Polynesian Mythology and Ancient Traditional History of the New Zealand Race
The Legend of Kae's Theft of the Whale
The Legend of Kae's Theft of the Whale.
Soon after Tuhuruhuru was born, Tinirau endeavoured to find a skilful magician, who might perform the necessary enchantments and incantations to render the child a fortunate and successful warrior, and Kae was the name of the old magician, whom some of his friends brought to him for this purpose. In due time Kae arrived at the village where Tinirau lived, and he performed the proper enchantments with fitting ceremonies over the infant.
When all these things had been rightly concluded, Tinirau gave a signal to a pet whale that he had tamed, to come on shore; this whale's name was Tutunui. When it knew that its master wanted it, it left the ocean in which it was sporting about, and came to the shore, and its master laid hold of it, and cut a slice of its flesh off to make a feast for the old magician, and he cooked it, and gave a portion of it to Kae, who found it very savoury, and praised the dish very much.
Shortly afterwards, Kae said it was necessary for him to return to his own village, which was named Te Tihi-o-Manono; so Tinirau ordered a canoe to be got ready for him to take him back, but Kae made excuses, and said he did not like to go back in the canoe, and remained where he was. This, however, was a mere trick upon his part, his real object being to get Tinirau to permit him to go back upon the whale, upon Tutunui, for he now knew how savoury the flesh of that fish was.
At last Tinirau lent Tutunui to the old magician to carry him home, but he gave him very particular directions, telling him, “When you get so near the shore, that the fish touches the page 56 bottom, it will shake itself to let you know, and you must then, without any delay, jump off it upon the right side.”
He then wished Kae farewell, and the old magician started, and away went the whale through the water with him.
When they came close to the shore at Kae’s village, and the whale felt the bottom, it shook itself as a sign to Kae to jump off and wade ashore, but it was of no use; the old magician stuck fast to the whale, and pressed it down against the bottom as hard as he could. In vain the fish continued to shake itself; Kae held on to it, and would not jump off, and in its struggles the blow-holes of Tutunui got stopped up with sand, and it died.
Kae and his people then managed to drag up the body of Tutunui on shore, intending to feast upon it; and this circumstance became afterwards the cause of a war against that tribe, who were called “The descendants of Poporokewa.” When they had dragged Tutunui on shore, they cut its body up and cooked it in ovens, covering the flesh up with the fragrant leaves of the Koromiko before they heaped earth upon the ovens, and the fat of Tutunui adhered to the leaves of the Koromiko, and they continue greasy to this day, so that if Koromiko boughs are put upon the fire and become greasy, the proverb says—“There’s some of the savouriness of Tutunui.”
Tinirau continued anxiously to look for the return of Tutunui, and when a long time had elapsed without its coming back again, he began to say to himself, “Well, I wonder where my whale can be stopping!” But when Kae and his people had cooked the flesh of the whale, and the ovens were opened, a savoury scent was wafted across the sea to Tinirau, and both he and his wife smelt it quite plainly, and then they knew very well that Kae had killed the pet which they had tamed for their little darling Tuhuruhuru, and that he had eaten it.
Without any delay, Tinirau’s people dragged down to the sea a large canoe which belonged to one of his wives, and forty women forthwith embarked in it; none but women went, as this would be less likely to excite any suspicion in Kae that they had come with a hostile object; amongst them were Hine-i-te-iwaiwa, Raukatauri, page 57 Raukatamea, Itiiti, Rekareka, and Rau-hau-a-Tangaroa and other females of note, whose names have not been preserved. Just before the canoe started, Tinirau's youngest sister asked him, “What are the marks by which we shall know Kae?” and he answered her, “Oh, you cannot mistake him, his teeth are uneven and all overlap one another.”
Well, away they paddled, and in due time they arrived at the village of the old magician Kae, and his tribe all collected to see the strangers. Towards night, when it grew dark, a fire was lighted in the house of Kae, and a crowd collected inside it until it was filled; one side was quite occupied with the crowd of visitors, and the other side of the house with the people of Kae's tribe. The old magician himself sat at the foot of the main pillar which supported the roof of the house, and mats were laid down there for him to sleep on, but the strangers did not yet know which was Kae, for it did not accord with the Maori's rules of politeness to ask the names of the chiefs, it being supposed from their fame and greatness that they are known by everybody.
In order to find out which was Kae, Tinirau's people had arranged that they would try by wit and fun to make everybody laugh, and, when the people opened their mouths, to watch which of them had uneven teeth that lapped across one another, and thus discover which was Kae.
