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Directed by Robert Gardner

Documentary Educational Resources, 1964 (83 min.)
(Film transcript)
ROBERT GARDNER There is a fable told by a mountain people living in the ancient highlands of New
Guinea about a race between a snake and a bird. It tells of a contest which decided if men would be like
birds and die or be like snakes which shed their skins and have eternal life.
The bird won and from that time all men, like birds, must die.
DEAD BIRDS a film by Robert Gardner
ROBERT GARDNER Among those who tell why men must die is Weyak. His name means wrong for as a
child he showed unreasonable rage. As a man he learned to govern his temper and though neither very rich
not very powerful. He has respect of all with whom he lives. He is a warrior, a farmer and leader of the band
of men who guard the most dangerous sector of a frontier, which divides themselves from their enemy.
ROBERT GARDNER Often while at his post he busies himself with weaving, a task all men perform.
ROBERT GARDNER In a village close to Weyak's lives a smallest swineherd
ROBERT GARDNER He is called Pua having the name for the yellow clay these people put on when a
relative has been killed or dies, when an enemy has been killed and sometimes for no reason at all. The
patches of color around the eyes and shoulders help to complete their image of themselves as birds.
ROBERT GARDNER Usually alone, herding his foster fathers pigs, smaller and more awkward than most of
his playmates, Pua waits for manhood.
ROBERT GARDNER Close to the mountain wall is Pua's village, Wubarainma near it the situated other
villages each inhabited by 20 or 30 closely related people.
ROBERT GARDNER Wubarainma like other villages is connected by pass to places people must go to
watch their pigs, to visit other villages, to walk the main saw(ph) trail north, to gather wood from the forests
or to go out to their gardens to plant, cultivate and gather their many vegetables.
ROBERT GARDNER Beyond the integrate system of ditches and gardens is the frontier, between it and the
frontier of the enemy is an uncultivated no mans land. There on a low ridge that juts from the base of a
lonely hill is the major battle ground, the Warabara. To the frontier in the early morning come the most
ancient inhabitance of the valley.
ROBERT GARDNER Along the whole frontier a high towers put up by each side to command a better view
of the no man's land between them.
ROBERT GARDNER The frontier is about three miles in length and along at nearly 30 towers.
ROBERT GARDNER Homaclap(ph), a village of few minutes on the same gentle slope from Wubarainma is
where Weyak, his wives, his children and a few other families live. Each morning Weyak takes his spear or
his bow and arrows and starts for his tower. His path takes him westward in the direction of the flat valley
floor, where between the small villages in the frontier lies most of the garden land. Then southwestwards
along a little river, which comes down from the high hills behind Homaclap(ph). He follows this until he
reaches the nearer bank of a greater river, the Aikh. Climbing a little bluff above the Aikh he reaches
Puakoloba his watch tower. Named for the fact that close by there is plenty of yellow clay. Because the Aikh
is small enough for men to cross easily in shallow places, this river portion of no mans land is extremely
dangerous and bands of warriors frequently use it as a means of entering their enemy's territory. Among the
many birds that dwell near it only ducks are avoided. It means suppose that they carry harmful magic fed
them by the enemy downstream. Some men would believe that eat a duck would blind them to an
approaching raiding party. Sometimes though their sudden flights serves as a warning that men are near. As
is his custom, Weyak starts out for the frontier. He is armed and wearing the only clothing he knows. A dried
and hallowed gourd, which tied up with a bark string gives him all the covering he desires. Two wives stay
behind in the long family house

ROBERT GARDNER Today Weyak is especially alert because it is already two weeks since he and all the
others of his group celebrated their killing of an enemy warrior and because according to the way these
people live that killing must be avenged. These peoples wars and raids yield neither territory, prisoners nor
plunder. They fulfill the obligations of the living toward the slain toward, in fact, the ghosts of the slain.
Unavenged ghosts bring sickness, unhappiness and possibly disaster. It is for this reason they go to war
and for the reason that they like to.
ROBERT GARDNER Reluctantly Pua leaves the comfort of his mothers fire to begin an another day with his
foster fathers pigs. People price pigs highly and to own a large herd is part of being rich and influential.
