Art. VIII.—The Mythology and Traditions of the Maori in New Zealand.
[Read before the Otago Institute, 12th October, 1875.]
Part III.—Maori Mythology *—Miscellaneous Tales.
1.—The Tale of a Fishing Canoe Blown off the Land.
A Long time ago there were two men living quietly at Hawaiki (most likely the Island Savaii at the Samoan group, or Navigators' is meant). They used to go out fishing, and when they came back their wives met them on the beach, cleaned the fish, and prepared the meals. One day, while they were out fishing for baracouta, there came a great wind, and blew them away on the open sea. After having been tossed about by the waves for a long time, they came to an unknown land. Here they dragged their canoe on shore, and then went about seeking for pieces of dry wood to rub fire with, but found none. However, some pieces they had in the canoe, used for baracouta hooks, would answer when dry. These they put under their arm-pits. Then, when they went along the beach, they saw some footmarks; some were the impressions of ordinary human feet, but some seemed to have been made by club-feet. They wondered what sort of beings those people might be, and how they could find them. By and by they heard the sound of axes in the bush, and, proceeding in that direction, they saw two men busily at work chopping out a new canoe. They seemed to be quite absorbed in their work, for their eyes always followed the chips as they were flying from their adzes. Once they looked up and scanned about, but did not observe the two strangers who were cautiously approaching. At last the latter went boldly up and discovered themselves. After the first surprise, the men asked, “Where do you come from?”
[Footnote] * See “Trans. N. Z. Inst.,” Vol. VII., Miscellaneous, Art. I.
“From Hawaiki. The wind has blown us away from our shore. Where do you belong to?” “To Tahiti-nuiarua” (perhaps the Tahiti of the Society Islands is meant). Then they all went together to the settlement. While on the way, the men said to the strangers, “When you see our women, behave in an unbecoming way; you must not laugh, for if you do they will surely kill you.”
The natives of that island lived in a very low state of civilization; they did not even know the fire. When the food was brought, the strangers found that it was the raw meat of the hair-seal, and they could not eat it; but the natives ate it as their ordinary food. The women in their uncivilized state, behaved very unbecomingly, and carried besides, formidable flint weapons. But the strangers did not laugh, and, therefore, were not killed. By and by the strangers began to rub their pieces of wood to produce fire. At first the people looked at them with curiosity, but when there arose a smoke, and when a strong smell of burning reached their noses, then all began to howl an enchantment, to protect themselves against the ghost, which, in their opinion, the strangers were conjuring up. Their howling went on. “Piopio, sea by the eastward, what brought thee here to my sea by the land ? Get up, go! “The two strangers went on with their friction. When the chaffings were ignited, they wrapped them in dry grasses, and waved the same about to fan it into flame, and then they lighted a fire. The natives all the time kept up their howling, “Piopio, sea by the east-wind, what brought thee here to my sea by the land? Get up, go!” Meanwhile the two strangers had dug a small pit, put dry wood over it and stones on the top, and then set it on fire. When the wood was burned up, and the stones, being now red-hot, had fallen into the pit, they wrapped the raw meat of the seal in wet grass, and, having first raked some of the hot stones, out, they placed the parcel of meat on those hot stones which were left in the pit; then they put the other hot stones on the top, more wet grass over the same, and then covered up the whole with earth. Now they sat down and waited for the meat to be cooked. The natives all the time looked at the steaming heap, and howled their enchantment. When the meat had been steaming long enough, the oven was opened. Then there arose a fragrant steam, and when the appetizing smell reached the noses of the natives, they stopped howling, and exclaimed, “What a nice smell!” And the cooked meat looked so tempting. Then all relished the meal, the natives remarking, “Now, for the first time, we eat cooked food!” “Yes,” said the strangers, “you are strange animals, living on uncooked food; you are not like human beings.”
After this the natives told them that there was one evil they were suffering from, namely, a monstrous bird, which ate people. They asked if the
direction which the bird used to take was known. “Yes,” was the reply, “and if some of us go that way when the bird happens to come, he gobbles us up.” Having learned this, they went to the haunts of the bird, and erected a sort of block house, having only one small opening at some height from the ground, into which they jumped and then waited for the appearance of the bird. After some time they saw it coming. The body was still at a distance, when the head already reached their little fortress. The bird came nearer, and raised its huge beak towards the opening where the men stood; but the throw of a heavy axe from the men broke one of its wings. Again, it raised its beak, and again an axe broke its other wing. Then the men jumped down and killed it. After that they went to its cave, and found there a heap of human bones.
