4. The Sister and the Mdualih, as told by Elizabeth Walis

This story introduces the mdualih (or mundualih in other dialects). This tragic being originates from a foetus inside its deceased mother. It is understood in Lihir customary beliefs that if a mother is pregnant when she dies, the foetus will continue to grow, eventually exiting the body of the mother, and retreating to live in the bush.

In this story, a mdualih meets her sister in the garden and looks after her baby while the sister works; the sister’s husband had refused to accompany her to the garden, leaving her to work by herself—or so he thinks. The husband is shown to be lazy and selfish, the mdualih fulfilling her filial duty. The mdualih sings a song to the baby while her sister is working (only part of this song can be translated).

At the end of the working day the mdualih is given sugar cane to eat by her sister; a food not regularly consumed in Lihir. The mdualih instructs the sister to bathe the baby to remove the scent of her, thus keeping her presence from the husband a secret. On one occasion the sister does not wash her baby, and all is revealed. On the next visit to the garden the husband stalks the mdualih, captures her and locks her in the house. She escapes, never to help her sister again; punishing her for revealing her identity.

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