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The Ancient History of the Maori, His Mythology and Traditions: Tai-Nui. [Vol. IV]

Chapter VIII

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Chapter VIII

Tide of the west coast sea, filling up the river,
Bringing with thee love, oh! let me here weep.
O son! thy daring spirit shows thy boundless ire,
As with the warrior-band thou salliedst forth,
Led by some blind deceit; thou didst belie
The brave and noble deeds of thy past ancestry.
Nor didst thou deign to cast a look behind,
That I might see thy face, and warn thee
Of the fate that would befall thee in thy path
That thou wast going o'er the dreaded Mahu-kura's peak,
Where all was soulless, lifeless, and alone,
But where the pits, still gaping, tell
Of deeds of war, where man was slain and cooked,
And where the choked-up stream once ceased to flow,
And carnage dammed the flood of life, and all was still.
But hearken, O my child! who wilfully forgetst,
And I too forget, or never knew, what prompts
Thee to thy acts, which lead thee now to strife.
But this I know: that he, old Death,
Still acts, and has for ever acted,
Even from thy day of birth, to propagate
The crop he tends. But, O my child,
My own blood-kindred thou, I ask not now
How long my life to me shall last;
But canst thou brave the cruel Rere's wrath,
Or dare the fate that Rehua doth wield?

Tara-Ao And Karewa.

Tara-Ao (streaks of day-dawn) lived at his home at Kawa (heap), near the hill Kake-puku (climb up in silence), on the banks of the Wai-pa branch of the Wai-kato River; and Ka-rewa (buoy) lived at his home on the west coast of the Wai-kato district.

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These two chiefs each took the sister of the other to wife. And a time came when one of them wished to pay a visit to the other, and Karewa said to Tara-ao, “Is your fresh-water food as good as mine of the salt water ?”

Taro-ao asked, “What of your food can be cooked in the shortest time ?”

Karewa answered, “A cockle.”

Tara-ao asked, “Then you eat it raw?”

Karewa answered, “O no, it is cooked.”

Tara-ao said, “Yours will not compete with mine of the fresh water; I mean the fresh-water crayfish.”

Karewa answered, “Yours will not compete with mine.”

They thus disputed for some time, when Karewa went to fetch a cockle, and Tara-ao, to get a fresh-water crayfish.

Karewa said to Tara-ao, “You cook yours first.”

Tara-ao answered, “You cook yours first.”

Karewa put his cockle into the fire; but Tara-ao kept his fresh-water crayfish in his hand, and, when the cockle of Karewa had been in the fire some time and had not opened, Tara-ao stretched his hand towards the fire, and merely put the feelers of the crayfish into it, which instantly became red; and Tara-ao at once said, “There, Tara-ao's has become red at once;” but the cockle of Karewa was still unopen. From this the words of Tara-ao have become a proverb, and are used by the relatives [of any one who may have killed a man] to the relatives of the killed one; but in this case the words are thus put:—

Tara-ao's has become red.
And Karewa's is still closed.
But mine is red.

The proverb is also used by any one who may see a chief clothed in a red garment.

This dispute between Karewa and Tara-ao eventually became the cause of war. Karewa was annoyed with Tara-ao because the feelers of the crayfish had instantly become red, and his cockle was still unopen.

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Karewa felt a strong feeling of malice against Tara-ao, and wished to kill him. Thus they parted, and did not bid each other farewell.

Tara-ao had a great wish to go stealthily and take the weapon of Karewa. He went with this object, taking with him his own weapon; the binder or string which held it tight in the grasp of the hand was made of plaited flax-tow, but that of Karewa was made of dogskin.

Tara-ao went to the settlement of Karewa, and till the dark of night waited in hiding a little distance from the home of Karewa; and when he thought Karewa and his wife—the sister of Tara-ao—were asleep, he went to their house, and found the two were snoring, with the weapon (a mere) of Karewa fastened to his wrist by a line passed through a hole in the handle, and his hand placed under his head.

Tara-ao entered the house, and gently lifted the head of Karewa and took the weapon and put his own in its place; then he put the cord over Karewa's hand and left it tied to his wrist, and left the house.

Day dawned, and the wife cooked the morning meal. Karewa and she sat down to partake of it. He still kept his mere held to his arm by the cord round his wrist. Karewa put his hand out to take of the food, when his wife saw the mere dangling by the cord, and said, “Ha! who is the owner of the weapon you now hold?”

Karewa said, “It is my own weapon, which I always have.”

His wife said, “Yours had a dogskin cord, but that has a plaited cord.”

Karewa looked down at the mere he had hanging to his wrist, and recognised it as the weapon of Tara-ao, and said, “I have been murdered by that man of low birth.”

Karewa collected a multitude of warriors to attack Tara-ao, who had but seventy [one hundred and forty].

The night when Tara-ao took the weapon from the hand of Karewa he went home, and with his people began to put their pa in order to withstand a siege. They dug a pit in the centre of page 190 the pa, and from it dug an underground tunnel by which he and his people might escape in the event of Karewa taking the pa. This tunnel was a long one, and came out far away in the forest.

Karewa and his warriors attacked the pa of Tara-ao. They fought all the day, and rested at night. Before the dawn of the second day Tara-ao and his people descended the pit they had made; and Tara-ao, as he left his wife, said, “Do you stay in the pa to shut the door of the pit.” She put pieces of wood over the mouth of the pit, put a mat on them, and sat on it.