Now the two men felt a great desire to go back to their own home, to their wives and families. So they launched their canoe, and paddled away in the direction of their island. At last they reached it. It was night when they landed. They went to their own houses, but there was no one in; there was only the smell of dogs. While they looked about, they observed the glare of a fire in some other house. They went in quietly and sat down, for all the people were asleep. By and by a woman sighed, as if in her sleep. “When the day declines the love arises. The father is parted from Hawaiki. There comes a sound from over the mountains. O, dear—o—.” When at last daylight came, the people woke up, and one of the women exclaimed, “There are our husbands.”
2.—The Adventures of Tama.
Once upon a time there was a chief named Tama, and his wife's name was Rukutia. They had a son and two or three daughters, all still children. One day there came a company of visitors, namely, Tutekoro-panga and his followers. A feast was made, and then both parties stood up for a dance. Tama and his party wore maros, made of dogs' tails, round their hips, and Tutekoropanga and his party wore maros, made of precious red feathers. The ornaments of the latter were much admired, and Tama felt that thereby he and his party were put in the shade. This vexed him so much that he withdrew from the gay company, and shut himself up in his ornamented private house. But while he thus sat fretting alone, Tutekoropanga made himself agreeable to his wife, Rukutia, which ended in an elopement. Before Tutekoropanga left, he spoke thus to Tama's children, “Tell your father that it will be quite impossible for him to pursue me, for I have laid my spells upon the briars, thorns, nettles, and ravines of the forest, and upon all the monsters and whirlpools of the sea.” Then he departed with his followers and with Rukutia. Tama's
son went to his father's private house, and, resting his arms and chin upon the sill of the window opening, looked in. The father was uttering an invocation, and, when he had finished, the son said, “Our mother is gone away with Tutekoropanga.” Again the father repeated an invocation, and then went to the house of his children. Here they all had a long cry, and, when they had done, the father asked, “Why has your mother forsaken you?” “Because,” answered the children, “you are sb plain looking. Our mother liked Tutekoropanga better, because he is such a handsome man.” The father then said, “Stay here quietly with your brother.” Then he went away, determined to see his ancestors, who had departed this life, and were living in the nether world, and to ask them to make him handsome.
While he is on his way thither, it may not be out of place to give here a short description of what the Maoris thought of a life after death, before Christianity was introduced. It could not be called a belief, because they were not interested in it. It was but a vague conception, and none of the old wise men could give a clear description of the same. The following, however, may be taken as a general summary. When people died, their souls went to a place called the Reinga, somewhere under the earth, but not identical with the Po, which latter seems to have been a more ancient idea, and the abode of superior gods and very great chiefs. The Reinga was surrounded by hills, having a lake in the centre, round which, on the banks, the departed dead lived again in their bodily shapes. When a soul arrived, she alighted first on the top of one of the hills, and waited till observed from below. Then some one would call up, “Dost thou belong to me ?” If not, the soul would shake her head; but, if asked by a parent or relation, then she would throw her head back as a sign of yes. Then she would be asked to hover down, and when she reached the ground, she would be again in her former bodily shape. Rank, of course, would be respected; but there was no reward or punishment for good or bad deeds done here; yet there were stages. People died there again, and then passed on to another stage; and somewhere there was a passage through which they must go. Here stood two great spirits, called Tuapiko and Tawhaitiri, one on each side of the passage, bending over towards one another, and between them the departed soul had to pass. A light soul would fly through swiftly and escape, but a heavy and clumsy one would be cauight by the two spirits, and destroyed. Dying again, and passing from stage to stage, it is not clear if some at last landed in the Po; but some, at least, when they had passed through about ten stages, made their appearance again in our upper world, some in the shape of blue-bottle flies, and some as candle-moths (the latter are still called “wairua tangata,” man soul); this was
the last existence of common man. There were other spirits residing in our world; if they had ever been men or not, is not clear; some of them, called atua * (the term is now used for God), would attach themselves to some men, and be their familiar spirits. But there were also cannibal spirits, called ngingongingo (or Rikoriko), who dwelt in the ruins of deserted houses and villages, and would creep into the living, when such came too near them, and eat up their insides, till their bodies wasted away and died. †
We must now return to Tama in our tale. It appears that in the first stages of the Reinga, the ancestors could, in certain conditions, still be visited by the chiefs of their living descendants. Tama met on his way with a white heron (kotuku), and, borrowing his shape, he flew and alighted on the bank of the lake in the Reinga. Here he was observed by his ancestors, Tuwhenua and Tumaunga, and their daughter Te Kohiwai. They looked at the bird, which was going along the margin of the lake, stretching its long neck, and picking up food. They remarked, “That is something new in our place. There are eight (or, as the Maoris generally counted by twos, sixteen) bends in its neck !” At last it struck them that it might be their descendant, Tama. Then they told Te Kohiwai to make a charm called a tamatane, used to find out the identity of a person, and go and throw it at the bird. She did so, and it fastened at once on its neck. Then she led the bird to Tama's ancestors, and, on arriving there, he had regained his human shape. Looking at his ancestors, he was struck by their extraordinary beauty—they were tatooed.