In order, therefore, to make them laugh, Raukatauri exhibited all her amusing tricks and games; she made them sing and play upon the flute, and upon the putorino, and beat time with castanets of bone and wood whilst they sang; and they played at mora, and the kind of ti in which many motions are made with the fingers and hands, and the kind of ti in which, whilst the players sing, they rapidly throw short sticks to one another, keeping time to the tune which they are singing; and she played upon an instrument like a jew's-harp for them, and made puppets dance, and made them all sing whilst they played with large whizgigs; and after they had done all these things the man they thought was Kae had never even once laughed.page 58
Then the party who had come from Tinirau's all began to consult together, and to say, “What can we do to make that fellow laugh?” and for a long time they thought of some plan by which they might take Kae in, and make him laugh; at last they thought of one, which was that they should all sing a droll comic song. So suddenly they all began to sing together, at the same time making most curious faces, and shaking their hands and arms in time to the tune.
When they had ended their song, the old magician could not help laughing out quite heartily, and those who were watching him closely at once recognised him, for there they saw pieces of the flesh of Tutunui still sticking between his teeth, and his teeth were uneven and all overlapped one another. From this circumstance a proverb has been preserved among the Maoris to the present day—for if any one on listening to a story told by another is amused at it and laughs, one of the bystanders says, “Ah, there's Kae laughing.”
No sooner did the women who had come from Tinirau's see the flesh of Tutunui sticking in Kae's teeth than they made an excuse for letting the fire burn dimly in the house, saying that they wanted to go to sleep—their real object, however, being to be able to perform their enchantments without being seen; but the old magician, who suspected something, took two round pieces of mother-of-pearl shell, and stuck one in the socket of each eye, so that the strangers, observing the faint rays of light reflected from the surface of the mother-of-pearl, might think they saw the white of his eyes, and that he was still awake.
The women from Tinirau's went on, however, with their enchantments, and by their magical arts threw every one in the house into an enchanted sleep, with the intention, when they had done this, of carrying off Kae by stealth. So soon as Kae and the people in the house were all deep in this enchanted sleep, the women ranged themselves in a long row the whole way from the place where Kae was sleeping down to their canoe. They all stood in a straight line, with a little interval between each of them; and then two of them went to fetch Kae, and lifted the old page 59 magician gently up, rolled up in his cloaks, just as he had laid himself down to sleep, and placed him gently in the arms of those who stood near the door, who passed him on to two others, and thus they handed him on from one to another until he at last reached the arms of the two women who were standing in the canoe ready to receive him; and they laid him down very gently in the canoe, fast asleep as he was; and thus the old magician Kae was carried off by Hine-i-te-iwaiwa and Raukatauri.
When the women reached the village of Tinirau in their canoe, they again took up Kae, and carried him very gently up to the house of Tinirau, and laid him down fast asleep close to the central pillar, which supported the ridge-pole of the house, so that the place where he slept in the house of Tinirau was exactly like his sleeping-place in his own house. The house of Kae was however, a large circular house, without a ridge-pole, but with rafters springing from the central pillar running down like rays to low side posts in the circular wall; whilst the house of Tinirau was a long house, with a ridge-pole running the entire length of the roof, and resting upon the pillar in its centre.
When Tinirau heard that the old magician had been brought to his village, he caused orders to be given to his tribe that when he made his appearance in the morning, going to the house where Kae was, they should all call out loud, “Here comes Tinirau, here comes Tinirau,” as if he was coming as a visitor into the village of Kae, so that the old magician on hearing them might think that he was still at home.
At broad daylight next morning, when Tinirau's people saw him passing along through the village towards his house, they all shouted aloud, “Here comes Tinirau, here comes Tinirau;” and Kae, who heard the cries, started up from his enchanted sleep quite drowsy and confused, whilst Tinirau passed straight on, and sat down just outside the door of his house, so that he could look into it, and, looking in, he saw Kae, and saluted him, saying, “Salutations to you, O Kae!” and then he asked him, saying, “How came you here?” and the old magician replied, “Nay, but rather how came you here?”page 60
Tinirau replied, “Just look, then, at the house, and see if you recognise it?”
But Kae, who was still stupified by his sleep, looking round, saw he was lying in his own place at the foot of the pillar, and said, “This is my house.”
Tinirau asked him, “Where was the window placed in your house?”
Kae started and looked; the whole appearance of his house appeared to be changed; he at once guessed the truth, that the house he was in belonged to Tinirau; and the old magician, who saw that his hour had come, bowed down his head in silence to the earth, and they seized him, and dragged him out and slew him: thus perished Kae.
The news of his death at last reached his tribe—the descendants of Poporokewa; and they eventually attacked the fortress of Tinirau with a large army, and avenged the death of Kae by slaying Tinirau's son.