The islands of Polynesia, thanks to images drawn from the early explorers, and later writers such as Melville, Loti and Stoddard, gained a reputation as sexual paradises. Further west, the islands of Melanesia did not enjoy the same mythic status. Europeans generally found dark-skinned Melanesians less attractive than the Polynesians, though they often remarked on the muscular build of the men. The islands themselves, Europeans proclaimed, were the preserve of Stone-Age cannibals and head-hunters engaging in bizarre rites of initiation. Here was ‘primitive’ life at its most stereotypical, an object of both fear and fascination.