HERE BE CANNIBALS

CANNIBALISM IN THE FIJI ISLANDS



October 31st, 1839, Thursday. This morning we witnessed a shocking spectacle. Twenty (20) dead bodies of men, women and children were brought to Rewa as a present from Tanoa. They were distributed among the people to be cooked and eaten. They were dragged about in the water and on the beach. The children amused themselves by sporting with and mutilating the body of a little girl. A crowd of men and women maltreated the body of a grey-haired old man and that a young women. Human entrails were floating down the river in front of the mission premises. Mutilated limbs, heads, and trunks of the bodies of human beings have been floating about, and scenes of disgust and horror have been presented to our view in every direction. How true it is that the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty.

November 1st, Friday. This morning a little after break of day I was surprised to hear voices of several persons who were talking very loudly near the front fence of the mission premises. On going out to ascertain the cause of the noise, I found a human head in our garden. This was the head of the old man whose body had been abused on the beach. The arm of the body had been broken by a bullet which passed through the bone near to the shoulder, and upper part of the skull had been knocked off with a club. The head had been thrown into our garden during the night, with the intention no doubt, of annoying us and shocking our feelings.

These poor victims of war were brought from Verata, and were killed and brought away by victors to be roasted and eaten. Many women and children were taken alive to be kept for slaves. About 30 living children were hoisted up to the mastheads as flags of triumph. The motion of the canoes while sailing soon killed the helpless creatures and silenced their piercing cries. Other children were taken, alive, to Bau that the boys there might learn the art of Feegeean warfare by firing arrows at them and beating them with clubs. For days they have been tearing and devouring like wolves and hyenas.

Rev. David Cargill, Methodist Missionary, Rewa, Fiji, 1839




One of the servants of the king a few months ago ran away. She was soon, however, brought back to the king's house. There, at the request of the queen, her arm was cut off below the elbow and cooked for the king, who ate it in her presence, and then ordered that her body be burnt in different parts. The girl, now a woman, is still living.

Two men that were taken alive in the war at Viwa were removed from thence to Kamba, to be killed. The Bau chief told his brother – who had been converted to our mission – the manner in which he intended them to be killed. His brother said to him: ‘That will be very cruel. If you will allow the men to live, I will give you a canoe.’ The Bau chief answered: ‘Keep your canoe. I want to eat men.’ His brother then left the village that he might not witness the horrible sight.

The cruel deed was then perpetrated. The men doomed to death were made to dig a hole in the earth for the purpose of making a native oven, and were then required to cut firewood to roast their own bodies. They were then directed to go and wash, and afterwards to make a cup of a banana-leaf. This, from opening a vein in each man, was soon filled with blood. This blood was then drunk, in the presence of the sufferers, by the Kamba people.

Sern, the Bau chief, then had their arms and legs cut off, cooked and eaten, some of the flesh being presented to them. He then ordered a fish-hook to be put into their tongues, which were then drawn out as far as possible before being cut off. These were roasted and eaten, to the taunts of ‘We are eating your tongues!’ As life in the victims was still not extinct, an incision was made in the side of each man, and his bowels taken out. This soon terminated their sufferings in this world.

Jaggar, Methodist Missionary, Fiji, 1844




We cannot tell you how many have been slain. Hundreds of wretched human beings have been sent to their account, with all their sins upon their heads. Dead bodies were thrown upon the beach at Vewa, having drifted from Bau, where they were thrown into the sea, there being too many at Bau to be eaten. Bau literally stank for many days, human flesh having been cooked in every hut and the entrails having been thrown outside as food for pigs, or left to putrefy in the sun.

The Somosomo people were fed with human flesh during their stay at Bau, they being on a visit at the time. Some of the chiefs of other tribes, when bringing their food, carried a cooked human being on one shoulder and a pig on the other; but they always preferred the ‘long pig,’ as they call a man, when baked. One woman who had been clubbed was left upon the beach in front of our house at Vewa. The poor creature's head was smashed to pieces and the body quite naked. Whether it was done by the heathen to insult us, or not, we do not know.

One Christian man was clubbed at Rewa, and part of his body was eaten by the Vewa heathen and his bones then thrown near our door. My lad gathered them up and buried them, and afterwards learned that they were the bones of one of his friends. After Rewa was destroyed, heaps of dead bodies lay in all directions; their bones still lie bleaching in the sun.

We do not, and we cannot tell you all that we know of Feegeean cruelty and crime. Every fresh act seems to rise above the last. A chief at Rakeraki had a box in which he kept human flesh. Legs and arms were salted for him and thus preserved in this box. If he saw anyone, even if of his friends, who was fatter that the rest, he had him – or her – killed at once, and part roasted and part preserved. His people declared that he eats human flesh every day.

At Bau, the people preserve human flesh and chew it as some chew tobacco. They carry it about with them, and use it in the same way as tobacco. I heard of an instance of cruelty the other day that surpasses everything I have before heard of the kind. A canoe was wrecked near Natawar, and many of the occupants succeeded in swimming ashore. They were taken by the Natawar people and ovens were at once prepared in which to roast them. The poor wretches were bound ready for the ovens and their enemies were waiting anxiously to devour them. They did not club them, lest any of their blood should be lost. Some, however could not wait until the ovens were sufficiently heated, but pulled the ears off the wretched creatures and ate them raw.

When the ovens were ready, they cut their victims up very carefully, placing dishes under every part to catch the blood. If a drop fell, they licked it up off the ground with the greatest greediness. While the poor wretches were being cut in pieces, they pleaded hard for life; but all was of no avail: all were devoured.

