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Legends of the Maori

Chapter VI. — The Warrior Deeds of Kaihamu. — The Story of Tuparahaki and the Head of Te — Rangihouhirl

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Chapter VI.
The Warrior Deeds of Kaihamu.

The Story of Tuparahaki and the Head of Te

A FAMOUS man among our Tainui ancestors of those ancient times was the chief Kaihamu, who became a great fighting leader. He was also wise in the sacred arts of our race, a skilled tohunga and worker of magic and enchantments. This is the story of his warrior life, and of the manner in which he won the love of the renowned Tuparahaki, a young chieftainess of the eastern coast.

Kaihamu was the son of Mango, some of whose deeds have been related in the last chapter. There was another son of Mango; his name was Uetapu. Both he and Kaihamu were educated in the lore of priesthood and the arts of magic, but of the two Kaihamu was the more expert. After the death of their father, their mother Hiapoto returned to her people, the Nga-Rauru tribe, of Waitotara, on the West Coast south of Taranaki, and there she lived for the rest of her life.

When the two young men Uetapu and Kaihamu became skilled warriors they both left Kawhia seeking adventure in distant lands, and they travelled across the island to the eastern side, to the land which was called Tapuika in those days; it is the country between the Rotorua lakes and the Bay of Plenty coast. There they both found wives. Uetapu married Puaroa. Kaihamu won the love of the young chieftainess Tuparahaki, and the tradition of that marriage and the manner in which it came about will now be related.

* * *

Tuparahaki was a girl of high birth, the daughter of a woman of aristocratic lineage named Te Kahureremoa, who was of Tainui and Aotea descent, and the warrior chief Takakopiri; their love story is a tradition of beauty, but it does not concern the present history. The girl was set apart as a puhi, a virgin, who should not have love affairs until she was ceremoniously given in marriage by her people. As she grew up she was sought in marriage by a young chief of the Waitaha tribe, in the Tapuika country. She returned his love and they became man and wife. This page 29 young chief’s name was Tukutehe. They lived at Maketu, on the Bay of Plenty shore—a village with the same Hawaikian name as that given to the landing place of the Tainui canoe. This Maketu was where the Arawa crew had landed, and many of the descendants of that crew lived in the large fortified pa above the beach, as well as in a strong pa named Pukemaire, on a hill a short distance inland overlooking the estuary of the Kaituna River.

Tuparahaki had been married but a little while when war burst upon the tribe, the Ngaoho, or Arawa. From the eastward came a wandering band of warriors, the fugitive tribe of Te Rangihouhiri, commanded by a bold and masterful chief, whose name was also Te Rangihouhiri. They were of the old aboriginal people, and they came from the Awa-a-te-Atua, seeking a new home. They captured Maketu and also the pa Pukemaire, which they made their headquarters for the permanent conquest of the country round about.

The Ngaoho of Maketu were overpowered, and for the time being dispossessed, and fled inland to recruit their forces for a great battle with the invaders. Meanwhile, placing his trust in their words of peace, Tukutehe had rashly ventured amongst his enemies, near Pukemaire, but the chief, Te Rangihouhiri, treacherously killed him.

When the news of Tukutehe’s murder reached Tuparahaki, the young wife was frantic with grief. She lacerated her arms and breasts with sharp flakes of obsidian, as she sang her grief song. There, for days and months, she sat in her lonely whare, speaking little, but ever grieving, ever brooding. For two years she remained in her sad widowhood, and she dried her tears in the thoughts of revenge. For her blood was that of the warrior race, and hatred of her husband’s slayer possessed her.

Tuparahaki was still but a girl, and the fame of her rank and beauty brought many young chiefs from other parts of the island—from the Ngapuhi country, from Kawhia and Waikato, from Taupo, from the East Cape. One after another they sought her to wife, but she refused them all. She stood up in the crowded council-hall one night, when many visitors from distant tribes were present, and announced that she would not marry any man save him who brought her the head of Te Rangihouhiri.

