The painting reflects the immediate impressions Gauguin gained during his first journey to the South Seas. Yet it is less a true-to-life depiction than expression of the painter's cautious attempt to approach and to comprehend an unfamiliar culture from the vantage point of his own very different world. The young wolf held by the woman in the foreground alludes to an episode in Maori mythology. The woman represents Oviri, the goddess of death, who is watched in fearful anticipation by the two young girls in the background. At the same time, the blossom in Oviri's hair and the tropical vegetation that surrounds her, with its suggestion of a garden of paradise, are indications to Hina, the Maori goddess of fertility. The fundamental contradiction between life and death appears resolved and reconciled in this bewildering, exotic world.