Tongan Television

Working in an international office can be an educational experience. For 22 years I associated with people from all over the world – in addition to Europeans, we had colleagues from many countries in Latin America and the Pacific – and every Monday we would gather for an inspirational meeting to get the week started off right. Often the designated speaker would present an aspect of their home culture, and I had a chance to learn some fascinating things over time.


This is a “Tongan television.” Actually, it’s a neck-rest, or pillow of sorts; the first time I saw something like this was at the Natural History Museum’s Egyptian exhibit in New York – I was probably around six or seven, and I remember wondering, “how in the world do they sleep on those things?”


Later I learned that this particular type was typically used for supporting the head of mummified corpses, but the Tongan ones are most definitely used for sleeping or resting.

There’s no way I can convey the same feeling that I had as my colleague described the tradition of the family’s gathering together after dark, and listening to the patriarch tell stories. Stories of customs and traditions and legends, all designed to pass on to the next generation the family ways of honor and decency.

Sometimes, in Tongan society, a child would go their own way and fail to honor family traditions, getting in trouble or living dissipated lives. Of such children, it was often elegantly said that they “didn’t sleep close.”

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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