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Legends of the Maori

Chapter XII. — Utu: a Story of Retribution. — The Last Fight of Taituha

page 60

Chapter XII.
Utu: a Story of Retribution.

The Last Fight of Taituha.

AT this period, in Toa-Rangatira’s time, a certain woman of his tribe, one Kahukino, married a man by the name of Taituha, of the Parekarau tribe. They lived on the beach at Awakino, on the West Coast, near the Mokau, with the husband’s people. One day a relative of Kahukino called in to see her; the man’s name was Pahautakere. As soon as an opportunity offered Taituha killed him.

When Toa-Rangatira heard that Pahautakere had wantonly been murdered, he immediately despatched a messenger to Kawharu to come to join forces with him in seeking utu—revenge, payment—for his relative. Kawharu did so, and the united parties attacked the pa. They stormed the defences and rushed in, killing all in their way.

Taituha, as soon as he saw his village taken, jumped over the fence of the pa to escape, but Kawharu chased and caught him, and brought him to Toa-Rangatira. The moment he saw Toa-Rangatira the captive knew his days were numbered. So he began to farewell the tides and shores of his home. “O ye tides of Rapa!” he chanted in his death song.

His captors said to him, “What are the foods of your ocean that you are lamenting?” A man named Tai-te-whare replied, “He paua kai angatahi, he papaka tai horahia auahi tokarakara,” meaning “The haliotis of but one shell, the crabs spread by the tides and made savoury by fire, whose flavour long remains on the palate.”

And those leaders of the army asked Tai-te-whare who would seek for payment for his death. To this Taituha replied:

“Taka rakau utu mo Tai,
Mate ki te wai hei utu mo Tai,
Wera i te ahi hei utu mo Tai,
Taka i te pari hei utu mo Tai,
Mate taua hei utu mo Tai,
Mate kongenge hei utu mo Tai,
Nga mate katoa hei utu mo Taituha.”

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“Death by falling off a tree to avenge Tai;
Death by drowning to avenge Tai;
Death by fire to avenge Tai;
Death by falling over a cliff to avenge Tai;
Death by a war-party to avenge Tai;
Death by old age to avenge Tai;
All kinds of death to avenge Tai.”

The victor chiefs spoke again, and said to Taituha, “You are a man of renown in warfare; let us see you in action.”

“I have no weapon,” said Taituha.

So they gave him his old beloved pouwhenua, a hardwood broadsword with the butt-end sharp like a spear. Taituha sprang forth, weapon in hand, exhibiting the art and fine points of the handling of a pouwhenua. He was of a mind to kill the old warrior, Toa-Rangatira, or Kawharu, or both; but he could not get near enough to them. But he got close to Paraua, and with one stroke of his weapon he killed his man. Then his foes rushed at him, and he was slain; and he lay there with his loved weapon tightly gripped in his hands.

The land from the Awakino river to the mouth of the Kawhia harbour Toa-Rangatira took for his own; and the land on the other side, as far as Rangiahua, was in the hands of his son-in-law, Kawharu. Such was the fruit of victory.