When the first greetings were over, the ancestors asked Tama, “What has brought you here?” “The treasure of your ornaments,” he replied. “I wish to be made handsome.” They consented to his wish, and drew gracefully curved lines over his face and body. But not long after, when he went and bathed, it came all off, and he complained that it did not last like theirs. Again the lines were drawn upon him, but these, likewise, did not last. “How is it,” said Tama, “that your tatoo lasts, and mine does not last ?” “Ah,” said they,
[Footnote] * The ancient gods were called tangata-men; but they had the attributes of gods. Atua also means anything incomprehensible, from a ghost to a work of machinery
[Footnote] † I can find no paper with a Maori text of the foregoing description; I could easily render it into Maori, but that would not be a text out of the mouth of an old Maori.
“that is death right out.” “But you are alive.” “O yes; one can live through it, but it is as bad as death.” However, it was at last agreed that it should be done. The instruments were sharpened and the pigment got ready. Then he was laid down, and the operation commenced. It was long and painful, and he often fainted. When his breath returned, he could only faintly say, “O, Taka; O, Ha ! I am very bad.” Then the operator would reply, “It is not I, it is the instrument that causes the pain.” However, after many days of painful operation, the work was at last finished. Then he was carried into the house, and laid before the fire. After two or three days he felt better. Then the sores began to fall off, and by and by he found himself having been made a handsome man. He went to the water and bathed, but his tatoo did not wash off. After some time he said to his ancestors, “Now I want to go back to my children.” Then they gave him some presents, consisting of rotu, puairuru, and pokeka-Kekie. The rotu is described as a flower, or the extract of a flower, of great virtue. May the name of the lotus flower have been carried by the Maori ancestors even so far as New Zealand ?
Tama came safely back to his children. He stayed with them a short time, and then one morning he told them that they must again stay quietly at home, and that he would go and try and find their mother. Then he disguised his newly acquired beauty with dirt and ashes, and made himself look like a mean man. He armed himself with a maipi (a long weapon, having at the point a defiant tongue carved), and a sharp flint; he took also some of the sweet odours with him. So he started on his fresh adventure, repeating an invocation, to counteract the spell which Tutekoro-panga had laid on his way. It was a prayer that the mountains and other obstacles might move aside to afford him a passage. By and by he came to a large forest full of impenetrable thorns and brambles and other obstacles; but he bent the thorns and brambles with his maipi, and then cut their strained parts with his sharp flint, and so forced his way through. At last, after a great deal of tiresome labour, he arrived on open ground, and, when near Tutekoropanga's place, he fell in with a company of people who were breaking firewood. When they saw him, and taking him for a straying poor man, they called out, “There is a slave for us !” “Don't, don't,” said Tama. And looking so tired and miserable, the people said, “No, we will not load him with firewood.” Then, keeping to them, the people told him that they were getting firewood, in order to make bright fires in the evening, for Rukutia, the wife of Tama, whom Tutekoropanga had taken away from him, was to dance before them, and they wished to light the house up with bright fires, so that Rukutia could display the features of her face (her grinning) to the best of advantage.