Since they have such importance so great responsibility falls to those who look after them, a fact which Pua
knows but never fully comprehended.
ROBERT GARDNER Old women, past the age when they might be mothers, often acquire a small pig and
treat it as they would a child.
ROBERT GARDNER On the main thoroughfare, the trail running north and south along the valley close to
the mountain wall are people on their way to work in gardens are like Pua to herd their pigs. It is along this
trial that people move to visit other villages lying off to either side and to reach the salt wells 10 miles to the
north and half a mile up the mountain wall. Already some little girls, who have their family's pig to watch are
passing the time by etching garden plots and drainage ditches in the hard ground.
ROBERT GARDNER Laca, Weyak's wife knows that her husband has by now reached his watch towers
and that it is time for her to leave Homaclap(ph) for their gardens.
ROBERT GARDNER Having seen those sign of the enemy Weyak makes a fire so that women who want to
work in nearby gardens can see the smoke and know it is safe to come.
ROBERT GARDNER On the Anlarock(ph), Laca looks toward Puakoloba and goes on. She will stay in the
gardens through the morning and most of the afternoon. Her work is hard but she enjoys the chance to see
and talk with her friends from other villages. This morning Weyak begins to weave a long bark fiber band on
which he will later sew cowrie shells and bits of fur. These bands are used to decorate not the living but the
dead. They are presented at the funeral of close relatives whether a man, a woman or a child. During the
morning, others have joined Weyak and take a turn in the tower. By mid-day when most warriors are at their
watch towers are at work nearby, it is safe to assume that the enemy will not stage or raid. To be successful,
a raid must come when least expected and at a place which for some reason is unguarded.
[non-English narration]
ROBERT GARDNER Pua by mid-day has already spent a number of hours watching his pigs and his
concentration has begun to waiver. For diversion, he arms himself and sets out to kill a dragonfly. As in so
many of his enterprises though he failed.
ROBERT GARDNER In other gardens, other men are doing the work that women cannot do as well. Most
men if they are married will do little more in their gardens and the heaviest work. When that is done their
women come to plant and later to harvest.
ROBERT GARDNER Younger unmarried men must do a larger share of the garden labor.
ROBERT GARDNER Pua after taking home his pigs comes back to where the men from his village still
break the soil for a new garden. He watches thinking of the day when he himself would be a farmer.
ROBERT GARDNER The frontier at least until morning will be peaceful, since no wars or raids take place at
ROBERT GARDNER The ghosts, which more than anything else rule the lives of these people, are known
to be most active in the dark. At night, people stay inside where ghosts are not so likely to come. They are
outside in the banana trees taking bananas in the garden, spoiling plants, or most frequently of all loitering
on the paths waiting for some passerby to accost. Not even the bravest warrior likes to be out at night unless
there is a full moon and he can see and not be tripped or injured by the ghosts.
ROBERT GARDNER Laca safe home puts into her own house, her nets full of food. On the Anlarock(ph)
Weyak starts to look out of the emptying fields toward the Warabara and the twilight which fills with the

shapes and sounds of swallows. The sight never fails to please him even when his thoughts concern the
enemy and what they must be planning.
ROBERT GARDNER One morning a few days later an enemy raiding party came early to ambush some.
The enemy lost their patience and set fire to the small grass shelter beside one of the central watch towers.
This burning was a way to coax their adversaries from their villages, in minutes the alarm, the song of the
mountain dove was passed and Weyak with his light throwing spear runs to joins as comrades.
ROBERT GARDNER The younger warriors and those in the closest villages are already at the front. The
older men or are those recently wounded follow.
ROBERT GARDNER The young run toward the front to join the skirmishers who face the enemy. No combat
will start until each side has their men in position.
ROBERT GARDNER Excitement is high but the air is chill and no battle is worth fighting very long in
discomfort. The first arrows fly and the front erupts in fighting. The numbers are few though and the fighting
is not enthusiastic. It is the enemy who chose the day and provoked the confrontation. Weyak's group came
to reassure the enemy of their will to fight. Though now, that will on each side waivers as the rain
ROBERT GARDNER Many are worried that the rain will spoil their hair of feathers. The enemy came this
morning to kill, to avenge the ghost of their warrior slain by Weyak's group more than two weeks before.
