||This article reads more like a story than an encyclopedia entry. (December 2007)|
Momo (meaning: crumb) was the 10th Tuʻi Tonga, a dynasty of mighty kings in Tonga, and lived somewhere in the 11th, maybe 12th century CE. He was named after one of the original gods of Tonga, a trio known as Kohai, Koau, mo Momo. It was under his reign that the Tuʻi Tonga maritime empire started to blossom.
King Momo had his court in Heketā, near the village of Niutōua (doubly planted coconuttrees), so named because a red and a white palm grew from the same hole. His people were known as the Haʻa-mene-ʻuli (dirty bottoms tribe), because in order to honour him they had to keep their head lower than his, and thus shuffled around on their bottoms instead of their feet.
One day the king fell in love with a beautiful girl and sent his envoy, Lehaʻuli, to her father, Loʻau, the Tuʻi-Haʻamea (Haʻamea king) with the request to beg him for a yam for his plantation. Loʻau understood the real meaning of the request and answered that he was unable to help as one yam was still immature and the other had already sprouted. He meant to say that his youngest daughter was still too young while his older daughter, named Nua, had already brought forth a child and was therefore an old woman. (Once a yam starts to sprout the tuber is no longer edible). Her husband was Ngongokilitoto from Malapo, chief of the Haʻangongo tribe.
Momo had to think for a moment, but next day he sent his envoy back to Loʻau with the famous words: Fena kā ko Nua (sprouted, but still it is Nua). And so Loʻau had to go to Malapo to ask Ngongokilitoto to give up his wife. It was hard as the two really loved each other, but they knew who was boss. At last Nua became Momo's wife. Their son would be the greatest Tuʻi Tonga of that period, Tuʻitātui. And his elder stepbrother, Fasiʻapule, would later become a kind of governor.
It is not sure where Haʻamea was located. Some claim the centre of Tongatapu, near Matangiake, in which case Loʻau was only a minor prince. It is also possible that the name is a variant of Haʻamoa (Sāmoa), in which case Loʻau was a mighty king too. Then this marriage may be a mythical way to tell about an alliance between Tonga and Sāmoa, and the start of the empire. An alliance which would only last one generation.
- I.C. Campbell; Classical Tongan kingship; 1989
- E. Bott; Tonga society at the time of Captain Cook's visit; 1982
- ʻO. Māhina; Images from the history and culture of Tonga; 2006