The legend of Mo’o-re’a, the yellow lizard of Mai’ao.
Temaiatea vahine and Temaiatea tane lived on the island of « Tupuai-Manu » which is today called Mai’ao. One day the young woman became pregnant and gave birth to an egg. Her husband took the egg and carried it to a small cave near the shore named « Vaionini » and put it there. One night, Temaiatea vahine had a vision in her sleep. She saw that she gave birth to a boy with a yellowish skin. She woke up and told this dream to her husband. At sunrise, the man went to check on the egg he had left in the cave. Surprisingly, the egg had hatched and revealed a baby lizard with a yellow color skin, same as in his wife’s dream.
The parents named it Mo’o-re’a which means yellow lizard. They nursed Mo’o-re’a in this small cave until it reached a big size. When it became huge, the woman got scared and told her husband: “We must leave Mo’o-re’a behind, or he will soon eat us. The husband refused, and replied: “It is also our beloved child to whom we have given the name of Mo’o-re’a.» But as the woman insisted, the man conformed to her decision.
Temaiatea tane built a canoe to leave the island once he had finished, the couple left Mai’ao. They took a course towards the rising sun. They approached Tahiti through Taapuna pass located on the west coast of the island. When they landed they sought refuge in the mountains.
After a little while of loneliness and starvation in the cave, Mo’o-re’a realized that it had been adandonned by his parents and decided to go after them. Out of despair, it threw itself into the ocean and swam eastward. When it lost sight of land, he ran into the « Teara-Veri » (« veri »: centipede) current, then got out. This current is not a chopy one but it’s a sinusoidal course like the one of the centipede. Mo’o-re’a faced a second current which is called Tefara (=The Pandanus) for it is a “thorny” current like the Pandanus spiky leaves. Mo’o-re’a managed to free himself from this current, but he was exhausted. He faced a third current called Tepua (=The Soap) because it is a powerful current, the foam is massive and feels like soap foam.
Exhausted by his struggle against these three natural forces, he drowned. His body drifted and was washed ashore on the beach of Vai Anae at the South-west tip of the island of Aimeho or Eimeo. Early in the morning, two fishermen found this huge creature lying on the sand and went back to the village to spread the news, shouting: « It’s a yellow lizard! « E mo’o re’a! » » Upon that day the island of Aimeho, has been called Mo’orea.