“A fantastic tale of adventure” available in Tongan for the first time

“A fantastic tale of adventure” available in Tongan for the first time

The book, Ko Fïnau ‘Ulukälala ‘i Feletoa, ko e Talanoa ‘a Toki Ukamea (The Story of Fïnau ‘Ulukälala: Told by Iron Axe) was presented to Her Royal Highness Princess Angelika Lātūfuipeka Tuku’aho, High Commissioner of Tonga to Australia at the Tongan High Commission in Canberra last Friday. Photo/Supplied

After nearly half a century, the first Tongan translation of a classic 19th century book about the life of an Englsh by who was adopted by a Tongan warlord, has been completed.

The book, Ko Fïnau ‘Ulukälala ‘i Feletoa, ko e Talanoa ‘a Toki Ukamea (The Story of Fïnau ‘Ulukälala: Told by Iron Axe) was presented to Her Royal Highness Princess Angelika Lātūfuipeka Tuku’aho, High Commissioner of Tonga to Australia at the Tonga High Commission in Canberra last Friday.

The translator, Dr Nigel Stathan, has spent almost 50 years turning the book into Tongan in collaboration with his Tongan wife Melanaite.

The book is a Tongan translation of An Account of the Natives of the Friendly Islands by John Martin and William Mariner.

The book first appeared 200 years ago and has been regarded as a classic of its kind, but this is the first time it has been available in the language of the people among whom the story is set.

Mariner’s story has been called “a fantastic tale of adventure” about an English boy who was marooned in Tonga in 1807 when he was only 15.

Mariner, who quickly became fluent in Tongan, was adopted as the son of a high chiefly contender for the overlordship of Tonga,  Fïnau ‘Ulukälala, and was named by him ‘Iron Axe.’

The book is essentially an account of the life, intrigues and the wars of his adoptive father, in which Mariner played a significant role for the four years he was in Tonga. Hence the Tongan title of the book, Ko Fïnau ‘Ulukälala ‘i Feletoa, ko e Talanoa ‘a Toki Ukamea (The Story of Fïnau ‘Ulukälala: Told by Iron Axe)

The foreword was written by the Princess and the first copy off the press was presented to her in gratitude by Dr Statham.

The book has an introduction and extensive genealogical, sociological and ethnological footnotes by Pacific historian Dorothy Crozier, composed in collaboration with Her Majesty Queen Sälote Tupou III of Tonga.

The original English edition of Mariner’s story was first published in 1817 with the help of Dr John Martin, who was acknowledged to have been dedicated to scrupulously meticulous and sustained research.

A French translation appeared in Paris in the same year as the first English edition. Another French translation was published in 1819, a German translation in Weimar in 1819 and the next year an American edition was published in Boston. In 1818 and 1827 new English editions were published with revisions and in Stockholm in 1828 an abbreviated Swedish version appeared in a published collection of voyages.

Lord Byron based his poem ‘The Island’ on a traditional tale recorded by Mariner about a young Tongan chief who hid his lover, who had been forbidden to him, in an undersea cavern. In 1953 the Australian poet Robert D. Fitzgerald published as a book an extended poetic rendering of Mariner‘s story, Between Two Tides. In 1957 James Michener published a version of Mariner’s story in his book Rogues in Paradise.

While Mariner’s book is an adventure story, it has long been regarded for its scholarly value as well. It was dedicated to Captain Cook’s companion, Sir Joseph Banks “as a small, yet appropriate tribute of respect”’ and it has been used as one of the most reliable primary historical sources for the period by almost every major publication on Tongan history, anthropology and ethnology.

The main points

  • After nearly half a century of work, the first Tongan translation of a classic 19th century book about the life of an English by who was adopted by a Tongan warlord, has been completed.
  • The book, Ko Fïnau ‘Ulukälala ‘i Feletoa, ko e Talanoa ‘a Toki Ukamea (The Story of Fïnau ‘Ulukälala: Told by Iron Axe) was presented to Her Royal Highness Princess Angelika Lātūfuipeka Tuku’aho, High Commissioner of Tonga to Australia at the Tongan High Commission in Canberra last Friday.
  • The translator, Dr Nigel Stathan, has spent almost 50 years turning the book into Tongan in collaboration with his Tongan wife Melanaite.
  • The book is a Tongan translation of An Account of the Natives of the Friendly Islands by John Martin and William Mariner.

For more information

An Account of the Natives of the Friendly Islands (downloadable pdf in English from the University of Michigan))

https://archive.org/stream/anaccountnative01martgoog#page/n28/mode/2up

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