Myths and legends of Easter Island

Since researches haven’t found all the missing links of Easter Island’s culture yet, the reconstruction of their past wanders between myth and reality. This option is not uncertain if we consider that many of the facts we study started with the interpretation of a myth. One of the most characteristic legends of the island is the one of the seven explorers. According to this legend, before the journey of King Hotu Matua and following the instructions of a clairvoyant, seven sailors came to the island in search of an appropriate place to settle and plant yam, a tuber that is key for the nutrition of the immigrants. Two of them also brought a moai and a mother-of-pearl necklace, which they hid and left when they returned to their native land of Hiva. Only one explorer stayed in the island. Several studies have rescued facts from this myth that are verifiable today: When Hotu Matua came to the island, yam already existed, and also the moai. In fact, some deduct that the seven explorers symbolize the seven generations that inhabited the place, or maybe seven immigrant tribes, from which only one survived in order to mix with Hotu Matua’s people. The facts allowed the researchers to conclude that the king died 20 years after arriving to the island, and that he was succeeded by his older son Tuu Maheke. The last member of this dynasty was Gregorio O Roroko He Tau, also known as the Child King, who died in 1886. Although the people of the island believe the dynastic succession did not have any diversions or interruptions, there are several signs that point out that the dynastic descent suffered many alterations. Today, there is still a family who claims to descend from the great king Hotu Matua.

We know that after the first Polynesians, a second immigration came to the island. The origin of these new settlers is polemic, since their racial characteristics are different from those who considered themselves native at the time. The new inhabitants were called Hanau Eepe, which literally means “wide race”. In fact, they were more corpulent and robust than the Hanau Momoko, or “thin race”, who occupied the place before. The Hanau Eepe had very developed ear lobes, which is why many anthropologists associate them with the Inca people. Nevertheless, like many others, this is a mystery not yet deciphered. For the time being, the short ears and the long ears are historical protagonists of the island’s origin, and their coexistence is backed by real testimonies of the past.