The Brother and the Ilio, as told by Michael Solgas

In this story the ilio spirit is introduced (iliu in some dialects). An ilio is the spirit of a person who has suffered a tragic death, such as one who has been murdered or lost at sea; thus the term is understood and often translated as “victim.” In the first story, “How Lihir Came to Be,” the word ilio is translated as “victim” to refer to the body of the deceased and not a live spirit. They are said to hang around in trees, often in groups, and have an otherworldly home. Ilio are also said to emit light, to glow. Certain foods are associated with the world of the ilio, such as coconuts with bluish eyes, and pink-coloured yams, as described in this story.

After the traditional opening, the story begins with a boy who lived with his sister and her husband; it is implied that the boy is an orphan. From the outset we learn that the boy is neglected—he is subjected to the anger of his sister’s husband and most significantly he is deprived of food—and so the scene is set for a tragic tale. He leaves his sister’s home, and, sitting under a tree, an ilio climbs down and offers to take the boy to its world, where he is raised.

When the ilio take him back to the earthly world, they bring the various foods associated with them (and so we have a sub-story about the origins of these foods). The sister comes across this resplendent garden and discovers it belongs to her brother, who then provides her with food for herself and her husband. But the brother does not forget their ill-treatment of him and ultimately they are punished.

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