Myths and Legends of Te Tau Ihu
The myths and legends of Te Tau Ihu tell of significant events in the history of the region. Some are Polynesia-wide legends, including creation myths, adapted to local landscapes; others are parables to identify or protect valuable resources, or sagas which glorify human qualities prized by Māori. Some stories act as an aide-memoire to recall ancestors and events of the Hawaiki homeland; others are oral maps for the guidance of travellers. Some well known ones are:
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- The creation myths which explain the origins of the South Island, and the names for Nelson-Marlborough - Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka a Aoraki or Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka a Maui.
- The legend of Ngahue and Poutini, an oral map which identifies significant stone resources in Te Tau Ihu.
- Stories of taniwha which challenged Māori ingenuity and courage, especially Ngarara Huarau, known in tribal traditions throughout New Zealand and Polynesia, a monster who terrorised local communities; he features in legends based at Moawhitu, Rangitoto (D'Urville Island), Wainui, Mohua (Golden Bay), and Karauripe (Cloudy Bay). Kaiwhakaruaki, another terrible taniwha known across the Pacific, inhabited the Parapara Inlet in Golden Bay, and Tutaeporoporo was an enormous shark caught in Tasman Bay who later preyed on human travellers on the Whanganui River.
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There are stories of very early visitors to Te Tau Ihu from Hawaiki:
- Makautere and Tapuae-o-Uenuku landed at Waipapa on the Kaikoura Coast, and named many rivers, mountains and other features.
- Kupe, whose exploits are known throughout Aotearoa and beyond, travelled on the Matahourua in pursuit of a giant octopus which was interfering with his fishing in Hawaiki. His journey took several years, and he finally dispatched the octopus at Whekenui (named for the event) in Tory Channel. Hundreds of traditional place names in Te Tau Ihu derive from Kupe's visit.
Other stories encompass:
- Hinepoupou's epic swim from Kapiti Island to Rangitoto (D'Urville Island) after being abandoned there by her unfaithful husband
- an explanation about the origins of the name Onamalutu in the Wairau Valley, a corruption of the name Ōhinemahuta.
- Hui Te Rangiora's exploration of the southern seas where he encountered icebergs
- the origins of the name Te Moana Raukawa (Cook Strait).
Some accounts of pre-whakapapa tribes and early whakapapa tribes have mythical elements:
- Nga Tūrehu were a supernatural people usually associated with elves and fairies (the fair-skinned Patupaiarehe); Māori are said to have acquired netmaking and weaving skills after Māori women were kidnapped by Nga Tūrehu and later escaped.
- Nga Kahui Tipua are variously depicted as a race of giants, dog-faced ogres, taniwha, or human beings. Their stories are based in Cloudy Bay about the time of Kupe's visit.
- Rākaihautū, an ancestor of Waitaha, disembarked from the Uruao from Hawaiki at Whakatū. Armed with his magic ko he journeyed south digging lakes - Rotoiti, Rotoroa, and Rangatahi (Lake Tennyson) - and sculpting mountain ranges, to rejoin the Uruao in Foveaux Strait.
These myths, legends and oral histories demonstrate how Māori perceived the world in times past, what they feared, and what human qualities they admired. They are important keys to many local place names.
Updated April 2020
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Further sources - Myths and Legends of Te Tau Ihu
- Mitchell, H & J: Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka: A History of Maori of Nelson and Marlborough, Vol I The People and the land. Wellington, N.Z. : Huia Publishers, pp18-49, and references cited there.
- Andersen, J. (1942) Maori place-names, also personal names and names of colours, weapons, and natural objects Wellington :Polynesian Society
- Beattie, J. (1949) The Maoris and Fiordland. Dunedin : Otago Daily Times and Witness.
- Cowan, J. (1910) The Maoris of New Zealand. Christchurch, N.Z., London, Whitcombe and Tombs
- Cowan, J (1912) Pelorus Jack : the white dolphin of French Pass, New Zealand : with Maori legends Christchurch, N.Z. : Whitcombe & Tombs.
- Cowan, J (1926) Travel in New Zealand Auckland, N.Z. : Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd
- Davis, Te Aue (1990) He korero pūrākau mo : ngā taunahanahatanga a ngā tūpuna = Place names of the ancestors : a Maori oral history atlas NZ Geographic board, Wellington.
- Grey, G (1906) Polynesian mythology & ancient traditional history of the New Zealanders as furnished by their priests and chiefs. London, G. Routledge & sons, limited; New York E.P. Dutton & co.
full text http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-GrePoly.html
- Izett, J. & Grey, G. (1904) Maori lore; the traditions of the Maori people, with the more important of their legends. Wellington, N.Z., By authority: J. Mackay, Government Printer GPW.
- McEwen, JM (1987) Rangitane - a tribal history . Auckland: Heinemann Reed.
- Peart, J.D.(1937) Old Tasman Bay. Nelson : R Lucas & Son
- Simmons D. R. (1976) The great New Zealand myth: A study of the discovery and origin traditions of the Maori. Wellington : A.H. & A.W. Reed.
- Smith, S.P.(1910) History and traditions of the Maoris of the west coast, North Island of New Zealand, prior to 1840. New Plymouth, N.Z., Printed for the Society by T. Avery.
- Tikao, T.T (1990) Tikao talks : ka taoka tapu o te ao kohatu : treasures from the ancient world of the Maori. Auckland : Penguin
- White, J (1887,1888) Ancient History of the Maori..Wellington: Government Printer. Vols 2,3.
http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/6497007/editions?editionsView=true&referer=di and full-text
- Best, E. (1918) The land of Tara, Journal of the Polynesian Society, 27(105)
- Best, E. (1924) Myth and folklore. The Maori, volume 1.
- Pakauwera, E.W. & Smith, J (translator) (1917) Notes of the Ngati Kuia tribe of New Zealand, Journal of the Polynesian Society, 26, pp.116-129
- Tarakawa, T. [Trans. by Smith, S.P] (1893) The Coming of Te Arawa and Tainui canoes from Hawaiki to New Zealand. Journal of the Polynesian Society, 2 (4), p. 231.
- Māori Myths and legends resource list (2012) [Publications including Māori myths and legends searchable by region, language and reading age]:
- Maori mythology, folklore and history. Retrieved 10 December 2008 from Maori of New Zealand:
- Maori myths and traditions (1966; updated 2007). Retrieved from An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand (ed.A. H. McLintock), originally published in 1966, Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand:
- Maori myths legends and contemporary stories. Retrieved 10 December 2008 from Te kete ipurangi:
- Mitchell, H. & J. (2008) Te Tau Ihu tribes. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand:
- South Island Maori myths and legends. retrieved 10 December 2008 from Christchurch City Libraries:
- Story of Boulder Bank. Retrieved from Te Ara: