Maori Religion and Mythology Part 2
Fables and Miscellaneous Folk Tales
Fables and Miscellaneous Folk Tales
We now come to what may be termed the simplest form of folk tales, fables and similar stories that were known to all, and which come under the head of korero tara, korero purakau, pakiwaitara, etc. Some of these are fables that remind us of Aesop, some contain what may be fairly termed moral lessons, some are but the erratic concepts of untrained minds, while others may be classed as allegories or parables. Various lessons were coveyed to the young in the form of fables, such as the undesirable effects of recklessness, boasting, self conceit, indolence, etc., and the necessity for cultivating such virtues as industry, respect for tapu etc.
Of all the stories pertaining to birds perhaps the most noteworthy is that describing the battle between the land and sea birds, a fierce combat the scene of which is laid in New Zealand. The result was a victory for the land birds, which one would scarcely have expected, and in the debacle which followed the defeat of the sea birds the pied shag seems to have been made a prisoner, and hence it has now two homes. The kiwi was selected by the land birds as a chief for themselves on account of it being wingless, and so it has to seek its food supplies in the ground.
Here follows a rendering of an account of the famous battle of the birds as given by a Maori many years ago.page 561
The Battle of the Birds
"In days of old a contest took place between the sea birds and land birds, when the former tried to seize the food supplies of the land birds, but were driven back defeated to their own region, and have never since attempted to gain possession of the land. The struggle came about in this wise: The salt water cormorant in its flight reached Whangape, and there found the fresh water cormorant. The former waited to be offered some food, but waited in vain, and at last said: "Friend, let us go to my home, to the salt sea, where food is plentiful." Whereupon they set forth, and flew to the sea, where the salt water bird dived and secured a fish, which it gave to the river bird. The latter swallowed the fish, but, in bringing it up again, the spines wounded its throat sorely so the river bird said to the sea bird:—"Your food is very objectionable; the food of my place is much better." "And what is the food of your place?", asked the sea cormorant. "Eels; which, when swallowed are smooth and slippery, and do not hurt one. I say to you, let us go to my place."
So off they went, and, when they arrived there, the land bird dived and secured an eel, and gave it to the sea bird, which first swallowed it, and then ejected it with the greatest ease, whereupon quoth the sea bird: "O friend! Yours is indeed an excellent place, and your food a most desirable food. Now do you give me part of your domain, and I will give you part of mine in return therefore."
"Not so", said the land bird, "I do not like your place." "Very well", replied the sea bird, "Ere long, however, I will take your place from you."
Then set forth the sea cormorant to raise a party in order to seize the home of the land bird, and collected all the sea birds that a grand attack might be made on the land birds, and their domain seized.
The fresh water cormorant heard of this great preparation, and at once raised a fighting force of land birds to resist the attack. To join this party came Kuku, and Kaka, and Tui, and Honge, and Ruru, and Pirakaraka, and Pitoitoi, and many, many others; in fact, by the time all has assembled; night had fallen across the world of light.
When Hine-ata [personified form of dawn] arrived, arose Pitoitoi [the robin] to arouse the party, crying "Pi-toi-toi-toi!"; and all awoke from their sleep. Then said Kawau, the river page 562shag: "Who will go forth as a scout to locate the advancing army?" And Koekoea [the long tailed cuckoo] cried: "I will go; when you hear me call, you may know that the enemy is located." Forth went Koekoea, and soon was seen by him, the army of the sea birds approaching, with Karoro [sea gull] in the lead; then the cry of Koekoea struck upon the ear: "Ko-o-o-e", and Karoro shrieked "Aha!" So Koekoea returned and reported. Kawau enquired: "Who will advance and challenge the enemy?" Said Pirakaraka [fantail]; "I will challenge." Even so Pirakaraka went forth with his taiaha [a weapon] before the advancing enemy, and grimaced, and glared, and danced before them as is the manner of a challenger, and cried his challenge thus: "Tei! Tei! Tei!"—then returned he to the column, and sank to earth. Again Kawau enquired: "Who will repeat the ritual of war over us?" Quoth Tui [parson bird]: "I will conduct it", adding: "Let Honge [the crow] commence the air of the chant, and Tiraneke [the saddleback] recite the words, and Tane-te-waiora the invocation, and Pipiwharauroa [short tailed cuckoo] conclude the ritual, and Kuku [pigeon] make a final response." Then Tui commenced the ritual, and Honge gave the tune, and Tiraneke recited the words, and Tane-te-waiora invoked, and Pipi-wharauroa concluded with his well known cry:
Kui, Kui, Kui, whitei whiti ora!
All these performed their parts, and then sat down, whereupon Kuku responded with his cry—"u-u-u!" Having finished the ritual, Kawau asked:—"Who will begin the battle?" Ruru [the owl] rose and said:—"I will."
Arose Ruru, uplifting his pouwhenua [a weapon], his eyes glaring at the army of sea birds as they advanced, and calling to them:—"You are brave; you are truly gallant folk." Such were the jeering words of Ruru. Then up rose Kaka [parrot], and glared at them, as he advanced with his weapon, the o kaka stone, screeching:—"Taka revel Taka rere! Kia iro! Kia iro!"
Then closed in battle the sea birds with the land birds, and, ere long, fear struck the sea birds, and they turned, broke, and fled. Yet, even as they fled, the laughter of Parera [the duck] broke forth:—"Ke-ke-ke-ker!"
Fled the sea army to its own realm; while the land folk ever dwell in peace, losing no part of their domain to the sea folk; indeed it was the laughter of Parera that caused such wild flight to their home, wherefrom the sea folk have never since moved."page 563
Fable of the Hawk and the Hokioi
This is a tale of a contest that took place between Kahu the hawk and Hokioi or Hakuwai as to which could fly to the greatest altitude, and in which contest the boastful Kahu was defeated. The Maori tells us that the hokioi or hakuwai is a bird that abides in the heavens or on lofty peaks, that it never descends to the lowlands, but that it is occasionally heard far overhead in the dead of night crying its own name: "Hakuwai! Hakuwai! Hoho!"—or as others give it: "Hokioi! Hokioi! Hu!" This presumably mythical bird is said to have been a descendant of Tangaroa and Rehua, and it is said to be peculiar for having wings with four joints. An article in the Waka Maori of 1872 states that the hokioi has long been extinct, that it had a form of crest on its head and that its plumage was of divers colours, red, black, white, yellow and green. A song of yore addresses the bird as: "A hokioi on high, a hokioi on high,—hu! Dwelling afar in celestial space, the sleeping companion of Whaitiri-matakataka." This latter name is a title of Hine-whaitiri the Thunder Maid, she who dwells far above and hard by the Cloud House. An account of the fable follows:—
"About that bird the hokioi; our ancestors saw it, but we have not; it is now extinct. Our ancestors said that it was a very powerful bird, a huge hawk. Its habitat was on the bare-peaked mountains, it did not frequent plains, but, when it flew abroad, it was seen by our ancestors. It was not seen every day, as its home was on the mountains. In appearance it was red, black and white. It was a bird of fine plumage, of a greenish-yellow aspect, and had plumes on its head; a large bird, like a moa in size. Its antagonist was a hawk; the hawk said that he could reach the heavens, the hokioi said that he only could do so, this was their subject of contention. Then said the hokioi to the hawk—"What sign will you give?" The hawk replied—"Ke." The hawk asked the hokioi:—"And what then will be your cry?" Said the hokioi—"This—Hokioi! Hokioi! Hu - u!" Such were their remarks. Then they flew upwards, and, on nearing the heavens, winds arose and clouds appeared, so the hawk cried "Ke!" and returned to earth, baffled by the wind and clouds. As for the hokioi, it disappeared in the lofty heavens.
'Ke' is the cry of the hawk, and "Hokioi! Hokioi! Hu - u!" the cry of the hokioi, that is the latter word [Hu] represented the whirring sound of his wings when flying. None could fail to hear the whirring of his wings as he returned to earth."page 564
Here follows still another version of the fable—
"In olden times Hokioi and Kahu [harrier] disputed as to which could ascend to the greatest height in flight. Said Kahu: "You cannot fly so high that the earth is lost to view. You cannot fly any higher than does the fern bird." This so angered Hokioi that he challenged the harrier to a trial, as to which could ascend the highest. So both commenced their flight, but, when the harrier had ascended a certain distance, he saw a fern plain on fire and at once descended in order to prey on the vermin that were trying to escape from the fire, whereupon Hokioi cried:—"He pakiwaha Koe"—[You are a boaster]. Then Hokioi continued his upward flight, and went so far that he never returned to earth again, but sometimes at night Hokioi is heard calling out his own name in derision to the Kahu, thus—"Hokioi! Hokioir!"
