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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 75

The Story of Rakahanga : A Legend of the Tauira, or Aboriginal People of Waikare-moana

The Story of Rakahanga : A Legend of the Tauira, or Aboriginal People of Waikare-moana.

Rakahanga-i-te-rangi was a puhi (a virgin, a betrothed girl) of ancient times, and dwelt with her people at Turanga (Poverty Bay) The fame of her beauty reached the chiefs of the multitude of Tauira, who dwelt by the shores of the "Rippling Sea of Waikare." So the thought grew, "Let us acquire this famous and lovely lady as a wife for one of us." Then Rongo-tama, a descendant of Whaitiri, with Hau and Rongo-i-te-karangi, formed with great care a party of seventy men, who were so selected as to be all men of fine appearance and of equal size. They were also well trained in the various kinds of songs and dances known to the ancient people Their object was to show what fine men the Tauira were, and how greatly accomplished, that Lady Rakahanga might choose a husband from the visiting chiefs. This kind of expedition is termed a "kai tamahine."

When about to commence their journey, the council of the chiefs decided that Hau was too ugly to form one of the party, as he wore a beard, so it was decided that he should be left behind, for it would never do to parade such a plain fellow before the famous beauty Rakahanga. Thus the party left without him; but Hau who was a man endowed with certain wondrous powers, hid himself beneath the punake, or bow, of the canoe which conveyed the party to Turanga, and so arrived safely at that place, where the men of page 33 Te Tauira landed and proceeded to the village where Rakahanga lived. When they were out of sight, Hau came forth from his place of concealment and hid himself until nightfall.

In the evening all met in the whare-tapere or amusement-house of the pa, where the visitors were to show their various accomplishments, in order that one of their number might find favour in the Eyes of Rakahanga. And some of the village people were sent to collect fuel, which was to be carefully selected in order that the fires in the whare-tapere might burn clearly and not smoke. But that deceitful Hau drew near, and caused those fires to smoke dreadfully, by means of the following karakia :—

Ka pu auahi ra runga,
Ka pu auahi ra raro.
Gather together the smoke from above,
Gather together the smoke from below.

This incantation, in fact, produced so much smoke that many of the people, including our heroine, rushed forth from the house into the darkness of night, where Rakahanga was met by Hau, who, favoured by the gloom of night, which concealed his ugliness, and more so by a spell termed tau-patiti,* managed to ingratiate himself with the much-sought Rakahanga. So much indeed did he take that lady's fancy that she determined to choose this man as her husband, and so she marked him by pinching his forehead, that she might know him when they met in the light of day.

The next morning when all were assembled, Rakahanga proceeded to search for the man she had chosen as her husband, looking closely at each of the visitors in order to detect her mark. For a long time she failed to detect this marked man, until at last Hau appeared, and then poor Raka' was much disgusted to find in him so ill-favoured a man. And the other chiefs were much disgusted that this ugly fellow should win so charming a girl. So the chief Kiwi, disregarding Hau's claims, took Rakahanga as a wife for himself, and, accompanied by his friend Weka, they started by an inland track to Waikare. The deserted Hau was indignant at losing his promised wife, and started in pursuit. As he journeyed on through the forest he came to where two men named Tane-here-ti and Tane-here-pi were spearing pigeons in a tree. Hau inquired of these men whether they had seen any travellers pass by. They replied, "Yes, two men and a woman have passed here." So Hau went on until he reached Waimaha, where he overtook Kiwi and his companions, Hau armed with his famous greenstone battle-axe, Hawea-te-ma-rama at once attacked the two men, and slew Kiwi, but Weka and Rakahanga escaped and fled far away into the forest. Friend, lest you be misled, this is not the same Weka who married Toroa, for that was long after.

And so Weka and Raka' travelled on across the great hills until Bey came to Te Reinga Falls, on the Wairoa River. The night was falling when they arrived at that place; the darkness settled down as they traversed the summit of the dread cliff above the falls; a page 34 great fear came upon Raka', and she said, "Friend! let us [unclear: l] cautious, lest we fall from this great cliff." But Weka said, [unclear: "Fe] not; this is the track by which we go." But as he spoke they came to the highest and most dangerous part of the cliff, and [unclear: We] quickly turned and thrust the poor girl over the edge of the [unclear: ro] into the black chasm below. The reason of this act was the [unclear: fas] that Raka' had favoured the ugly man Hau at Turanga-nui-a-Rua.

Thus, in that fearful chasm, perished Rakahanga-i-te-rangi, the famous puhi of old. And her last words were, "He po Rakahanga raru ai" ("By darkness was Rakahanga confounded").

Those who have heard the story of Wairaka of Mata-atua [unclear: cance] will at once recognise the resemblance that this story of Rakahanga bears to it. It may be noted that many of the stories told concerning the ancestors of the present Maori people are also related by [unclear: th] descendants of the pre-Maori aborigines as having occurred in the times of their ancestors, and long before the arrival of the histories Maori fleet from the Hawaikian fatherland in about 1350. [unclear: Were] the origin of these old legends known, it is probable that the ancient people would carry the day as the originators thereof.

Another tradition of this kind is—

* Tau-patiti. This karakia is now called by us an iri.