations for the one, supreme God of Christianity.
The pre-Christian meaning of kalou , however, was far broader, covering many kinds of supernatural being and much besides. The word kalou referred not only to the thousands of supernatural entities, but was also used sometimes for priests, and all manner of persons and things that were odd or unfamiliar, including cripples im Thurn and Wharton , oversized eels Erskine , and strangely shaped stones Wallis , Pritchard , Waterhouse Because there are no contemporary first-hand Polynesian accounts of their first contact with Europeans, we are forced to rely on Europeans' accounts, which are replete with 18th and 19th century Eurocentric views.
This issue is addressed by Campbell , who fittingly concludes:. Getting inside the minds of Polynesians of the past necessitates reliance on European sources which frequently provide evidence only of an anecdotal kind.
Such evidence often lacks the sympathetic imagination on which the historian relies so heavily in the effort to cross the frontier of culture and mind…. The vast majority of recorded Polynesian history, beginning with the first contacts, has been dictated by Europeans. We offer here two examples of recent authors who comply with and promote the apotheosis of Europeans. The first, David Howarth's recounting of Wallis's visit to Tahiti in , is full of pure conjecture:.
Even now, when we understand the Tahitians a little better, one can surmise what they thought when they first saw the frigate [HMS Dolphin ]. To them, the Dolphin was literally supernatural, something that had never existed in their experience of the natural world.
It would not be surprising if some of them had tried to fit it into their concept of the spiritual world. But they did not make the mistake—or not for long—that the Californians made with Drake or the Haitians [ sic ] with Cook, of treating the ship's leaders as gods Howarth This would certainly be true of most, if not all early European contact with Polynesians. In making - this inference, Campbell neglects some crucial facts.
Firstly, he forgets that the first Europeans to visit Western Polynesia were the Dutch in the first half of the 17th century. Secondly, Europeans came very sporadically with decades or generations separating visits. There has been considerable discussion on early Polynesian-European encounters, the type of reception the Europeans were given, and the perceptions each side had of the other see Davidson , Pearson , Howe , Campbell , , , McLachlan , Dutton , Kuschel , Paxman , Linnekin , Chappell , Adams , Quanchi Quanchi , for instance, reports that the initial reaction of Islanders to the arrival of Europeans was certainly not uniform.
This last point is echoed by Kofe :. Just what the people of Tuvalu first thought of the palagi is not known.