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Mystery surrounds Udre Udre's victim count

Avinesh Gopal
Tuesday, January 21, 2014

HE was Fiji's and probably the world's most renowned cannibal.

But there has been confusion recently on the number of people he ate during his reign.

Some say they were told in schools and during stories at home that he ate 99 people.

However, from the stories passed down the generations, villagers say the renowned cannibal ate 999 people.

There are also conflicting figures available on various websites on the number of people he ate.

But a research by this newspaper has revealed that the number of people he ate wasas many 872.

According to documented evidence, the number could have been 900 or even more as some stones were missing.

During their time, some of the cannibals used stones to count the number of people they had eaten and to keep a record.

Like them, renowned cannibal Udre Udre is also said to have kept stones as a record of the humans he had consumed.

It was in the early 1800s when he is said to have walked the hills and coastal areas in Rakiraki, where the first iTaukei is claimed to have landed.

From the stories passed down the generations, villagers say Udre Udre moved from the Nakauvadra mountain range to the coastal area of Rakiraki.

There, he used to keep his "would-be meals" in a prison in the mangroves and he also used to cook humans there.

From the coastal area, he is said to have moved to the hills opposite Vatusekiyasawa Village, which is about five kilometres from Rakiraki Town.

On the hills known as Dakudaku, Udre Udre is said to have established his village which was known as Korolevu.

The remnants of his village are still visible on the hills overlooking the sea and the Nakauvadra mountain range.

But while the remains of his "base camp" are at Korolevu, his grave, however, is situated several kilometres away next to the Kings Rd.

And while there is documented evidence on the number of people Udre Udre ate, there is no record of how he died.

In the Yalo i Viti: Shades of Fiji, Fiji Museum Catalogue 1986, a brief account is given by Reverend Richard Lyth, who was staying at a place called Cokova in northeastern Viti Levu in 1848.

Mr Lyth was taken to see the late Udre Udre's cannibal stones.

"Ravatu, a son of the above prince of cannibals took me out of the town about a mile to show me the stones by which his father memorialised the number of human beings that he ate from time to time beginning after his family had begun to grow up, or as Ravatu also expressed it when he was beginning to be a little gray," he is quoted in the catalogue.

"Those that he ate in his youth and up to the period referred to were included.

"I was brought to a long line of stones placed close together in a row. They lay a few paces from the path and alongside it."

The catalogue quotes Mr Lyth as saying that one Methuselah who accompanied him counted the stones.

"There were 872. Methuselah said beside this number, there were many gaps in the row where the stones had been removed, which he did not allow for these would have leveled the number to at least 900.

"Ravatu assured me that his father ate all this number of human beings. He added a stone to the row for each one he received.

"They were victims killed in war. He ate them all himself, he gave to none.

"However much he had on hand, it was cooked and re-cooked (by which it was preserved) until it was all consumed. He would keep it in a box so he would lose none.

"Turtles and prime pigs he would reserve for himself but at the second time of cooking he would give a portion to his children and friends but not so human flesh. He kept it entirely for himself.

"He ate but little else very little vegetable and being an enormous eater, he was able to get through a great deal.

"This account I had from Ravatu," Mr Lyth is quoted in the Fiji Museum catalogue.

Furthermore, he says in the catalogue that he measured the row of stones at 232.

"There was another heap, Nangavuli's before he became a Christian. I counted 48 in his row.

"The whole family appears to have been cannibals extraordinary.

"Such was a brother of Ra Udre Udre's called Ratu, such his sons Naburebalavu and Nangavuli," the catalogue quotes the late reverend from what he had documented.

Otto Degener also gave an account of the cannibal stones in his book "Naturalist's South Pacific Expedition in Fiji".

"Not far from the rest house near Rakiraki where I stayed for several nights on different occasions, I noticed a cement grave or crude monument erected to the memory of the late chief Undriundri," he wrote.

"Cumming in 1876 visited the same general locality to inspect a row of smallish stones extending about 200 yards.

"These were to represent the bokola actually eaten by Undriundri and the chief Wanga Levu — one stone for each body."

Mr Degener wrote that the cannibals kept a record of the number of people they had eaten by erecting such lines of stones.

"Miss Cumming counted 872, though at least 30 had been removed since Undriundri's death about the year 1840," he wrote.

According to Vatusekiyasawa villagers, they are aware that Udre Udre ate 999 people.

"From the stories passed down by my forefathers and from the records we got from the different institutions, we know it was 999," said Vatusekiyasawa villager Epeli Bukadogo.

Mr Bukadogo said while he knew that Udre Udre was dead, he was unaware how his reign really ended.

"It could be that he was shot dead by the Colonial Government people then and that's why he's buried quite far from where he used to stay," he said.

NEXT WEEK: More findings at Udre Udre's hilltop home

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