Legends of the Maori
The Story of Te Aohuruhuru
The Story of Te Aohuruhuru
NOW, Pamaramarama was the name of the village of Te Aohuruhuru’s husband. The husband was an old man. His wife was a plebian. He had forcibly taken her away from the man whom she had dearly loved. The reason why he took this woman was that she was good, beautiful and industrious. She cooked; she wove garments for this old man. Indeed her service was that of a servant to this old man, but at the same time perhaps her love remained constant to the man whom she had dearly loved. She remained a very long time with the old man.
After a time this old man degraded her, and in this fashion. They had been asleep one night when the old man got up and gazed at his young wife deep in unconscious slumber. Her garments had slipped down because of the restless tossing of the arms and feet, due to the heat. Then he lit a fire. The fire blazed. He looked and saw that she was nude. Then that old man gloated (pondered) over his exceedingly good fortune. The wavy hair gleamed in the glow of the fire; her body pink, her skin shining; her face like a perfect summer’s day—calm, exquisite. The breast of the young woman when she breathed was like the gentle rise and fall of the blushing sea at sunset.
For long the old man devoured the loveliness of his girl wife. Then he awakened his old men companions in the house so that they might enjoy the beauty of his wife. While they were gazing at her she awakened, but by that time she was being gazed upon by the numerous old men of that house.
The woman arose, overwhelmed with shame. The beautiful morn became overshadowed by clouds; the bosom became agitated like unto the earth quaking. She was overcome with shame. Her hands seized the clothes to cover herself; then she went hurriedly to the corner of the house, wept, wept till the dawning of the day.
As soon as it was daybreak, the old man and his companions embarked in a canoe and paddled far out to sea to catch fish. While the old man and his companions were away fishing the woman began to think of the enormity of her husband’s offence in regard to herself. Thoughts of suicide entered her mind.page 110
Now, there stands a lofty rock on the coast line and its name is “Te Aohuruhuru’s Leap.” The young woman began to adorn herself. She combed her hair and beautified herself with her kaitaka cloaks, and placed feathers in her hair—the feathers of the huia, kotuku and the albatross— and so completed her toilet. Then the young woman arose and climbed to the top of the high rock and seated herself. Her thoughts turned to composing a lament.
By the time the words of the song were completed the husband and his companions were paddling homeward. Their canoe approached the rock on which she sat. Then they heard the young woman singing her dirge. As they came near they heard the words wafted along with the rippling of the tide, like some resounding echo by the cliffs. Apprehensions assailed the old man. He heard the words of the song. The singer lamented that as she slept unsuspecting with limbs outstretched the fire was made to give more light and so she was laughed at.
When Te Aohuruhuru had finished singing she leaped from the cliff. The men saw the whiteness of her raiment as she leaped. They landed at the base of the rock; and they saw her lying mangled there. As some carved canoe is shattered on the shore, so was it with that young woman. Such was the utter waste of her beauty.
To this day we remember that rock as Te Aohuruhuru’s Leap; and we remember the words of the young woman’s dirge; and when visitors come here we lead them to that rock to see it.
The original of this legend (here translated for the first time) was published in “Nga Mahi a Nga Tupuna,” new edition, embodying MS. stories in Maori by Sir George Grey, deposited in the Cape Town Library and recently obtained, through the efforts of Bishop H. W. Williams, for the Grey Collection, in the Auckland Municipal Library.