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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 75

The Legend of Rua and Tangaroa.—From the Ancient Nga-Potiki Tribe

The Legend of Rua and Tangaroa.—From the Ancient Nga-Potiki Tribe.

[Rua was a famous ancestor, and lived in very remote times. [unclear: H] was the inventor of carving, hence the expression, "Nga [unclear: mc] whakairo, nga mahi a Rua."* There are many terms and place names in connection with this ancestor. Te Whatu-turei-a-Rua is an ancient term for the meal made from the berries of the hunan tree; Turanga-nui-a-Rua is the name of Poverty Bay; Te Whakaki-nui-a-Rua is a lagoon at Te Wairoa; Tamaki-nui-a-Rua is the name of the Seventy-mile Bush; Te Awa-nui-a-Rua was the ancient name of the Whanganui River, but it is not clear whether such was [unclear: fa] name given by the aborigines of the latter river, or whether it [unclear: w] so termed by Nga-paerangi of Horouta canoe, which people held [unclear: th] valley of the Whanganui some generations before the Aotea [unclear: migra] arrived there.

The following tradition of Rua and Tangaroa is a most singular and interesting remnant of an ancient mythological system, though unfortunately it is impossible to obtain an explanation of it at this late day. Tangaroa is the Polynesian Neptune, the tutelary [unclear: geni] of the great ocean of Kiwa; indeed, in many of the islands of that Pacific he is the Supreme God and Creator. He is represented [unclear: fr] this legend as dwelling in a house beneath the ocean, and his [unclear: tri] is composed of the fishes of the great sea. Maroro, the one member of Tangaroa's tribe who escaped, is the flying-fish. As in other old time legends of these gods and their subjects, the characters are [unclear: a] endowed with the power of speech.

* "The art of carving, the art of Rua."

page 35

The name of Rua is very common in the ancient traditions of Waikare-moana, and the aboriginal Nga-Potiki of Maunga-pohatu, but it does not appear to be now known which Rua is alluded to.]

Rua dwelt in his place in the days of yore, in the very distant times, remote beyond expression. The thought came to him that it would be well to visit Tangaroa-o-whatu. So Rua went to the house of Tangaroa, and on his arrival found that being jubilant over the fine appearance of his house, which, he asserted, had been embellished with wondrous carved figures by Hura-waikato. And Tangaroa said to Rua, "Do you come with me and behold my fine house, for doubtless you came to admire the grand work of Hura-waikato." Now, when Rua saw the house of Tangaroa he was much astonished to find that the wondrous carving of Hura was no carving at all, but simply painted figures, such as are seen on the rafters of our houses. Then Rua asked, "Is this your famous carving?" Tangaroa replied, "Yes, this is the carving." Rua said, "Do you come to my place and see what real carving is," for Rua was the father of the art of carving, and hence comes the expression "Nga mahi whakairo, nga mahi a Rua" (see ante). And the house of Rua was a truly brave sight, so adorned was it with carving and so fine were the figures.

On a certain day Tangaroa set forth to visit the dwelling of Rua. As he approached the house, and while some little distance off, he observed the carved human figure (tekoteko) which adorned the front of the house. So he greeted this figure with the words "Tena ra koe" (Salutations to you), and then, walking up to the tekoteko, he proceeded embrace it, or hongi (rub noses), according to our ancient fashion, not thinking but what this beautiful figure was a living man, so fine was the carving of Rua. As Tangaroa entered the house Rua laughed at him, saying, "This is indeed carving, you see how you have been deceived by it." Then was Tangaroa overcome with shame. He therefore returned sad-hearted to his own place, but before he did so he managed to obtain the pet koko bird (tui) of Rua, which was a clever bird, and much prized by its owner. This evil act he committed under the cover of darkness, and then carried the bird off to his own place, which lies within the ocean. When Rua discovered the loss of his koko he was much grieved, and at once sallied forth in search thereof. After wandering afar off he came to the shores of the ocean, and as the tide broke and flowed back to the Waha-o-Te-Parata* Rua heard the missing koko singing within the great ocean—that is, at the home of Tangaroa. So Rua resolved to obtain his pet bird, and therefore entered the realm of Tangaroa. On his arrival at the latter's house he found that Tangaroa was absent, having gone forth into his great domain. The only beings remaning at the kainga were Tatau the doorkeeper and the koko. Then Rua asked of Tatau, "Where is Tangaroa"? The doorkeeper

