Vailima, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Home – Apia, Upolu, Western Samoa

The “Teller of Tales” Finds His Own Treasure Island

The 19th-century Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson loved Samoa, and the Samoans – themselves great orators and storytellers – loved him, calling him Tusitala, “the teller of tales.”

Samoa has barely acknowledged the arrival of modern times, so when visiting Stevenson’s Western-style mansion on the lush slopes of Mount Vaea, it’s easy to imagine him still here. As he saw it, Upolu was “beau­tiful beyond dreams,” a place that caused him to undergo a spiritual change during his five final years, and write that here, “My bones are sweeter to me.”

The obligatory pilgrimage up the winding trail to Stevenson’s grave on a secluded knoll is a challenging but rewarding half-hour climb, leading to a view that over­looks his home and the mountains and sea he had come to love. It’s one of the loveliest vistas in the South Pacific.

Stevenson wrote his own poignant epitaph, even though his death from a cerebral hemorrhage (and not the tuberculosis that plagued him all his life and caused him to leave Scotland) was sudden:

This be the verse you grave for me:

Here he lies where he longed to be;

Home is the sailor, home from the sea,

And the hunter home from the hill.

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