Polynesian Mythology and Ancient Traditional History of the New Zealand Race
The Legend of Rupe. — His Ascent Into Heaven
The Legend of Rupe.
His Ascent Into Heaven.
We left Hinauri floating out into the ocean;* we now return to her adventures. For many months she floated through the sea, and was at last thrown up by the surf on the beach at a place named Wairarawa; she was there found, lying as if dead, upon the sandy shore, by two brothers named Ihuatamai and Ihuwareware; her body was in many parts overgrown with seaweed and barnacles, from the length of time she had been in the water, but they could still see some traces of her beauty, and pitying the young girl, they lifted her up in their arms, and carried her home to their house, and laid her down carefully by the side of a fire, and scraped off very gently the seaweed and barnacles from her body, and thus by degrees restored her.
When she had quite recovered, Ihuatamai and Ihuwareware looked upon her with pleasure, and took her as a wife between them both; they then asked her to tell them who she was, and what was her name; this she did not disclose to them, but she changed her name, and called herself Ihungarupaea, or the Stranded-log-of-timber.
* See page 33.
Tinirau took her home with him to his residence on an island called Motu-tapu: he had two other wives living there—they were daughters of Mangamanga-i-atua, and their names were Harataunga and Horotata. Now, when these two women saw the young stranger coming along in their husband's company, as if she was his wife, they could not endure it, and they abused Hinauri on account of her conduct with their husband; at last they proceeded so far as to attempt to strike her, and to kill her, and they cursed her bitterly. When they treated her in this manner the heart of Hinauri became gloomy with grief and mortification, so she began to utter incantations against them, and repeated one so powerful that hardly had she finished it when the two women fell flat on the ground with the soles of their feet projecting upwards, and lay quite dead upon the earth, and her husband was thus left free for her alone.
All this time Hinauri was lost to her friends and home, and her young brother Mauimua, afterwards called Rupe, could do nothing but think of her; and excessive love for his sister, and sorrow at her departure, so harassed him, that he said he could no longer remain at rest, but that he must go and seek for his sister.
So he departed upon this undertaking, and visited every place he could think of without missing one of them, yet he could nowhere find his sister; at last, Rupe thought he would ascend to the heavens to consult his great ancestor Rehua, who dwelt there at a place named Te Putahi-nui-o-Rehua, and in fulfilment of this design he began his ascent to the heavenly regions.
Rupe continued his ascent, seeking everywhere hastily for Rehua; at last, he reached a place where people were dwelling, and when he saw them, he spoke to them, saying, “Are the heavens above this inhabited?” and the people dwelling there answered him, “They are inhabited.” And he asked them, “Can I reach those heavens?” and they replied, “You cannot reach them, the heavens above these are those the boundaries of which were fixed by Tane.”page 51
But Rupe forced a way up through those heavens, and got above them, and found an inhabited place; and he asked the inhabitants of it, saying “Are the heavens above these inhabited?” and the people answered him, “They are inhabited.” And he again asked, “Do you think I can reach them?” and they replied, “No, you will not be able to reach them, those heavens were fixed there by Tane.”
Rupe, however, forced a way through those heavens too, and thus he continued to do until he reached the tenth heaven, and there he found the abode of Rehua. When Rehua saw a stranger approaching, he went forward and gave him the usual welcome, lamenting over him; Rehua made his lamentation without knowing who the stranger was, but Rupe in his lament made use of prayers by which he enabled Rehua to guess who he was.
When they had each ended their lamentation, Rehua called to his servants, “Light a fire, and get everything ready for cooking food.” The slaves soon made the fire burn up brightly, and brought hollow calabashes, all ready to have food placed in them, and laid them down before Rehua. All this time Rupe was wondering whence the food was to come from with which the calabashes, which the slaves had brought, were to be filled; but presently he observed that Rehua was slowly loosening the thick bands which enveloped his locks around and upon the top of his head; and when his long locks all floated loosely, he shook the dense masses of his hair, and forth from them came flying flocks of the Tui birds, which had been nestling there, feeding upon insects; and as they flew forth, the slaves caught and killed them, and filled the calabashes with them, and took them to the fire, and put them on to cook, and when they were done, they carried them and laid them before Rupe as a present, and then placed them beside him that he might eat, and Rehua requested him to eat food, but Rupe answered him, “Nay, but I cannot eat this food; I saw these birds loosened and take wing from thy locks; who would dare to eat birds that had fed upon insects in thy sacred head?” For the reasons he thus stated, Rupe feared that man of ancient days, and the calabashes still stood near him untouched.page 52
At last, Rupe ventured to ask Rehua, saying, “O Rehua, has a confused murmur of voices from the world below reached you upon any subject regarding which I am interested?” And Rehua answered him, “Yes, such a murmuring of distant voices has reached me from the island of Motu-tapu in the world below these.”
Hinauri is the sister,
And Rupe is her brother,
But how came he here?
Came he by travelling on the earth,
Or came he through the air?
Let your path be through the air.”
“Rupe is the brother,
And Hina is his young sister,
But how came he here?
Came he by travelling on the earth,
Or came he through the air?
Let your path be now upwards through the air
Hardly had his young sister finished repeating this poem, before Rupe had caught her up with her new-born baby: in a moment they were gone. Thus the brother and sister departed together, with the infant, carrying with them the placenta to bury it with the usual rites; and they ascended up to Rehua, and as they passed through the air, the placenta was accidentally dropped, and falling into the sea, was devoured by a shark, and this circumstance was what caused the multitude of large eggs which are now found in the inside of the shark.
At length the brother and sister arrived at the dwelling place of Rehua, which was called Te Putahi-nui-o-Rehua. The old man was unable to keep his court-yard clean for himself, and his people neglected to do so from idleness; thus it was left in a very filthy state. Rupe, who was displeased at seeing this, one day said to Rehua, “Oh, Rehua, they leave this court-yard of yours in a very filthy state;” and then he added, “Your people are such a set of lazy rogues, that if every mess of dirt was a lizard, I doubt if they could even take the trouble to touch its tail to make it run away, and this saying passed into a proverb.
At last, Rupe thought he could clean and beautify, in some respects, Rehua's dwelling for him, so he made two wooden shovels for his work, one of which he called Tahitahia, and the other Rakerakea, and with them he quite cleansed and purified Rehua's court-yard. He then added a building to Rehua's dwelling, but fixing one of the beams of it badly, Rehua's son, Kaitangata, was one day killed from hanging on to this beam, which giving way and springing back, he was thrown down and died, and his blood page 54 running about over part of the heavens, stained them, and formed what we now call a ruddiness in the sky; when, therefore, a red and ruddy tinge is seen in the heavens, men say, “Ah! Kai-tangata stained the heavens with his blood.”*
Rupe's first name was Maui-mua; it was after he was transformed into a bird that he took the name of Rupe.
* The part of the tradition which relates to the death of Kaitangata is considerably shortened in the translation, as not being likely to interest the European reader.