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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70



Cook, living in the days when mere myths were unvalued untruths, missed an opportunity, He thought, from the description of the Maoris, that the greenstone-country was near at hand to his winter-station at Queen Charlotte Sound, and regretted not being able to visit it, "as we were toll a hundred fabulous stories about this stone, not one of which carried with it the least probability of truth, though some of their most sensible men would have us believe them. One of these stories is that this stone is originally a fish, which they strike with a gig in the water, tie a rope to it, drag it to the shore, to which they fasten it, and it afterwards becomes stone," This was too much for a North Country sailor in the page 7 eighteenth century. Cook probably mistook the learning of the priests for a narrative of current events.

Pounamu was one of the sons of the great Polynesian deity Tangaroa (Lord of the Ocean), who was the son of Rangi (Heaven) and Papa (Earth). Tangaroa married Te Anu-matao (the Chilly Cold, who became the mother of four gods, all of the fish class, of whom Pounamu was one. The substance pounamu, it is said, was formerly supposed to be generated inside a fish (the shark), and only to become hard on exposure to the air.

Poutini was one of the brothers of Pounamu. He gives the name to the mythical stone brought by Ngahue to New Zealand commonly called in story the Fish of Ngahue (vide post). The stone pounamu was by learned Maoris classed with fish. The traditions respecting its discovery at Arahura state that Ngahue found it "in a lifeless state"—that is, unformed.

Tamatea-pokai-whenua, a celebrated ancestor of Maori tribes, in addition to his faithful wives, had three—Hineraukawa, Hinerauharaki, and Te Kohiwai—who deserted him. He sailed right round the South Island in seare h of them, naming the rivers and headlands as he passed. Though he listened for every sound indicative of their presence, it was not until, passing up the west coast, he reached the Arahura River that he heard their voices. He failed, however, to discover his wives, for he did not know that their canoe had been upset here, and they and all the crew had been transformed into stones. His slave, happening to burn his fingers while cooking some birds they had killed, impiously licked them, urged by the pain. He was instantly turned into the mountain Tumuaki, which stands there still; and as a consequence Tamatea never found his wives. Since then the flaws which sometimes discolour the best kinds of greenstone are called tutae-koka—the excrement of the birds the slave was cooking when he did this wrong.