Traditional stories from Vanuatu





The three wives of the Gecko




MosesListen to the story of the gecko, a small lizard commonly heard at night in Vanuatu.

Moses Meywēlgen, my adoptive father in the island of Motalava, told me this story in June 1998, in his home of Legvēgmen. This was one of the many, many stories he knew, and which he liked to tell – until his untimely death, at the age of 69, in June 2013.


The story of the Gecko

The tale is told in Mwotlap, and is set on the island of Motalava. However, beyond its anchoring in local references, the story has a universal flavour. The character of the gecko, and his struggle in finding a wife, is reminiscent of many European stories in which an ugly frog awaits the kiss of love that can turn him into a handsome prince. But what really gives this tale a Melanesian flavour is probably its tragic ending.


Once upon a time, there were two close friends – two village chiefs of Motalava island. They got along so well, that when they had children, they wanted them to marry each other. However, while the chief of Aliwan (in the west of the island) had three daughters, the chief of Telmitig (in the east) gave birth to… a gecko.
Many years later, the firstborn girl was ready to get married: she walked over to her in-laws’ village, without knowing who her future husband would really be. When she discovered he was not a man but a squeaky, creepy little creature, she ran away screaming. A while later, the same happened to the second sister.
The poor gecko was left alone unmarried, until it was the turn of the third sister. To everyone’s surprise, she fell in love with the animal. Her love turned the gecko into a man – a young and handsome man.
As they came to attend the wedding, the bride’s sisters discovered the actual identity of the man they could have married. Upset with jealousy, they took a terrible decision…


What was that decision?  And what were its consequences?

You'll find out if you read the story…