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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, June 1910

Tangimoana. — A Tale of Coromandel Peninsula

page 24


A Tale of Coromandel Peninsula.

Sketch of Marae surrounded by Maori carving

Nestling in the rocky eastern coast of Coromandel Peninsula, is the Bay of Kuatunu, whose snow white beach stretches crescent-like along the foot of the rugged cliffs. From the tops of these cliffs can be clearly seen the lofty peninsula, stretching from Whangaparaoa to the north beyond majestic Moehau, until it dips into the sea at Cape Colville. In the far distance, rising loftily from the deep gulf, is Hauturu (The Little Barrier), and beyond, on the horizon. Aotea (The Great Barrier). Winding its tortuous way up these bluffs is a narrow path, along which, one summer's evening. I was led by Kahurangi, the old Maori chief. We climbed in silence from the beach to the summit, where he suddenly halted, and gazed intently out to sea. The hues of the sunset still lingered, and a crimson afterglow lit the eastern skies and wrapped all the seaward hills in a mantle of purest gold. Silently Kalmrangi stood, his mind apparently filled with some strange memory. I spoke to him, but he heard me not. At last he turned. His eyes blazed with fire, and. pointing his finger to The Little Barrier, silhouetted against the glowing sky, he cried, "Hauturu! Hauturu!" Then, turning to the larger island. "Aotea! Aotea!" "You want to hear the tale of Tangimoana? I will tell you." And in the stillness of the gathering night the old warrior told his story.

"Long ago, many generations before the Pakeha came, those islands were inhabited by a powerful, warlike tribe, page 25 descendants of Ngatoro-i-rangi, one of the chiefs who journeyed from Hawaiki to Aotea Boa in the canoe 'Arawa.' Their young chief Whatiri was noted for his daring spirit, his skill in battle on land and in the war canoes. He was deeply loved by his people.

"At Whitiahga (Mercury Bay), over yonder hill, dwelt the chief Nukutaia (descended from Hei) and his daughter Tangimoana. famed for her beauty throughout the land, from Maketu to Kaipara, with body as graceful as the waving toi, eyes full orbed like the rising moon, and voice rippling like the melody of the tide as it gently breaks on yonder pebbly beach.

"The tribe of Whatiri, the sea rover, had long been at war with the tribe of Nukutaia. Oft had Whatiri rowed with his warriors from his island home to Whitianga and fought Nukutaia ia in his own strongholds; but victory favoured neither side. On these expeditions he had heard of Tangimoana, the peerless, had seen her, and, having seen her, loved her.

"But Tangimoana, by the wish of her father, was betrothed to Parawai, greatgrandson of Tamatekapua (who navigated the canoe "Arawa" to Aotea Roa), chief of the powerful stronghold at Moehau. Her father hoped to unite the two tribes in common defence against the raiding Whatiri. But secretly Tangimoana loved Whatiri for his daring, and Whatiri knew her secret.

"And Whatiri was restless, and pined for Tangimoana, of queenly grace, for her love that would bring him happiness and eternal peace. But on the day of the next full moon she was to be wedded to Parawai. And so he sent a prisoner with a message to her. The night before her wedding morn he would row with his men to Whitianga. By the great pohntukawa, at the overhanging cliff, he would wait for her, and they would quickly return in great happiness to his own land.

"Close to the southern shore of the bay, through the dark shadows thrown by the encircling hills, swiftly sped Whatiri's canoe. The waters of the bay were lit in soft silvery sheen by the rising moon, and across from the shore floated the strains of a glad river song, sung by the natives assembled from afar for the wedding day. The prow of the canoe touched the sandy beach at the base of the cliff, and page 26 Whatiri, leaping swiftly ashore, disappeared beneath the trees. A muffled cry, as of a bird, thrice rang out in the stillness. Anxiously the warriors in the canoe waited. Presently two forms darted from the shadows, and, with Tangimoana in his arms, Whatiri sprung quickly to the stern of the canoe,

"'Hoetia te waka! Hoetia te waka!' (Paddle Paddle!) he cried, with bated breath, and the canoe leapt seaward through the shadowed waters.

"Near the entrance they shot out into the broad moon-light and crossed the bay. Tangimoana clung closely to Whatiri in the stern. 'Give me the steer paddle!' she cried, leaping to the prow. 'I will steer you inside Turanga, the rocky island. They will not follow; they fear the surge that foams on the hidden shoal of Ranginui; the moon will light our way, and we will be through by break of day.'

"On, on they flew towards Turanga. 'The tide is swift to-night, swifter than I can remember,'whispered Tangimoana. 'We speed like the flying fish. I am happy.'

"Straight ahead lay the island. The canoemen slackened not their pace, and like a swift seabird the canoe fled towards the passage. The roar of the surf on the Ranginui shoal grew louder, and Tangimoana seized the steer paddle with firmer grip.

'In the confined strait the tide rushed like a mountain torrent, and the canoe trembled in its grip. Suddenly Tangimoana leapt to her feet. 'Paddle, paddle for your lives!' she cried. `Te rorea! Te rorea!' (the tide rip! the tide rip!). Too late, too late. Like an arrow the canoe shot towards the angry wall of foaming water. With a cry Whatiri sprung forward, grasped the quivering form of Tangimoana, and plunged into the swirl. The prow of the canoe was flung high into the air, and fell with a crash, the waters closed over it, a faint cry rose above the roar, and—"

The old man suddenly stopped and listened intently, his rugged features enveloped in sadness. At last he went on.

"Next morning Maintain and his warriors, in hot pursuit, espied, drifting beyond Turanga, the upturned war canoe of Whatiri. "Te Ranginui! Te Ranginui!' they page 27 cried, and grief stricken, returned to Whitianga. Soon after the tribes of Whatiri and Nukutaia made peace and mourned their common loss, and the peace has lasted even to this day."

"Listen! Listen!" the old chief cried. "Can you hear it? Can you hear it? At every full moon the surge on the Ranginui shoal sings its dirge to Tangimoana the beautiful, and Whatiri the brave. Listen! Listen!"

As the east wind tossed up a cloud bank to the west, and, sighing through the leaves, awakened a night bird in yonder puriri, I heard it from afar. I hear it now.

Sketch of plant and ring