In 1911, a German professor, Ernst Frizzi, travelled to Bougainville on an ethnographic expedition. He was one of the first Europeans to show an interest in understanding and documenting traditional culture in the region.
The following legend, from the Nasioi area of central Bougainville, was recorded by Frizzi on his journey.
A man called Memetu always caught many fish in the sea, while the other men from his place near Numa Numa were not favoured by the same luck.
One day Memetu got lost in the forest and came to some ghost roads, where he met two ghosts (Paro). They expressed a wish that they should do well in catching fish. Memetu replied to them that some time ago the fish had left the water, and that he could no longer catch any.
The ghosts did not believe him, however wanting to convince themselves (and because they were ignorant of fishing) they drowned in the sea.
A Koki (Frizzi notes this bird as a cockatoo, but Ishmael Paliapl has corrected this, stating the Koki is a blackish-brown bird with long legs that catches near water), which observed the two spirits felt sorry and flew up and stabbed them in the abdomen with her beak to immediately let the water run out, and both returned home again.
Now they knew, however, that there were many fish in the sea and that they had been deceived by Memetu. Therefore afterwards they wanted to kill and eat him.
When they came to him with this intention, Memetu recognized the danger immediately and sought save himself. When the ghosts approached him, he cooked a pig in his pot and invited the two spirits to participate in his meal. It tasted so good to them.
They knew as little about catching pigs as they knew about fish and they therefore asked Memetu what methods he used to catch a pig.
Memetu answered that one must climb a tree and wait for a pig to go past. From above one can jump down and catch it well and truly.
The paros obeyed these instructions and thereby fell from the tree.
Realising that they had been deceived again, they decided to go ahead with the revenge that they was already planned.
When they returned again to Memetu with this intention, he had decorated himself with a beautiful hat and his face was painted with rich colour.
This pleased the ghosts very much and they wanted to know what these things were for. Memetu, who was prepared, answered that this was also necessary to catch pigs. He apologized, saying that he had previously forgotten.
Immediately believing Memetu’s words, which were (once again) a fat lie in order to finally get rid of them, the ghosts went away.
Unbeknownst to Memetu, the two ghosts had both determined that as long as he remained alive Memetu had little prospect to see his native village again since he didn’t know the way back. They would only show him the way if he instructed the ghosts on how one catches fish and pigs.
However he didn’t want to reveal his secret.
“Look at the large pot over here hanging on the fire, in which I cook my pig each evening,” Memetu told the ghosts.
“I have only just taken out some tasty pig from the pot. If you now want some, you must also jump into the pot and once you are inside, I will give further details.”
The ghosts were hardly in the pot when Memetu stoked up a blazing fire. It was tremendously hot and the ghosts screamed loudly.
“Look for the hat and colour and adorn yourself with it,” Memetu said before he tied up the pot with palm leaves as the ghosts burned inside.
Memetu now climbed a high tree and as he looked around he saw many places, and in this way he again found his home village and was very happy.
His wife Tubuani was delighted to see him again as she had already considered him dead since he had been a long time away from home.
After remaining home for five months Memetu wanted to return to the place where he had burned the ghosts. But to his big surprise he found two completely unknown things: two small coconut palms.
About a year later he once again visited the same place and there were already many stately trees whilst nuts lay everywhere on the ground.
Memetu’s dog, which he had taken with him, this time barked at the unknown nuts (which is why they are called Mau). The dog ate the nut. Memetu also tried them and took some coconuts home for his wife.
In this way the coconut spread and benefited the whole island. Only a few places in the interior of the country are excluded.