As for the cuckoo, it is, of course, a well known fact that Mahuru (personified form of spring), sends the cuckoo to these islands every spring in order to tell the Maori folk that the koanga or crop planting season has arrived. Even so the cuckoo, the far travelled one, is heard calling out—"Koia! Koia! Koia!"…, thus urging man to dig and plant. The song of this cuckoo is given as: "Inu koe ki whea?Inu aw ki waipuna; rokohanga atu e au te tupu o te kumara e waihora ana. Tioro! Tioro! (Where did you drink? I drank at water springs; I found the shoots of the sweet potato in vigorous growth.) The Maori folk in some parts affect to believe that the cuckoo passes the winter underground by burying itself in mud in autumn; others maintain that it springs from a certain species of lizard. At Pihanga is a certain lake or pond wherein is a bird called manapou that has a peculiar double crest; this bird is said to give birth to its young in the bed of the lake. Wanderers and shiftless folk are said to be allied to the cuckoo. Maori children were wont to greet the first cuckoo to appear with the following address—"E manu! Tena koe! Kua tae tenei ki te mahanatanga, kua puawai nga rakau katoa, kua pa te kakara ki te ihu o te tangata. Kua puta ano koe ki runga tioro ai, tioro i te whitu, tioro i te waru; me tioro haere ano e koe tenei kupu e whai ake nei ki te marae o tama ma, o hine ma—Kui! kui! kui! whitiwhiti ora" ("O bird! I greet you! The warm season has now arrived and all trees are in bloom, the fragrance reaching the nostrils of man. You now appear again on high trilling as of yore, page 565trilling in the seventh, trilling in the eighth; fare on your way singing this message that follows o'er the plaza of lads and lasses. Kui! Kui! Kui! Whitiwhiti ora!"
The Kaka and Kakariki
A simple little folk tale of old tells how the kaka parrot filched from the parroquet its bright red plumage and concealed the same under his wings; the following is a rendering of a brief recital:
"Here is the song of parroquet, calling upon the parrot to return its fine plumage—
"O Kaka, flying yonder, give me my brilliant plumage, I procured my gay feathers at the sacred isle of Tinirau. Torete! Kaureke! Torete! Kaureke!"
The kaka bird has a curved upper bill, and bright red feathers on the inner sides of its wings. The kakariki has a similar bill to that of the parrot, but its feathers differ. When the parrot saw that the feathers of the parroquet caused great admiration, it began to jeer at it, and caused it to become confused; then the red feathers of 8 the parroquet were plucked out and appropriated by the parrot, who gave its own feathers to the parroquet. Having so obtained his feathers the parrot fled with them. When the parroquet beheld the parrot flying about glorifying in his plumage, then it lamented aloud, hence its song already given. The parroquet had obtained its plumage at the home of Tinirau, the name of which place was Motu-tapu" (A longer version of the above song of the kakariki appears in Sir George Grey's Nga Moteatea, p. 74).
The following recital is said to have been repeated by a warrior when he was dressing and decorating his hair prior to entering a fight "Te kakariki nei homai aku kura. Ehara, waiho ano aku kura hei kura kaia maku ki tawhiti, torete kai."
The Kokako and the Huia
In days of yore the kokako or crow had extremely handsome plumage, but the huia filched the fine plumage and left his own dingy garb for the crow. Another story is to the effect that the crow resolved to equal the huia in appearance; as the crow sat on his tree looking at the huia, he remarked: "Ah! How fine is the appearance of the huia, all birds admire its appearance; I much desire to resemble the huia." Now he chanced to espy a dead huia lying by the wayside, and so he borrowed the form of the bill page 566of that huia and expected to be greatly admired, but he found himself laughed at by all birds, who jeered at him and said: "Ha! Look at the crow trying to ape the appearance of the huia, though he still bears his crow-like aspect as of old."
How the Pukeko or Swamp Hen Became Red-headed
In days of old when gods and men foregathered, and marvels were as the sands of the sea shore, the pukeko came into the world as a bird of sedate appearance. The origin of this bird is traced to Punga, and, when first seen by Tawhaki, had only recently been born. Now Tawhaki was engaged in building a house named Rangiura and by a mischance cut himself with his adze named the Rakuraku-a-Tawhaki. Said Tawhaki to Punga: "Leave your child with me as a foster child"—and to this Punga consented. Then Tawhaki smeared blood from his wounded hand on the forehead of Pakura the pukeko as a token of his adoption of one of the offspring of Punga. Now, like most other Maori tales there is another version in connection with this story, and it is to the effect that, when Tawhaki was ascending the heavens, he met Pakura and Matuku (swamp-hen and bittern) descending to this world, and the forehead of Pakura was bleeding. It was explained that Pakura had been eating the shell-fish of Tamaiwaho, hence the latter struck Pakura and ripped the skin from his forehead. Observe the red mark of that wound as still seen on the head of Pakura, also the bill stained red with flowing blood in days when man was young.
The owl and bat (ruru and pekapeka) were personified in Popoia and Peka, and these two birds are said to have originally been denizens of the underworld of Rarohenga, and this is why these birds do not move abroad during the daytime, but only during the hours of darkness.
The Korotangi Myth
In vol. 22 of the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute pp. 499-506 occurs an account of a carved stone bird said to have been found by a Maori in a pit. This pit is termed a rua in the published account, and this may denote that it was found in an old store-pit, as used for potatoes. This account contributed by Major Wilson is to the effect that it was claimed by the natives that the stone bird had been brought by their ancestors from their traditional homeland of Hawaiki, and that some of the leading chiefs of Waikato greeted this relic of their forbears with tears page 567and song. On the other hand, von Haast stated in 1881 that "the stone bird has been carved with a sharp implement, either of iron or bronze, of which, as we know, the Maori had no knowledge; the lines are all cut so evenly that it could not have been done with a stone implement." (Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, vol. 14, p. 104, et. seq.) This seems to show that our Maori friends have built up an interesting little story on a non-Maori artifact.
A certain song has been frequently quoted as proof of the Maori tale, but the bird mentioned in that song is, in most versions, called Korotau, not Korotangi, and the evidence goes to show that it was a tamed duck (parera) owned by one Tohiariki. While the tamer and owner of the bird was absent from home his wife neglected to feed the bird, hence it left the hamlet and went off to forage for itself. When Tohi returned home he composed a song the wording of which tends to show that his bird was a tamed duck possessing no abnormal qualities. The translations of the song given in the Transactions are somewhat one-sided in places, the line referring to the huruhuru whakairoiro does not refer to a bird with carved plumage from afar, the reference is to decorative or ornamental plumage, and to render the line "Ka tomo ki te whare takuate kau au" as "Into the house enters my liver heedlessly" is to credit friend Tohi's liver with erratic and abnormal activities. Tohi entered his hut as the shades of night fell and grieved over his lost pet.
The account of Korotangi that I collected speaks of it as a bird, a grey duck, but also as a creature possessing abnormal and uncanny powers, and explains that, after death, its body was in some way converted into stone, so that apparently it was never carved. The account runs as follows: "That bird Korotangi was a grey duck that was well versed in all matters pertaining to old time wars. Should a hostile party be on its way to slay its master that bird would know all about it, and so the people would be forewarned. Ever did that bird act in that way, warning the people of danger. The bird belonged to Te Haupa of the Tainui clan.
The cause of the death of that bird was its habit of looking for food among the ovens; being driven away from the ovens by those tending them the bird was much abashed, and so went away to other parts. Coming by way of Kawhia to Aotea it remained there and was seen by the people of those parts, who endeavoured to capture it, but failed. The owner of the bird came page 568in search of it, lamenting its loss as he came. On reaching Pourewa he again bewailed his loss in song.
No sooner had Te Haupa concluded his song than the lost bird appeared from a swamp, whereupon he sprang forward and caught it. The bird then told Te Haupa that it was about to die, and said: 'I am in deep distress at having been driven away from the vicinity of the food ovens.' So that bird perished at Tahuri, at Aotea, and was buried at the margin of the swamp; now, when a European named Neiha was digging a well he found that bird, which was recognised by a number of persons. Te Haupa, the owner of that bird, has long been dead, but the line of descent from him is known, he it was who made it known to all that the bird had died and had been buried by him near the swamp at Tahuri.
My father did not know the persons who witnessed the finding of that bird by the Europeans, but we heard casually that that bird had been found by one Neiha, a European. It was when he was digging a well that the bird was found by that European, and it had been turned into stone. Certain persons are quite aware that that bird turned into stone after its death and its burial by its master.
According to my father and my people this is an old tale, and this is all I have heard about this bird, though other persons may know more about it."