“Who is Te Rangihouhiri, and how shall we know him?” asked a chief from Waikato.

In reply, Tuparahaki told once more the tale of Tukutehe’s death, and described Te Rangihouhiri and his method of fighting. He was a tall and savage warrior, exceedingly powerful and skilled in the use of the page 30 two-handed wooden sword. Should there be a battle, he would not engage in the combat at the first, but would hold back until the struggle was at its height, and the warriors were in the thick of a furious hand-to-hand encounter. Then he would rush forth, laying about him with terrific sweeps of his weapon, and cut a lane through his enemies, hewing them from his path as if they had been so many stalks of korari—the flower-stems of the flax. When that dread figure joined the fray, ’twas indeed the Rangihouhiri. Many a man had lost his own head in rashly attempting to shift that of the grim warrior of many battles.

The terror of Te Rangihouhiri’s name abated the ardour of many of Tuparahaki’s wooers. The tribe from the east still harassed the lands of Tapuika and Waitaha around Maketu. At last the tribes, calling to their aid the Lakeland Arawa and others, made a combined attempt to expel the invaders.

Kaihamu of Kawhia now enters on the scene. Tuparahaki was by lineage his kinswoman; she was a distant cousin on the Tainui whakapapa or genealogy. When he beheld the mournful face of the beautiful young girl Tuparahaki, his heart straightway went out to her, and being made aware of the conditions upon which he could win her, he resolved to take Te Rangihouhiri’s head or fall on the field of battle. He learned all he could of the enemy’s chieftain, and his manner of fighting, so that he could mark his man in the midst of the combat.

Tuparahaki, for her part, was greatly pleased with the manly vigour and warrior mien of her champion. She observed his physical excellence; she saw that he would make a satisfying husband as well as a fighting hero. She told him all she knew of her hated foeman’s tactics.

There was much jealousy of Kaihamu among some of the other chiefs, and they made disparaging remarks about his war-party, which numbered only seventy men. These Kawhia warriors were all lodged in one house, and Kaihamu’s rivals intended to march off very early in the morning while he and his men slept.

Now, it was the custom then for an old slave to keep watch without during the night and to call out the movements of the stars as morning approached. But Kaihamu induced the watchman to tell the other chiefs when they awoke and enquired the time, that the Waka-a-Tamarereti (the Southern Cross) had not yet “turned over” (“the Cross swings low for the morn”). As a result of this stratagem the Kawhia warriors were prepared and away on the trail while the other companies still slumbered. By stratagem, too, when the combat began, Kaihamu made his party, held in page 31 reserve in the woods, seem larger than it actually was. He ordered his men to shake the aka, the forest vines, violently and frequently along the edge of the bush, so that the foemen would imagine there was a large army there awaiting the signal to dash into the battle.

That great conflict on the tableland called Te Whare-o-te-Rangimarere, between the Waihi estuary and the mouth of the Kaituna, at Maketu, became known to fame as Te Poporo-huamea. Te Rangihouhiri and his tribe left their entrenchments and fought boldly in the open. Spear clashed on spear, and stone axes, in the hands of wild, naked men, smote through skulls and severed limbs; and with loud battle-cries the chiefs incited their warriors. The lines of struggling, fighting men swayed now this way, now that. It was desperate work, and each man fought for his own hand.

Kaihamu stood apart, waiting for the slayer of Tuparahaki’s husband. At last, when the roar of the battle was loudest, and dead and wounded strewed the field, Te Rangihouhiri appeared. A tall and powerful tattooed warrior, grey-haired, but athletic as his youngest follower, he leaped into the thick of the fight. Anana! A very toa! Like a whirlwind he rushed through his foes, smiting them down right and left with great blows of his two-handed hardwood weapon—just like koraki stalks, as Tuparahaki had described. Right through his adversaries he rushed, then turned, and, smiting with gigantic blows, he clove his way back again.

