Fiji highlights ancient customs.

The mystical powers of Shark Callers ensured they were held in high esteem among the native peoples of 19th Century Fiji – as these excerpts from our historical adventure-romance, Fiji: A Novel, show:

Within the crowd, Nathan watched with interest as the onlookers’ ranks suddenly parted to reveal the Shark Caller being escorted from the village to the beach by Joeli. The onlookers dropped to all fours and bowed their heads as their respected ratu and the equally esteemed Shark Caller approached.

Pausing to adjust a pennant-like piece of masi, or tapa cloth, attached to a post, the Shark Caller then waded out into the sea. The old man stopped only when the water reached his neck then he began chanting. It was a shrill, haunting chant unlike any Nathan had heard. The onlookers watched this ancient ceremony in awe…

… The chanting continued for so long Nathan was ready to return to the village. Then it suddenly stopped. The onlookers collectively gasped as a huge fin sliced through the water toward the Shark Caller.

Pointing the fin out to Nathan, Susannah whispered, “That will be the Great White.”

Nathan couldn’t take his eyes off the drama unfolding out in the bay. The fin veered away only yards short of the Shark Caller. The old man resumed chanting as the shark began circling him. More fins appeared, smaller than the Great White’s. They, too, circled the Shark Caller, who appeared oblivious to the danger. Wild cheering broke out among the onlookers. Nathan could hardly believe his eyes.

Susannah, shouting to be heard, said, “The Great White answers the call of the Shark Caller. It brings other sharks with it.”

Men waiting aboard canoes in the shallows began paddling furiously out from the beach to intercept the sharks. In the lead canoe, Joeli and Waisale reached down and hauled the still-chanting Shark Caller from the water. The crews of the other canoes set about killing as many sharks as they could. They used nets to snare the sharks and then they speared them, but they were careful not to harm the Great White. The sea in the immediate vicinity quickly turned red with blood. A feeding frenzy followed as sharks turned on one another.

One of the men in Joeli’s canoe fell overboard. Willing hands hauled him back on board just before the sharks could reach him.

On the beach, the onlookers were cheering and sea shell horns blared out as the men aboard the canoes began towing their catches back to shore. Despite the danger still posed by live sharks, villagers waded out to greet them. They helped pull the captured sharks up onto the beach, taking care to avoid their gnashing teeth.

Before long, the carcasses of thirty or more sharks had been lined up in rows on the sand. Smiling villagers used hunting knives to carve strips of flesh from them while others cut off the highly valued fins. Slaves carried the spoils back up to the village.

A beaming Joeli surveyed the scene proudly. He announced, “Tonight, my people eat well!”…

… Nathan turned his attention back to the scene on the beach. Beyond the villagers he saw the Shark Caller. The old man was now further down the beach, away from the others. He was kneeling beside a lone shark carcass.

Nathan approached the Shark Caller. As he neared, he heard the old man chanting softly while looking into the eye of the dead
shark.

“Great hunter of the sea, you have lived a noble life,” the Shark Caller intoned in his native tongue. “You have served your purpose. Now you will perform one last act. You will give me your eye so that I can see all things as you do.”

Although the words were foreign to him, Nathan felt he understood what the Shark Caller was saying. He looked on as the old man used a shell to cut out the shark’s eye. The Shark Caller held it up, offered another chant, then popped the eye into his mouth and swallowed it whole.

 

Shark calling is just one of many ancient customs highlighted in Fiji: A Novel. As one Fijian reviewer with Suva-based Random Writings Book Reviews says, “I give it 5 stars because that’s the maximum allowed.”  

Fiji: A Novel is available via Amazon as a trade paperback and kindle ebook. To order this novel, or read sample chapters free of charge, go to: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0057YCZM0/

  

Happy reading! –Lance & James

  

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