The Shark and the Tuatara Lizard
When the waters in the heavens became too warm then Mango (shark), Para (frost-fish), Piharau (lamprey), Tuna (eel) and others came down to earth in search of cooler waters. It was then that Mango the shark said to Tuatara, the great lizard: "Come now, let us go and dwell in the ocean"—but Tuatara replied: "No, rather let us reside on land." So they argued for some time but could not agree as to where they should live; meanwhile Tuna had concealed himself in a swamp, Tuere (blind eel) had beslimed himself in the ocean, Piharau had crept under boulders for safety, while Inanga (whitebait) had sought refuge in shoal waters where Para and Mango could not follow him. At length Mango said to Tuatara: "Very well, remain on land to be loathed by all"—but Tuatara replied: "It is well, for that will give me distinction, and I will thrive. As for you, you will be hauled up with a hook in your mouth, cast into a canoe, and have your head pounded with a fernroot-pounding mallet, after which you will be page 569hung up to dry like a wet rag." Here these two malcontents parted, but assuredly in both cases their prophecies came true. In another version of the above fable Tuatara tells Mango the shark to go to his ocean home that he may be caught and served up with cooked vegetables as food for man. The shark retorted by telling Tuatara to remain on land and so be destroyed by fire when the dry bracken was burned off.
The Tuatara and the Kumukumu
We have another fable concerning the tuatara lizard and the kumukumu or gurnard, originally these two lived together on land. At a certain time the news came that Mahuika was abroad and ranging over far lands. Of what nature is that person, Mahuika? She is a consuming fire that spreads over the land and shrivels up trees, herbage and persons, all these she consumes. On account of these reports Kumukumu the gurnard said to Tuatara the great lizard (Sphenodon punctatum): "O! Let us hie to the water, for water only can overcome Mahuika"—whereupon Tuatara replied: "If we go to the water realm we shall be captured, slain and eaten. I will remain on land where all will fear me, but as for you, truly you will grace a basket of food and be served up at a feast." Said Kumukumu: "Yes, we are both in the same position, for eventually you will be slain, cooked and eaten." And the remarks of these two were just, for is it not known that the tuatara lizard was sought by the Maori, and formed a part of his food supply. Many were formerly taken at the Rua-hakoakoa, in the Rotorua district, and those who sought them went at dawn to do so, for it was necessary that they be taken ere the people partook of food. If this rule was not kept then the lizards would be aggressive and bite those who handled them. Near Mt Hikurangi of the Waiapu district is a high hill named Taitai and hard by was a fortified village named Te Pad o Paia in olden days. The people of that village found a number of eggs of the tuatara, which they promptly took home, cooked and ate. The result was that village and people were pokea e te tuatara, invaded and beset by great numbers of these large lizards, even that the village had to be deserted.
In another version we are told that the offspring of Tangaroa and those of Pekerau, that is fish and lizards, argued as to which realm they should dwell in. Said the lizard: "Let us remain on land." Replied the fish: "Let us dwell in the water, abide ye on land to be loathed, then shall shame assail you and cause you to burrow under the herbage to conceal yourself." Replied the page 570lizard: "Very well, go to your waters that you may be caught in a net and have your flesh dried in the sun as food for man." So it is that the repulsive lizard is known as Tu-te-wehiwehi and Tu-te-wanawana.
The Green Lizard and the Rat
Said the moko kakariki to the rat: "O Kio! Let us ascend the trees and feast on the fine fruits thereof." But Kiore the rat replied: "Not so, the lofty trees are not for us, we belong to the earth where we can find a shelter in many holes and safe retreats."
Fight between Lizards and Dogs
After the escape of the tail of Kaiwhaka-ruaki, the great lizard-like taniwha of olden times, lizards became very numerous in the land, so much so that they quarrelled with other creatures. Thus a lizard one day met a dog on a forest path and the two fell out regarding right of passage; each returned and told its friends that the other had insulted him sorely. So all the dogs assembled to discuss the matter, and dogs were very numerous in those remote times; they roamed in packs over the plains, and had not yet been tamed by man. Then all the lizards of the different lizard tribes collected together, and the two parties decided to fight the matter out. In the battle that ensued, the dogs were victorious, and, having beaten their enemies, they ate the slain lizards. It was this eating of the lizards that affected the fertility of the dog, and is the reason why they never became very numerous.
Seal Caught with Hook and Line
In olden times a certain blind man went a fishing on the sea beach, and, when casting his line, he so turned round as to cast his line inland instead of seaward. He then waited for a bite, which, after some time, he got, for his own dog came along, saw and swallowed the bait, and so was caught on the hook. The blind fisherman hauled in his line and found that he had caught what he took to be a seal, which seal he promptly killed. He then prepared a steam oven into which he put the body of his catch and then covered the oven. Sometime later his wife arrived and opened the oven, in which she found the cooked body of their dog. It happened to be a favourite dog with the old folks, and it was long ere the blind fisherman heard the last of his famous seal.page 571
The Great Battle Between the Fish Tribes and Man;
How Fish Gained their Peculiar Forms
There was once a man who was much troubled by the indolence and carelessness of his wife, who, when he returned from sea fishing, was too lazy to carry all the fish home, hence she threw them away, except two or three, which she kept to cook. This went on until the exasperated husband determined to leave her and go in search of a better wife, so he took a firebrand in his hand and went off on his journey. When he entered the forest, he recited certain charms to influence the gods, and then said to the trees of the great forest of Tane—"Should my wife follow me, and ask you any questions, do not tell her aught of me, for she is a bad, lazy woman who wastes the food I procure." To this the trees consented. Then he went on until he came to a stream, where he repeated a charm to influence Tangaroa, then said to the stream—"I am running away from my wife, who is a deceitful person and tiresome. I work to obtain food for us, and she throws it away as food for maggots; hence I go to seek an industrious wife. If my wife follows, and you will know her by her loud voice, do not betray me." And the stream consented to this. So the man fared on until he came to an inland region where dwelt another people, to whom he related his story. So they told him to stay with them and they would protect him in case his enemies attacked him.
On the day on which the husband had set forth, in the evening thereof, his wife went in search of him. When she entered the forest, she asked: "O Trees! Has my husband passed along this path?" But no murmur was heard from the trees, they remained dumb. Then she returned home, for the shades of night were falling. On her return, she enquired of the fire from which her husband had taken a brand: "O Fire! Where is my husband, he who bore away a part of you?" But no word came from the fire. She then saw the gourd vessel used to contain drinking water, and said to it: "O Gourd! I see the part of you so often touched by the lips of my husband, and by his breath. Tell me by what path he went when he left me." But no whisper was heard from the gourd. She then turned to the clothing left by her husband, and said: "O Garments! Ye that have touched the skin of my husband, and covered him during sleep, thus becoming tapu; reveal to me the way by which my husband departed. But those garments remained silent, and no word was heard. She then addressed his fishing line: "O Line! You who have been handled by the hands of my husband, and have heard him repeat his page 572fishing charms; tell me the way by which my husband went." Silent remained that line. She turned to the door of the house, and, placing her hands upon the lintel, spoke: "O Door! Here is the space through which my husband passed in his goings and comings, here the parts his hands touched; tell me by which way he went." But the door stood dumb there, saying no word. Then the woman sat her down and lamented sorely, weeping the whole night, until day came. Then, being athirst, she picked up the water gourd and drank therefrom. Then there came to that gourd a feeling of sympathy, of pity for the woman, because that gourd, of all things, was that which had been closest to her husband, its lips having touched his mouth, even so that gourd felt pity for the weeping woman, and, as she drank, the Gourd spoke, saying: "If you break me, I will conduct you to your husband, I will take you by the way he went, I will convey you over the river he crossed." So off they set together, talking as they went. The woman asked—"When did my husband go?" and the Gourd replied: "He went in the morning."
On arriving at the river, the Gourd said "Break me again, and I will convey you across the river." She did so, and they crossed over. But on reaching the other side, all became confused, for the Gourd had lost its voice and could no longer speak, having been affected by the charmed water. So the woman had to return to her home, where, after some time, she gave birth to her son.
While her son was yet young, his mother went to Tangaroa (Lord of the Fish), and told her troubles to him. Tangaroa called upon all the fish of Rangiriri to assemble, and they came in their multitudes. Now at that time all fish were alike in form, though differing in size, and all were like the whale, because the whale was the first to be made. Well, Tangaroa told the fish that he wanted them to go and slay a man who had deserted his wife. He formed them into different companies, and appointed a commander or chief for each company. These chiefs were named Kumukumu, Parore, Haku, Tamure, Whai, Takeke, Araara, Patiki, and many others, and each company adopted the name of its chief; while Tohora (whale) was appointed supreme chief over all. Tohora compelled his own folk (whales) to keep in rear of the army, because, being so large, they would be strong enough to stop a panic, and rally the smaller folk.