Until they do, they live in a state of spiritual decline. Both sides believe that each man has a soul, to which
they attribute the shape of seeds. These seeds at birth are planted in the solar plexus. They call them edaiegen, or seeds of singing. Until a child is able to walk and talk, his edai-egen are only rudimentary. As he or
she grows older, the edai-egen can also grow. One soul or seeds are especially sensitive to the death of a
friend or a member of the family. By contrast, causing the death of an enemy is tonic for the soul and lifts the
ROBERT GARDNER Pua wonders in the dry safety of his house if any man from Wubarainma has been
ROBERT GARDNER So quickly till the rain sweep over the mountain wall and onto the valley floor that the
battle slackened almost as soon as it began.
ROBERT GARDNER Many men were already starting home and the front lines backed slowly apart, mindful
that a sudden charge by either side were still a possibility.
ROBERT GARDNER A few who are slower to leave find cover and warmth under the shelter on the field
where after killing, these people hold their victory celebrations. They will stay until the rain passes talking
about the way the battle had gone. They will exaggerate what really happened and they will be glad that so
far it was the enemy who'd failed.
ROBERT GARDNER The next morning Weyak leaves for Puakoloba. Pua was told to take his pigs into the
higher gardens behind his village so as to avoid the wet valley floor.
ROBERT GARDNER With his little digging stick he will cultivate a toy garden he and some other boys
began some weeks before. At Puakoloba his bow and arrows are few steps away. Weyak prepared some
ground for planting. The day is still cool though the sun will soon be high enough to make such work much
ROBERT GARDNER Even though he works near his weapons and even though the watch tower is manned
by a lookout and there are men in the shelter beneath it, Weyak instinctively looks up at frequent intervals.
ROBERT GARDNER Soon a fresh easterly wind comes up to carry the morning clouds away from the
villages and gardens near the mountain wall. In the gardens glad to be warm some boys have collected in a
sort of playground and abandoned plot worn smooth by their games. Two groups of boys each the enemy to
the other fire grass spears with ferocious accuracy. Their cries and tactics make the game a grown up war in
miniature. The game is fun but serves as well the serious purpose of teaching boys how to become both
men and warriors. The sharp points of the stiff grass can sometimes blind an eye and often bruise. They
must learn therefore to dodge as well as throw, the art of war demanding both. Because for real enemies, a
child or a woman can serve the purpose of revenge. Children learn early the dangers which to live they must
avoid. It is rare that either side is given an opportunity to take any but a man's life, but it is not unknown and

at the death of a child the sorrow is great.

ROBERT GARDNER From time to time a watch tower must be mended. For this reason Weyak has asked
the men who guard Puakoloba to gather new vines and new poles to replace those which are broken or
weak. Because of its importance to those who live within its protective circle, any work connected with
making or repairing a watch tower must be accompanied by certain magic such as making a toy bow and
some toy arrows. The kind which would be used only by a small boy.
ROBERT GARDNER Under the shelter Weyak magically cleans the hands which have done the potent work
with a feather of a parrot. In the gardens close to their villagers Pua and some friends find out which of them
is strongest.
ROBERT GARDNER The ritual at the tower though extremely important is not solemn, nor would the magic
that is done be better if it were. The burnt grass is placed around the tower and the little bow and arrow put
in it with a kind of gay confidence. Its been decided who is stronger or perhaps only who is weaker.
ROBERT GARDNER Early in the morning Weyak's family passes the forest of Homuak(ph) at the foot of the
mountain wall on their way to the salt well. They carry parts of an old banana tree cut down the day before
which they will put in the well to soak up the brine. It is a long way even to the foot of the wall where the trail
starts upward to the well half a mile above the valley floor.
[non-English narration]
ROBERT GARDNER On their way the heard distant warriors making the familiar imitation of the soil of the
mountain dove announcing the war to be fought in the few hours. In front of the forest Pua and his mother
wait before starting their days work in the fields. The fact that men go to fight does not disturb the rhythm of
a women's life unless her husband, her son or someone of whom she is especially fond is badly hurt or
ROBERT GARDNER The trail that Weyak's wife Laca and her companions take is very old. Since there is
no other salt well from miles around and people have to this one since they came to the valley. Their feet
wearing the rock smooth. So smooth at when they are wet they are dangerous even for short footed girls.
