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Fairy Folk Tales of the Maori

The Legend of Miru and the Heavenly Maid

The Legend of Miru and the Heavenly Maid

Now came a story ancient beyond compare; it took us into the misty past when the ancestors of the Maori dwelt far away in the isles of the equatorial Pacific, indeed farther back still to the tropic lands of Indonesia. The old man Tamaira, the genealogist and poet of his tribe, passed his page 24 pipe to his neighbour to keep alight, loosed his blanket to his waist, and narrated the saga of Miru the fairy chief and wizard and the beautiful maid Hine-rangi.

In the long ago, said Tamaira, there was a certain man of this world and he dwelt in his village at Karewa, in Hawaiki, the ancient home of the Maori. He took a wife; in due course a child was born, then another child. Both of these children were girls. The elder the parents named Hine-rangi (“Heavenly Maid”); the younger they named Hine-mai-te-uru (“Girl from the West”). Hine-rangi was set apart by her parents and the tribe as a puhi (virgin); she was not permitted to indulge in early love-affairs like the other young people. She was given a separate house, and in this house she lived, some little distance from the others in the pa. There she slept by herself, this maiden Hine-rangi.

Now there was a certain man of the Patu-paiarehe people, and his name was Miru. He beheld the beautiful Hine-rangi, so treasured by her people, and the thought came to him that he would secure the girl of this world (te ao maori nei) as his wife. So by night he went cautiously into the pa page 25 of the Maori tribe and entered the house of Hine-rangi, and he set his spell of love upon the girl, and they slept together. Before morning came he departed as secretly as he had come. Next night he returned, and the fairy lover and Hine-rangi again reposed together. This continued for many nights; such was the manner of this secret marriage. The night-travelling lover was never seen by any of Hine-rangi's people.

In course of time the people observed the condition of Hine-rangi, and it became known among all the tribe that their puhi was presently to become a mother. There was great excitement on this discovery being made, and intense curiosity was aroused as to who Hine-rangi's lover could possibly be, for none had been seen to approach the abode. Everyone asked who could Hine-rangi's husband be, but no one in the pa could answer the question.

At last the question was put to the girl herself: “E kui, nowhea to tane inahoki kua hapu koe?” (“O woman, whence came your husband by whom you are with child?”) Hine-rangi's reply was: “Kaore koutou e kite i taku tane. E hara ia i page 26 tenei ao.” (“You cannot see my husband; he is not a man of this world.”)

Then the people, more puzzled than ever, considered how they might discover this mysterious lover of her whom they had dedicated as a puhi. At last they thought of a plan whereby they could lay hold of him. They resolved to cover up all the openings by which light was admitted to Hine-rangi's house, so that the lover would not know when the day was at hand.

Evening came, and the dark night, and the time came when the mysterious lover stole unseen into the house of Hine-rangi. The people silently surrounded the dwelling, and waited until they knew the pair must be asleep. Then they fastened the door and the window and plugged up all the openings in the house that could admit daylight. When they had done this not a streak of light could penetrate into Hine-rangi's abode.

The time of morning came, and Miru awoke, and he thought that this must be a very long night, but the interior of the house was still in profound darkness, so he turned to slumber again. The morning went on, and high noon came. The sun was page 27 directly overhead, but it was still like the dead of night within the house.

Now all at once the people drew back the door and the window and rushed into the house. The astonished Miru leaped from the couch, and the people saw him and seized him, and so at last they knew who Hine-rangi's strange lover was.

This was the beginning of Miru's life with his wife Hine-rangi in the sight of all the people. He was received as a friend and a tribesman, and he remained there with his wife. Presently a child was born to them, a son, and he was named Tonga-te-uru. The Patu-paiarehe chief continued to dwell there in the pa, and in time Hine-rangi gave birth to another son, who was named Uru-makawe.

Now the thought came to Miru that he would return to the home of his own people. So he said to his father-in-law, “E koro! Come you and your tribe, and escort me to my own land, to greet my people there.” To this the father-in-law agreed, but he was not willing that Hine-rangi should leave his home and go away with Miru, for he did not wish her to live in that strange place.

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A large party of the tribe assembled, and they departed to escort Miru to his home, and Hine-rangi bade farewell to her husband and remained in the pa, but the younger sister Hine-mai-te-uru accompanied the party of travellers.

When the party arrived at the home of Miru in that other land they were taken to a house which stood in the pa. It was an exceedingly large house, and in it were assembled all the Patu-paiarehe people to greet the strangers. This house, which was called “Hui-te-rangiora,” was a place where-in all the sacred wisdom of the people was taught—the rites of the makutu wizardry, the spells of the atahu (love-charms), and all manner of priestly knowledge. In it also were taught such games as the whai (cat's cradle, string games), the titi-torea or game with throwing-sticks, the working of the wooden marionettes that were caused to imitate haka dances, etc., and other diversions. The art of beautiful wood-carving too was taught.

Every desirable kind of knowledge was imparted to scholars in this great house. And the tino tohunga, the chief teacher and page 29 expert of that house, was Miru, the Patu-paiarehe husband of Hine-rangi.

When the father-in-law of Miru beheld all the wonderful works of that house; when he saw that it was a place wherein all kinds of magic and wisdom were taught, he made request that Miru should instruct him in all the karakia and other sacred matters that he knew. To this proposal Miru assented, and he taught the man from this world the priestly lore desired. In return for this knowledge the father-in-law gave his younger daughter Hine-mai-te-uru to Miru as wife; she was payment for all the karakia which Miru had taught him.

Then he and his people prepared to leave the land of Miru. Before departure the father wept with his daughter, Hine-mai-te-uru, whom he was leaving to be a wife to the Patu-paiarehe, and he chanted over her a lament, for he knew that he would see her no more.

Then the father-in-law of Miru returned to this world. Hine-rangi was told that her sister had been given to Miru as his wife, and she wept for the fairy husband who was now separated from her and living in his own land with her sister Hine-mai-te-uru.

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The thought came now to the father of Hine-rangi that he would build a large house similar to that which he had seen in the home of Miru, in that other world. The house was built, and it was named after that fairy hall “Hui-te-rangiora,” which means the assembly place of all beautiful things, the home of peace and happiness. Then in that house the old man taught his grandson Tonga-te-uru all the sacred wisdom and occult rites he had learned from the chief tohunga of the Patu-paiarehe. And he chanted this song over his grandson:

Abide there, O son, in Hui-te-rangiora,
The dwelling of health and life,
The place whence came the ancient games,
The game of throwing-sticks, the devices worked with strings,
The diversion of the dancing marionettes;
The house of wisdom,
The abode of knowledge,
The secrets of life and death, O Son.

And the young man Tonga-te-uru, having learned all the charms and prayers and ceremonies and all the games of skill that he had learned from Miru, remained in the house to be a chief teacher and tohunga among the people. That is page 31 how the people of this world came to possess the knowledge of all these desirable things; they were preserved in this house of learning “Hui-te-rangiora.” It was the first great whare-kura or lodge of instruction of our Maori people, and from that time to this there has been a “Hui-te-rangiora” among us, and even at this day our chieftainess Te Rohu, the widow of Rewi Maniapoto, lives in a house of that name on the banks of the Puniu River.