Then they marched to the place where the fugitive husband was living; for at that time fish had not yet lost their power of living and moving both on land and in the water. It was because fish were descended from lizards that they possessed this power.page 573
In making the attack, the company of Kumukumu (the gurnard) led the assault, and many of them were slain, those who escaped being covered with blood, hence the redness of that fish. Also they moaned in anguish at their loss, hence the moaning of the gurnard when caught. Parore (the black perch) now led his company to the front, where its members got covered with the dried dark blood of the gurnard, hence their colour. Then the company of Haku (the king fish) was beaten by man, as also those of Tamure (schnapper), of Whai (stingray), and many others; until Tohora (whale) brought his company up, and before these leviathans the tribe of men gave way and fled.
Then Tangaroa, Lord of the Ocean, made a speech to his army, congratulating the different tribes on the courage they had displayed, and granting each tribe the right to ask for any one boon it might choose at his hands, as a reward for their bravery in action, and in remembrance of their great victory over the man tribe. Also they might collect and keep the spoils of the battlefield.
So they set about collecting the spoils. Then Whai saw a spear with a double row of barbs on its head, so he asked Tangaroa for a tail like it, and it was given him. Tamure saw a wahaika club, and asked that one of his bones should be of a similar form, and Tangaroa granted this request. Patiki (flounder) saw a fly flapper, and wished to be like it in shape, Takeke (garfish) saw a long spear, and asked for a spear on his nose; he got it. Araara (trevally) saw the blood stained cape of the runaway husband, red spots on a white ground, and desired to resemble it in appearance; and so on, each chief had his wish granted, and he and his folk obtained the form, colour, or other peculiarity desired. This was the origin of the different kinds of fish, and since that time fish have ceased to be all of one shape and colour.
The Deceiving of Kapoho
He taiari a Kapoho i raru ai.
He hei taiari a Kapoho i raru ai.
These sayings are from the story of the deceiving of Kapoho, a Taranaki woman, by Te Ao~piki, of Waikato. When on a visit to Taranaki, Te Ao told Kapoho that the taiari shell grew on trees at Waikato and were picked in quantities every year to form the hei page 574taiari (shell necklace), an ornament much desired by maidens. Hence the girl married Te Ao and went home with him to Waikato, where she searched in vain for the tree that produced taiari shells.
Distressed Mariners Call Upon Pauatere to Succour Them
When the vessel Takitimu was on her way hither from the isles of Polynesia some five centuries ago the crew was in distress owing to lack of food. One Ngutoro cried: "Alas! Misfortune assails us." Te Ariki-whakaroau enquired: "What distresses you?" Replied Ngutoro: "The lack of food; hunger weakens the arm of man." Again Te Ariki spoke: "Call to Pauatere in the ocean depths"—and Ngutoro called: "O Pauatere! Are you below?" Pauatere replied from the deep: "Here am I"—and so Ngutoro bade him ascend; then was seen the multitudes of Pauatere ascending from ocean depths, myriads of paua shellfish that clung to the sides of the vessel and so provided sustenance for the distressed seafarers. In later days hunger again assailed the crew of Takitimu and then it was that Hine-kuku was called upon to rise from the depths of Hine-moana, and so came thousands of kuku, mussels, that provided food for the ocean wanderers. Thus we see that even shellfish were subservient to man in the long past centuries, that is to man versed in dealing with occult matters.
War Between the Mussel and Cockle Tribes
We have seen that, in Maori myth, Te Arawaru and Kaumaihi had offspring twelve who were the various species of pipi or cockles. As time wore on a feud arose between the Kuku and Pipi clans, that is the Mussel and Cockle tribes at Waikaru, and, after this strife had continued for some time, the Pipi folk continued it at Onetahua, where they found shelter behind their earthworks, that is they buried themselves in sandy beaches. The Kuku folk advanced to attack them, but when they thrust out their tongues they became filled with sand, and so the offspring of Kaukau, the Mussel folk, were defeated by those of Te Arawaru. Now this is why we see the Pipi folk still dwelling with their ancestress Hineone, the Sand Maid, while their elder brethren, the Kuku, abide without, where they ever cling to Rakahore (rocks). When Takaaho and Te Puwhakahara heard of this strife they said: page 575"What are these little folk quarrelling about?" The latter said to Takaaho: "O friend! Our young folk are suffering through lack of food, go, procure the offspring of Te Arawaru to serve as food for our children." Takaaho replied: "They will retire behind their breastworks and so be inaccessible, "—to which Te Pu remarked: "Induce them to come outside their defences and then scoop them up." Then the assailing party of Takaaho rose and went to Onetahua, whereupon the offspring of Te Arawaru retired within their fortified places. Takaaho attacked Pipi-toretore and the others and his attacking party was defeated, the gills of Takaaho becoming filled with sand, as those of whales are when they drift ashore. This contest is known as Waimapihi.
In the above fable mussels attack cockles, who retire into the sand and so baffle their assailants, who are not at home in sandy areas. Later, when sharks assailed the Pipi folk they also were defeated by Hineone, that is to say by sand.
The Musical Shell of Matakaoa
In times of old, long before the white-skinned tipua came across the ocean from far lands beyond the red sun path, the Maori folk of Matakaoa, when fishing off the coast, were wont to hear strange songs within the waters where their canoes floated, songs sung by some invisible creature in darkling depths. Upon a time the men in one canoe lowered their stone anchor at the spot, and, when the anchor was hauled up, a pupu tara (Septa tritonis) was found clinging to it; this was the origin of the songs heard by fishermen in the vicinity prior to that time. This shell was fitted with a mouthpiece and used as a shell trumpet for many years, and that trumpet was ever viewed as something uncanny, in fact as a tipua, and it was named Hinemokemoke.
Shellfish as a Love Messenger
A peculiar branch of white magic was that devoted to love messages, to influencing persons of both sexes in connection with their affections; this included the influencing of persons far distant from the operator. Thus birds were used as messengers or mediums to convey such influences, and I was told that inanimate objects were occasionally so employed, such as feathers. Sometimes the necessary charm was simply launched in the wind when blowing in the right direction. But the most peculiar page 576medium I have heard of in such recitals was a shellfish, which brings us to the story of Tao-putaputa and Tahito, two persons who flourished some eighteen generations ago. The former was a woman of Opape in the Bay of Plenty district, while Tahito was a man who lived on the Titirangi hill at Gisborne; these two met at a tribal meeting at Opotiki, and, when Tahito returned to his home, his desire for Tao grew apace. At last he resolved to gain the woman of his choice and so relied upon the peculiar arts that, with the Maori, come under the heading of atahu, Tao had shown no partiality for him so far, hence it was necessary to appeal to those unseen powers that render the charms of white magic efficient. Tahito busied himself in making a form of necklace which he duly scented and then inserted it in a ngaruru shell (Astroea sulcata). He then recited a charm over the shell and cast it into the sea where Titirangi looks down on Turanga nui a Ruamatua. That shell found its way round the coastline to the Bay of Plenty where it came to land at Opape. Ere long Tao came to the spot in order to obtain a supply of paua shellfish (Haliotis iris), but, she failed to find any, seeing nought save a ngaruru shell which she cast aside. After that no matter how or whither she wended her way that shell lay before her, until, vexed by its persistent reappearance, she picked it up again and then noticed the necklace it contained, this she drew out and fastened round her neck. No sooner had the charmed object come into contact with the woman's body than she was affected by the power of the charm and at once began to think of and yearn for the far distant Tahito. So strong did this feeling become that she was compelled to start off alone, and make her way across rugged forest ranges for a hundred miles or so in order to reach the man who had sent the charmed shell. According to the story Tao found her man Tahito at Titirangi, and the two became man and wife.
In the above tale we see that touching the shell container had no effect upon the woman, but that she was much affected by the charmed object it contained. In another version, however, the shell itself is the mediumistic object (for further particulars of this atahu rite see the Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol. 35, p. 315).
The Popokorua and the Kihikihi; the Ant and the Cicada
Said the ant to the cicada: "O friend! Let us be diligent during the fine summer days and store up food for the cold winter period." "Not so" said the cicada—"Rather let us ascend the page 577trees and cling to the sun-warmed bark, singing our song of joy." So these two failed to agree, but the ant spent its time in collecting food and in conveying it to its store pits, while the idle cicada said: "How fine is it to bask in the sun and enjoy life, and how foolish is the ant who ever toils, and dwells in doleful places." After a time the warmth went out of the sun, food supplies became short, the cold winds and rains of winter smote the land; it was then that the homeless and foodless cicada perished, but Popokorua the ant, how snug is he in his underground home, well stocked with food.
