The Cost of a Kiss: Sina and the Eel

Coconuts are an important crop within the Polynesian Islands; they provide an important food source as well as oil, fiber, and wood. The sweet water inside can also be a life saver in circumstances where fresh water is scarce. As a bonus selling point it also comes in its own handy, transportable container which can then be re-purposed as all manner of things; an eating or drinking utensil, a decorative outfit, a storage container or even just dried out and thrown on the fire as fuel.

Surprisingly enough the coconut is an introduced species, and anthropologists have used the appearance of coconut trees on an island as evidence of habitation. Such an important and versatile crop must have a fantastic origin story, right? We certainly think so, and while each island has its own variation here is one that was collected from the Islands of Samoa:

One day while out fishing on the reef a woman came across a baby eel. She scooped it up in a seashell and brought it home with her to give as a gift to her young daughter, Sina. Sina loved the eel and kept it as a pet. As it grew, she transferred it from the shell to a bowl but eventually it grew too large even for that. Saddened, Sina released the eel into the nearby river. Sina still went to the river to play with the eel, but as she grew older the visits grew more infrequent.

Sina blossomed into a beautiful young lady, and the eel fell in love with her and wanted Sina to become his wife. Sina explained that she was grown now, that she wanted a husband of her own and that she couldn’t marry an eel. The eel was insistent though, and Sina began to become frightened, wishing the eel would leave her alone. Despite her attempts to limit his advances, the eel became more and more infatuated with the girl, and began to follow Sina around. He even began to sneak into the village pool to watch her while she bathed.

One day as she was bathing, she looked down and saw the eel staring right back at her and screamed in fright. The village men came running down to the pool to see what the matter was, grabbed the eel and chopped off its head. As the eel lay dying it begged Sina to plant its head in the ground. Feeling sorry for the childhood pet she once loved Sina did as she was bid.

As soon as she planted the head in the soil it began to sprout roots and grew into a large tree the likes of which the people had never seen before. It was the coconut tree.

That is why when you pull the husk off of a coconut you find three holes staring back at you; the eyes and mouth of the eel.


All of the Islanders rejoiced in the new tree, and its useful fruit. From that day on, every time Sina would raise a coconut to her lips and drink the sweet juice from its hole, she would be forced to kiss her once beloved pet.

Sometimes, that’s the cost of a kiss…

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