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The Coming of the Maori

Calculations, Mental Alertness, Memorizing

Calculations, Mental Alertness, Memorizing

Riddles (panga), word play (rotarota), and story telling (korero tara) required no material aids but a game termed torere or mu torere required a board and men. See Best (18, p. 60).

Fig. 66. Mu torere board (after Best, 18, fig. 61).

Fig. 66. Mu torere board (after Best, 18, fig. 61).

The mu torere board was made of a hewn slab marked with charcoal in a diagram with a central circle (putahi) and eight evenly spread radials termed kawai after the tentacles of an octopus which the figure was supposed to represent. Another form of board was made of the inner bark of the totara, the inner side of which was marked with the diagram while green, the marks remaining permanent when the bark dried. Straight sticks were tied on either side of each end to prevent curling-Temporary diagrams were marked on the ground with a pointed stick. The men (perepere) consisted of two sets of four pebbles marked to distinguish the two sets.

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The game was played by two players and a sample given by Best (18, p. 61) may be followed on the figure adapted from Best's illustration (Fig. 66).

The men are placed on the ends of the radials, White having 1 to 4 and Black, 5 to 8. Moves may be made from a radial to the centre (putahi), from the centre to an unoccupied radial, and from a radial direct to an adjoining radial when it is unoccupied. However, a man cannot be moved to the centre unless it adjoins a radial occupied by an opponent's man. Thus if Black opens the game, he may move 5 or 8 to the centre but not 6 or 7 as that would block the game in one move.

Try the following specimen game given by Best.

Black opens with 5 to centre and White moves 4 to 5.
Black moves centre to 4 and White moves 3 to centre.
Black moves 4 to 3 and White moves centre to 4.
Black moves 3 to centre and White moves 2 to 3.
Black moves centre to 2 and White moves 4 to centre.

Black cannot move and White wins.

The Maori readily took to the European game of draughts which they called mu, popularly regarded as the Maori equivalent of move. The occurrence of mu as a synonym of konane in Hawaii would convey the idea that both countries had received their respective games from a foreign people who used the word "move" in the game.

The occurrence of the name mu in Hawaii, on the other hand, might be regarded as evidence that a game called mu was old Polynesian but as the Maori and Hawaiian games are so widely divergent and no trace of either occur in the rest of Polynesia, it is apparent that the games originated independently in the two areas. The Maori game was known only to the Ngati Porou of the east coast and some of their authorities maintained that the game was pre-European. Failing some similar English game which might have been introduced, the Ngati Porou may be given the credit of having invented the game. It is probable, however, that the game was originally known as torere and the prefix mu added after the introduced game of draughts became known as mu.