The kidnap and rescue of the Princess of Vanuakula

The white sandy beach and majestic waters of Vanuakula Island. Picture: SIKELI QOUNADOVU

EVERY fairy tale has a happy ending and in every movie the bad guy will have to die or lose.

In the movie Taken starring Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills, when his daughter Kim was kidnapped in Paris, he assured his ex-wife that he would hunt everyone down and rescue his daughter.

A former government operative Bryan called on every skill he learned in the black ops to rescue her, and sure enough he did and he succeeded.

Taken is one of my all-time favourite movies, showing the determination and perseverance of a father to rescue his lifeline and his heartbeat.

Here in Fiji, there have been many cases of kidnap some have been rescued, some have failed to return, and in some cases there is reason to believe that some of these victims were sold as sex slaves in an international human trafficking syndicate.

According to a report by the US State of Department in 2018 “the Government of Fiji does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated significant efforts during the reporting period by investigating six trafficking cases, prosecuting three suspected traffickers, providing services to six victims, providing anti-trafficking training to police recruits, and acceding to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.”

In an article published by The Fiji Times in March last year, Assistant Superintendent of Police Shiu Chand said Fiji was still vulnerable to human trafficking so people needed to be cautious and vigilant about their surroundings.

The Office of Department of Public Prosecutions in its website state; “If you have been forced or tricked or lied to about coming to, or leaving Fiji, then you are a victim of crime.

Fiji’s laws will protect people from being brought into Fiji, or taken out of Fiji, if they have been lied to or if they have been forced into doing something they do not want to do.

“Fiji’s police and Immigration officers will help you if you go to them with your complaint. You will not be punished; you will be treated with courtesy and respect.

“You can even make a complaint from outside of Fiji if you are a foreign national or a Fiji resident who has left Fiji but were a victim of human trafficking whilst here.

“Tell the Immigration Officer at the airport or sea port or go to a police post or police station near you. They will arrange for an interpreter in your own language. You can also email your complaint to the Fiji Police Force Human Trafficking Taskforce at: OR call them on: (+679) 331 5599 Extension: 325 333. You can also make a complaint by calling the Fiji Police Force Emergency line on: (+679) 917 or 919.

To say that kidnapping is a new trend in Fiji cannot fully be confirmed, history dictates there have been cases where Fijians have been sold against their will and taken as slaves.

Academics argue that the Rewa-Bau war (1843-1855) was a holy war over Christianity, others state that it all started when Rewa warriors, who were on their way to Verata to get the wife of the Roko Tui Dreketi, when they saw a Bau woman and brought her over to the delta, thus igniting a war — which lasted more than a decade.

In other cases, history reveals Lovoni people from Ovalau, who were sold as slaves to work on cotton farms in Taveuni, some even taken to the US, made to be ridiculed in a circus.

In Kadavu, there is the tale of a princess who was kidnap by Tongans before being rescued by a warrior.

From afar, the island of Vanuakula is a jewel floating elegantly amidst majestic waters, satellite images showing the island shaped like a heart.

The other side of the island is rocky and upon moving closer, visible is what looks like scratch marks, like someone being dragged and fighting for their life.

This is the myth of the kidnap and rescue of the Raluve e Vanuakula, as told by a former parliamentarian and Dravuni native also regarded as the islands historian.

“Tunimata, also known as iTaukei Vanuakula, owner of Vanuakula Island, next to Dravuni, was a chief in his own right. From his prominently-placed Nauluvatu on the highest point of Vanuakula, he enjoyed a panoramic view of the sea around and of all the islands nearby. But he lived

“After a meeting of the vu on Dravuni one day, and on his way back to the island, Tunimata was presented with a uto, breadfruit, seedling to plant. The uto soon grew into a tree and a first fruit appeared, and this pleased Tunimata greatly. He looked forward to harvesting it. The fruit soon matured. But after a heavy rain, the fruit fell and splintered on the rock below. From this splintered uto appeared two persons — a girl and a boy. When Tunimata
came to harvest the uto, he only found the two young persons who soon explained that they indeed emerged from the splintered uto on the ground. Tunimata embraced them as his own. Ravouvou iVanuakula and Raluve iVanuakula thus became the other residents on the island and would soon create their own history.

“Raluve iVanuakula soon grew into a beautiful woman. The news of her beauty soon spread to all corners of Fiji and beyond, even to the Kingdom of Tonga. While growing up on the island the two siblings enjoyed their own respective pastimes. Ravouvou iVanuakula loved swimming around the island and exploring the reefs nearby.

“Raluve iVanuakula, on the other hand, loved cooking yams of the purple variety on the beach and swimming there. Every morning, Raluve iVanuakula would tie a vine to the ankle of Ravouvou iVanuakula before he went for his swim. When he was ready to return, he would tug at
the vine and Raluve iVanuakula would then haul him back onto the beach.

