Legends of the Maori
The Adventure of Hinepoupou — How She Swam Cook Strait
The Adventure of Hinepoupou
How She Swam Cook Strait
IN the days of the long, long ago two adventurous men named Manihinihi-pounamu and Hikuparoa, the grandchildren of the chief Anu-ki-Ontario, of Taranaki, crossed the sea to Rangitoto (D’Urville Island). They both fell in love with Hinepoupou, the most beautiful woman of those parts, and they both resolved to wed her. Tamatitoko, Hinepoupou’s father, agreed, and so she became the wife of those two brothers.
Now, after many years, these two brothers became homesick and longed to return and visit their relatives in far-away Taranaki. They made the proposal to their wife, and she agreed to accompany them. After living for some time in Taranaki the brothers became unfaithful to their wife, and deserted her for other women. She returned to her people, the Rangitaane, and with that tribe she lived, on the northern shores of Cook Strait. Then, she, with her two dogs, set out on her journey to her old home.
She came to Cape Terawhiti and after making fit incantations she stripped, girded herself with small seaweed, and entered the sea to swim across the Strait. After swimming for some time her dogs became tired, and tried to climb on to her shoulders. She, knowing that this would be disastrous to her, swam back to the land and there she killed her two dogs by enchantment, turning them into stone. Those stones are called to this day “Nga kuri” (“The Dogs”).
Once more she began her swim, and she crossed and landed at Toka-haere, or Toka-kotuku, on the north side of Cook Strait. Here she rested and left the seaweed, which turned into sharks. Then, taking dry rimu-kauare, the great bull-kelp, she fastened it round her as a buoy, and continued her heroic swim. She swam on and on; she crossed the great sea of Raukawa (Cook Strait), and at last she reached Rangitoto and she rested on a rock close to her home. She took the hollow sea-kelp that had buoyed her up, and with incantations threw it into the sea, and it became taniwha (sea-monsters) and hapuku (groper). She landed at night and went to her father’s house, where she was gladly greeted.
Now, Hinepoupou’s husbands, being tired of Taranaki, had returned to Rangitoto Island. They concealed the fact that they had abandoned page 151 Hinepoupou. She told her father what had happened and they planned revenge. The old chief arranged a fishing expedition in canoes to fish for hapuku on the grounds near Rangitoto. He so arranged matters that the two faithless husbands and their canoe crews were to anchor and fish in a dangerous part of the sea where sea-monsters abounded, while the people of the island fished in the safer hapuku grounds. He, too, gave orders that on the first sign of a storm the Rangitoto men were to haul up their anchors (which were light ones) quickly and make for the shore. As for Manihinihi-pounamu and his brother, their canoes were provided with clumsy anchors of stone and with heavy ropes, which would take a long time to haul up.
The fishing canoes set out. The old tohunga and his daughter set to at their incantations, calling on Tawhiri-matea, the god of the winds, to send a great storm, and upon Kaikai-a-waro, the taniwha (“Pelorus Jack,” the Maoris say, was its incarnation) to raise a furious sea, and to overwhelm the canoes.
The curse fell. A great storm arose. The Rangitoto tribespeople, forewarned, quickly hauled up or else slipped their anchors at the first indication of a brewing gale, and hurried to the shore. The two brothers and their crews, intent on fishing or trying to do so-for the sea-monsters frightened all the hapuku away-held on till too late.
Then all at once the fury of Tawhiri-matea and the sea-gods burst on them. They set to work desperately to haul in their heavy anchors, but they had hardly got them up before their canoes were overwhelmed by the great wind and sea.
They were all lost, every one of them, and so Hinepoupou had her revenge.page breakpage break