Tara-ao instructed his wife and said, “If Karewa comes, and from the outside of the pa calls and says, ‘Come out, O Karewa! and fight me,’ do you call and say, ‘Wait till he combs his head, that he may be comely when he meets you.’ And do you listen with great attention for the sound of my war-trumpet: when you hear the sound, I have escaped, and am out of the far end of the tunnel.”

He and his people went underground; and his wife stayed in the pa, sitting on the cover at the mouth of the pit.

The day dawned, and Karewa and his host came to attack the pa. Now, the mouth of the pit was hidden by a shed which was built over it. Tara-ao had built it there.

Karewa called and said, “Where is Tara-ao? Let him come out here, that we two alone may fight our battle.”

His sister, the wife of Tara-ao, answered, “Your brother-in-law is combing his head.”

Karewa said, “Yes; but let him be in a hurry.”

The wife said, “Let him comb his head, and then he will come outside to meet you.”

When the day had dawned the warriors of Karewa rushed into the pa, and sought in vain for the warriors of the pa, and asked, “Are they in the houses?” Karewa called, and said, “Come outside here.”

When the light of day was clear the trumpet of Tara-ao was heard to give a long loud blast, by which his wife knew that he page 191 was out of the tunnel, and was now in the scrub on the open country. When the wife heard the sound of the trumpet she called to Karewa and said, “Do you hear the voice of that trumpet? It is the trumpet of your brother-in-law, who has escaped into open day, into life.” Karewa rushed into the shed in which she was sitting, and sought for the road by which Tara-ao had escaped. He could not find it, and pushed the wife from where she was sitting, and saw the pit by which his enemy had escaped. He became very wroth with his sister; but what did she care?— her husband had escaped, and was alive and safe.

The warriors of Karewa pursued Tara-ao, but not one of his people or himself was taken.

Tara-ao went and resided in the interior of Wai-kato, to which place his wife followed him, and they lived together in peace.

Tara-ao is one of the ancestors from whom the Wai-kato tribes claim their descent.

When Tara-ao left his pa and fled from the vengeance of Karewa he and his people were hungry, and cut down ponga (Cyathea dealbata), and cooked and ate them; hence the proverb, “Tara-ao, who clave the ponga.”

Koro-Ki And Tao-Whakairo.(Nga-Ti-Mahuta.)

Koro-ki (command) lived in the Wai-kato, on the south side of the river; and Tao-whakairo (carved spear) lived on the north side, and was a member of the Nga-ti-rau-kawa Tribe. Each lived on the banks of the Horo-tiu (quick flight) branch of the Wai-kato River, a little below but close to the present township of Cambridge. Tao-whakairo lived not far from Puke-rimu (mossy hill).

Tao-whakairo had gone from his home to the place where eels were taken, and had left his wife in the pa. Each morning she was accustomed to go down to the bank of the river on which the pa stood. She was a good-looking woman, and each day she was seen by Koro-ki from the south bank of the river. Koro- page 192 ki came across the river in a canoe, and talked with the woman. She went to the kumara-pit; but as she left her companions she said to them, “I go to get some kumara to cook.” At the same time Koro-ki left the house in which they all were, and said, “I will cross the river again to my pa.”

At dawn of the following day Tao-whakairo came back to his home, and said to his wife, “I have had many omens;” but she did not speak.

He asked, “Has any man been here since I left?”

She answered, “Yes, a man has been here.”

He looked all over the house, but could not find any indications of wrong or evil, and went to the kumara-pit. On the upper sill of the door he found dogs' hairs as of a dogskin mat. This caused him to divine that Koro-ki had visited his house, as Koro-ki was the only chief of that part of the country who possessed a dogskin mat. He went back to his wife, and said, “Ah, Koro-ki has been here?”

His wife said, “What reason have you to make such an assertion ?”

He showed her the dogs' hairs which he had found clinging to the upper sill of the kumara-pit, and said, “Look at these dogs' hairs; they were adhering to the upper sill of the door of the kumara-pit. These are from the dogskin mat of Koro-ki.”

She answered, “Yes.”

When the day had drawn to a close Tao-whakairo saw Koro-ki on the other bank of the river, and called and said, “That man! that man!” Koro-ki turned round and looked; and Tao-whakairo asked, “Who are you ?”

Koro-ki said, “It is I.”

Tao-whakairo said, “You! who are you?”

Koro-ki said “Koro-ki.”

Tao-whakairo said, “I will remember you in spite, and tomorrow you will be cooked to a cinder in the stones of Kura-pa-ngoi (trifling topknot).”

Koro-ki listened in silence, and went back to his house. Tao-whakairo returned to his house in a violent rage.

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Wai. Horua. Kopae Elder brother of te Rau-paraha.

Wai. Horua. Kopae
Elder brother of te Rau-paraha.

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When evening came Koro-ki got into a small canoe and went to the tribes of Wai-kato, and reported all that had taken place between him and Tao-whakairo, and the curse uttered against him. Messengers were sent in all directions to collect a war-party. Many tribes assembled and attacked the pa of Tao-whakairo, which was taken, and Tao-whakairo was cooked by Koro-ki.

This was the cause and origin of many battles between the Wai-kato and Nga-ti-rau-kawa Tribes.

Koro-ki was father of Hape (bandy leg) and Haua (stupid), and Haua was the progenitor of the Nga-ti-haua and some of the Wai-kato Tribes.