* Te Waha-o Te-Parata : The Maoris account for the tides of the ocean by saying that a huge monster dwells at the bottom of the sea named Te Parata, and that it is the inhaling or exhaling of his breath that causes the tides.—Editor.

page 36 replied, "He is abroad in the ocean seeking and slaying food" Rua said, "Will he return to this place?" "When the shades of evening fall he will return," said Tatau. Then Rua instructed Tatau how to act when Tangaroa returned. He said, "When the day dawns and Tangaroa cries out to you, 'Tatau E! draw aside the door,' do you repeat these words,—

E moe. Ko te po nui, ko te po roa,
Ko te po ka whakaua ai te moe
E moe!*

And then, when the rays of the sun come steeply down, do you draw aside the door of the house, that the sun may shine with strength into the home of Tangaroa."

Tangaroa returned home in the evening and entered his house where he and his tribe slept. When morning came and he thought that daylight must be at hand, he cried, "O Tatau! draw aside the door." Then Tatau repeated this incantation :—

Sleep on! Through the great night, the long night,
The night devoted to sound sleep,
Sleep on!

So Tangaroa again slept. When the sun waxed strong, then the sliding-door was opened by Tatau. The sun flashed into the abode of Tangaroa and destroyed him and his people. Maroro was the lone survivor. Heoi!

Of a more singular nature still is—

The Story of Rua-kapana : A Legend of the Ancient People, As preserved by the Nga-Potiki people of Maunga-pohatu, and told by the Kaumatua.

Pou-ranga-hua was a chief of the ancient people of the land He took to wife Kanioro, who it is said was a sister of Taukata who brought the knowledge of the kumara to the aborigines, to [unclear: To] of old. Pou-ranga-hua's place of abode was at Turanga (Poverty Bay), and his were works of wonder in the days of old. One [unclear: of] these labours was the formation of a lake at Te Papuni, which he effected by means of a karakia or incantation, which spell contracted the hills and made them close in across the valley. In my young days I thought that it would be a good idea to drain this lake and so obtain a vast quantity of eels which frequented it. So I took with me a hundred of my young men of Nga-Potiki, and we commenced to dig a large ditch from the lower side of the lake. And as we neared the lake the great body of waters broke in upon us, and we fled swiftly, being nearly overwhelmed by the great rush of the flood. So great indeed was its force that the waters broke out two more small lakes which lay below, and we lost the greater number of those eels.

* This karakia is termed a rotu, its effect being to cause people to fall [unclear: in] a deep sleep.

page 37

And Pou' bethought him of building a house at Turanga-nui-a-Rua. When the house was finished he set forth on a journey to the Kauae-o-Muriranga-whenua in order to obtain takuahi (stones) for a fireplace. When out upon the ocean in his canoe, the wind known as Te Hau-o-pohokura arose and drove his canoe far away across the dark waters. It is said by some that the dread tuniwha (demon) Rua-mano conveyed Pou' over the Ocean of Kiwa, and he was cast ashore at Pari-nui-te-ra, at Hawaiki. When Pou' looked about him he saw that he was in a strange land, for which reason he was sore dismayed. Then he came to the people of the land, and among them was the great chief Tane-nui-a-raugi, who took Pou', the cast-away, to his own place, and treated him with much kindness. And Pou' dwelt among the kindly people of Hawaiki, for the land was a fair land and a bountiful.