It was now getting evening, and Tama went with the wood-carriers into the large house, and sat down by a post. The fires were lighted, the people assembled, and Rukutia was called for. Tutekoropanga handed her an ornamented apron to tie round her hips. When she was coming forth to begin her performance, Tama prayed that her eyes might run with water. No sooner had she begun to distort her face (a main feature in that sort of dance) when her eyes began to run with watery tears, and she had to squat down to dry them. Again she stood up, again Tama repeated his prayer, and again she sat down to wipe her eyes. After some more trials, the people began to murmur, “What is the matter with Rukutia that her eyes so run. It used not to be so.” Then Tutekoropanga became angry, and beat Rukutia, and she cried. Then the fires were left to go out; the people dispersed; and those, who slept in the house, Tama charmed into a deep sleep. By and by, when the house was quite dark, Tama opened some sweet odour, which he carried under his arm-pits. The odour partly awoke Rukutia, who said, “O thou sweet smell of rotu ! Dost thou come from Tama, my husband? “Then Tama shut up that odour, and opened another parcel, which contained an abominable stench, and Rukutia said, “O what a bad smell! The house is full of stink.” Then he shut that up and waited a while, and then opened the mokimoki, when Rukutia exclaimed, “O thou sweet odour ! Doest thou come from Tama, my husband?” By this time Tutekoropanga had waked up, and said roughly, “What a nonsense! Can Tama get over my spells and come here ?” To this Rukutia replied, “To my impression, the eyes of the mean looking man appeared to be those of my husband.” When all were fast asleep again, Tama stole quietly out of the house, went to the water, and gave himself a thorough washing, so that his tatoo shone forth handsomely; then he tied up his hair, and dressed himself in a gentlemanly fashion, and went back to the house, and sat down outside close by the door. Now he pronounced a charm, to the intent that Rukutia might want to come out. It was not long when the door was opened, and Eukutia came out. He pulled her gently by the dress, when she looked round, and there sat Tama, her husband, and now, O so handsome! “O, my own husband,” she said, “let us flee together.” “No,” said he, “you stay here with that husband of yours.” “O take me away with you,” she begged. “This is a bad man, he always beats me. I cannot live with him. Take me away with you.” “No,” said he, “it was for my ugliness you left me for Tutekoropanga. Stay here. But one fine morning, when you see my shining sail on the sea, then climb upon the whata, rouse all the people, and call, ' There is Tama, my husband.'” Then he went away and left her there.
When Tama got back to his own place, he prepared for a voyage. He
put a quantity of ashes and a supply of wood boards on board, manned his canoe, and then set sail for Tutekoropanga's place. Now the great sharks (taniwhas) and all the monsters and dangers of the deep, which were under Tutekoropanga's spell, to keep Tama off, began to assail him. To some he threw ashes to darken the water, to others wood boards to let them bite at, and, while they were thus occupied, he went on. One fine morning Rukutia saw his bright sail on the sea. Then she climbed on the whata, roused all the people, and called, “There is Tama, my husband.” When the canoe drew near the land, then all the people, but especially the women, admired Tama, that handsome man. They all called for Tutekoropanga to come and see Tama, the handsome man. But he would not believe them, and remained in his house. Tama, meanwhile, called to Rukutia to swim on board, which call she quickly obeyed. Then all the women called in a chorus, “O, Tutekoropanga! Do you sit lazily at home while Rukutia goes away with Tama, that handsome man.” But he believed his spell to be sufficient to keep Tama away. Meanwhile Rukutia had reached the canoe. Tama took hold of her hair, and pulled her in; then, with a sharp flint, he cut off her head. Then he ordered the canoe to be turned about, and to sail for home, with the dead woman aboard.
When they reached home, the body having been bent together into a roundish ball (the knees under the chin, as the Maoris formerly handled their corpses), was wrapped in kura (a precious red substance) and put into a box made for the purpose, and buried in the house near the wall. Now Tama sat day after day in the dead-house, and mourned for his wife, Rukutia. At last, when the spring season came round and the tutu bush put forth new shoots, he heard a humming sound, and then he saw a blue bottle fly humming, “U—m—u, notwithstanding my head off, u—m—u.” Upon this Tama got the corpse up again, and opening the box, he found his wife alive, her cheeks were moving with a sweet smile.
3.—Ruru-teina and Te Roronga-rahia.
