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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, June 1912

Orongorongo. — A Tale of the Fairies


A Tale of the Fairies.

In the far Eastern Sea lies an island, Rapanui—outermost of the South of Sea Islands—unregarded and isolated. It is a lofty island, rising abruptly from the sea, and sequestered in its leafy mountain shades there lived long ago Minatira, Queen of the Fairies, and her Fairy bank. This is the tale of their migration to a land which martals now call New Zealand.

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It was a behest in Rapanui that no Fairy should ever gaze on the face of a mortal. But the behest was broken, and so it came to pass that the Fairy Goddess decreed that Minatira and her retinue should be banished to a land west of the Setting Sun. In great grief, they left their Fairyland, and embarked on a ship fashioned from palm shadows on the lagoons, rigged with se lace and sails of sew spray. In a single night (for Fairies could not be abroad at day), on the wings of the West Wind made they the journey across the unknown sea. As the wind came off the sleeping sea it sang sweetly through the Wind Lute affixed to the prow, and so were appeased the Gods of the Ocean.

But soon the Lute ceased its singing, and the Fairies knew they were nigh unto a new land. On a brimming wave the Fairy ship sped silently into a crescent bay encircled by lofty mountains forested to the sea edge. For a moment their ship hung on the silver margin of the sea, and then touching the beach dissolved into the enfolding night haze. Sadly the Fairies crossed the ribbon of beach, and passing into the shadows, were received into the mountain fastnesses beyond.

Many nights did the Fairies wander South through the new land, enthralled by its abiding beauty. At last came they to a mountain crossed and scarred on the Western slope, but clothed about by forests of deepest which a stream with many curves and frettings moved quietly down to the Sea.

In this land of quiet, broken only by the murmuring of waters and the sighing of the winds through the Forests the Fairies abided. Banishment was endurable, and joy and pure content again became their lot.

Then came a night in early Spring when the Fairies, fishing on the Seashore, heard the sound of paddles plashing and the singing of mortals in high strange tones. Great was their surprise, and great the haste in which they gathered their nets of rushes from the Sea. But while Minatira the Queen yet lingered she beheld in the leap across the waters and pass swiftly into the darkness.

Broken was the spell of contentment, and the element page 49 of unrest entered into the lives of the Fairies. From the scarred mountain side, when the horizon held no night mist, they saw far to the West, where the Stars were near to the Earth, the glow of fires, and they were curious. Again to seek mortals was to court peril, but the spirit of unrest conquered.

Stealthily they crossed to the lofty Islands, that lay in a chain to the West of the scarred mountain. The tide had slipped back from the land, leaving bare the dripping reefs, and the fairies, by the light of the waning moon, made the crossing to the mainland. Towards the fireglow they fared on their pilgrimage athwart a narrow hill and adown a deep ravine. At last came they approached, but taking courage, they gathered about the fire; and in the fitful flickerings they danced, and strange business was abroad.

And while the Fairies made merry about the fire the canoe of Makura, Chief of all the Southern Isles, sped into the Bay from sea fishing, and Makura prepared to land. But suddenly unto him at the water's edge appeared Minatire, beautiful and enchanting, her face illumined with the fire glow, her eyes mystically imploring. Enthralled, he leapt to embrace her, but in a moment she had gone, followed by her fairy band across the silver beach; and even as he gazed spellbound, a sea passage opened after her as she fled across the land. Hastily seizing his paddle, he drove his canoe swiftly through the racing waters of the passage; but to no end, for always did the Fairies escape him.

Sometimes Minatira would linger near him, but ever as he sought to take her to himself she eluded him and baffled his desire.

Suddenly, as day began to dawn, the passage emerged into open sea, and Makura saw that the Fairies tarried on his canoe fled towards them, the sun rose out of the Eastern sea, and Minatira, garmented in the colours of the dawn, rose with her Fairy bank on a veil of sea mist and vanished in the skies.

Makura ceased paddling and gazed in wonderment. The islands that at sunset had stretched in a chain across page 50 the sea to the scarred mountain, now rested on the horizon to the far North. Turning his canoe from the sea, he speedily returned through the narrow passage to tell of strange happenings, of Minatira, and the Fairies.

Out on the Western Coast are the Islands which once formed the bridge for the crossing of the Fairies. Today Mortals call them "Mana" and "Kapiti" and across the blue Straits the "French Pass" marks the sea passage through which Makura fruitlessly pursued Minatira and her Fairy Band. To-night I look out across the crooning waters of the Bay. The sun is down, long shadows creep across the waters, and the mantle of night slowly enfolds Fairyland and the Scarred Mountain which rises out of the hills called "orongorongo".

James F. Thompson.