During all this time his wife Kanioro remained within the whare-potae (house of mourning) in this land of Aotea-roa, and there was no peace for her; neither did the bright sun shine, for she mourned the death of her husband, of Pou-ranga-hua.

And as Pou' dwelt in that strange land the thought grew, that he must return to the White World of Maui of old,* that he might greet his wife Kanioro of Nga Tai-a-kupe. Then he said to Tane, "How may I return to my home, to Aotea-roa?" Tane said, "Get your ancestor Tawhaitari to take you across the great waters." Now this Tawhaitari was a huge bird which belonged to that strange land. So Pou' obtained the services of Tawhaitari to bear him back to Kanioro; but first he went to the summit of Pari-nui-te-ra and obtained there two baskets of kumara (sweet potatoes), for that valued food was then unknown by our ancestors here. The name of one basket was Hou-takere-nuku, and of the other Hou-takere-rangi. Then he obtained the two kaheru, Manini-tua and Manini-aro. All these he secured upon the back of the bird, and then mounted himself. The great bird then attempted to rise and commence its long flight, but could not rise on account of the heavy burden. So Ta-whaitari was rejected by Pou'." Then Tane said, "Fetch your ancestor Te Manu-nui-a-Rua-kapana—the great bird of Rua-kapana. Pou' did so, and placed the burden on the back of Rua-kapana. Tane then spoke, "Farewell! Go forth to your home which lies far away across the dark waters; and do you keep firmly to my words—be kind to your ancestor, to Rua-kapana. Do not allow it to land in your country, but when, on nearing the shore, the bird shakes itself, do you quickly alight, that the bird may return safely here."

So the great bird of Rua-kapana rose into the air, and stretched out across the Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, bearing Pou-ranga-hua and his prize to the home of Kanioro. Now, the object of Tane in his warning to Pou' was this : On the summit of the Mountain of Hikurangi, which lies far away towards the rising sun, there dwelt a tipua,

* Aotea-roa, or New Zealand.

Hikurangi, a high mountain near the East Cape, New Zealand.

page 38 or demon, in the form of an old man, whose name was Tama-i-waho An atua (god) was this Tama, possessed of evil powers. So great indeed was his command of sorcery and evil arts that no living thing could pass that dread mountain, all were destroyed and devoured by Tama, the goblin of Hikurangi. There was one time only during which this evil place might be passed, and that was when the sun declined so far as to cast its rays into the face of Tama, which so dazzled his eyes that he was unable to see That was the only salvation for man—the fact that Tama could not see during strong sunlight.

Thus came Pou-ranga-hua and Rua-kapana from far Hawaiki, As they approached Hikurangi, they waited until the sunlight slanted into the eyes of Tama, then they fled quickly past that dreadful spot; and as they did so Tama-i-waho cried, "Who is this ascending the mountain of Tama-nui-a-rangi?" But when his sight came back to him Pou' and his bird friend had passed by. As they approached the shore at Turanga, the bird shook itself, as a sign to Pou' that he should descend and leave Rua-kapana to return safely to Hawaiki. But Pou' refused to get down, and kept his seat on the back of the bird, compelling it to take him to his home at Turanga. And the great bird of Rua-kapana knew then of the doom which awaited it should it pass within the evil shadow of Hikurangi. Then Rua-kapana said, "O Pou'! what an evil man art thou." But Pou' only; said, "Pou' returns but once, the door is closed on the road to Hawaiki." Such were the words of Pou-ranga-hua.

And as they approached Turanga, Pou' reached under the wings of the great bird and plucked therefrom the fine plumes, which he threw into the sea. And from these plumes cast into the ocean as that place there grew a kahika,* the name of which is Makauri, and that tree still bears fruit out in the ocean. And a branch of that kahika was broken off and cast inland. From that branch came the fine forest which stands between Ma-karaka and Te Waerenga-a-hika, which forest is also known as Makauri.