ROBERT GARDNER So that others who follow will be more careful or more lucky. Laca leaves a magic
warning. On the Warabara, the men gather for battle. The day is fine neither cold and wet not too hot and
ROBERT GARDNER The whole ridge is for fighting and both sides know it well.
ROBERT GARDNER Weyak relaxes waiting for his comrades and the enemy to signal their readiness by
drawing close enough to fire.
ROBERT GARDNER Only Mikemo(ph) who acts as leader is especially concerned. The enemy badly wants
the death that will restore the balance which they lost almost three weeks before.
ROBERT GARDNER With so many men firing such a quantity of arrows there is always a chance that one
of the many wounds they are certain to inflect will bring about the death they want so much.
ROBERT GARDNER Finally, Mikemo's(ph) urgings take effect and his men withdraw.
ROBERT GARDNER It is customary that both sides after fighting hard for a period of time withdraw to nurse
wounds, smoke cigarettes, and review the course of events.
ROBERT GARDNER The arrows are not poisoned but they are barbed and notched so as to break off on
impact. One young warrior, pained but also pleased by his wound, he was lucky that an older man has
enough to hold as he works the arrow free. At the salt wells Laca is nearly finished having spent more than
two hours soaking the shredded parts of the old banana tree. The way home is long and the tree much
heavier with its new cargo of brine.
[non-English narration]
ROBERT GARDNER Weyak was worried that so many arrows had found their mark, but most of the others
were merely stung into more aggressive action.

ROBERT GARDNER The enemy fell back thinking that Weyak's group had been secretly reinforced. Having
retreated there was nowhere for them to go except off the ridge and onto some flat land just in front of their
little mountain where, almost at their own frontier, they turned and resumed fighting
ROBERT GARDNER At the end of the ridge the pursuers caught their breath. Close by the gardens where
their warrior had been killed during a raid only three weeks before, the enemy reorganize knowing there was
still time for fighting. As long as there is enough light to see arrows in flight and barring sudden rain or what
is much rarer sudden death, a formal battle continues throughout the day. Weyak rests and lets the younger
men exert themselves on the skirmish line.
[non-English narration]
ROBERT GARDNER In this its new face the battle is supervised by Nilegue(ph) who sends a fresh group to
backup the skirmishers.
ROBERT GARDNER Past water worn patches of white sand a wounded enemy is carried home on the
shoulders of his friends. Neligue(ph), not yet convinced the enemy was content to end the fighting, keeps a
watchful eye as do two young warriors who a moment before sought in vain to kill each other. Laca and the
others have come close to home. They are tired from the long walk and the heavy work, but glad to know
that know that one had been killed. Had it been otherwise they would certainly have been told by someone
along the trail. Since such news goes at the speed of sound shouted from garden to garden and village to
village. Laca did hear that Tuwasi(ph)a man from Wubarainma was badly wounded and she wondered how
he was. The arrow had ended beneath the collar bone and its tip broke off beneath the skin. Tekmon(ph)
because he lives with Tuwasi(ph) in Wubarainma and because he is famous as a surgeon knew that the
only way to get the arrow out was to grip it with his teeth. Had it been barbed as most arrows are,
Tuwasi(ph) would have had a far more difficult time and much less chance of living. At the end of the ridge
the others hurl abusive jokes instead of spears. The enemy for now is forced to listen.
ROBERT GARDNER To patch the wound some moistened leaves are bound in place with bits of long grass.
To revive his atayakin(ph), literally to call back his seeds of singing from their flight to his backbone, a friend
applies a wand of grass and murmurs magic words
ROBERT GARDNER Tekmon(ph) makes the last the four punctures in the belly's wall to let out the blood
turned dark by the enemy's arrow.
[non-English narration]
ROBERT GARDNER The time to leave has come. For most the walk ahead will take an hour, and no one
wants to risk a meeting with a ghost.
ROBERT GARDNER Tuwasi(ph) will not have to walk, but he must be covered to protect him from the gaze
of ghosts, which wounded men are careful to avoid.
