Interpreting the Palu’e Legend Pio Pikariwu Arrested kingship in eastern Indonesia

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This article explores the Palu’e legend Pio pikariwu and how the main character Pio is contested by two traditionally rival politico- ceremonial domains on Palu’e island. The stateless clan- structured societies of eastern Indonesia, such as the Palu’e, are not known to have stranger-king myths, the weight of the analysis therefore lies on whether Pio pikariwu fits this category. The relevant themes are compared with the established stranger- king tropes, while basic conceptual tools of comparative Austronesian ethnology, such as that origin establishes precedence, are used to explain the significance of the legend in contemporary society. The legend concurs with several themes of the stranger-king myth, despite that Pio neither becomes a sovereign or has a genealogy. The stranger theme concurs more with a divine kingship related to the South Sulawesi origin histories of founding rulers and a horizontal cultural transfer is plausible due to geographic adjacency and historical connections. A local character projection is also considered. The real-life contestation for Pio involves spiritually potent material heritage and exemplifies how tradition creates new events based on an original event believed to have happened, and that precedence issues extend beyond the domain and its alliances. The demonstrated inherent ambiguity reveals an arrested (divine) stranger-king myth, representing the rejection of kingship.

To cite this article: Stefan Danerek (2023): Interpreting the Palu’e Legend Pio Pikariwu: Arrested kingship in eastern Indonesia. Indonesia and the Malay World, DOI: 10.1080/13639811.2023.2172874 To link to this article:

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Figure 5. A huge banyan, symbol and medicine of Pio, Sikka regency, Flores. And a “descendant” of Pio at the place mentioned in the tale, Lau Lu’a Balu Téla.


Wiwi ca réta ca'i liru, lema lawa lae ceré no'o tana