An oft-repeated oral tradition has it that the island’s population, in the time just before the toppling of the statues, was divided into two principal groups, the “Short Ears” and the “Long Ears”. In fact, the whole myth is based on a mistranslation. It seems the two clans were really the Hanau eepe (“short and stocky”) and the Hanau momoko (“tall and slim”); the strange mix-up came from mistranslating eepe – short and stocky – as “ear” (“epe” in Rapa Nui).

The “Long Ears”, who saw themselves as more aristocratic, were extremely domineering, and the “Short Ears” resented them intensely. The “Short Ears” rebelled when forced to clear rocks off the land, forcing the “Long Ears” to retreat to the Poike Peninsula. Here they dug deep ditches, and filled them with branches and grass, intending to force their enemies inside and set them alight. However, a “Short Ears” woman who was married to one of the “Long Ears” alerted her people, and allowed them to surround their enemies while they were sleeping. When they attacked, the “Long Ears” ran straight into their own ditch, which was set alight. Most of the “Long Ears” burned to death, but three escaped. Two of them were caught and executed, but one, Ororoina, was allowed to live, and went on to father many children – whose descendants, to this day, are proud of their Hanau momoko heritage.

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