STORIES OF OLD SAMOA, Fanaafi Ma'ia'i, Whitcombe and Tombs, 3/9.
WHY BIRDS DON'T CRY, A Legend in the Maori Manner. Colin Kane Bell. The Caxton Press.
These two slim volumes have in common their themes, their excellent printing and illustration, and will make valuable additions to the growing literature of Polynesian folk material. Miss Ma'ia'i, the author of the Samoan stories, has recently been appointed Lecturer in Education at Victoria University of Wellington, and in 1957, she was Samoa's first woman graduate. After graduating M.A. with first-class honours, Miss Ma'ia'i went to London on a James McIntosh scholarship and she is now completing a doctorate of philosophy at London University's Institute of Education. The legends she recounts in a style of charming simplicity; they are mostly evocative stores of places and things, of elements personified and how resourceful human beings can cope with and subdue them, and how some of them went too far and drew the wrath of the elements on them. The stories emphasise the basic human virtues of generosity and friendship and of living in harmony with the natural world.
Mr Bell's little book, sub-titled “A legend in the Maori manner”, has the conscious naiveté and simplicity of stories told to children at bedtime. The writing is smooth and agreeable, with no hint of patronage or “talking down”; one feels that his narrator is on good terms with a young audience, and this is as it should be. The simple story tells of the true love of Moa and Toa, thwarted by the jealousy and spite of Noa, Moa's guardian. That Toa's hair is parted in the middle is invented as an excuse by the crusty old man to prevent the lovers' marriage. Then, as in Maori legend, the natural forces intervene; a wind strikes up and blows a new and respectable parting in Toa's hair, and Noa it leaves with a centre parting so that he is a laughing-stock. All ends happily. The little book is admirably printed by the Caxton Press, with most attractive line drawings printed in red, by Robert Brett. It can be read in either Maori or English—there is an excellent translation by Arapeta Awatere—and will make a most useful school reader.