Ruruteina was the youngest of several brothers, who made him their cook, and to perform all sorts of mean work for them. At the same time there was living, at some distant place, a young lady named Te Roronga-rahia, who was spoken of as the most beautiful of all women. The elder brothers made up their minds to pay her a visit, so they got their canoe ready; took their youngest brother Ruru with them as their cook and man of all work, and then sailed to that place. When they had landed they left Ruru to carry the luggage into a sort of store-house near the beach, which was to be their abode during their stay, and they themselves went to the large common-house of the village. Here they were treated with food, and in the
evening there was an assembly of pleasant company. Then every one of the brothers made himself agreeable to a female partner, and every one of them asked his partner quietly to tell him which of them was the renowned Rorongarahia. The answer to every one was:—"Tell no one. I myself am Te Rorongarahia.” So, every brother believing he had won the affection of the most renowned lady, kept the secret. But they were all deceived. The beautiful Roronga was a modest girl, and did not mix with the rude young folks. She was quietly staying at home, with her waiting maid, in her own private house.
When Ruruteina had finished carrying the luggage he went to fetch some water, and, seeing some children playing at spinning tops, he asked them to show him the road to the well.” “There,” they said, “that road, passing close by the house of Te Roronga.” “So,” he said, “is that the house of Te Roronga?” “Yes.” Now, in the evening, while his brothers were amusing themselves in the village house, Ruru paid his visit to Te Roronga. He was kindly received and friendly entertained by that beautiful lady. However, he left by time, and when, later in the night, his brothers came home to the store-house, which was their temporary lodging, they found him sleeping on the luggage. This went on for several days and evenings. One day he heard his brothers say that next morning they were to start for home before daybreak. Now, by this time, Ruru and Te Roronga had already fallen desperately in love with each other, and she had consented to go with him. So, in the evening, while his brothers were amusing themselves with their partners in the village house, Ruru conducted his ladylove and her handmaid into his private cabin in the canoe, and then went and laid down on the luggage, where his brothers found him when they came home. Then their things were carried on board, and a little before day-break, when they embarked, it was found that every one of the elder brothers had a female companion. All got on board, and then sailed away; no one suspecting Ruru of having ladies hidden on board.
On their voyage home, they had to land at a certain place to wait for a change of wind. They went ashore and tried to get fire, but could not succeed. However, a smoke was seen at some distance, and Ruru was told to go there and fetch fire. He did not want to go, fearing some one might open his cabin; but they made him go. Now, at the place where the smoke had been seen there lived a great lady, whose name was Te Ngarara-huarau. When Ruru came to her house, he saw her two maid-servants, called Kioreti and Kioreta. The lady heard them talking and asked, “Who is there?” “Ruru,” answered the servants. “What is he come for?” “To fetch fire?” “Let him stay for the meal,” called the lady. So, when the meal was served, the lady herself made her appearance. Ruru was
disgusted, for she wore a dress with an enormous long skirt trailing behind her, and, when he tried to get away, she entangled him in its folds, and not only that, but she had draggled it also over the food, and covered the same with dirty lizard-scales. * When the meal was over, the lady withdrew, and then Ruru asked the servants, “Is she always so?” “Yes,” said the servants. “But do you think she is human?” “No, indeed; she is a monster.” Hereupon the lady, who had overheard the conversation, screamed “I will kill you.” Then the servants told Ruru to make his escape while they themselves ran and hid themselves under some rocks. Ruru ran, and Te Ngararahuarau called after him, “Ruru come back; Ruru come back.” And when she found that he would not come back, she screamed, “You may not see me in a fair day; but, let there be a misty day, and I will be with you. When Ruru came to his brothers, he told them what an adventure he had had, and that he was afraid she would pursue him there. Then all agreed that they would kill her. For that purpose they constructed a rude house, with a small window opening at the back. In the middle of the house they placed a wooden post, which they dressed up so as to resemble Ruru. Then there happened to be a misty day, and Te Ngarara made her appearance, calling, “Ruru where are you?” “Here,” he answered, from behind the image inside the house. Te Ngarara went in, and mistaking the post for Ruru, encircled it with the drabbletail of her dress. Then, hearing a busy noise outside, she asked: “Ruru, what means that?” Ruru answered, “Only your brothers-in-law making a meal for us.” But they were heaping fagots round the house, and blocking up the door, and then set it on fire all round. Ruru made his escape through the back opening. The house was seen enveloped in a sheet of flame; Te Ngarara was stifled with dense smoke, and she cried, “O, Ruru, you are forgetting me!” Now, while the monster was perishing in the flame, the scales of her skin tried tried to escape; but the people were watching round the burning house, with sticks in their hand, and threw back the scales, as they rushed out, into the fire. Only two scales escaped, all the rest perished with the monster.
