Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 7, 1874
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3. Karihi and Tawhaki.

When the children of Hema were grown up, the two boys, Karihi and Tawhaki, made excursions over the sea in order to avenge the death of their father; but they could not find the land of their enemies. Once, when they came home from a fruitless voyage their sister, Pupumainono, said to them: “You should have asked my advice.” Then she taught them an invocation, by the reciting of which she said they would be more successful.

It will be remembered that the grandmother, Whaitiri, having taken offence, left her husband and child and went away to her former home in the sky. That place, it seems, was not in a perpendicular, but in an horizontal direction, far away over the sea. By virtue of the invocation taught them by their sister, the two young men, Karihi and Tawhaki, found the place of their grandmother. The old woman, who was now quite blind, was sitting among bunches of tall reeds, beating about her with a weapon, so that if anything came within her reach she would kill it, and then add it to the store of her food. She happened to be in the possession of ten pieces of provision which she was in the habit of counting now and then feeling them with her hands. She did not know that her grand-children were then standing before her and watching her movements. So she began to count her provisions: “One, two, three,” and so on. But meanwhile Karihi took away one piece, and when she had counted so far as nine she felt about for the tenth, but it was nowhere. Thinking she might have made a mistake, she began again to count: “One, two, three,” and so on. But now Tawhaki had also taken away a piece, and when she had counted as far as eight, then there was no more to be felt. Again she began to count, but found every time that there was a piece less. Now she suspected that she was being robbed or made a fool of, and became very angry, scolding and beating about; but her grandsons kept out of her reach.

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When her rage had exhausted itself and she was calmed down, then Karihi went near her and struck her a gentle slap on one of her eyes. She started and uttered an exclamation of joy, for with it there had come a light in her eye. Immediately, Tawhaki hit her a gentle slap on the other eye, with the same result. Now her eye-sight was restored; and when she then learned that the two handsome young men were her grandsons she became very friendly and asked them what the object was of their coming to her. They told her that they were going to avenge the death of their father, and wished her to show them the way. “Stay with me for a while,” she said; “by and by I will show you.” Then she took them to her house near by.

It seems that they had already partly avenged their father's death when they liberated their mother from captivity, but the accounts about that are not clear here, therefore I left out that part—it is clearer in Sir George Grey's collection. However, there are several people named who had taken part in that murder, and it may be that there was still a party left who had not yet been punished. The young men did not feel at ease in their grandmother's house, for in it there lay a large heap of human bones, the flesh of which had been eaten by her. They could not trust her; they feared that she might kill and eat them also. So they determined to be very watchful. But it was impossible to keep awake always, and she might kill them while asleep. They must, therefore, try to deceive her. For that purpose they went to the sea-shore and got some shells from the rocks, which looked just like eyes. When they put them on their closed eyes they gave them the appearance of open eyes. Then, at night, when they could keep awake no longer, they fastened the shells over their eyes and went to sleep, and when their grandmother looked at them she believed that they were wide awake, and was therefore afraid to kill them.

However, the young men did not like to prolong their stay, and kept on asking the old woman to show them the road. But she put them off, saying, “by and by she would show them.” After some time and trouble she showed them a path, and then they took leave and went on; but they found that the path only led into the bush, where firewood had been carried, and no farther. So they had to go back and beg the old woman to show them the right road. After some delay and more deceiving she at last said: “Well, if you are determined, I hold the road to that part of the sky you want to reach.” “Then, where is the road?” they asked. “The road is on my neck,"she replied; “loose this cord.” When they had untied the cord on her neck they found that the other end was fastened to the sky. “Now,” she said, “you must climb up by this cord. But I am afraid the wind will blow you from one side of the heavens to the other, and you will lose your hold and fall down;

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yet, if you are determined to go, mind with whom you may meet on the way. If you meet with women who talk much and behave in a rude way, have nothing to do with them; they are some of Tangaroa's descendants. But if you meet with women who walk quietly and behave modestly, they are of your own nation, and you may make friends with them.”

After these instructions the ascent began. Tawhaki remembered the prayer his sister had taught him, and said it; but Karihi forgot to say his prayer. Karihi climbed before, and Tawhaki after him. When they were a little way up the wind began to blow, and swung them, first to one side of the heaven; then the wind changed, and swung them to the other side. Karihi could hold on no longer; he fell down and was killed, and afterwards eaten by Whaitiri. Tawhaki came down so far as to see the fate of his brother, and then climbed up again till he reached a land in the sky.

The first person he met was Tuna (eel), who came down from places (or descended from persons; it is not clear), the names of which denote shining phenomena and lightning. Might that allude to electric fishes in some waters of hot climates? Kawa (bitter, as pepper) and Maraenui (great courtyard or sacred enclosure) were hanging over Tuna's forehead, like veils. Probably there is some allegory in this, but I do not know the meaning of it. Tawhaki asked Tuna: “What are you coming down for?” Tuna answered: “The above is burned up, is hard and dry, there is no water.”

After that he met a company of women; but, as they talked much and were not modest in their behavour, he remembered that he had been warned against them, so he kept out of their way. Soon after, he met another company of women, different from the former; they did not talk much, and behaved modestly; with them he made friends, and stayed at their place. One of these women, named Hine-nui-o-te-kawa (Great Maid of Pepper) took a fancy to Tawhaki. She was the wife of Paikea (a species of whales). Paikea did not like that, and when they were sitting and talking, Paikea grinned at Tawhaki, and Tawhaki grinned at Paikea. The end of it was, that the woman left Paikea and become Tawhaki's wife.

When Tawhaki had lived a good while with his wife, and she was. far advanced in pregnancy, it happened one day that they were short of firewood; and when the dependents were in a lazy mood, and would not get up to fetch some, Tawhaki went himself and brought home a large long piece. From this occasion, the child, which was born not long after, was named Wahie-roa (a long piece of firewood)—It is still sometimes the custom of the Maori that, when an offence is taken, a name corresponding to the vexation is given to a child. Wahieroa will be the next link in the generation.

After this the tale about Tawhaki becomes hazy, and I cannot find much

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meaning in it. He went to the sky or heaven of Tama-i-waho (son on the outside) to avenge the death of his father. He found Tamaiwaho's place crossbarred, but got over it. Tamaiwaho retired behind another crossbar, and called to Tawhaki: What are you pursuing me for, you ugly man?” Tawhaki replied? “I am a handsome man, you are the ugly man. Give over some to me as a satisfaction for the murder of my father.” “Never, never,” cried Tamaiwaho. Tawhaki got over the barricade and Tamaiwaho retired behind a third. There some fighting happened in which Tama was wounded. Then he called to Tawhaki; “You are a handsome man.” “Give over some to me,” cried Tawhaki. Tama gave over some, and then said: “that is all.” “Give up all,” demanded Tawhaki. Tama gave up to him Ateatenuku, Ateaterangi, Harihangatepo, Harihangateao, Koruehinuku, Mataatawhaki, and others. If these names represent persons or places I do not know. Possibly they are names of stars, or may signify islands.

In Sir George Grey's book are different tales about Tawhaki. There, they end with an interesting tale of Tawhaki going up to the sky in pursuit of his wife, who had left him in a pet for a trivial offence. But that tale is not known here.