Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 11, 1878
This text is also available in PDF
(3 MB) Opens in new window
– 92 –

2. The Killing of Pekehaua.

After the destruction of the monster Hotupuku, the fame of that exploit was heard by all the many tribes of the district of Rotorua. Then a messenger was sent to those heroes by Hororita, or by some other chief, to inform them that another man-eating monster dwelt at a place called Te Awahou, and that the existence of this monster was known, just as in the former case of the one that dwelt in the plain at Kaingaroa. The travelling companies of the districts of Waikato and of Patetere were never heard of; and so the travelling companies of the Rotorua district, which left for Waikato, were also somehow lost, being never again heard of. When the people of Rotorua heard this news, those same 170 heroes arose, from out of many warriors, and set forth for Te Awahou. Arriving there, they sought for information, and gained all they could. Then they asked, “Where does this monster dwell?” The people of the place replied, “It dwells in the water, or it dwells on the dry land, who should certainly know; according to our supposition, no doubt it is much like that one which was killed.”

Hearing this, they went to the woods, and brought thence a large quantity of supplejacks (Rhipogonum scandens), with which to make watertraps of basket-work. Those they interlaced, and bound firmly together with a strong trailing plant (Muhlenbeckia complexa), so that when they were finished the traps consisted of two or even three layers of canes or supple-jacks. Then they twisted ropes wherewith to set and fix the water-traps, in order to snare the monster, and these were all done. Then they made similar plans and arrangements for themselves, as on the former occasion when the first one was killed. All being ready, the band of heroes set out, reciting their forms of spell, or charms, as they went along; those were of various kinds and potencies, but all having one tendency, to enable them to overcome the monster. Onwards they went, and after travelling some distance, they neared the place, or water-hole, where it was said the monster lived; the name of that deep pool is Te Warouri (i.e., the Black Chasm). They travelled on until they gained the high edge of the river's side, where they again recited their charms and spells, which done, the 170 proceeded to encamp on that very spot.

– 93 –

Then they diligently sought out among themselves a fearless and courageous man, when a chief named Pikata presented himself and was selected. He seized the water-trap, which was decorated on the top and sides and below with bunches of pigeons' feathers; the ropes, also, were all fastened around the trap, to which stones were also made fast all round it, to make it heavy and to act as an anchor and to keep it steady; and, having seized it, he plunged into the water with his companions, when they boldly dived down into the spring which gushed up with a roaring noise from beneath the earth. While these were diving below the others above were diligently employed in performing their several works, viz., of reciting powerful charms and spells,* of which they uttered all they knew of various kinds and powers, for the purpose of overcoming the monster.

Now it came to pass that, when the spines and spear-like crest of the monster had become soft and flaccid, through the power of those spells and charms, for they had been all erect and alive in full expectation of a rare cannibal feast, Pitaka and his chosen companions descended to the very bottom of the chasm; there they found the monster dwelling in its own nice home; then the brave Pitaka went forwards, quite up to it, coaxing and enticing, and bound the rope firmly around the monster; which having done, lo! in a twinkling, he (Pitaka) had clean escaped behind it! Then his companions pulled the rope, and those at the top knew the sign, and hauled away, and drew up to the top their companions, together with the monster, so that they all came up at one time. Nevertheless, those above had also recited all manner of charms for the purposes of raising, lifting, and upbearing of heavy weights, otherwise they could not have hauled them all up, owing to their very great weight.

For a while, however, they were all below; then they came upwards by degrees, and at last they floated all together on the surface. Ere long they had dragged the monster on shore on to the dry land, where it lay extended; then they hastened to hit and beat with their clubs the jaws of this immense fish. Now this monster had the nearer resemblance to a fish, because it had its habitation in the water.

[Footnote] * Upwards of ten kinds of spells are here, and in other parts of these stories, particularly mentioned by name; but as we have nothing synonymous in English, their names cannot be well translated, and it would take as many pages of MS. to explain them. Among them were spells causing weariness to the foe, spells for the spearing of taniwhas (monsters), spells for the warding off attack, and for the protection of the men from the enemy; spells for causing bravery, for returning like-for-like in attack, for uplifting feet from ground, for making powerless, etc., etc., all more or less curious, but mostly very simple in terms. Of spells and charms, exorcisms and incantations—for good or for ill-luck, for blessing and cursing—the ancient New Zealander possessed hundreds, ingeniously contrived for almost every purpose; few, however, if any, of them could be termed prayers. Such form a bulky history of themselves.

– 94 –

So then went forth the loud pealing call to all the towns and villages of the Rotorua district. And the tribes assembled on the spot to look at and examine their implacable foe. There it lay dragged on to the dry land on the river's side, in appearance very much like a big, common whale. Yet it was not exactly like a full-grown old whale; it was more, in bulk, as the calf of a big whale as it there lay.

They then commenced cutting-up that fish as food for themselves; on laying its huge belly wide open there, everything was seen at one glance, all in confusion, as if it were the centre of a dense forest.* For, going downwards into its vast stomach, there lay the dead, just as if it were an old bone-cave with piles of skeletons and bones—bones of those it had swallowed in former days. Yes, swallowed down with all their garments about them, women and children and men! There was to be seen the enormous heap of clothing of all kinds; chiefs' mats of dogs' tails and of dogs' skins—white, black, and chequered—with the beautiful woven flax-mats adorned with ornamental borders, and garments of all kinds. There were also arms and implements of all kinds clubs, spears, staves, thin hardwood chopping knives, white whalebone clubs, carved staffs of rank, and many others, including even darts and barbed spears, which the monster had carried off with its food. There these arms and implements all were, as if the place were a store-house of weapons or an armoury!

Then they proceeded to roast and to broil, and to set aside of its flesh and fat in large preserving calabashes, for food and for oil; and so they devoured their deadly enemy all within their own stomachs; but all the dead they buried in a pit.

Then every one of those valiant warriors returned to their own homes. The name of that village, where they were for a while encamped, was Mangungu (i.e., broken bones).

So much for thy victorious work! O thou all-devouring throat of man, that thou shouldest even seek to eat and to hunt after the flesh of monsters as food for thee!

[Footnote] * The words are: “Koteriu o Tane-Mahuta;” lit., the hollow stomach, or centre of Tane-Mahuta—i.e., the god of forests; Tane-Mahuta being the god of forests.

[Footnote] †; Ten kinds are here enumerated, all of hardwood and hard white whale's-bone.