So Pou' compelled Rua-kapana to bear him to land, even to the mainland, and the great bird set forth to return to Hawaiki, but on passing Hikurangi it came within the influence of Tama-i-waho, the ogre of the mountain, and was destroyed by that monster. So perished the Manu-nui-a-Rua-kapana.

Pou-ranga-hua planted his seed kumara in the cultivation at Manawa-ru, at Turanga. That is how the kumara was brought to that district.

He then went to his home, to the place where he left his wife. On his arrival he found the house shut up and bearing a deserted appearance, being overgrown with mawhai. Within the desolate house was Kanioro, mourning for her husband.

* Podocarpus dacrydioides.

Mawhai, Sicyos angulatus, a plant.

page 39

Then Pou' tapped the door of the house, and Kanioro cried, "Who is that tapping outside?"

"It is I, 0 Kanio! It is Ranga-hua."

The voice of the woman was heard :

"Ranga-hua was swept away by the Hau-o-pohokura."

"Give to me some of thy valuable treasures, O Kanio!"

"For what purpose?"

"As a reward, O Kanio A reward for the Manu-nui-a-Rua-kapana."

Then Kanioro pulled aside the door, and Ranga-hua entered their house and kindled a fire therein; and Kanioro gave her treasures unto Pou-ranga-hua, even as he had demanded, for her joy was great. But from that time she discarded the name of Kanioro, and took that of Tangi-kura-i-te-rangi.

And it is said that the Ngati-manu-nui Hapu of Tuhoe, who reside at Te Umu-roa, derive their name from the Manu-nui-a-Rua-kapana.

Meanwhile, Tane-nui-a-rangi was anxiously awaiting the return of the great bird of Rua-kapana to Pari-nui-te-ra, for the time he had arranged for it to arrive had passed. Then the knowledge came to him that the bird had been slain by Tama, the "Ogre of the Enchanted Mountain." So he summoned Taukata, and told him to set forth in search of the lost bird and the person who had killed it. And Tane said to Taukata, "By this sign shall you know the slayer of Rua-kapana—that is, by the sign of the niho-tapiri."* These things were quite clear to Tane on account of his great powers in magic.

And Taukata came from far Hawaiki to this land of Aotea-roa, being conveyed over the vast ocean by a water-demon, such as were plentiful in the days of our ancestors, so wondrous were the works of old.

The blackness of night was descending upon the earth when Taukata came to the "Enchanted Mountain"—to Hikurangi. He then concealed himself near unto the doorway of the house of Tama-i-waho, where he busied himself in uttering the most potent incantations—the most sacred spells. Then he entered boldly the abode of Tama, the dread ogre, and seated himself among Tama's people. And Taukata listened to the talk going on around him, but could not understand it, as it was all nonsense and mere gibberish. When it came to his turn he spoke these words : "E kore e tangi te whatiri no-e, no-e" (the thunder will not sound, no-e, no-e). At the same time he patted the shoulder of the man whom he suspected of being the slayer of Manu-nui. This so amused the assembled people that they all laughed, showing their teeth as they did so. Here was Taukata's opportunity. He gazed intently. Aha! the niho-tapiri was seen. Then he cried, "Let us extinguish the fire and all go to sleep." It was done; the people slept. Behold! it is Taukata who produces a kete, a large basket, into which he places the

* Niho-tapiri, uneven teeth, growing in an irregular manner.

page 40 body of the owner of the niho-tapiri. Then the karakia, the magic spell, to induce profound slumber—oblivion. It was the rotu :—

E moe, E moe! Ko te po nui, ko te po roa
Ko te po i whakaau ai te moe. E moe!
Sleep on! sleep on, the great night the long night
The night devoted to sleep—Sleep on!

Such is the rotu spell to cause men to sleep. The rotu-moana is a different karakia; it is to cause the ocean to sleep or become calm, that canoes may pass over it in safety, and the other term for it is awa-moana.

