Why Niueans never eat shark meat

Photo: Tim Sheerman-Chate

Mataginifale, youngest daughter of the first King and Queen of Niue lived at Paliatola. She made hiapo, the bark cloth of Niue, but she also had the job of painting the fish of the sea in their rainbow colours. As she worked she would chant these words:

” Swim, swim fish
swim here kind fish only
swim away wild fish”.

When nearly all the fish had been painted, a shark swam up to her. Mataginifale asked the shark what colour it wanted to be. The shark replied that it did not need colouring, but that instead of being painted it was going to use its sharp teeth to cut off Mataginifale’s beautiful long hair. Mataginifale was furious; she was a princess!

Mataginifale was so annoyed that she insulted it and sent it away. Because of her rudeness the flesh of the shark smells and tastes bad even to this day and that is why Niueans never eat shark meat.

Sources: Niue by Charles Cooper. Reed Children’s Books, 2000. ISBN 1869488490 and Pacific Pathways Education Kit, Auckland Museum 2001

Category: Fascinating Niue, Legend

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