Rev. John Watsford, Ono, Fiji, November 6, 1846




The Fijians loved human flesh for its own sake, and did not merely eat a slain enemy out of revenge. Probably the absence of any animal they could eat gave rise to the custom...


The crew of every boat that was wrecked upon these shore was killed and eaten in some parts. Often a man would order to be clubbed some man or woman that he considered would be good for cooking, his plea being that his ‘black tooth was aching’ and only human flesh could cure it. Such was the absolute right of a man over his wife that he could kill and eat her, if he wished; which has been not rarely done.

Such inordinate gluttons were some of these chiefs that they would reserve the whole bakolo, as a human body to be eaten was called, for their own eating, having the flesh slightly cooked time after time to keep it from going putrid. As a rule a Fijian will touch nothing that has become tainted, but sooner that lose any part of a human roast, they would eat it when the flesh would hardly hang together.

So great was their craving for this strange flesh that when a man had been killed in one of their many bruits and quarrels, and his relations had buried his body, the Fijians frequently enacted the part of ghouls and, digging the body up from the grave, cooked it and feasted thereon. So customary was this that the relations of a buried man who had not died from natural causes watched his grave until the body had probably become too loathsome for even a Fijian's appetite.

The flesh was either baked whole in the ovens, or cut up and stewed in the large earthenware pots they use for cooking. Certain herbs were nearly always cooked with the flesh, either to prevent indigestion or as a sort of savour stuffing – I know not which. The cooks who prepared it and placed it in the ovens filled the inside of the body with hot stones so that it would be well cooked all through.

After a battle, the victors would cook and eat many of the slain at once, but generally some of the bodies were borne home to the victors' village, where they were dragged by ropes tied round their necks through the open place to the temple. There they were offered to the gods, and afterwards cooked and divided among the men, the priests always coming in for a large share. By the side of the temples great heaps of human bones lay whitening in the sun – a sign of how many bodies had been thus offered to the gods. Women, however, were not allowed to take part in the awful banquet, yet women's bodies were considered better for the favourite portions. So delicious was human flesh held to be, that the highest praise that could be given to other food was to say: ‘It is as good as bakolo.’

Some of the most famous of the great cannibals have eaten an enormous number of human beings, many of them in their time having consumed hundreds of bodies...


No important business could be commenced without the slaying of one or two human beings as a fitting inauguration. Was a canoe to be built, then a man must be slain for the laying of its keel; if the man for whom the canoe was being built was a very great chief, then a fresh man was killed for every new timber that was added. More men were used at its launching – as rollers to aid its passage to the sea. Others again were slain to wash its deck in blood and to furnish the feast of human flesh considered so desirable on such occasions. After the canoe was afloat still more victims were required at the first taking down of the mast.

At Bau there used to be a regular display of slaughter, in a sort of arena, round which were raised stone seats for the onlookers. In this space was a huge ‘braining stone,’ which was used thus: two strong natives seized the victim, each taking hold of an arm and leg, and, lifting him from the ground, they ran with him head foremost – at their utmost speed against the stones – bashing out his brains; which was fine sport for the spectators.

Alfred St Johnston, Traveller, Fiji Islands, Camping Among Cannibals, Macmillan, 1883




Captain Morell, the American skipper of whom I have already spoken, came near to being the victim of an ambush in the Fiji Islands. he lost fourteen of his companions. After regaining his ship, he said, he saw the savages cutting up the members of his poor sailors while they were still alive, and more than one of them saw his own arm or leg roasted and devoured before his death.

In Naclear Bay, in the Fijis, a Captain Dillon came near to losing his life. While searching for sandal-wood trees with eighteen or twenty of his men, he found himself separated from the majority of his party and surrounded by a large number of the natives. It was impossible to regain the sea, so he and four others took refuge on a steep rock. ‘We were,’ said Dillon later, ‘five refugees on a rock, and the ground below was covered with several thousand savages. They lit fires at the foot of the rock and heated hearths upon which to roast the limbs of my unfortunate companions. The corpses of these,’ he continued, ‘as well as those of two chiefs of a neighbouring island, were brought before the fires in the following manner: two natives from Naclear constructed a kind of stretcher with branches of trees, which they placed upon their shoulders. The corpses of their victims were put crosswise upon this structure, so that the head hung down on one side and the legs on the other. Thus they were carried in triumph to the fires, where they were placed on the grass in a sitting position.

‘The savages sang and danced around them with demonstrations of the most ferocious joy. They fired several bullets at the inanimate bodies, using for this posthumous execution the guns which had fallen into their hands. When this ceremony was finished, the priests commenced to cut up the corpses before our eyes, and the fragments were placed upon the hearths. Meanwhile we ourselves were surrounded upon every side save that where a thicket on mangroves bordered the river.’

Two of Dillon's companions, one named Savage and the other a Chinese, abandoned their captain, foolishly believing the promises of the barbarians that they would come to no harm. ‘Savage,’ Dillon said, ‘was soon in their midst. They surrounded him, appearing to congratulate him. Suddenly, however, they uttered a great cry, seizing Savage at the same time by the legs. Six men held him suspended head downwards and plunged him into the hole full of water, where he was speedily suffocated. Meanwhile, a native approached the Chinese from behind, and dashed out his brains with a blow of his club. Thereupon the two unfortunate fellows were cut up and placed on the hearth with their companions.’

Dr. Felix Maynard & Alexandre Dumas, The Whalers, Hutchinson, 1937




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