I cannot give the uncivilised Maori credit of weaving a moral in their fable; but think civilization might draw one out of it with some advantage. If foolish pride, which prompts people to a display of vain show in a general, and to distorting the human form in a particular bearing, could be killed, then a few scales which might escape—if their breeding be kept in proper bounds—would be harmless and would be allowed to live.
At last, the wind being fair, they started again, and arrived at their
[Footnote] * I had to modify this, in order to meet the taste of civilised fashion. It will be seen in the Maori text that her skirt was a huge lizard-tail.
home. Then, to the wonder and perplexity of their parents, every one of the elder brothers introduced his wife as the famous Rorongarahia. But the mother could not see such world-renowned beauty in any of them. However, they had got wives, and, as it seemed, every one to his own satisfaction. Then the mother looked with pity on her youngest son, and said, “You alone have come back without a wife.” “Well,” he answered, “has no one looked into my cabin in the canoe?” “No; what should there be to look for?” Then he begged his mother to go and see. She did so, and there found the most beautiful lady, and in tears. But the handmaid sat quite composed. Ruru-teina had taken down to them two roasted birds. Te Roronga had eaten only a very little of hers; but the handmaid had eaten hers clean up. The mother called the people together to come and see the most beautiful lady, the wife of her youngest son. Now the elder brothers found that they had been taken in, and every one beat his wife, because she had deceived him.
Rona is known in New Zealand, not only by the Maori, but also by some Europeans, as “the man in the moon,” and for that reason I must not pass him over, though it is rather a rude tale.
One day, while Rona was out fishing, his wife went out of the house and called, “Hoka! come down; we two—.” Hoka answered, “I dare not. Rona is a jealous being. Let Rona get far out on the sea, and I will come.” But Hoka was such a rude man that he came straight over the fences, and broke them down. Before Rona came home, Hoka was off again. Then Rona asked his wife how the fences had been broken. The wife said that the wind had blown them down. “But there was no wind on the sea,” said Rona. The wife said, “O, such a wind was blowing here.” On another calm day, when Rona was again far out on the sea, fishing, the wife called again for Hoka. Again the fences were broken down, and when Rona came home, the wife told him again the same tale of a great wind. Next calm fishing day, Rona, pretending to go out to sea in the fishing-canoe, hid himself in the house, and then found it all out. He caught Hoka, tore off a part, and then let him go. He roasted that part, intending that his wife should eat it; but she ran away, her small children following her crying; the eldest daughter stayed with her father. Rona called after his wife: “If you come back you shall eat it.” She went with the children to the wild ranges of the mountains; but, after some time, she thought it best to send the children home to their father. She instructed them how to find him, and then, by means of sorcery, she put them into a log of wood, and rolled the same into the sea, to let the wind drive it home.
When the log of wood, with the children in it, drifted to the fishing-ground of their father, it was seen by some men in a canoe; but when they tried to lift it out of the water, the children prayed that it might be too heavy. The men found it so, and let it drive. Soon after it drifted against the canoe of their own father. Then they prayed that it might be light, and the father lifted it into his canoe with ease. When the canoe was filled with fishes, they paddled home, and then Rona told his eldest daughter to carry up that log of wood. She did so, and put it by the whata, where they hung up the fish. Next day the girl was sitting outside, weaving a coarse grass-mat, and then heard a plaintive singing. Listening, she heard the following words:—“The moon is slow to rise. We shall be killed by our mother. The moon is slow to rise. We shall be killed by our father.” Then the girl went and called her father, who came and heard the same wailing. Now it happened that a fire broke out—if by accident, or wilfully by Rona, I do not know—and everything was burnt up.
After this, Rona, in his trouble, tried to fasten himself to the sun; but he found it too hot; then he fastened himself to the moon, and there he remained eating the moon. When he has eaten her up, then he waits till she is grown full again, and then he eats her up again.
5.—The Adventures of Paowa.
The first part of the following tale would have read better two hundred years ago, because it is a cruel witch story; but the second part is more pleasant.
Paowa, on a voyage in his canoe, landed at some distant place where there lived an old witch. Her name was Te Ruahine-mata-maori (the old woman with a Maori face). She made the strangers a meal of small kumeras; perhaps, it was for that, she was also called the Ruahine-kai-piha. After the meal, the strangers asked for some fresh water to drink, and when she went to fetch some, Paowa bewitched her. So, when she came to the well, she found it dry—at least so to her appearance. Then she went to another place for water; but found that also, or appeared to be, dried up. Then she wandered about over hill and dale, seeking water, but found all the springs dry. Meanwhile Paowa set fire to her place, and then sailed away. When the old woman looked round toward her place, she saw it all in a blaze. Then she sung:—
“Let my house be burned; but let my store remain.