Then he met Kaihamu. Never was there a fight like that! Kaihamu was armed with a taiaha of akeake wood, and with this he parried the sounding blows that Rangihouhiri showered upon him. But the older man’s terrible work had wearied his mighty arm. Warily Kaihamu fought—then, with a sudden lightning stroke, he felled his foeman to the ground. The next moment he ran the tongue-shaped point of his taiaha through the old warrior’s throat—and that was the last of Te Rangihouhiri.

Kaihamu, unnoticed by his fellows, took the dead man’s sharp-edged greenstone mere from his belt (it had once been Tukutehe’s), and with it cut off his head. He stripped the body of the short garment of dogskin which was one of Te Rangihouhiri’s most envied possessions. The head, the mere, and the topuni he wrapped up in a flax mat taken from the field, and then watched the progress of the fight.

The tribe of the dead Te Rangihouhiri were not defeated in that day’s battle; many months were to pass before the invaders finally went on to settle at Tauranga. But in the village of Tuparahaki there was rejoicing, because the dreaded and hated chief had fallen. The warriors home from page 32 the field sang their proud waiata and poi, and recited their battle deeds. It was known that Te Rangihouhiri had fallen, but by whose hand?

One after another the warriors who had slain a foeman rushed up brandishing a ghastly head. For many of them were strangers, and knew not the appearance of Te Rangihouhiri. Up and down they rushed, gripping their trophies by long and blood-matted hair. But the chieftainess made no sign.

At last out walked Kaihamu, the young and brave. His eyes flashed with living fire, his head was decked with snowy feathers of the toroa the albatross—his face was covered with the symmetrical lines of blue tattoo; red war-paint on his cheeks. He looked, indeed, a hero.

Pacing down the centre of the marae, Kaihamu stopped short in front of Tuparahaki, and drew from under his mat a beautiful greenstone mere, and held it above his head.

Ka-tahi,” exclaimed Tuparahaki, when her glistening eyes recognised the weapon. “That’s one token. Go on.”

With stately stride the young chief returned to the other end of the parade ground. When he came back he had a rolled-up garment in his hand. This he unfolded and threw round his shoulders. It was the dogskin mat.

Ka-rua!” said the lady. “That’s two. Tena!

Quickly the hero came once more to Tuparahaki and, with a cry of triumph, she beheld the severed head of a grey tattooed warrior as Kaihamu flourished it before her.

Ae! It is Te Rangihouhiri!” cried Tuparahaki. “No more will the wairua of Tukutehe come before me in the night and cry for vengeance. Tukutehe is avenged—and you shall be my husband!”

So Kaihamu won his love. Great were the rejoicings of the tribes, for they had gained a noble warrior; and the mournful face of their chieftainess no more reproached them. But Tuparahaki stayed no longer in the country of the Arawa. Kaihamu’s people became her people, and his land her home. Presently Kaihamu returned alone to his kainga on the shores of Kawhia to prepare a fitting reception and home for his wife. She followed later with her retainers and a guide to her husband’s people, halting only at those places that Kaihamu had karakia’d and made sacred as resting places for her. These places were made known by Kaihamu’s dog, which lay down on each stage of the journey on the spot made tapu by its owner; there the party camped. And grand indeed was the loud powhiri of greeting which the people of Kaihamu’s pa chanted as the page 33
Tuparahaki the Widow.

Tuparahaki the Widow.

page break page 35 ariki lady of Tainui, of Aotea, and of Ngaoho approached—the manuhirituarangi (stranger from beyond the sky):

“Haere-mail Haere-mai!
Welcome hither, lovely stranger;
’Twas our dearest son that brought thee,
Brought thee from the eastern seashore,
From the bounds of earth and heaven,
From the very distant places.
Welcome-welcome to our home!”

So the avenger of Tukutehe and his wife lived for the rest of their lives at Kawhia, in the land of their ancestors.