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Masalai, or Lord of the Land

The Papua New Guinean tale stages the ogre essentially in the form of an
anthropomorphic spirit called masalai. The creature arouses fear among the people because it is difficult to identify, as it can take many shapes. It is unpredictable, may trick its victim into taking the wrong trail or eating some bewitched food. It may reside in trees, stones or holes. It can be a lizard or a crocodile, or a two-headed or ten-headed creature, or it can simply have a big mouth. The masalai is associated with magic. This study briefly considers first some representations of the masalai and the fear it generates. However, in some instances, the masalai possesses a tragic flaw, which makes him vulnerable. The main focus will be on the essential part masalais play when it comes to dealing with the territory they control, which also interacts with the narrative pattern underlying the tales.

Axe de recherche : Sociétés insulaires d’Océanie : héritages, mutations et recompositions
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