Let my place of enchantment be burned; but let my cellar remain.
Let my garden be burned; but let my fences remain.
Let my dirt-pots be burned; but let my dogs remain.”
When she came back she found her place burned down, and Paowa and his
party gone, and the canoe was out of sight. Then she called her dogs, which for some time sniffed about seaward, and at last indicated the direction Paowa had taken. Now she girded up her breath; put some kura, which contained great power of witchcraft, under both of her armpits, and then dived into the sea. By virtue of the kura she was enabled to shoot along under the water to a great distance with great speed. She bobbed up her head and saw the canoe, but a great way ahead of her. Again she dived, and shot along a great distance; she bobbed up her head again, and found that she had gained considerably on the canoe. When next she dived and came up again, she was so near that she was perceived by Paowa and his crew. They paddled with all their might; but soon came to the conclusion that escape by sea was impossible. So Paowa made for the shore, jumped out, and sent the canoe on with the crew. He took refuge in a cave, pursued by the witch; but the latter found on her arrival the entrance already barricaded by Paowa. She sat down and scratched at the stones. Paowa made a fire in the cave and heated some stones. At the same time he roasted also a piece of nice food, and then asked: “Well, old woman; how are you?” “I am here,” she answered. “There is a morsel of food for you,” said Paowa, handing her a nice bit between the stones. She took it, and having eaten it, she said, “Well, my grandson, that was a nice morsel.” “You shall have more,” said Paowa, “just shut your eyes and open your mouth.” She did so, and then Paowa pushed a red-hot stone down her throat, upon which she fell down and died. Then Paowa went out, and when he touched her body there were flashes of lightning from under the armpits. Then he found that there she had hid her kura, and he took it all away.
Paowa was now provided with excellent powers of witchcraft, but he was in difficulties how to get home, his canoe was gone, and there being no way over land. However, he must manage by witchcraft. So he got into a log of wood, rolled into the sea, and let the wind drive him home.
The canoe had reached safely home, but the men, making quite sure that Paowa had been killed by the witch, told the people that he was dead. Then a time of great mourning was agreed upon. The people came together; some cried, while others cooked, and some others carried firewood. When the latter were busy collecting firewood near the sea, Paowa's log of wood was washed on the shore near them. They rolled it up on high and dry ground, but found it too heavy and too wet to carry it home; so they left it there; they did not know that there was a man inside. When they were gone, Paowa came out, went away and hid his kura, which contained such wonderful virtue of charms. Then he disguised himself, so that he looked like a mean old man, and then he went into the village, and sat down
where some women were cooking. They were busy filling flat baskets, like dishes, to be carried to the mourners. “Give me something to eat,” asked Paowa. “Indeed, you are mighty bold,” said the women, “to ask for food which is for the mourners, who cry over the death of Paowa.” But one old woman, more kindly disposed, said, “Never mind, poor old man. Give him something to eat.” So some dried fish were given him. Then again Paowa said, “Give me some oil.” “No,” said the women “the oil is for the mourners; there is none for you.” Again some old women said, “O let us give him some oil.” When he had got the oil, he said, “Give me some clothes.” “Where are the clothes?” the women exclaimed. “We have no clothes for you.” But again some kind hearted women said, “Never mind; let us give him some clothes.” When he had got the clothes, he said, “Give me some feathers to put on my head.” “Indeed,” said the women, “he even begs for feathers. Go along; we have no feathers for you.” But the kind hearted old women said, “Let us humour him. Give him some feathers to stick on his head.” So that ornament was also given him.
Paowa had now got what he wanted, and went away to the place where he had hidden his charm. He washed himself clean, tied up his hair, and put the feathers in it. Then he dressed and anointed himself with oil mixed with the charmed kura, and so he was transformed into a most handsome Maori gentleman, yet so, through the virtue of the charm, that he could not be recognised at once by the people. He now went back into the village where the mourners were assembled, crying over the supposed death of Paowa. When the people saw him, they exclaimed, “What a handsome chief is there coming,” and he was invited to come among them. He was much admired, especially by the women. A mother remarked, “He must be a husband for my daughter.” “For my daughter, I should think,” remarked another mother. By and by Paowa made advances to a nice young lady, a grand-daughter of the aforementioned kind hearted old woman, who was much pleased by that. At last the people ventured to ask him who he was. Then, assuming his own natural features, he said, “I am Paowa.” Now all the people recognised him, and there was a great and loud rejoicing. The mourning for the supposed death of Paowa was now turned into a feast of joy.