“In the meantime, a scheme was being hatched in Tonga. The king of Tonga was impressed with the tale of how beautiful Raluve iVanuakula was and wanted her to be his prince’s bride. The king sent his warriors to Vanuakula to kidnap the young beauty. Hiding behind the rocks near Raluve iVanuakula’s favourite beach, they were able to witness and attest to the story of her beauty and her favourite pastime of cooking and eating purple yams on the beach.

The Tongan warriors moved in and grabbed her and rushed her onto their canoe, after much struggle from the young beauty.

Later that day when Ravouravou iVanuakula tugged at the vine, there was no response from Raluve iVanuakula.

He swam back to the island knowing the tragedy
that awaited him.

Tunimata got to know about the tragedy and he was grief-stricken.

“Tunimata directed Ravouvou iVanuakula to seek help from his friend, the vu of Nakasaleka on mainland Kadavu, Naitotokowalu, who lived on his mountain stronghold on Uluinaibutubutu.

Tunimata was convinced that with Naitotokowalu’s waqa titi, his transportation vessel made from the titi plant, his friend would be able to locate the
whereabouts of Raluve iVanuakula — anywhere in Fiji or beyond.

“Naitotokowalu was only too happy to help an old friend. But first, he had to locate the whereabouts of Raluve iVanuakula. He invited Ravouvou iVanuakula on board his waqa titi and started the chant to grow the titi plant. He got to a height where he was able to see to all parts of Fiji, but there was no sign of Raluve iVanuakula.

He chanted a bit more to gain more height until he was able to see beyond Fiji.

He was then able to see Raluve iVanuakula being prepared as the bride for the Tongan prince.

They planned immediately to leave for Tonga to rescue the young Vanuakula beauty.

“The waqa titi was readied to sail immediately on instructions from Naitotokowalu. Amongst other things, a hearth was placed on the canoe with an adequate number of stones. But the first port of call was Vanuakula to collect some purple yams, Raluve iVanuakula’s favourite, and firewood for the hearth.

“On reaching Tongatapu, they were greeted by the din of celebrations after the royal wedding. Naitotokowalu knew that security would be lax. He sent Ravouravou iVanuakula with a knife to cut all the ropes that bound all the Tongan canoes. He started a fire on the hearth and started heating the stones that they had taken with them. Next they went looking for Raluve iVanuakula. They saw her in the midst of Tongan royal women but she looked
glum and sad. Naitotokowalu rolled a cooked purple yam in her direction. Raluve iVanuakula noticed it right away and knew that help was on its way. She walked towards where the yam came from and met up with her rescuers. There was no time to lose. They headed for Naitotokowalu’s
waqa titi and set sail.

“Raluve iVanuakula’s absence was quickly realised and the king ordered immediate mobilisation of his warriors for the search. But when his warriors rushed to their canoes to push out to sea to give chase, they soon found that their canoes were all in pieces. The King was furious. He called his priests together to get their kalou vu, a sea snake called Togalelewai, to give chase instead.

“The escaping trio fully expected the ensuing chase by the sea snake and they could see its form and huge head making waves behind them, getting close to the fragile canoe. However, every time, the sea snake opened its jaws to bite off the rear of the waqa titi, Naitotokowalu threw a white-hot stone down its mouth. The creature would recoil and retreat for a while before he came forward again. This went on for a while until Naitotokowalu
threw his eighth white-hot stone that killed the creature of the deep.

“The canoe landed first on Dravuni where they unloaded the rest of the stones from the hearth at a point on the east coast of the island. Ravouravou iVanuakula, having enquired from Raluve iVanuakula, realised that she had lost her virginity. He thus cut off his sibling’s tobe, the plait signifying virginity for young Fijian girls and tossed it at the point where they landed. The party then proceeded on to Vanuakula. Tunimata was in a celebratory mood. He sent Ravouravou iVanuakula to his favourite reefs to fish. On his return, Tunimata presented the fish to his friend, Naitotokowalu and according to a version of the legend, he also gifted the ownership of the reefs from where the fish came from and which happened to be the Solo Reefs.
Commentary on the Legend

“Vanuakula Island is uninhabited now. The yavu, Nauluvatu, is known to many kaiDravuni and also to the Roko Tui Dreketi’s chiefl y household of Rewa. My father recalled the story when a young chief from that chiefly household, Ro Logavatu , visited Dravuni to convalesce after the war in 1946. He made his wish known to my father that he would love to be buried on Nauluvatu on Vanuakula. But this did not eventuate.

“Vanuakula is known for its sole uto tree that seems to defy nature and stays alive regardless of its age. The island is also known for a special plant
that grows there that makes excellent firewood even if it is still green. Its name has a Tongan connection: nailitokeitoga. Lito is Fijian which means
to keep alight or to get light. “On a rocky cliff facing Vanuakula Passage, one can still see long furrows as if made by fingers believed to be those made by Raluve iVanuakula when she struggled being captured and dragged by the Tongan warriors.”

  • History being the subject it is, a group’s version of events may not be the same as that held by another group. When publishing one account, it is not our intention to cause division or to disrespect other oral traditions. Those with a different version can contact us so we can publish your account of history too. – Editor.

More Stories