The Lizard of Kili Island

Lizard of the Marshall Islands

There once lived a great lizard on Kili Island (now home of the people from Bikini). Not very far away, on Moneak island in Ebon atoll, lived a high chief and his people. There were very many coconuts on Moneak, but the high chief had put a “jabwi” (taboo) on all the coconut trees. They were not to be touched by anybody but himself.
The big lizard on Kili Island wanted to get some nuts from Moneak Island to take back to Kili. But how could he get the coconuts? “Moneak has many coconuts, but the high chief has put a jabwi on those nuts,” he said to himself. “The only thing I can do is steal the nuts from Moneak and bring them here.”

So he left Kili and sailed to Moneak in the darkness. There are two places to land on Moneak on the northeastern part of the island on the ocean side. Those are called Monkilejeion and Monkilejirok. When the lizard got to Moneak, he sang:

I come from the sea to the shore of
Kilejeion or Kilekejeirok
I thought in the dark that someone threw a stone,
but hit nothing
I took one hundred and two hundred large baskets
full of coconuts

Then he went back to Kili.
The next morning, the people of Moneak saw that many coconuts were stolen. “Who did it? Look at the trees! Someone has stolen many nuts!”

Then the people began to watch the island at night. The chief and the people were very angry about the stolen nuts. They knew the nuts had been taken, but they could not guess who had taken them. The chief made sure that a careful watch was set. Some people hid under the coconut leaves and some in the bushes. They had stones ready to hit the thief, even spears and other weapons.

The next night, the lizard came again, and so the people knew that it had been the lizard from Kili who had stolen their nuts. They leaped out and caught him, struck him with stones, and spears. Then, they cut him into many small pieces, and each piece turned into a small lizard.
Thus, this is the reason why there are so many small lizards on the coconut trees today.

As told by M. James Milne

Read the story in Marshalese