[non-English narration]
ROBERT GARDNER Tuwasi(ph) starts home, his weapons and his life in the hands of men from his own
ROBERT GARDNER Weyak has already filled an empty stomach and resumed a peaceful task.
ROBERT GARDNER Not yet well but already stronger, Tuwasi(ph) watches Umwe(ph) do the magic that
was meant to speed his recovery. Feathers taken from a friend's soil headdress are stuck in the hollowed
tips of a dead branch. The purpose of the magic is to keep the ghosts at bay. He puts together in a bundle
steamed grass, some sprays of wild raspberry, and a variety of other familiar things. It is a warning that the
ghosts will notice, and therefore stay outside the village.
ROBERT GARDNER The boys are told to run down the village sweeping it clean of all ghosts and ghostly
influences as they go.
ROBERT GARDNER Heat from the bright sun increases Pua's customary lack of watchfulness. He cares
about his pigs but his young mind wanders just the same. At the Aikh, Weyak and a friend have just
refreshed themselves with water from the river. The day is more than half over so they sit and talk, confident

that the enemy has not chosen this day to stage a raid.
ROBERT GARDNER When Pua came this morning he had to leave one of his large pigs in its stall because
it was too sick to walk. Having only three to watch, meant that he could be a little less attentive than usual.
With no other children to play with, and sleepy from the hot sun, he picks an unsuspecting playmate and
decides to doze. The day coming to a close and knowing that the people working in gardens near Puakoloba
will soon be leaving, Weyak goes back to his tower to wait until everyone has gone home so that he and
others standing guard can also leave.
ROBERT GARDNER Pua already home weeps because his sick pig has died.
ROBERT GARDNER In the morning Pua stays in Wubarainma to watch the men prepare his pig for eating.
Everyone shares in the work. One man makes the kindling for a fire to burn off the bristles before the pig is
ROBERT GARDNER In Homaclap(ph), Laca takes the salt-soaked pieces of banana tree that have dried
and with her daughter starts for the rock hearth above the village. This will be the final effort in along and
arduous labor that started with cutting down the tree she is about to burn.
ROBERT GARDNER The strips of banana tree must be dry enough to burn completely. What can't burn
would be wasted and Laca worked too hard for that.
ROBERT GARDNER The salty ash is taken from the hearth to a fresh banana leaf with the only fingers left
on Laca's hands. As a girl, the last two joints of several fingers were taken off with a blow from a stone axe.
This is the custom when a close relation has been killed or dies. At first it was painful, now it is only from
time to time annoying. Laca sprinkles fresh water on the little hill of ashes so that she can form a round and
compact mass that will not sift through any openings in the leafy envelope.
ROBERT GARDNER The bundle of ashes is wrapped and so is the funeral band, but in a dead banana leaf.
Weyak covers the knitted part to keep it clean.
ROBERT GARDNER Pua back with his pigs again decides to drink in Homavok(ph), the forest at the bottom
of the mountain wall. In the forest there's a cold spring at which unlike the Aikh River it is safe to drink, since
it is well inside the frontier.
ROBERT GARDNER In the evening, Weyak decides he'll see how much he has to weave by measuring
what is done. When finished the band must stretch once and a half around the fire. But he's impatient to see
how it will finally look. Pua who has come to visit with a friend helps him lay it out.
ROBERT GARDNER One day a month after they killed the enemy, Weyak's group decides to hold an
important religious ceremony. It is called Warmkanike(ph), literally pig treasure. An occasion when many
related people gather to slaughter pigs to feast and to ritually renew their physical and spiritual security with
magical acts performed upon their holy treasures, the sacred black and green stones to which they look for
ROBERT GARDNER Everyone gives whatever help is needed such as cleaning out the cooking pit.
ROBERT GARDNER Of great importance is the little fenced enclosure put up as a resting place for
wandering ghosts. This must be mended. The frontier is left unguarded owing to the fact that everyone is at
the feast.
ROBERT GARDNER Today, 12 pigs will die. Behind the men's house in a further courtyard, the fire has
started that will heat the stones for cooking. When very hot they will be lifted with great wooden thongs over
to the cooking pit.
ROBERT GARDNER When all the food is in, the new grass will be lifted over it sealing in the steam.
