Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 7, 1874
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7. Whakatau.

Whakatau was the son of Tuwhakararo and Apakura. When the news was brought home that his father had been murdered, and when he heard his mother cry, he resolved to avenge his father's death. He painted one side of his canoe black and the other white, and then sailed for the place of the murderers. When the canoe was seen by the people there, they wondered if it were a large seal or a canoe. Several rushed into the sea and swam toward it. When the first swimmer came near, he called to Reinuiatokia (this seems to have been a brother to Whakatau), who was steering, to turn back. Reinuiatokia told him to pass on. He then swam to the fore part of the canoe, where Whakatau killed him with the blow of an axe. The next swimmer met with the same fate, and so on, till a great many were killed. Only one, called Mongotipi, escaped and returned alive to the shore. He told the people that it was a canoe, that one of the men was Reinuiatokia, but that there was another great man whom he did not know. In the night Whakatau landed alone, and sent a message to his mother by the canoe, to watch at night to see the burning of Tihiomanono. Then he hid himself in the bush and disfigured his body with ashes and charcoal, so that he had the appearance of an old mean man.

Next day there came people into the bush to get firewood. Whakatau, disguised as an old stray slave, joined them, took a bundle of firewood on his back like the others, and went home with them. When they came to the

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place the wood-carriers called to the people there: “We have found a slave.” In the evening all the people assembled in the large house, Tihiomanono. Whakatau walked in with them and sat down, as an old slave, in whom no one took any interest. The people talked over the affair that had happened the day before; and Whakatau silently surveyed the house, so as to form his plan. While he was doing this, the bones of his father, which were hanging under the roof, began to cry to the son. The people heard the sound in the dry bones, and remarked that they were crying for vengeance, and wondered whom they could mean to be the avenger. Then the conversation turned upon the stranger who had slain so many of them the day before, and they questioned Mongotipi, the man who had returned alive, what sort of man that stranger was. Mongotipi said he could not describe him, he was such an extraordinary man. Some one of the company asked, “Was he like me?” “No, not at all,” was the answer, “he was a very different man.” “Was he like me?” asked another. “No, not at all; there is no one like him here,” said Mongotipi.

"Was he like me?” asked Whakatau, who had by this time rubbed off the ashes and charcoal, and who had now drawn himself up in his natural bearing. Mongotipi looked at him, stared in silent wonder, and then exclaimed: “That is the man!” Now all the people jumped up to rush at him. But Whakatau quickly caught up a vessel with water and poured it over the fires. Now all was confusion and darkness, and while the people were scrambling one over the other Whakatau snatched the bones of his father, rushed with them out of the house, barricaded the door, and then set fire to the house, and burned the people in it.

That night Apakura, Whakatau's mother, was sitting on the top of her house, watching the sky in the direction of Tihiomanono. At last there shot up a red glare, and then she rejoiced that now her son Whakatau was a hero; he had avenged the death of his father.

With Whakatau the line of those ancient heroes ends; at least as far as is known here in the south.

As, at the end of the period of the gods, in Part I., we had a rounded-off tale in the mythical figure of Maui, which, though not connected with the preceding gods, yet partook something of their supernatural mysteries: so likewise here, at the end of the period of the ancient heroes, we have again, in the following, a well rounded-off tale, which, also unconnected with the preceding heroes, represents, like these, the human side of that period.

The northern natives, according to Sir George Grey's book, make the heroine of the following tale to be Maui's sister, whose husband was transformed into a dog by her wicked brother; and who thereupon threw herself

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into the sea to drown herself, but was washed up at a distant shore, where she was found by two men, who revived her. But it seems to me that the following tale belongs to a later period than that of the Maui family.