Erdland, August. The Marshall Islanders: life and customs, thought and religion of a South Seas people

Table of Contents

Publication Information

Part I. Ergology, Or Life And Work

Chapter 1. Geography, History, And Natural Surroundings

Chapter 2. The Population And Its Physical Characteristics

Chapter 3. Body Decoration, Clothing, Ornaments

Chapter 4. Dwellings

Chapter 5. Food

Chapter 6. Fishing

Chapter 7. Canoe Building And Canoe Voyages

Chapter 8. Knowledge Of The Weather

Chapter 9. Knowledge Of The Stars And Waves

Chapter 10. Weapons And Warfare

Part Ii. Sociology, Or Society, Law, And Customs

Chapter 1. Social And Political Structure; Right Of Succession

Chapter 2. Rights Of Chiefs

Chapter 3. Kinship, Totemism

Chapter 4. Marriage, Position Of Women

Chapter 5. Birth, Position Of Children

Chapter 6. Sexual Morality

Chapter 7. Character And Psychology

Part Iii. Higher Intellectual Life: Language, Poetry, Mythology

Chapter 1. Language

Chapter 2. Metaphorical Language

Chapter 3. Proverbs

Chapter 4. Poetry

Chapter 5. Myths: General

Chapter 6. Religious Myths: Myths Of The Gods

1. Wulleb's Children, Jemäliwut And Edao Told By Lejitilel. Jaluit.

2. Edao, A Bush Spirit, And The Latter's Wife

3. Edao Recovers His Daughter-in-law For Lewoj And Lanej

4. Jemäliwut's Aunt Expelled And Forgiven Again

5. Wulleb Punishes Lökomran (barran) Because Of His Roughness

6. Irojrilik's Daughter Enchanted And Again Raised From The Dead

Chapter 7. Religious Myths: Astral Myths

1. Liköda˙ner Gives Her Son, Pleiades, The First Sailing Canoe

2. Pleiades' Jealousy Of Jibuge's Wife

3. Pleiades Punishes Two Persons For Contempt Of His Person

4. Antares Avenges The Infidelity Of His Wife

Chapter 8. Religious Myths: Spirit Myths

1. A Woman From The Spirit Island Eb Makes Chief A Brela˙n Happy

2. Chief Kabua And The Two Forest Spirit Daughters

3. The Spirit Woman

4. The Outwitted Spirit

5. The Intimidated Spirit

6. The Defeated Spirit

7. The Simple-minded Spirit

8. The Complaining Corpse

Chapter 9. Myths Of Magic

1. The Bold Boy And The Sorceress, His Mother

2. Rays As Guardian Spirits Bewitch A Woman Giving Birth

3. A Taboo Transgressed And Punished

4. The Bewitched Breadfruit Tree

5. The Deceitful And Deceived Kraken

Chapter 10. Social And Moral Myths: The Chief And His Prerogatives

1. The Chief Cheated Of The Jus Primae Noctis

2. The Subject Punished For His Offense Against A Chiefs' Custom

3. The Chief's Son Whose Sense Of Honor Is Offended

4. Revenge Of An Innocent, Persecuted Child Of A Chief

Chapter 11. Social And Moral Myths: Initiation Celebration

1. The Girl Punished Because Of Prohibited Puberty Celebration

2. Two Young Men Banished After The Tattooing Celebration

Chapter 12. Social And Moral Myths: Incest

1. Temptation To Commit Incest With The Mother

2. The Punished Incest With The Sister

Chapter 13. Social And Moral Myths: Husband And Wife

1. The Sadness Of A Wife Over Her Husband's Infidelity

2. The Wife Who Was Abducted And Brought Home Again

3. The Abductor Chastised

4. Punished Vanity

Chapter 14. Social And Moral Myths: Parents And Children

1. The Pair Of Girl Friends And The Son Who Was Found Again

2. The Unmerciful Father

3. A Cruel Mother Devours Her Husband And Baby

4. The Self-seeking Old Man And The Hungry Daughter

Chapter 15. Historical Myths

1. Discovery Of The Island Kili

2. Discovery Of The Island Elleb

3. Origin Of The Kin Group Rebra

4. Special Right Of The Kin Group Jol To Eat Food From The Chief's Hut

5. Chief Mauili˙n Dies In Battle In ˙natik

