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Teu (1720? - 1802)

Also known as Happai or Whappai
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Teu was the son of Ta'roa Manahune and Tetuaehuri (Teahupo'o).

Adams gives Teu's birth date as circa 1720, but Oliver calculates that he was born in 1728 (1974: 3, 1183).

Oliver writes of Teu that although he was close to many events shaping the political history of Tahiti in the latter half of the eighteenth century, he 'seems to have played a relatively minor role in them', his most noteworthy actions being his marriage to Tetupaia (Oberea), the eldest child of Tomatoa III, and his fathering of Pomare I (Tu).

Cook did not encounter Teu during the Endeavour voyage, and merely mentions him in passing as the father of Pomare I (Tu) in the journal he kept during his second voyage of 1772-1775. However, in John Hawkesworth's account of the Endeavour Voyage there appears the following passage:


The sovereign at this time was a son of WHAPPAI [Happai], whose name was OUTOU, and who, as before has been observed, was a minor. Whappai, Oamo, and Tootahah, were brothers: Whappai was the eldest, and Oamo the second; so that, Whappai having no child but Outou, Terridiri, the son of his next brother Oamo, was heir to the sovereignty. It will, perhaps, seem strange that a boy should be sovereign during the life of his father; but, according to the custom of the country, a child succeeds to a father's title and authority as soon as it is born: a regent is then elected, and the father of the new sovereign is generally continued in his authority, under that title, till his child is of age; but, at this time, the choice had fallen upon Tootahah, the uncle, in consequence of his having distinguished himself in a war (Hawkesworth 1773: 2, 154).

In his account of Cook's second voyage, George Forster writes of Teu as follows:


He was a tall, thin man, with a grey beard and hair, [who] seemed to be of a great age, but was not yet entirely worn out. He received the presents which our captains made him, in a cold careless manner, which is natural to old people whose senses are considerably impaired. The accounts of former voyages had already apprised us of that strange constitution, by virtue of which the son assumes the sovereignty in his father's life time, but we could not without surprize, behold the aged Happai, naked to the waist in his son's presence, conform to the general custom. Thus the ideas universally annexed to consanguinity, are suppressed in order to give weight to the regal dignity, and I cannot help thinking that such a sacrifice to political authority, argues a greater degree of civilization than has been allowed to the Taheitians by our former navigators. However, though Happai was not invested with the supreme command, his birth and rank entitled him to deference from the common people, and to a proper support from the king. The province of O-Parre, was therefore under his immediate orders, and supplied not only his wants, but those also of his attendants (Forster, 2000: 1, 181-2).

According to Forster, Teu disapproved of Tutaha's attacking Taiarapu in the eraly 1770s.

In 1788, Bligh encountered Teu, whom he described as 'about 70 Years of Age (Bligh, 1789:1, 382).

Teu died in 1803, by which time he was regarded by the missionary community as the oldest man on the island (Newbury 1961: 59).


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Structure based on ISAAR(CPF) - click here for an explanation of the fields. Created: 2 March 2002
Modified: 5 March 2002

Published by South Seas, 1 February 2004
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: Paul.Turnbull@jcu.edu.au
Prepared by: Paul Turnbull
Updated: 28 June 2004
To cite this page use: http://nla.gov.au/nla.cs-ss-biogs-P000207

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