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The Autobiography of a Maori

The Love-sick Periwinkle

The Love-sick Periwinkle

Here I would introduce the legend of Te Aoputaputa1 and Niho-makuru, although it is more than probable it has been recorded. For short, I would call the two Te Ao and Niho, quite a Maori custom to abbreviate names. Te Ao and Niho lived together in Titirangi pa, on the left bank of the Turanganui river. Te Ao grew up to be a pretty maiden and was admired by all the young men around. Niho was no exception to Te Ao's charms; on the contrary, he fostered the emotions of his heart and avowed his love for Te Ao quite openly. She, however, did not view things in the same light as did Niho. She could not encourage

1 In another version of the legend, Te Aoputaputa is called Taoputaputa. The former version is correct. Taoputaputa should be correctly written T' Aoputaputa, with the vowel "e" elided.

page 21him and she had to tell him to desist, but Niho persisted. Then Te Ao, in desperation fled to Opotiki, in the Bay of Plenty. Niho waited and waited for Te Ao to return, and, despairing of ever seeing her again, he descended the steep hill down to the beach below where he picked up a periwinkle. Into it he poured his love-sick soul and heart and bade it speed on its way with its message of love.

The tide was good and women were diving for crayfish where the dainty crustaceans were usually found in large number. When the other women's kits bulged with crayfish, they left the water and warmed themselves with a fire on which had been thrown small crayfish. Meanwhile, Te Ao was desperately looking for crayfish for she dreaded going home with an empty kit, but not one could she find. Everywhere she looked even in caverns, where crayfish were usually found, the only object that met her eyes was a solitary periwinkle. To return home with an empty kit would be a disgrace and would form a lively topic for gossip. The tide was coming in fast and she had not a crayfish. She dived once more and, sure enough, the periwinkle was there. Disgusted and ashamed, she put it in her kit and waited for her companions to leave for home, lest they should see her empty kit. She walked slowly towards the fire and, pushing the sticks together, she threw the fateful periwinkle on the fire. As it became heated, it began to sing1, to sing such a sweet song as she had never in all her life heard. The plaintive song entered her soul; in truth, Niho's soul, which had been poured into the periwinkle had entered hers and, although they were miles apart in body, in soul and spirit they were one, eternally one. As Te Ao had fled from Niho, now she, borne on the wings of love, sped to his arms, ready to receive her at Titirangi.

1 Readers may be aware that shell-fish, like a periwinkle, when heated in the fire, do sing.

page 22

The story of Te Aoputaputa and Nihomakuru, if it has been written already, I am sure, can stand repetition.

The name, Nihomakuru, appears amongst those of my ancestors. The ancestors of Ngati-Porou once lived in Titirangi pa as they did also at Whangara, It may also be mentioned that the larger southern boundary of the Ngati-Porou Tribe is the Turanganui River, or, to be more correct, Te Toka-a-Taiau in the river, and it thus includes Titirangi pa. Taiau, after whom the rock was named, was an ancestor of the Ngati-Porou Tribe.