Aug 3, 2011

The true origin of my name, Tanai.

I have always had this romantic idea about the origin of my name. I’ve told the story to pretty much everybody.

I usually say that the reason why I’m called Tanai is because I have crazy parents. I usually say that because my dad is an anthropologist, he once knew about some mythological stories of the Polynesia. The story that my dad told me is about a boy that left his hometown, located in an island from the South Pacific, to find fresh water somewhere else because they’ve been living for many years in a terrible drought. Tanai travels around the world overcoming incredible perils and hardships. He finds the fresh water and civilization, so he ventures back to his native land to tell his people, now being many years old… but when he arrived, there was no one in the town: everyone had died! With the exception of one old lady, the lady came to him and called his name, Tanai. Tanai meant, according to my dad, the Sea Walker.

However, the true story might be a little different. The reason why my dad called me Tanai was not because of a mythological story from the Polynesia that he heard in some of his anthropological studies. I’m pretty much sure now that he found it in a movie he watched: this movie is called the “The Voyage of Tanai". It was released in 1975, and was directed by a man called John Latos.

I’ve tried to find this movie, a clip, a trailer, anything… but it seems pretty rare. It doesn’t show up in the imdb database, there’s nothing in youtube, only a couple of second hand VHS tapes in amazon. The director does not register either in the imdb and it seems that it was the only movie he made. I did found a synopsis of the movie, this is it:
Tanai, a young Polynesian, sets out on a voyage to obtain soil to plant a breadfruit tree, symbolic of survival to his people. Through storms and rushing tides, Tanai visits some of the most spectacular areas of the world. He battles the Philipino mud people, confronts Easter Island's bizarre ancient sculptures, and fights thirst and hunger. His amazing voyage takes him to the remotest corners of the globe, but the voices of his ancestors guide him on. Upon his return, Tanai must face another challenge of the Modern world—the relocation of his people.

That’s the original source of my name. My dad didn’t tell me he got it from the movie… I’m sure he didn’t tell my mom either.

I wish I could watch this movie though, sounds really interesting and might have touched my dad deep enough to want the name for his son.


  1. It's funny, but we have the same name, and I'm a girl. Pretty sure my mother and father didn't see any movie with it contained there in, they just mashed up my great gramama's name and tawny. I like your origin of the name better, though...

  2. I saw that movie when I was ten years old. It was on PBS (The Public Broadcast System) Channel 13 in New York. It had a great impact on me. I have been trying for years to see it again, and have had no luck finding it. The scenery was breathtaking. Must have been filmed in the Seychelles, and possibly began in Sri Lanka if I remember correctly. I would love to get a good copy on DVD. Though as you mentioned I have also found only a few used vhs copies on amazon with prices ranging from 28USD to 99USD in only good condition.
    If you ever track down a copy I can be reached at canvas42 at hotmail - I hope that email address shows up. Best wishes to you Tanai!