ROBERT GARDNER The pigs are arranged in front of the men's house to be admired and lose their ears
and tails.
ROBERT GARDNER Umwe(ph), who made the magic to keep ghosts away from Tuwasi(ph)is in charge

ROBERT GARDNER Weyak relaxes, glad to have a day not spent watching for the enemy.
ROBERT GARDNER Finally the labor to restore the ghost enclosure ends as fresh mud is smoothed around
the little doorway and to help the wandering ghost to find their way a path is drawn. As the grass is lifted up
to seal the contents of the pit, the terrible news of death is known.
[non-English narration]
ROBERT GARDNER A little boy lies dying by the Aikh
ROBERT GARDNER By dusk the boy was dead. For many spears that caught him as he walked toward the
river for a foolish drink. His name was Weake which means wrong path.
ROBERT GARDNER Each life that's taken is celebrated by both sides. The ones that lose a life prepare a
chair, the only furniture they know to lift the corpse for ghost to see while they cry and have their funeral.
The ones that take the life dance and sing all day.
ROBERT GARDNER Pua and Weake were friends being close in age and disposition.
ROBERT GARDNER When he's safely tied into his chair, the men bring out the woven shell bands which
they've brought in honor of Weakes death. Shells are given ceremonially three times, at birth, at marriage
and at death.
ROBERT GARDNER Pua and another boy lift up the intestines and carry them out of the village to be
washed. They will take them to the same cold stream where Weake was bathed to dull his pain while dying.
ROBERT GARDNER Though not a feast the boys are asked to eat the ferns.
ROBERT GARDNER The time comes to take the shell bands from Weake. They will be put down before the
most important men and then distributed among those who are closest to the boy.
ROBERT GARDNER Because Weake was killed close to his watch tower, Weyak is more disturbed than all
the others.
ROBERT GARDNER It is decided who has to get which band and Weyak's name is the first to be called out.
But he refuses with a helpless wave.
ROBERT GARDNER The band is passed along to Laca, who'll bring it home where Weyak later on can
change his mind and keep it.
ROBERT GARDNER While the last bands are given out, the boy has gotten ready to be lifted from his chair.
ROBERT GARDNER He's taken to the new leaves to be held while the wood is getting ready for his fire.
ROBERT GARDNER Each person who has died is daubed with pig fat before he's burned. If this was not
done, the ghost would feel neglected and cause trouble.
ROBERT GARDNER Soon the ghost of Weake will be freed by shooting an arrow into a cone of straw held
above him as he's carried to his fire.
ROBERT GARDNER In the morning, Weake's fire grows cold. While Weyek is stunned and angry walks to
ROBERT GARDNER Weakes aunt fishes out his little bones.
ROBERT GARDNER The enemy has taken all the life they need for now and the day is theirs to dance.
ROBERT GARDNER The bones are all together, the end of all the work and love it took to make a boy.
ROBERT GARDNER Weyak finds the place they speared him.
ROBERT GARDNER At the tower he looks toward the frontier and hears the enemy singing as they dance
along the ridge of fighting ground in no man's land. Earlier in the morning Weakes name was shouted to the

enemy who were waiting for the news. When they knew who their victim was, word was spread that there
would be a victory dance called etai.
ROBERT GARDNER At dawn, three little girls each lost most of two fingers. The nets brought the day
before are distributed among the women who sit and argue. Inside the house Weakes bones hang in the
rising sun.
ROBERT GARDNER At Puakoloba, Weyak spends the day discussing with the dead boy's uncle what steps
must be taken to restore the balance which the enemy has changed? Weyak isn't blamed by his friend for
what happened to the boy, there was no one at Puakoloba that day and everyone should have known it.
Weyak wonders not only about what he didn't do, but also what he did and why the magic that he made
when Puakoloba was strengthened didn't work.
ROBERT GARDNER In the days that follow there is much discussion about how and when the death they
need will happen. In Homavak(ph) an old man shapes anew spear.
ROBERT GARDNER Near him another man sharpens bone with flint to do the same.
ROBERT GARDNER For many days Weyak has guarded Puakoloba.
