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A tale of coconuts

I love coconuts. The smell, the taste, their incredible range of varied uses, I even slather myself in coconut scented body butter every morning. They're like concentrated beach days in a hairy brown bowling ball. But how did coconuts come to be? Folklore from Tahiti may hold the key...

A long time ago there was a beautiful young girl called Hina, with hair soft and supple as silk. Lovely Hina was promised to the Prince of Eels, a union intended to bring the people of the sea and land closer together. But Hina didn’t want to marry an eel, she was repulsed by him and his enormous head, and so she ran away. She took refuge in the house of the god of fishing, Hiro, who was moved by her story and offered to help.

The god of fishing plucked one of Hina’s long silky hairs and made a fishing line with it. Together they went to the river, and it wasn’t long before Hiro had caught the Prince of Eels. Hiro chopped that nasty eel in to a thousand pieces and placed the head in a basket of leaves, but with his dying breath the eel said this: “One day, lovely Hina, you will kiss me.”

Hiro gave Hina the eel’s head, and told her to take it back to her village and destroy it. He warned her not to put the basket down, not even for a moment, or the eel’s awful prophecy would come true.

But the village was far away, and the sun beat down with such intensity it wasn’t long before Hina was looking longingly at the river. Surely it couldn’t hurt to put the basket down just for a moment. As soon as the basket touched the ground, a great tree sprung forth - thin and tall like an eel, and leaves like hair. Hina felt relieved, there was no way she was going to kiss a tree. The Prince of Eels’ prophecy had been wrong.

Then the dry season came, much worse than any previous year. The village began to run out of water and the plants shrivelled. Only the tree that had sprouted from the eel’s head thrived, and fruit blossomed under its shaggy fronds. When the villagers harvested them found they were full of liquid. There were three markings on their hard shells, like two eyes and a mouth. Hina made a hole in one of these and lifted it to her mouth to drink from, and in that moment the Prince of Eels voice echoed in her head, “I told you one day you would kiss me.”

Thus the eel’s prophecy came true, and this is how coconuts were born.

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