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Legends of the Maori

The Explorations of Ruatapu

page 83

The Explorations of Ruatapu

Afterwards another canoe arrived at Aitutaki from raro mai (westward). This made the third canoe that came to the land. This canoe belonged to Ruatapu, who came in search of his children, who had sailed away before him. The eldest son was sent away first, with instructions from his father to go to Avarua (Rarotonga) and be an ariki. His name was Tamaiva. He was followed by his brother, named Moenau, with instructions from his father to go in search of his brother to Avarua: “You will both be ariki there.” Upon the arrival of Ruatapu at Avarua in Rarotonga, where he found his eldest son, who was there ruling as an ariki. Ruatapu at once enquired where Tamaiva’s brother was. He replied: “1 have sent him to Maketu” (? Mauke). At this reply the father said: “Why did you do this? If this is true I have nothing to say; your brother is dead.” Then he went on to say to his son: “O, my son, I am going to find your brother.”

He sailed away, and at last reached Mauke, where he landed and went in search of his son. In this search he examined all he could find in the hope of recognising him. One day he came across a little child with the exact features of his son. He enquired from the child: “Whose child are you?” He replied: “I am the son of Moenau.” As this reply the grandfather became agitated, and said: “You are my own.” He recognised the features of his son, and then enquired from the child: “Where is Moenau?” The child replied: “He is dead; he was killed at Avaavaroa.”

The father, Ruatapu, was much grieved at this, but endured his sorrow in silence. He set his wits to work to find a way for revenge on Mauke for the slaying of his son, who was much beloved. He sent for the people of Pu (Tini o Pu) and the tribes of Oata, who made war on Mauke and exterminated the people. He took his grandson and sailed with his tere for Atiu; here he landed, breaking the makatea (coral rocks) for a road, and did other work there.

He then left Atiu and sailed to the westward until he reached Manuae (Hervey Island). Upon landing there he found the island populated and everything going on well and peacefully. To leave his mark he planted a gardenia (tiare maori) and a coconut tree. The gardenia he named Arava’ia, and the coconut he called Tui-o-rongo.

Ruatapu again went to sea, and sailed to the westward until he reached Aitutaki. He landed through a passage which he called Kopu-a-onu, or “the Belly of Ruatapu.” Upon landing the people quenched their thirst with coconuts at a place which they called Oka, that is, the opening page 84 (of the nut). He there took to wife Tutunoa, to whom was born a son, named Kirikava. Tutunoa and Te-kura, of Oneroa, were the lords of Vai-tupa. When this child reached maturity he built two marae, which were named Au-matangi and Aputu. The boy Kirikava then took to wife Tekura of Oneroa; to them was born a son, named Maevakura.

Ruatapu and Kirikava now set to work and manufactured two long fish-nets. Upon casting their nets all the luck was in favour of the son, while the net of Ruatapu was very unfortunate. This led to a quarrel between them. Ruatapu left his grandson and went to Anaunga, and stopped at Ana-uka. Whilst here a number of people came close by to procure food for the ariki, at Avarua. In those days the people were obliged to bring offerings to their ariki, or lords. (Note.—The people were obliged under severe censure, to carry to the ariki food grown on their land, pigs, large fish, such as sharks, turtle, urua, etc.) Ruatapu enquired from these people: “Where are you going?” They replied: “We are going to procure food for the ariki.

Ruatapu then asked: “Who is the ariki?” They replied: “He is Taruia, who lives at Tara-au-i-o-Rongo.” Ruatapu then sought means to be taken notice of by the ariki. This is the plan he finally adopted. He manufactured toy boats from leaves, and sent them adrift in the lagoon. One of the boats floated close to the seat of the ariki, and was taken before him, who then enquired who this ariki was “who is living at Te-upoko-enua” (head of the land). Ruatapu manufactured another toy canoe made from the leaves of the utu (Barringtonia speciosa). This also ultimately came before the ariki, who made enquiries again as to who this ariki was who lived to the eastward, and sent messengers to have him brought before him.

Delighted with the success of his plan, Ruatapu came before the ariki, Taruia, who was much pleased, and installed Ruatapu as a rangatira, or chief. They henceforth lived as one family. Ruatapu now became acquainted with the ariki’s ways and customs. He saw all the food and fruits that were growing on the island brought as an offering to the ariki, as also all the large fish, such as sharks, turtle, urua, eels, etc. He saw what a fine position the ariki held in the land. Ruatapu now became jealous, and sought means to secure the position for himself.

One day as he was conversing with Taruia he asked Taruia if he would not like another wife. Taruia said: “I would like to get another wife very much. The difficulty is where to find a suitable one.”

This being exactly what Ruatapu wanted, he replied: “I know where there are many handsome women, at the islands I have visited. We will build two canoes and sail to the islands in search of a new wife for you.”

page 85
Kirikava Casts His Net.

Kirikava Casts His Net.

page break page 87

This being agreed upon, they set to work to build two large canoes, one for each of them. The canoe of Ruatapu being finished first, he proposed to Taruia that he should sail first, and Taruia should follow. This was agreed to, and Ruatapu set out. He had not gone further than Maina (a small islet inside the lagoon, but about five miles to the south of the mainland of Aitutaki), when he overturned his canoe purposely.

Upon the completion of Taruia’s canoe he also set sail, and overtook the canoe of Ruatapu floating on the water. Taruia was astonished to find his friend’s canoe overturned, and hastened to his assistance; but Ruatapu said to him: “Never mind, O King! you continue on your voyage; I can manage to right my canoe without your assistance.” So the ariki, Taruia, proceeded on his voyage to Rarotonga, and left Ruatapu to follow him. After Taruia had got a long distance off, Ruatapu quietly righted his canoe and returned to the land, and at once assumed the title of ariki in Taruia’s place.