ROBERT GARDNER Pua with one less pig, and one less playmate, takes elaborate care of those that are
ROBERT GARDNER Having weaved his band to its proper length, Weyak must now attach the cowrie
shells. When that is done it will be finished, except for sewing at each end some bits of furs as final
decoration. When done he'll be richer by possessing a valuable object of exchange. His gain however, will
have to be someone else's loss, since only death requires that it would be given. Another man recently
wounded recalls how often they've tried to make the enemy take risks.
ROBERT GARDNER Pua, as he sits and watches his pigs attempt to wander, thinks how long his friend
Weake has been dead without revenge. To pass the time he takes some vines and peels them for the pit
from which he'll make a model of the moon which rises full tonight.
ROBERT GARDNER Worried that his pigs might blunder into trouble, drown in a ditch, get lost or even
stolen, Pua goes to find them.
ROBERT GARDNER To those who take their customary way through a little grove of trees, this night seems
no different from the others that are passed so slowly since the little boy was killed. The men have quit their
towers for home having seen no reason from the enemy to stay. Not long after though, while darkness fell,
some men returning late heard a man trying to quite a pig he must have stolen. The challenge that they
offered quickly turned to death, almost before the intruder turned to run. By the pale light of a full moon, they
try to climb above the clouds. They saw what they'd had to do. He was a member of a group belonging to
the enemy, and now that he was dead, a reason to rejoice. The news that an enemy was killed spread
rapidly to every village. Soon the sound of men's and women's voices filled the evening air. Before he joined
them, Pua meant to celebrate alone. He had found a dead bird bringing home his pigs and now he thought
he'd cook and eat it.
ROBERT GARDNER Before he leaves his home and joins the others singing victory songs, Pua takes the
longest feathers and puts them like a warrior in his hair.
ROBERT GARDNER On the place where the enemy was killed, his blood has not yet mingled with the mud.
[non-English song]
ROBERT GARDNER From the place he died the enemy was dragged feet first along a slippery path out to
the dance ground which lies halfway between the mountain wall and frontier. He lay there in the moonlight,
his spear wounds leaving his bloody shadow on the ground. At dawn they carried him away to where his
friends could claim the body. Captured enemy ornaments and weapons or the dance ground with an early
group of women and some older men who brought them.
[non-English song]
ROBERT GARDNER Each tower like Puakoloba has a little field where the men who guard it can have a

celebration of their own. The only one who doesn't care to join is Weyak.
ROBERT GARDNER On the Anilorock(ph) many women come to dance.
[non-English song]
[non-English narration]
ROBERT GARDNER Today the Aikh is no threat. It being part of war that each side celebrates in peace.
[non-English song
]ROBERT GARDNER For Weyak one task is done. The shells are all in place and for now decorates each
end. Finished, he rolls it up wondering when it will be given? How soon he'll start another? and whether
when he does if it should be wider, or made with different color threads.
[non-English song]
ROBERT GARDNER Pua wishes he was older and could carry his own weapons instead of someone else's
wind feathers and his foster father's least important shells.
[non-English song]
ROBERT GARDNER While it is still light, the captured weapons are taken away. They'll go back to be kept
and maybe added to for future victory celebrations.
ROBERT GARDNER With his spear and newly finished band of shells, Weyak starts for Homa clap(ph)
listening to the etai, the singing which revives the singer's soul.
ROBERT GARDNER Thirsty and knowing that today the river is quite safe, Weyak comes down to the Aikh.
ROBERT GARDNER Soon both men and birds will surrender to the night. They'll rest for the life and death
of days to come. For each, both awaits but with a difference that men having far knowledge of their doom
bring a special passion to their life. They will not simply wait for death, nor will they bear it lightly when it
comes, instead they'll try with measured violence to fashion fate themselves. They kill to save their souls
and perhaps to ease the burden of knowing what birds will never know, and what they as men who have
forever killed each other cannot forget.
photography editing writing: Robert Gardner
sound recording: Michael C. Rockefeller
sound editing: Jairus Lincoln and Joyce Chopra photographic
assistant: Karl G. Heider
titles: Peter Chermayeff
advisors: Jan Broekhuyse and Peter Matthiessen
This film was produced by the Film Study Center of the Peabody Museum at Harvard University with help
from the former Netherlands New Guinea Government and the National Science Foundation.

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