An entry in The Crocodile Prize
Buk bilong Pikinini Award for Children’s Writing
AS a Panguna boy Onana had never seen the pirung [ocean] but he had dreamed about it.
One night Onana asked his mother, “Ungko [mother], I hear children that go to Arawa—where you also go—say there is a big river there. They say it is an angry river called pirung that howls like a furious dog. Is it real to have such a river?”
“‘I will take you there to see for yourself,” his ungko Teruinu said hugging him. “Uncle Miriuii will be happy to take us in his truck.”
Early the next morning, even before the waking cry of the village roosters, Onana was on the grass of Tonanau village running from house to house singing, “Little Onana is going to see the sea for himself,” joyfully repeating the refrain.
In all the village houses, the children awoke to see Onana running and jumping on the grass. He was hopping, rolling and somersaulting with joy.
The children came and joined him in his dance and song. They danced until the sun was over Enamira ridge. Then they went away to breakfast.
Onana entered his kitchen hut and there was ungko with breakfast of taro and fish.
“Ungko, what things live in the pirung?” asked Onana.
“Many things,” Teruinu said, “like this fish. Many kinds of fish—big and small—live there for the pirungnumpong [coastal people] to catch and sell at the Arawa market for us mountain people.”
“And is Arawa friendly with the pirung?”
“Yes, it is friend because it is close to the pirung,” Teruinu said.
“Is the pirung friendly with us mountain people who fear it?”
“Yes. Why not? It will be in friendship with my son Onana today,’ Teruinu told him.
“So eat your food quickly and we will go down to the road to get on your uncle’s truck and travel to Arawa so you can see the sea.”
The trunk arrived and the people smiled at Onana as the truck moved off.
Onana sat silently sitting on ungko’s lap. As the truck moved, Onana was afraid and held tightly onto ungko’s belly and hands. He saw the mountains move away from him and he slept.
“Okay, Onana,” his uncle Miriuii called, “you are now at the pirung.”
Onana woke and stared in disbelief. The pirung was huge, bigger than the river Kavarong, and was coloured like the sky. There were birds high above it and there were other lands within it. It was really amazing.
Onana bravely left ungko’s grip and walked onto the sand. The sand was soft and he felt like sinking and he cried. But Teruinu comforted her son and told him to be brave and touch the sea.
He walked across the wet sand to where sea waves smashed with a roar before him. He darted for safety but soon ran for the pirung again. Then he was in the water.
The pirung rolled him on the sand and Onana was laughing and the pirung was happy also. Wave after wave came to wet him and roll him over and over again.
“Ungko,” Onana called, “the pirung is happy with me.”
“Yes, my brave son,” Teruinu called back, “you have conquered the sea and the pirungnumpong will say you are one of them.”