From Marist Studies
Jump to: navigation, search

A young Wallisian to Br Francois

LO 70


This letter, which we possess only in copy, presents a number of problems. For a start, the title given it in the copy in our archives (Cahier 48 lettres, p 166) attributes it to a “New Zealander” (ie a Maori). But the writer, Filipo Malia, identifies himself as a Wallisian (lines 18, 29). This mistake has probably arisen from the close resemblance of the two Polynesian languages, Maori and Uvean, and it is likely that the French translator was himself a missionary who had worked in New Zealand. The fact that no French equivalent is provided for the phrase nga takakau katoa (line 10) (“all the virgins” ie “the sisters”) suggests, at least, that he was unaware of the presence of religious women in the missions, or, if aware, did not know the term in use for them. There were no Sisters working in New Zealand until 1850, though Francoise Perroton had been at work on Wallis since 1846. Assuming the translation was made in France in the late 1840’s or 1850’s, possible translators would include, among the Brothers, Pierre-Marie, and Emery, and among the priests, Jerome Grange who was chaplain at St Paul-Trois-Chateaux until 1852. On the other hand, the translation may well have accompanied the original and the phrase been passed over by mistake.

Then there is no indication of when and where it was written. Avit includes it with summaries of missionary letters from different periods in the Annales under 1862 (T 3 p 28), but it cannot have been written as late as that. Nor can it have been written before 1846. The fact that none of the names listed at the end of the letter feature in Joseph-Xavier’s lists of the youths in the Wallis establishments in his letter of June 5 1844 (LO 47) leads us to believe they belong to a younger generation (presuming that Falakiko and Polikapo are also Wallisian). The mention of the “virgins” implies a familiarity with the Christian concept, at least, which can only have come from the presence and work of the dedicated Francoise Perroton after 1846. We are tentatively dating it, therefore, to 1848 or 1849. It cannot have reached France before June 1849 or Francois would surely have made some mention of it in his letter to the missionaries of that date (rf L 82).

The writer, Filipo Malia (Philippe Marie), identifies himself as Wallisian. It is highly likely that his two co-signatories, Falakiko a Paolo (Francois de Paule) and Polikapo (Policarpe), were also from Wallis. All three were most likely students at the college of Notre Dame de l’Hermitage at Kolopelu on Futuna which had been set up to form Marist Brothers for the mission. This would certainly explain the destination of the letter and the requests for objects of a religious nature. Unfortunately, we have nothing further on any of these youths, and we do not know whether Filipo received any of the things he asked for.

A further oddity is the number of doublets employed by the writer (or writers):

felela, ferera; katolika, katorika; Lomana, Romana; wale, ware.

Under European influence the letter “r”, which did not exist in Futunan of Wallisian, had become interchangeable with the usual “l” even in words not of European extraction, at least in writing. At this date there appears to be no rule regulating usage. The confusion here, however, could be due to the youth of the writer. Some of the doublets also reveal different linguistic origins for the words. For example, there are two words for Father in line 9, pele and pitelo, one reflecting the French “Pere” the other the Latin “pater”. Similarly the name ‘Francis” is represented by two forms, Farusu for French ‘Francois” and Falakiko for Latin “Fransiscus”.

Text of the Letter

Ki te Ware o to Felela (Ferera) [1] To the house of the Brothers
Felela farasu a Aliki Brother Francois Superior
tena ra ko koe e nui toku Greetings to you I have a
aroha kia koe mo te Ferera great love for you and all the
katoa tena ra ko koutou. Brothers. Greetings to you all.
E inoi au ki te Atua mo koutou I pray to God for you,
e inoi hoki au mo te papa, I pray also for the Pope,
me ngau (sic) epikopo katoa, and for all the bishops,
me nga pele pitelo katoa, and all the priests,
me nga takakau katoa, me nga (and all the sisters), and all
Felela katoa, me nga Kilijitiano the Brothers and all Christians,
katoa, mo te Ekelesia Katorika for the Roman Catholic Church.
Lomana. inoi koe moku e tou Pray for me, my reverend
hoa tapu inoi koe kia Malia friend, pray to Mary,
te matua atatou moku. our mother, for me.
inoi atu koutou ki te Nui Pray, you others, to the Lord
moku ka ahau Filipo Malia for me, Philippe-Marie of
no Wallisi katolika Romana. Wallis, Roman Catholic.
E inoi ahau kia koe Falasu a I ask you, Francois, Superior of
Aliki note Felela homai te the Brothers, to give me some
lipeka, te Malia,[2] te Losalio, crosses, some medals, some
mo Filipo Malia. toko rosaries for Philippe-Marie.
pilangi Nui hoki tena, e hoa That is my great desire. Friend,
homai koe he waka pakoko Nui give me a big picture
mo to Wale kalakoa [3] ko Sangato of the church of Saint Pothin.
potino[4]. Ko ia hahi took That is my great desire.
pilangi Nui. Kaoha Falasuo Farewell, Francois.
Falakiko a paolo, polikapo Francois de Paul, Policarpe,
filipo Malia, Philippe-Marie
Walliji. Wallisians.


  1. The form in brackets is crossed out in the original.
  2. Malia - a medal of the Blessed Virgin, probably the Miraculous Medal.
  3. Wale kalakoa - lit. house of prayer, in Maori whare karakia. The parallel also suggests the copyist of the original text may have miscopied some of the vowels. Cf eg pitelo where one would expect patelo.
  4. Saint Pothin was the first bishop of Lyon.

Previous Letter Letters from Oceania: 1848-9 Next letter