The following is the song of Kihikihi the cicada as he clung to his ancestor Tane and sang his day-long pean: "He pai aha koia taku pai? He noho nei piri ake ki te peka o te rakau, me te whaka-tangi kau i aku paihau" (What truly is my pleasure? It is to stay clinging to a tree branch clapping my wings). The following chant extols the wisdom of the ant in preparing for hard times: "Hohoro mai, e te hoa, kanake e whaka-roa. Ara rat ka turua ta te popokorua. Rawe noa tarigata ki whaka-hauhau mai ki te keri i te rua mo te na o te rangi, me te makariri wero iho i te po, me te kohi mai ano i te kakano haiora mo tamaroto kia ora ai." (Hasten, O friend! Delay not; how diligent is the ant, how wise to hasten the excavating of pits wherein to shelter from rain and the cold that pierces nightly, also the collecting of seeds as sustenance for the inner man whereby to retain life).
The Awa folk of Whakatane also give the following as a song of the cicada; old Pio of Te Teko wrote as follows—"Here follows the song of a very numerous folk of this world, the folk known as the rattling cicadas who are very, very numerous. When summer comes those folk cling to their ancestor Tane-mahuta, and here is their song: "Kaore te waru nei ka piri au ki a Tane-mahuta, ki toku tupuna,—tutakere, tutakere, iere nui au, kohiti ko makaro iere au. Popo nunui, popo roroa, ko wai e aha atu; na Tane ano au i axvhi ki tua te aro rangi; ka whiti mai ko te iwa ka hoki au ki raw ra ki tona kainga, maua tahi ko taku taina ko Anuhe i tonoa iho nei ki tona tungane, ki a Rongo, hei manawa mona, koia ka tumoumoutia." Herein the cicada seems to announce his intention to retire underground on the approach of winter in company with the anuhe, the large caterpillar sent down to prey on the kumara (sweet potato) of Rongo. It was Rangi himself who bade Anuhe descend to this world; in one version of the myth, in another version Whanui (the star Vega) said to Anuhe, Toronu and Moka, three species of caterpillar pests: "Go you below to your elder brother Rongo, who will sustain you." So page 578these pests were sent down here to prey on the sweet potato that had been purloined from Whanui by Rongomaui (see Dominion Museum Bulletin 9, p. 102, 1976 reprint), another of these tarakihi (cicada) songs was recorded by Sir George Grey and may be found at p. 216 of Nga Moteatea.
Anuhe the caterpillar obtained the fine designs marked on his body from Tawatawa the mackerel, hence the saying so often heard among us—"he anuhe tawatawa".
Fable of the Aute or Paper Mulberry and the Whau
Said the Whau to the Aute:—"Hei kona koe tu ai hex pare wahine." (Stay you there to serve as fillets for women). Said the Aute to the Whau: "Haere koe ki te moana heipouto kupenga" (Go you to the ocean to serve as net floats).
Now, we see that those things are used for the very purposes mentioned, net floats are fashioned from that wood, and the inner bark of aute is used as fillets.
The Sandfly and the Mosquito
It fell upon a certain day that the Sandfly and the Mosquito foregathered, when the Sandfly said: "O friend! Let us go and attack the Man tribe." Said Naeroa the Mosquito: "Let us await the shades of night."
"Not so, " said Namu the Sandfly—"Let us attack in the day time."
But the Mosquito persisted that they should attack Man by night, lest they be seen approaching and so perish at the hands of Man. The Sandfly remarked:—"Let us assail Man in great numbers so as to confuse him, thus shall he be overcome by us."
Said the Mosquito: "Better the night; then, as we approach him, we will raise our voices, and he shall be confused by the murmuring sounds and strike wildly while we are yet afar off. Thus shall he but strike himself, while we dart silently in to the attack."
But the Sandfly would have none of these methods, and persisted in following his own plan. Said he to the Mosquito: "Enough; as you are afraid, I alone of us two will go forth."
Away went the Sandfly, gathered his people together, and sallied forth to attack Man. Then were seen the countless multitudes of the Sandfly folk as they swarmed around Man, clung to him and bit him. And then, as Man felt the attack, he turned to defend himself, and vigorously assailed the tribe of page 579Namu-kanone. One slap of his great hand and a myriad Sandfly folk perished. In vain did they fiercely assail his face and hands in vast numbers. The slaps of Man fell fast and multitudes of the Sandfly tribe fell in death. Even so came about the great defeat of these folk, and the survivors fled afar off to escape the dreadful blows of Man. Now came Namu, the Sandfly, and reported to Naeroa, the Mosquito: "We are lost. Nought remains save the drifting waters, the wailing winds of desolate space; nor courage, nor numbers saved us."
Then Naeroa the Mosquito lifted his voice in lament for the Sandfly folk and sang this dirge:
I said, I said
Lest slain ye be, lest slain ye be
By hand of Man
And all be lost.
Then the Sandfly chanted his lament as he wept for his lost kinsmen:
Although we fell
Although we fell
Yet still his blood
Yet still his blood
was shed by us.
And thus it is that, in the long fight waged between the Sandfly folk and Man, the tribe of Namu perish in their thousands at the hands of Man, but ever do they console themselves with the fact that the blood of man has been shed by them.
When the shades of evening fell, off set Naeroa to avenge the defeat of the Sandfly folk. As he approached Man he raised his voice in mosquito song, and Man, believing that he was attacked, strove to slay Naeroa, but merely slapped his own ear. Naeroa now approached him on the other side in the same deceitful manner, and with the same result, for the Man merely struck himself a blow on his other ear, while Naeroa escaped. This contest was long continued, but ever Naeroa escaped, while Man slapped himself so frequently about his ears that he became quite deaf, and his anger against his enemies was great. But now that he could no longer hear, the Mosquito folk attacked him in great numbers and with ferocious onslaught. Nought was heard save the ceaseless song of the Mosquito folk and the slapping of the hands of Man as he thwacked himself to no avail.page 580
When morning dawned, behold, the face of Man was so swollen that he could no longer see, thus he was both Deaf and Blind. As the sun rose, the tribe of Naeroa departed, for the Sandfly folk were avenged. But ever the war continues between Man and his old enemies, Namu the Sandfly and Naeroa the Mosquito.
Now the reason why the Sandfly folk attacked Tu, that is to say mankind, for man is a descendant of Tu, was that Namuiria, the son of Namu the Sandfly, was slain by Tu for having taken by stealth the hau, the aura of Tu, and so endangered his welfare. Thus it is that the sandfly ever wages war against man. Sandflies and mosquitoes are but a feckless lot, and they are at the mercy of the winds; when winds arrive then both sandflies and mosquitoes fly to their forbears Haumia and Te Monehu (bracken fern) for shelter and succour. But the Ngapuhi folk tell us that, in remote times, a new canoe of great size was made at a certain place, and great preparations were made for the task of hauling the hull from the forest; many men were called upon to assemble and take part in it, and the Mosquito and Sandfly folk were also asked to assist. All the persons who took part in the strenuous hauling job were well fed, all but the Naeroa and Namu folk, the mosquito and sandfly tribes; and these received no food whatever for their valuable services, hence they resolved to devote their energies to the assailing of mankind for all time. Previous to that time no attacks had been made by them on man.
The Woman Who was Taken to the Sky by Spiders
In the days of old there lived a woman whose husband was extremely unkind to her, hence she appealed to the gods to deliver her from this affliction. The appeal was heard, and Ruruhi-kerepo came to her, and enquired into her trouble. The woman said that she wished to escape from the cruelty of her husband. So Ruruhi-kerepo called two spiders, who came from the clouds, and made a web basket big enough to hold the woman and her child. Then Ruruhi-kerepo put the two into the basket, and told the spiders to convey the basket to the heavens.
