Traditional stories from Vanuatu




Romanmangan The Fairy from the Other World





A popular tale in the island of Motalava is the story of the Fairy Romanmangan.

I have recorded at least three versions of this story. This one was told to me on May 31st, 1998, in Toglag, the second major village of Motalava island. The language is Mwotlap. The narrator is Jenifa, an energetic woman in her forties.


The story of Romanmangan

The reason why I have chosen this version is its incredible literary richness. Not only is this story very long (over 31 minutes), but it is filled with imaginative details and creative situations. The twists and turns of the plot make up a lively and intricate tale consisting of 4 main parts:

A group of women went to spend a day in the bush. One of them picked some sweet apples from an apple tree, and back in the village she gave them to her son. The child enjoyed the apples so much that he went back into the bush to find the tree, at night.
In the forest, the boy stumbled upon a group of flying devils. Amongst them, one fairy, Romanmangan, took pity on him and protected him from her fellows. Eventually the boy and R. became friends, and instead of going back to her world (the abode of the Dead and of Devils) she followed him to the village. There they began a new life as a married couple, and some time later they had a child.
Romanmangan and her family lived on for a few years. But one day, her husband got jealous of her, and abused her violently. She was so shattered, that she decided to go back to where she belonged, that is, the world of the Dead. She gathered dead leaves on the floor to make a big fire, and jumped in it. The smoke magically took her up to the sky.
Her husband and her son lamented her death intensely, until an old witch proposed to help them take Romanmangan back down to Earth. She plaited an immense rope, wove a basket, and literally lifted them up to the sky. There the boy and his father found Romanmangan dancing with her devil friends. They asked her to come back down with them, and…


And then… What happened?

You'll find out if you read the story!