So Taukata secured the sleeping man in the great kete. So sound was the slumber of that man that he never awoke through a the long journey to Hawaiki.

It is Pari-nui-te-ra, the land of plenty. The light of day comes, the sun shines brightly, and Taukata has returned from the mountain of Tama the ogre—returned with the slayer of the great bird of Rua-kapana. It is the day of vengeance. The multitude of the land are assembled; the great chief approaches; it is Taue-nui-a-rangi—Great Tane of the Heavens. Taukata stands by the body of his still sleeping prisoner. He speaks : "Awake! lest you think that you sleep in thine own place." Then the man awoke—a woke and looked forth upon the land; saw the strange land—land of the Great Cliff of the Shining Sun; saw the multitude assembled; saw Taukata and Tane : then the thought came, it is death.

So they killed that evil man, and ate him, as he had eaten their tupuna, Te Manu-nui-a-rua-Kapana. Heoi!

The above is a most singular legend, and interesting from many points of view. In the first place, it appears to be a local adaptation of the Polynesian tradition of Tinirau and his pet whale Tutu-nai which was slain by Kae; in fact, the stories are almost identical the same. The hero, Pou-ranga-hua, was a chief of the ancient people of New Zealand, and is well known to their descendants Tuhoe land. Te Hau-o-pohokura is a sea-wind which blows in the spring of the year. Rua-mano was a taniwha or demon of older times, who is said to have resided at Te Papuni during his latter days. He is said to have been the offspring of Tutara-kauiks which last appears to have been a kind of emblematical term for the whale.

The great bird of Rua-kapana is a decided puzzle, but it is possible that we may yet be enlightened as to what it was; for Nga-Paerangi, a tribe of Whanganui, have retained a legend anent one Rua-kapanga and a huge bird of olden times. Now, this tribe is descended from Paerangi, son of Paoa, who came from Hawaiki the canoe Horouta, and landed on the East Coast near unto Hiku-rangi. It is possible that they have preserved this legend, and that the names mentioned therein have become somewhat altered during the lapse of many generations.

The nature of the reward or payment given by Kanioro to Rus-kapana is not clear, but the light may yet shine thereon. There is page 41 some old, half-forgotten story of Kanioro as having been an atua-pounamu, or guardian of the greenstone, most prized of Maori treasures. It may be that the kumara was given to Pou-ranga-hua, and the services of Rua-kapana loaned to him, on condition of his sending back the precious greenstone in payment thereof. The two kakeru given to Pou' at Hawaiki are said to have been chaplets or Read-dresses.

The name of the human ogre of Hikurangi—Tama-i-vvaho—is also that of the atua who visited Te Kura-nui-a-monoa, wife of Toi, and by whom she had Oho-mai-rangi, also known as Oho-matua-rau;—though some tribes claim that Puhao-rangi takes Tama-i-waho's place. There is some mention in the Rev. R. Taylor's "Te Ika-a-Maui" of a legend concerning a great bird which existed on Hikurangi in olden times. The Tuhoe have a tradition of a bird called hakoke which frequented cliffs and mountains, but which has been long extinct. In fact, the legend appears to be a confused and half-lost fragment of a very ancient folk-lore system.

The whare-potae, or whare-taua, is, literally, a mourning-house, If a man of distinction dies, his son or near relatives remain for some time in the whare-potae, never venturing forth, and only taking food during the night-time. After a certain lapse of time a human sacrifice is made, to take the tapu off these imprisoned mourners : hei keuenga mo te whare-potae, or dispersal of the mourners. When Taupoki died, at Wai-koti-koti, a slave was sacrificed for this purpose, the body being cooked on the river-bank where the camp of the solders stands.

We will now cease these old tales and speak of the wars which waged between the tribes of Tuhoe land and Ngati-Ruapani, of Waikare-moana.