Sorcerers of Dobu


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Linguistically there are three classes of possessive affixes which are attached to three classes of nouns according to nearness or distance of possession. The suffix gu is used for a part of the speaker’s body, a state of his mind, a trait of his character, a legitimate relative of his. The prefix agu is used for an illegitimate relative of the speaker’s, such as his bastard child, his name, his magical knowledge, his pubic leaf, and food intended for his eating. The prefix igu is used for the speaker’s food which he intends to give to others to eat, his house, his canoe, his trees, his fishing and hunting gear, and in the case of a woman, for her grass skirt. We see the graduation of distance noticeably in the borderline cases, legitimate and bastard child being on different sides of the first border, food for eating and food for giving away being on different sides of the second border. Again, a man’s pubic leaf is on one side of the second border, whereas a woman’s grass skirt is on the other side. In fact, a man can never remove his single pubic leaf without exposure, whereas the women wear many grass skirts one on top of another, and are constantly removing an upper skirt or two in order to work more freely. Skirts are often to be seen hanging up in the house or laid aside on the ground, their owner retaining an underskirt or two. Hence suffix gu, prefix agu, and prefix igu express the three grades of nearness and distance of the object possessed. The personal name is in the second class. Like food for one’s own eating it is not shared freely with others. When others use it, this fact is associated with more important liberties, as we have seen. The name is classed with food for eating, a man’s magic, and a man’s pubic leaf.1

1Fortune, R.F.n/an/an/an/a, , 67–68 (London: George Routledge and Sons; New York: E. P. Dutton & Company, Inc. By permission).


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Chicago: "Sorcerers of Dobu," Sorcerers of Dobu in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed June 25, 2024,

MLA: . "Sorcerers of Dobu." Sorcerers of Dobu, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 25 Jun. 2024.

Harvard: , 'Sorcerers of Dobu' in Sorcerers of Dobu. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 25 June 2024, from