I must give Whiro a place here, because he was once, before the old Maori religion was understood, through a mistaken identity, nearly being taken for the devil by Europeans. He seems to have been a gloomy sort of man. Once he held his grand-child, a baby, on his knees, and had
occasion to call the mother, his daughter-in-law, to come quickly and take the baby away, and to wipe his knees. The mother did both, and laughed. This had been observed by others, who talked about it, till it grew into a tale of indecencies. When old Whiro heard of that, he was so vexed, that he resolved to emigrate. For that purpose he made a canoe, and when the planks on the upper rim were lashed on, the string got round the neck of the man who was pulling on the other side, and, at the same time, Whiro pulled on his side, and the man was killed, if by accident or with intention, is not clear. Whiro buried him under the chips, and said nothing about it. The man was missed and sought, but not found till the time when the canoe was being dragged to the sea. Then, while the people were dragging, their feet moved the chips, and the dead man was found. Then the people said that Whiro had killed him. This made him still more gloomy, and he now resolved to sail away on the wide sea to death. He persuaded a man named Tura to accompany him, but did not tell him that it was a voyage to death. Tura left his wife and a son named Iraturoto at home.
When they were sailing along, they met Tutatahou and Rokotakawhiu. These seem to have been some sort of spiritual beings. Tutatahou called, “Whose canoe is that?” One of the crew answered, “A canoe of supernatural beings;” and for that presumption he was killed, as by lightning. Again Tutatahou called, “Whose canoe is that?” and again one of the men answered, “A canoe of supernatural beings” (atua). He also was killed. Then, being asked the third time, Tura said, “It is Whiro's canoe,” adding some explanation (the meaning of which I do not understand, nor could the wise men explain). Then they were allowed to pass on.
Now Tura began to have misgivings as to how their voyage would end, and he suspected Whiro to mean to sail out of the world. When they came to a place called Otea, they passed so near the land that Tura could lay hold of some overhanging branches of the bushes. He held fast and let Whiro go on with his canoe, to death. Tura climbed up the bushes; but the place was not inhabited. He went on travelling in the direction homeward, and after many days he came to a settlement, but it was inhabited by a strange race of people, called the generation of Nukumaitore. Their heads, arms, and legs were so short and so much shrunken into their bodies, that they seemed to have no limbs at all. They were sitting on the tuwhara fruit of the kiekie tree, slowly waving their hands on their short arms. Tura claimed the hospitality of an old woman (always a good policy when one comes among savages), and she befriended him. By and by she also gave him a wife. The people there lived on raw food; they did not know the fire. When Tura made a fire, they all ran away into
the bush; but when he had cooked some meat, the savoury smell brought them all back.
In the course of time Tura's wife found herself pregnant, and when her time was come, there came to her several old women, each carrying a sharp flint and some soft rags. Tura asked his wife what these meant with the sharp flints. She answered, “To cut me open, and to take out our child. We know of no other way for a child to come into the world. The mother often dies under the operation, but the child is saved alive.” Tura told her that there was a natural way for a child, and then drove all the women away, and put his wife into a house by herself. By and by a child was born, the first natural birth of that place.
Tura stayed at that place till his child could run about. Then one day, while his wife was doing his head, she asked, “Tura, what means that, there are white hair mixed with the dark?” “That,” he answered, “means decay, and reminds me that I am drawing towards death.” Now he felt a strong desire to go to his own home, where he had left a wife and a son. After much crying he took leave of his second wife and child, and began to travel homeward. It was through an uninhabited country, and he walked for many days with little or no food. At last he found a dead whale stranded on the shore. Being now so weak that he felt he could go no farther, he made a small hut, laid in some store of meat from the dead whale, and then had to lay down, being now very ill. Every time his breath returned, he called the name of his first son in his own home, “Iraturoto, Iraturoto.” The son, at the same time, was dreaming every night that his father lay sick and alone, and was calling him. So he set out to find his father in the direction indicated to him in his dreams. At last he found him, and nursed him till he was better, and then brought him home.
The end of the Maori tales worth translating.