Polynesian Mythology and Ancient Traditional History of the New Zealand Race
Te Kanawa's Adventure with a Troop of Fairies
Te Kanawa's Adventure with a Troop of Fairies.
Te Kanawa, a chief of Waikato, was the man who fell in with a troop of fairies upon the top of Puke-more, a high hill in the Waikato district.
This chief happened one day to go out to catch kiwis with his dogs, and when night came on he found himself right at the top of Puke-more. So his party made a fire to give them light, for it was very dark. They had chosen a tree to sleep under—a very large tree, the only one fit for their purpose that they could find; in fact, it was a very convenient sleeping-place, for the tree had immense roots, sticking up high above the ground: they slept between these roots, and made the fire beyond them.
As soon as it was dark they heard loud voices, like the voices of people coming that way; there were the voices of men, of women, and of children, as if a very large party of people were coming along. They looked for a long time, but could see nothing; till at last Te Kanawa knew the noise must proceed from fairies. His people were all dreadfully frightened, and would have run away if they could; but where could they run to? for they were in the midst of a forest, on the top of a lonely mountain, and it was dark night.
“Here you come climbing over Mount Tirangi
To visit the handsome chief of Ngapuhi,
Whom we have done with.”*
A sudden thought struck Te Kanawa, that he might induce them to go away if he gave them all the jewels he had about him; so he took off a beautiful little figure, carved in green jade,† which he wore as a neck ornament, and a precious carved jade ear-drop from his ear. Ah, Te Kanawa was only trying to amuse and please them to save his life, but all the time he was nearly frightened to death. However, the fairies did not rush on the men to attack them, but only came quite close to look at them. As soon as Te Kanawa had taken off his neck ornament, and pulled out his jade ear-ring, and his other ear-ring, made of a tooth of the tiger-shark, he spread them out before the fairies, and offered them to the multitude who were sitting all round about the place; and thinking it better the fairies should not touch him, he took a stick, and fixing it into the ground, hung his neck ornament and ear-rings upon it.
As soon as the fairies had ended their song, they took patterns of the ear-rings, and handed them about from one to the other, until they had passed through the whole party, which then suddenly disappeared, and nothing more was seen of them.
The fairies carried off with them similitudes of all the jewels of Te Kanawa, but they left behind them his jasper neck ornament and his ear-rings, so that he took them back again, the hearts of the fairies being quite contented at getting the patterns alone; they saw, also, that Te Kanawa was an honest, well-dispositioned page 183 fellow. However, the next morning, as soon as it was light, he got down the mountain as fast as he could without stopping to hunt longer for kiwis.
The fairies are a very numerous people; merry, cheerful, and always singing, like the cricket. Their appearance is that of human beings, nearly resembling a European's; their hair being very fair, and so is their skin. They are very different from the Maories, they do not resemble them.
Te Kanawa had died before any Europeans arrived in New Zealand.
* Te Wherowhero, afterwards the first Maori King. He related this story to me, but said he did not remember the whole song, and that this was the concluding verse; it was probably in allusion to their coming to peep at Te Kanawa.
† Jade or Nephrite, commonly called greenstone.