How the first coconut came to efate (vanuatu)

Long ago, deep in the darkest forest of Efate, there lived an enormous serpent. One day, the time had come for the serpent to give birth. No sooner had she crawled inside a cave than she began to give birth. As she finished, the exhausted serpent drifted off to sleep.

Suddenly she awoke to the sound of human cries. Frightened, she turned to make sure that her newborns were safe and discovered, much to her surprise, that a human baby girl was nestled at her side.

From that day, the serpent nursed the baby girl as lovingly as any human mother could. Each morning, the serpent would gather berries for her daughter to eat and would comb her daughter’s long black hair with her tongue. She taught her daughter how to swim like a fish, how to speak the language of the trees, and how to hug the Earth tight enough to hear its voice.

But the mother knew that the time would come when her daughter would have to leave. On the girl’s nineteenth birthday, the serpent wept in sorrow; she realized that she could delay the moment no longer. Calling her daughter to her side, she said, “My beloved daughter, outside the walls of this dark forest there is a land of light. There, you will find humans who look like you. They will claim you as their own. You must live with them and learn their ways. Be kind to them. But if they ask you who and where your mother is, promise me that you will not tell them of me. If you do, it will hurt us both.” Through her tears, the girl promised never to betray her mother.

The serpent then led her daughter to the edge of the forest. Although the girl was reluctant to leave her mother, she was curious about the world that her mother spoke of so mysteriously. As the serpent disappeared back into the darkness, the girl stepped forward into the sunlight.

After walking a few miles, the girl came upon a village. She marveled at the grass huts and stared shyly at the young girls, who were carrying baskets

of taro and yams. While she was admiring the girls’ brightly colored skirts, she felt someone touch her shoulder. Turning to see who it was, she drew in her breath. There before her was the most beautiful human she could ever have imagined. He was like her, but different. The two gazed longingly into each other’s eyes. In an instant, they were in love. The man brought the girl to the chief of the village and asked that a marriage ceremony be performed. Before the day was over, the man and the serpent’s daughter were husband and wife.

The two lived very happily together. Although the man was at first puzzled that his wife did not know how to weave mats or roast pigs, the girl was so charming and beautiful that he quickly dismissed any suspicions. Very soon, the girl forgot the life she had left behind.

Years passed, and one day the serpent’s daughter gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Although she was delighted by her new son, she started to remember her own mother and longed to see her once more.

“What’s wrong?” the husband asked, when he found his wife weeping one morning. Forgetting the promise that she had made long ago, she told him of her mother. She did not mention, however, that her mother was a serpent.

“We will visit your mother,” her husband said. “She should be given the news of her grandson. I will gather my brothers, and together we will call upon her.” Eager to see her mother again, the girl agreed.

The day of the visit arrived. Together with her husband and his brothers, the serpent’s daughter journeyed to the forest.

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How the first coconut came to efate (vanuatu)