The deserted husband lived a lone life until old age, and, when he died, he went to the spirit world. There he saw a number of people assembled together, and asked them the object of such a gathering. They told him that a young man was about to have the Tohi, or ceremony of baptism, performed over him, and to page 581receive his second, or adult's name, his first or child's name having been given him when he was a baby, that being the first Tohi rite. Now this young man was the child taken by the spiders to the heavens, the man's own son. Pretty soon he met his wife, who did not know him, because he was now old and grey haired, but in relating the story of his life in this world, he made himself known. Then they lived together again, for there is no quarrelling in the spirit world. Here comes another tale of the Ruruhi-kerepo—
Story of the Ruruhi-kerepo
Some of the folk lore tales of the Maori are as puerile as some of our own, which is saying a good deal. Such is the fable of the Ruruhi-kerepo (blind old woman), which runs as follows: "A very long time ago, five girls went a roaming in the forest, where they met an old woman. One said: "Oh, here is an old dame [ruruhi]." But the latter said—"You must not call me ruruhi, but kuia [old woman]." A girl remarked—"Oh, she is a kuia." Again the old dame objected—"You must not call me kuia, but matua keke [aunt], "—whereupon a girl cried—"I greet you, aunt." Then the old woman caught hold of the girl who had just spoken, and said—"Embrace me." She caught all five of the girls, and made them climb up into the trees of the forest, and said—"O my nieces, how sweet you look up there; I could eat you all, I could eat each one of you at a mouthful." She then shook the trees, crying—"Drop off! Drop off!—and, as each girl fell from the trees, she bit off the girl's head, and ate the body.
"When, at length, their friends came in search of the missing girls, they found only their heads, and, nearby, they saw the Ruruhi-kerepo. One man strove to kill her with his spear, but she struck and killed him with a blow of her fist. But while she was biting his head off, his friends all attacked her and speared her to death. They could not strike her with their clubs, because the bones of those she had eaten stuck out of her body like the spines of the kopu-totara [porcupine fish]; hence they speared her. They then cooked and ate her."
The following story is of the same nature as the above—
The Woman who Ate her Child's Heart
There was once a woman who was very fond of pigeons' hearts, and was ever compelling her husband to go to the forest to take pigeons, that she might obtain her favourite food, so that, in page 582time, those birds became scarce. One day, the husband returned without having secured a single bird, and his wife scolded him bitterly for being so lazy. Next day, he again went forth into the forest in search of birds, and took with him their only child, a little boy. He took the child a long way into the forest, where he killed him, but he took out the child's heart and carried it home. But before going home, he invoked the power of the gods to cause the forest trees to acquire the power of speech, and to answer anyone calling out as they searched for the child.
On arriving at his home, the child's heart was cooked for his wife, who remarked on its size, but said that it was the best she had ever eaten. She enquired for the child but was told that he had strayed away from his father, and was lost. Then she entered the forest to search for him, and, as she advanced, called the child's name. A tree at some distance answered her; she proceeded in that direction and called again, whereupon a tree further off answered. So it went on; each time she called out, another tree answered her, until she became lost in the forest, and was never seen again, but yet ever wanders in the forest, calling for her child, and following the demon voice. And sometimes the voice of the demon may be heard proceeding from enchanted trees; answering the call of the woman who ate the heart of her only child.
The Lost Child of Takaraho
Of these simple folk tales a number have been collected, and many more have doubtless passed into oblivion. The story of the lost child of Takaraho that follows is but one of many of that class. The child of a woman named Takaraho wandered alone into the forest one day, and was seized and carried off by some uncanny dweller in the wilderness. The parents went in search of the child, and heard it crying in the forest, but could not find it. Other persons joined in the search, and heard the voice of the child, but never found it, for when they seemed to approach near it, then the voice would be heard in quite a different quarter. Hence they at length concluded that the child had become a forest elve, a super-natural being, through the influence of the beings who had carried it off, and so the search was abandoned. Even so, when strange, unaccountable sounds are heard in the forest then some person will say: "O, it is the Child of Takaraho crying." In a version of this tale given in Te Ika a Maui (2nd ed., p. 285) it is stated that the kidnapper of the child was known as page 583the tahae o te koraha or tahae of the wilderness. Employed in this way the word tahae means much the same as nanakia, a title already referred to.
How Waikato and Rangitaiki Raced Seaward
In days of old, when strange things happened in Aotearoa, strife arose among the great rivers of the land, in that Waikato and Rangitaiki disputed as to which would first reach their parent Wainui, that is to say the ocean. Rangitaiki stoutly maintained that it would rapidly outpace or outflow Waikato. So Waikato started from the base of Tongariro, and the other from the base of Kaimanawa. Now Waikato and Whangaehu started together, and the latter argued that they should flow southward to their parent Wainui, inasmuch as he bore with him certain health-giving qualities of Wainui. The remark made by Whangaehu that it contained the healthful salt water was quite correct, and Whangaehu maintained that its mother Wainui gave it that salt water that represented its welfare; Waikato consisted of sweet water, but Whangaehu was bitter water, such is still the healthful quality of Whangaehu as it flows from the base of Tongariro mountain. While Whangaehu urged Waikato to make for the south, waikato turned northward and so commenced his contest with Rangitaiki. Waikato maintained that it would reach Wainui, that is the ocean, first, but Rangitaiki said: "Not so, I will be the first to arrive"—and so they disputed. Then commenced the race seaward of these great rivers; when Waikato reached the north side of Tauwhara mountain it sent out Torepatutahi as a scout or courier, in fact it sent out three such scouts. Rangitaiki likewise despatched its emissaries, and these were Waiirohia, Nga Tamawhine, Pokairoa, Pakekeheke and Waikowhewhe (all tributary streams on the left bank of Rangitaiki). The healthful influence of Rangitaiki is represented by Waimangeo, a large stream of bitter water that emerges from a hill. Waikato also sent forth a number of messengers (all are tributaries of that river) and listened intently for any sound of the advance of its rival, until, from afar off, came the roar of many waters as Rangitaiki flowed into the ocean, and so was the first to reach their mother Wainui. So disappointed was Waikato that it swerved westward from south of Paeroa and sought the western ocean; although many taniwha (monsters) assisted it in forcing a passage and opening up a channel, yet Waikato could not win the contest, while Rangitaiki succeeded in forging far ahead and so reaching the ocean at the Awa-a-te-atua.page 584
As noted above the various couriers despatched by the racing rivers were their own tributaries, those of the left bank of Rangi-taiki and those of the right bank of Waikato.
In vol. 21 of the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute is a paper entitled "Notes on the Waikato River basins", by L. Cussen, in which occur some remarks on the wandering habits of that river in times remote; at p. 408 we find the following remarks: "I may here mention a somewhat strange tradition which was mentioned to me by the Assistant Surveyor-General as having been related to him by Mr Lawry: That the Waikato River formerly ran into the sea near Tauranga; and that in the course of ages it changed its course and ran out into the Hauraki Gulf; and then, again, after a further lapse of time, it ran across by Tuakau and Mauku, and then into the Manukau Harbour; and thence into the sea at the mouth of the Wairoa River."
In another paper entitled "Notes on the Piako and Waikato River-basins", published in vol. 26 of the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, Cussen returned to the subject—at p. 399 of the above paper appears the following: "I think it is more than probable that the Waikato at one time flowed through the Waiotapu Valley to the sea on the East Coast, ……But its channel was obstructed, probably by subterranean disturbance or the volcanic action in the Rotorua district; it quitted the original valley, and eroded for itself a new channel in nearly a due west direction, . . " By "east coast" Cussen seems to have meant the Bay of Plenty in this statement, but further on in his paper he gives some evidence that the Waikato river at a different period flowed through a well defined channel 14 miles from Cambridge to the Hauraki Gulf. Assuredly this wandering habit of the Waikato river reminds us of the Maori myth.
Hutton agrees with these statements in a paper published in vol. 32 of the same Journal (p. 180), viz, that the Waikato river first flowed into the Bay of Plenty by way of the Waiotapu valley, after that into the Hauraki Gulf, ere the gorge at Taupiri was cut. Hill gives a version of the Waikato-Rangitaiki race myth in vol. 43 of the Transactions describing how Waikato sent out Torepatutahi and other tributary messengers to ascertain how Rangitaiki was faring in the strenuous race.
The Clarence and Hurunui rivers of the South Island are known to natives as Waiau-toa and Waiau-uha, or male Waiau and female Waiau, and the latter is said to occasionally feel affection for Waiau-toa, which in some way produces rain, but the story is obscure.page 585
Fire Versus Water
The old, old myth of the contest between water and fire has been preserved by our Maori folk, and a version of it is given at p. 155 of vol. 3 of the Journal of the Polynesian Society. The remnants of fire that survived the attacks of water took refuge in trees and rock. At the same time this fire, called the fire of Mahuika, is really of less importance than the Ahi o Tapeka or Fire of Tapeka, which is the fire that burns in the underworld.
