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The Autobiography of a Maori

A Maori Woman's Struggle with an Octopus

A Maori Woman's Struggle with an Octopus

After writing the above story, of which I had some doubts as to its credibility, I learned that catching octopuses was a fairly common practice among the Maoris at Te Araroa.

Rua Hoerara once told me that his sister, Mrs. Paea Henderson, a grand-daughter-in-law of Katene Ngatoko, referred to above, used to catch octopuses at Paripaopao. On an incoming tide the presence of an octopus would be indicated by the scattering of crayfish and crabs. Paea would then slip into the water and feel under the rocks with her feet until she touched one.

One day, when searching in this fashion, a fair-sized octopus sent some of its long tentacles right up round her neck. Her head was just above the water but when she tried to move out of the water with the octopus clinging to her body she found she was unable to do so because its other tentacles were still clinging page 144to the bottom of the rocks. As the tide was rising she soon found herself in difficulties. She knew that unless she could lift the clinging octopus out of the water she would soon be drowned. The only person within call was a white man who was working on the shore, but, as she was naked, she was afraid to call him to her rescue. She was in a desperate situation. She felt for the creature's body and then with flax which she took from the kit which was tied round her waist she managed to strangle the octopus. It then became limp and so loosened its grip on the rocks and she was able to carry it ashore. The octopus was then taken home and many people came to see it.

Rua once pointed out to me the particular channel in which his sister used to catch octopuses. He also mentioned that a family in Te Araroa regarded the body of an octopus as a delicacy.