6. Why There Are Many Tortoises In Bikar

7. The First Coconut Palm

8. Miraculous Planting Of The Piece Of Land Muinäak

Part Iv. Religion And Magic

Chapter 1. Introduction

Chapter 2. Lore About The Gods And Creation (1)

Chapter 3. The Nature And Place Of Residence Of The First Living Beings

Chapter 4. Veneration Of Spiritual Beings

Chapter 5. The Soul In Life And After Death

Chapter 6. Ancestor Worship And Spiritism

Chapter 7. Magic

Chapter 8. Superstition

Chapter 9. Origin Of The Kin Groups And Totemism

Chapter 10. Human Beings Transformed Into Spirits And The Sea Marks Pertaining To Them On The Individual Atolls

1. Bikini

2. Ailinginae

3. Rongelap

4. Rongerik

5. Wotho

6. Ujae

7. Lae

8. Kwajalein

9. Namu

10. Ailinglapalap

11. Jaluit

12. Namorik

13. Ebon

Publication Information

Paragraph Subjects (OCM)

Publication Information


Title: The Marshall Islanders: life and customs, thought and religion of a South Seas people

Published By: Münster i. W.: [s.n.], 1914. HRAF ms: iii, 296 p. [original: xiv, 376 p.]: ill.

By line: August Erdland

HRAF Publication Information: New Haven, Conn.: HRAF, 2010. Computer File

Culture: Marshallese (OR11)

Subjects: Community heads (622); Rule of descent (611); Classes (565); Real property (423); Verbal arts (5310); Fishing (226); Ethnometeorology (821); Infant care (854); Life and death (761); Diet (262); Food preparation (252); Missions (797); Normal garb (291); Mats and basketry (285); Clothing manufacture (294); Acculturation and culture contact (177); ;

Abstract: This source is a classic example of the well organized, meticulously detailed ethnographies typical of German workers in the first part of the twentieth century. The author, a missionary, divides his study into four parts, the first of which is entitled 'Ergology, or Life and Work,' and deals primarily with the geography, history and natural environment of the islands, the population and physical characteristics, body decoration, clothing and ornament, dwellings, food, fishing, canoe building, weapons, and knowledge of weather, stars and waves. Part 2 is concerned with the social structure of the people, their laws and customs, and gives abundant data on Marshallese social and political structure, rights and special privileges of chiefs, kinship, marriage, position of women in the society, birth customs, status of children, sexual morality and individual character and psychology. Part 3 is almost entirely devoted to a study of Marshall Island mythology, with only incidental information being given on the language itself, poetry and proverbs. The concluding section of this source, part 4, deals with the religion and magic of the Marshall Islanders, and contains valuable data on the concept of the soul in life and death, care and treatment of the sick, and on the origin of the kin group and totemism.

Document Number: 3

Document ID: or11-003

Document Type: Component part(s), monograph

Language: English translation from German

Note: Translation of: [Die Marshall-Insulaner, Leben und Sitte, Sinn und Religion eines Südsee-Volkes]. Partly translated from the German into English in 1942 for the Yale Cross-Cultural Survey, with the remainder being translated for HRAF by Richard Neuse in 1961. Appendices I and II, on Nauru Island and Civilization and Missions, have not been translated for this file.

Field Date: ca. 1900

Evaluation: Missionary-5

Analyst: John Beierle ; 1961

Coverage Date: 1900-1914

Coverage Place: Marshall Islands

LCSH: Marshallese//Ethnology--Marshall Islands


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