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Games and Pastimes of the Maori

Story Telling

Story Telling

Here we have to deal with a much favoured recreation of the Maori people, one appreciated by both young and old folks. Young page 120children had their simple tales, handed down from one generation to another, fables or folk tales. Young men and women memorised folk lore and historical traditions, and these were repeated when they assembled together at night. The old men were always ready to check any errors in such recitals, or supply omissions. At these social meetings there were no recitals of the superior myths and traditions, the versions taught only within the tapu school of learning, but only secondary matter, ordinary traditions, myths, etc., such as were known as korero parukau and 'oven-side' stories, or, as we would say, fire-side tales. Many of these described the origin of man, and the doings of demi-gods and ancient heroes, etc., in a popular manner always viewed by adepts as being good enough for common folk, but by no means correct. The inner or esoteric versions were made known only to a few specialists who passed through the school of learning and its ceremonial.

Some of the stories told were simply retailed as a form of amusement, some were instructive, and some illustrated the advantages of industry, courage, and other qualities. Many showed the dread effects of transgressing the laws of tapu. Some of the fables, such as that of the Ant and the Cicada bear a strong resemblance to those of Aesop.

The Maori is exceptionally good at story telling and his language lends itself to that purpose, such recitals being illustrated by innumerable expressive gestures. On returning from a journey a Maori will keep his friends interested for several evenings by relating his experiences during his journey, no detail of which will be neglected during his recital.

Descriptive of the native love of story telling and relating news, Wakefield says:—"Our friend Jim Crow found many old friends and relations at Pito-one, and his audience was by no means the least numerous or attentive. Nothing can remind one more forcibly of the monkey who had seen the world, than a Maori thus relating news. He is an incorrigible exaggerator, and swells each minute circumstance into an affair of state, taking delight in drawing repeated exclamations of amazement from his audience."

There was no class of professional story tellers in Maoriland, nearly all could tell a story well, or make a good speech. All ordinary stories, myths and folk tales, termed karero tara and korero purakau, were acquired by both sexes, there being no restrictions except in the case of what was deemed high-class matter. Ceremonial recitals, sacerdotal myths, and revered lines of genealogies came under this head.

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No specimens of the old folk tales, legends, fables, and children's tales are given here, as such matter would be much too bulky to be inserted, and, moreover, it is proposed to publish them under a more suitable title.