The Riverman of Whanganui
The native folk of the Whanganui River have conserved a considerable number of folk tales. As might be expected one encounters here many taniwha myths, stories of strange monsters that live in the deep pools of the river. One story relates to a certain young woman of former times who was visited nightly by some being that dwelt in the river, but who presumably possessed a form akin to that of man. She marvelled at the coldness of his skin, and consulted her father, the result being that all apertures of her house that might admit light were carefully blocked, and the next visit of the strange denizen of the river depths was awaited. When that being came, he passed the night as usual and waited for the first sign of dawn ere he retired to his watery home. But no sign of dawning light appeared within the house, though the folk of the hamlet had already assembled outside in the broad light of day. Ere long they opened the door and then slew the water man as he came forth. They cut his body into pieces; his head, bones and skin were scattered abroad. Then a strange thing happened, for the people heard the head, and bones, and skin singing a plaintive song, a song that is still retained by the Maori folk.
Hine-moana Assails the Earth Mother
The great power possessed by water is well known to all men, be they civilised or savage, and the Maori assigns ceaseless energy and destructive power to Hine-moana the Ocean Maid, she who ever attacks her own forebear, the Earth Mother. Ever the surging ranks of Ngaru-nui and Ngaru-roa roll in to attack the flanks of Papa the Parentless, ever the relentless battalions of Hine-moana gnaw their way into her great body, but ever page 586Rakahore, Hine-one and Hine-tuakiri-kiri stand faithfully on guard to defend the mother of all things. Thus it is that we see the raging waters hurl themselves in vain on the sturdy rocks, the soft, yielding, but indomitable sand, the rattling gravel beds that move and complain, but never give way. Thus spoke a folk lore expert of the brown folk: "The gravel and stones and their younger relatives preserve the bounds of the ocean and of the land, hence the bounds of Hine-moana budge not; it was Parawhenuamea who so arranged matters."
How the Maroon Came Home
The following story, told to me nearly thirty years ago by Te Awanui Aporotanga of Omarumutu, and again by Tuta Nihoniho in 1912, might well have served as a basis for a wild myth. In olden times a man had some dispute with his wife, and so resolved to be rid of her. He took her out to sea in his canoe and marooned her on a distant island, after which he returned home to the mainland. Some say that he was a resident of Whakatane, others assign him a home at divers other places. The husband reported that his wife had been drowned, and his report was believed. The abandoned woman supported herself on shellfish and what else she could find at her lone island home. At last she bethought herself of how she might despatch a message to her friends, and so she set about making a kite of such materials as were available. Upon a day when the wind was blowing in the direction of the home of her own people she attached a long cord to her kite, and to the end of the cord a light piece of driftwood. She then tied a motoi ear pendant she had long worn to the kite and released it. The kite dragged the piece of wood along the surface of the water until it reached the beach at her old home, here the attached piece of wood soon got foul of some obstructions and so brought the kite to a halt. Relatives of the lone woman saw the kite and hastened to investigate the matter. They recognised the attached pendant and guessed that she was still alive and had adopted this method of endeavouring to communicate with her friends. A party set forth to search for their clanswoman and eventually found her at her lone island home. When she reached her old home she explained how it was that she had been marooned, whereupon a force of willing regulators set forth to call upon her husband, who was dealt with in a most thorough manner.page 587
Here follows another version of this story of a marooned woman:
In days of yore a certain man named Paia, having become tired of his wife, resolved to destroy her. He took her to sea with him in his canoe when he went fishing, and, having fished for some time, he told his wife to haul up the stone anchor. As she was doing so, he pushed her overboard, cut the rope of the anchor, and then returned home, where he told the people that his wife had been accidentally drowned. He then took another wife, who cared for his two little daughters by his first wife.
When the woman saw her husband paddling his canoe away from her, and making for land, she knew that he intended her to drown; she then swam to an island at no great distance, where she landed safely and took up her abode. Here, some time later, she gave birth to twins, two boys, whom she carefully tended until they grew up fine strong lads. She then sought to teach them the arts of warfare, the use of weapons, and, when proficient, she taught them how to use tools, and how to hew out a canoe.
When the canoe was finished, the marooned wife taught them how to manage it, and then told them of her long cherished plan. They were to go to the mainland, seek out their father, and slay him. Thus should the wrongs of their mother be avenged.
When the young men reached the mainland, they were seized by the people, and were enslaved. They were assigned as servants to their own sisters, who were now both married women. At the first opportunity the young men attacked and slew Paia, then told the whole story to the people. A canoe was sent to the island to fetch their mother, and mother and daughter met again at last. Nor was any attempt made to avenge the death of Paia, for they knew that the end was well.
Tamaika and Hanokai
The Ngati-awa folk of the Bay of Plenty quote a saying concerning one of their ancestors, viz, "Kopaki tuhera tu ana Tamaika" (When a package [of cooked eels] is opened Tamaika will be there). This Tamaika was a gourmand who was very partial to the flesh of eels, and made it his business to know when his neighbours had made a good catch, when he would watch for the smoke of oven fires and make his appearance as the cooked page 588eels, wrapped in leaves, were being taken from the ovens. Thus Tama became a nuisance to his neighbors, and it must be remembered that a community-minded people, with all their altruistic professions, can be extremely sarcastic, not to say churlish, when persons roam the land in search of the unearned increment. The above saying was heard when a tangata matiro hai, a food cadger, appeared at a hamlet.
A similar story is told of how Hanokai, an extremely lazy man who dwelt hard by the home of one Tama-ki-te-wananga, a man renowned for his industry and forethought. Hau was a very frequent visitor at the home of Tama, at any time the smoke of an oven fire would attract him. At length the patience of Tama was exhausted, and so one morning he called out to his attendant: "Let there be no delay in preparing food ere Hanokai arrives." But Hanokai had already arrived, and he overheard the instructions of Tama, hence he asked: "O Tama! What is that about me?" Tama replied: "You come so often", whereupon Hau explained: "I come often because we are related to each other." Said Tama, "Quite so, but let it be an occasional visit." But Hanokai was angry, and so he said: "Enough, we will meet next time in the spirit world." On my relating this story to Tom Ransfield of Ngati-Raukawa, he remarked: "Bear in mind the story of another food-begging person, Hauokanga, whose sister Hinerongo was annoyed by his frequent visits at meal times. One day he went to her home and chanced to hear her thus addressing the fire where food for her children was to be cooked: "Burn and blaze up, lest ye be forestalled by Hauokanga." Then Hau said: "And what of me, O Hinerongo?" His sister Hinerongo replied: "You are always coming here and so there is little food for my children." Hauohanga said: "I came often because we are closely related, but now we part forever." Such simple stories are often widely known, but, as in these cases, the names of persons often differ, also the details of the story.
All Creatures Possess the Faculty of Speech
According to an aid octogenarian friend of mine all creatures obtained the power of speech in remote times, that is to say when all creatures were begotten. "Rangi and Papa and their offspring begat all things, and all living creatures then became possessed of bodies, heads and limbs; the big things originated as big things, and the small things as small ones. To each creature the power of page 589speech, a certain kind of speech, was given. At the same time they speak in different tongues, even that one species cannot understand the speech of another. Now the speech of our ancestors was clear and readily understood, also it has remained so. Yet although birds, reptiles, insects, fish, the denizens of land and water, possess this power of speech, yet we human folk cannot understand it. What meaning has such speech? Who can tell; only when sleep comes to us can we understand it. When we go to the Reinga in sleep, then a dog or bird speaks to us as men speak, in our own speech; this shows us that human speech is superior to that of dogs and birds."
Origin of the Aurora australis
Another quaint tale, one recited by a Maori of Whanganui in 1869 explains with charming clearness the origin of the Aurora australis. It appears that, some five or more centuries ago, a number of vessels came southward from the isles of the Pacific. Some of these migrants remained here and settled in the new land, but others pushed on and sailed southward in seach of other lands, or simply to observe the wonders of the deep. Some of these vessels returned hither to Aotearoa, but others never did so, their crews settling in the remote lands of the far south. The belief is that the descendants of those old seafarers of past centuries are still dwelling in those lands, and have no means of coming northward to more genial climes, hence, ever and anon, they kindle huge fires in order to let the Maori folk of Aotearoa know that they are still there, and also in need of assistance. When the light from those appealing fires is seen gleaming in the heavens the Maori knows that the descendants of the castaways are signalling from the drear realm of Paraweranui, but there is no record of any rescue party having sailed southward to help them.
We have already seen that certain atua maori possessed the power of flight. One would naturally expect such a being as Rongomai, the personified form of meteors, to be an active atua, and this is borne out by many accounts of his flying through space, as when he flew into the Rangiuru pa at Otaki, when a force was attacking it. Is it not recorded also how Rongomai took one Raikaumoana on his back and bore him through space from page 590Gladstone to Pahiatua, and so originated the name of the latter place (see vol. 15 of the Journal of the Polynesian Society at p. 146).
