#1 The Principal Wife of the Chief
     (William Mariner, 1820)

A man may have several wives; but the greatest chief, that is, she who is of the best family, is the principal wife; and in respect to her, — if her husband die first, she must be strangled on the day of his death, and afterwards buried with him…[T]here was a certain chief, a native of Fiji, who about that period fell ill and died: his wife, who was also a native of Fiji, in accordance with the religious notions in which she was brought up, considered it a breach of duty to outlive him; she therefore desired to be strangled. All her Tonga friends endeavored to dissuade her from what appeared to them so unnecessary and useless an act; but no! she was determined, she said, to fulfill her duty, in defect of which she should never be happy in her mind,–the hotooas of Fiji would punish her; and thus; by living, she should only incur fresh miseries. Her friends, finding all remonstrances in vain, allowed her to do as she pleased: she accordingly laid herself down on the ground, by the side of her deceased husband, with her face upwards; and desiring a couple of Fiji men to perform their duty, they put a band of gnatoo round her neck, and pulling at each end, soon ended her existence. In the evening they were buried together in the same grave, in a sitting posture, according to the Fiji custom.

[#1] William Mariner, “The Principal Wife of the Chief”, An Account of the natives of the Tonga Islands, in the South Pacific Ocean. Compiled and arranged from the extensive communications of Mr. William Mariner, several years resident in those islands. By John Martin (Boston: Charles Ewer, 1820), p. 295.

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