The story of the flying man Tamarau is the most definite fable of the kind that the Maori has given us. Rawaho and Tamarau are said to have been sons of an old-time voyager named Hape, who is said to have reached these isles from Polynesia some six centuries ago, more or less. Hape having died in the South Island his two sons set off to recover his body, and also the maun or life principle of the kumara or sweet potato that he had taken with him. During the performance of certain mortuary rites over the body of their parent, Tamarau, who was the younger son, acquired the mana tapu of Hape, and so became endowed with marvellous powers. During their return to the Bay of Plenty district they disagreed anent the performance of certain tasks that affect the condition of tapu persons, and so Rawaho set off by himself from the hill at Waiohau, where the dispute had taken place. As Rawaho was trudging down the Maiohau flats of the Rangitaiki valley he heard a hail from above, and, looking up, saw Tamarau flying through space toward the coast, and the commanding hill he flew from has since been known as Arorangi. Tamarau came to earth on a hill overlooking the Owhaikawa swamp, after which he flew to Ohiwa; he has ever since been viewed as an atua, and we may include him as a deified ancestor. If he was not a genuine ancestor the Maori believes that he was.
A people possessing wings and the power of flying are said to have settled at Waitotara, north of Whanganui, in remote times. In Taylor's Te Ika a Maui p. 33-34 we are told that they were descended from Turi of Aotea, that they had for long no permanent home, but flew from place to place, now to the forest ranges and anon seaward. Famous tohunga, such as Papahurihia and Murua, are credited with having possessed powers of flight, but alas! proof of these interesting exhibitions is lacking!
The dread ogre known as Tama at Hikurangi mountain must presumably have possessed the power of flight, to judge from the stories that are told about him, and which we have noticed.
Giants in human form are seldom mentioned in Maori folk tales, but there is a story of a company of giants that once occupied the isle of Rangitoto, near Auckland. The place of the giant of European myths is here taken by taniwha and turehu. Herculean tasks are not performed by giants in Maori myth but by such creatures as Turehu. Thus the lava reef that forms part of page 591the old lava flow from Mt Albert into Waitemata harbour is said to represent an attempt made by a travelling party of Turehu to form a causeway across the harbour. This task had to be performed during the hours of darkness, as is usual with such uncanny folk, but daylight arrived ere it was completed, hence the unfinished condition of the causeway as now seen.
A folk tale may be connected with any rock, tree, hill, or other natural feature seen when travelling. In many places boulders are said to represent persons who flourished in the long ago. On the summit of the rocky hill at Tinui known as Pukerakuraku is said to be a canoe that has been turned into stone, a local native informed me that it is the canoe of Kupe, the old sea wanderer of forty generations ago. We also know, or the Maori does, that the canoe of Maui, he who raised New Zealand from the azure main, rests in stone form on the summit of Mt Hikurangi. We are not told how these deep sea craft came to rest on the summits of lofty hills, in this particular the Noah's Ark myth is more satisfactory.
Sun v. Moon Contention
It is of course a well known fact that the sun and moon once fell out over the question of night or day movement. The sun maintained that both should move across the breast of Rangi the Sky Parent during the daytime, but the moon stoutly maintained that night was the proper time for them to be abroad. On this subject they quite failed to agree, and so, after some altercation, they grew quite testy, and the moon said to the sun: "Very well, go on your way, you will be useful for drying clothes." To this incisive remark the sun replied: "Move you by night and so tremble before the food ovens." And we see that the sun has the real control, the moon's movements are confined to night, while the sun leads the way. Such was the contention of those persons. In another old tale winter and summer are represented by Pipiri and Whakaahu, these two are ever contending with each other, but neither has ever won a permanent victory.
The following is a sample of certain puerile tales, fables, such as were appreciated by young folk in former times—
How the Totara Came to Pop When Burned
Once upon a time the trees of the forest met together in order to discuss certain matters, and so the tribes of totara, matai, rimu, maire, toromiro, and others assembled. They argued as to whose page 592feet would reach the heavens should they stand with head downward. The totara claimed that it would certainly reach their ancestor Rangi in that way, but the rimu said that it would do so, then maire, rata, tawa and pohue all maintained that they would win the contest, each tree tribe claimed to be the one that would reach the sky. So the contest began, and the totara was the first to try and stretch itself to the sky above, but totara met with a mishap that excited ridicule, hence there was riotous applause. And so, in these days, when you use totara as fuel you will not fail to hear the popping sound that brought shame to the tribe in days of long ago; and that also was why the totara abandoned conspicuous places whereat to dwell, and betook itself to the depths of the forest there to abide far away from the open world. There were others who met with similar mishaps, and when the winds of Tawhirimatea are abroad you may hear the tree branches creaking; they seem to say—"Whe! Whe!, " but they are really saying—"Iou hemo! Iou hemo!"
The Talking Heads of Manga-o-Tane
We have already seen that carved wooden images, or at least some of them, were in olden times gifted with powers of speech, as also were trees, mountains, and divers other things. In the following story we find that decapitated heads speak, or did upon one occasion. Apparently this was not a common occurrence, inasmuch as the exhibition of such a faculty caused terror among the hearers. The occasion was a fight that occurred at Manga-o-Tane, far up the Whakatane river some ten generations ago. Ngati-Manawa of Whirinaki killed Tutonga and Tamakere of Tuhoe, cut off their heads and carried them off as trophies. Tuhoean avengers pursued the party of raiders and overtook it at Marumaru. As these pursuers drew near the raiders the member of the latter party who was carrying the two heads heard them speaking; one said: "How soon?", while the other replied, saying: "Very soon." The head-bearer was much alarmed at hearing the heads talking and so was told by a leader to cast them away. No sooner had he done so than the avengers came up and attacked the party, killing eight of them, but we hear no more of the talking heads.
Origin of the Taiaha and of the Kumara
The following is a specimen of the more puerile tales concerning the primal offspring, and is a story that might come page 593under the heading of origin myths or personifications. It is the story of a quarrel that occurred between Tumatanenga and Rongo anent their cultivation ground called Pohutukawa. Tu set off in search of weapons wherewith to fight, and went to Ruru-tangiakau, from whom sprang the ake-rautangi tree from which weapons such as taiaha, etc., were fashioned. Ruru gave him his own child, Ake-rautangi, he who has two mouths, four eyes, four ears and four nostrils. This quaint description denotes the two-handed weapon termed a taiaha and the two series of features pertain to the double-faced head carved on the weapon. In the strenuous fight known as Moengatoto, Rongo-maraeroa was defeated by Tu, and the slain of Rongo were cooked and eaten by Tu. Now Rongo represents the sweet potato and Tu represents man, and when the survivors of the Rongo party escaped they fled to Pani and found a refuge in her stomach. When it was desirable that food should be cooked Pani fired her oven, and then men said, one to another: "Where is the food to be cooked in this oven?" Then Pani proceeded to the water where she gathered up the kumara and took them away to cook them, when cooked she divided them among the people. Such were the meals prepared morning and night in times of peace but in time of war, when raiders were afield, then food supplies were principally the aka o tuwhenua or aruhe, the roots of Pteris aquilina var. esculenta (the common fern).
On one occasion when Pani was so producing, that is giving birth to the kumara or sweet potato in water, one Patatai was watching her from the further bank of the waters of Mona-ariki, and he made with his lips a peculiar sound betokening amusement or contempt. Pani was so overcome by a feeling of shame that she fled homeward, weeping as she went, and so it is that we have retained the sweet potato. The charms repeated over the crops were derived from Pani, whose husband was Maui-wharekino. Tu destroyed the sweet potato lest Rongo should prevail in this world. Patatai, who overlooked Pani's method of producing sweet potatoes, probably represents the bird of that name, the land rail.
The Lone Pine of Taka-ahuru
All kinds of quaint tales are heard concerning things impossible in the byways of Maoriland, of persons turned into stone, of amazing deeds performed by mythical beings of hoar antiquity. page 594Thus we are told that the white pine bush that formerly existed at Makauri inland of Turangi-nui-a-Ruamatua sprang from a single branch of the Kahika or white pine tree that grows in the sea at Tokahuru, off the Gisborne coast. When the famed vessel Takitimu arrived from Polynesia and came down the eastern coast, she called at Te Mawhai and then came on to somewhere off the Tapuwae o Rongokako, where Hautu proposed that they stay awhile and endeavour to catch some fish. This must have been in shoal water, inasmuch as the fishers appear to have used one of the sprits of the vessel to tie the bow rope to. The spot where this occurred was named Toka-ahuru; one version states that it was so named after the sprit, though the name of the sprit is given as Toko-ahuru. This spar seems to have developed into a kahika tree that grows, blooms and flourishes in the salt waves of Toka-ahuru, and is viewed as a tipua.