Volume 23 1914 > Volume 23, No. 91 > Review. Tehuti the voyager, p 150-153
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- 150

“TEHUTI THE VOYAGER.” By J. A. GOODCHILD (no copyright), 1913. Pyson & Co., Ltd., Printers, 19, Union Street, Bath.

WE have received a copy of the above pamphlet from someone unknown, and find some things in it of interest to our members.

The whole tenor of this little work is to show that the Egyptian voyager Tehuti, is identical with Tawhaki, of Polynesian fame, though strange to say the author does not mention Tawhaki's name all through. But the incidents referred to clearly show what the author had in mind, especially his mention of Tehuti's brother Karihi, and the incident of abstraction of the kumara tubers from the blind woman, Te Ruahine-matapo. The narrative is so mixed up between Egyptian and Polynesian myths, that it is difficult to know from which source the author has made his deductions. The only authority he quotes on Polynesian Myths is Mr. Dittmer's “Tohunga,” who, however, does not make any mention of the Tawhaki legends, so he must have had access to other works. Nevertheless it is possible to separate parts of the narrative.

Tehuti appears to have been an Egyptian voyager who flourished in the seventeenth century before Christ. The author says, “Accepting the dates and relationships given by Professor Petrie, who has worked out the history of the Seventeenth Dynasty with great precision from all available sources, Tehuti (whom he notes as “X,” first husband of Aah, and father by her of Aah-mes 1st) must have been born towards 1642 B.C. Egyptian records of his youth and parentage have not yet, I believe, been identified, but in Polynesian tradition the name of his father is Hema, a name mentioned in the sixth section of the geographical work Am Tuath, which illustrates Tehuti's voyage in the Pacific, and is probably largely based else-where upon his discoveries in America and Asia.” Hema is of course Tawhaki's father, but the identity of Tehuti with Tawhaki so far is merely suppositional.

The author goes on to show that Tehuti (after his marriage with Aah) visited Central America, and crossed from there to Asia. This was during the time of the Hyksos conquest and occupation of Egypt, which seems to have been the immediate cause of Tehuti leaving his - 151 country. He was accompanied by his brother Kher-ahi, a priest, whom the author identifies with Karihi, known from Polynesian legend to be Tawhaki's brother. “Tehuti's description of the Pacific must be read at present in the book Am Tuath (see “The Egyptian Heaven and Hell,” Vol. I., p. 117, etc., E. A. Wallis Budge).” His ship was named Vaa-herar, which the author says is Vaa-ra in Polynesian (va'a is of course Eastern Polynesian for Maori waka for a canoe). The author seems to think that on this voyage Tehuti visited the Hawaiian Islands, and Raiatea of the Society group, but there is little to support this view beyond the author's own ideas—at any rate he does not quote any authority. The author says, “We cannot date this home-coming exactly, but after the early death of his two brothers, Aah-mes, Neb-peh-peh (Lord of double strength), commenced his reign of twenty-five years about 1587 B.C.,” which constituted a period of twenty years of conquest and development in Egypt, and during this time Tehuti returned home. The home-coming is described as follows, and if it is derived from the Egyptian, as seems possible, it tallies with the same incident in Maori traditions, as given below. We quote here Mr. Groodchild's own words: “At some time during these twenty years of progress, say towards 1570 B.C., an aged man in rags seated himself upon the quay (at? Rakotis) and watched the boat builders at their work. Probably he told a few yarns which amused them, and they gave him food with the proviso that he should carry up their tools for them when they left work. This, his apparent decripitude, caused him to do in a leisurely fashion; but on their return in the morning they found signs that a more skilful and sure hand than theirs had left unmistakable traces upon their work. When this had happened a second time they set a watch, as Tehuti had no doubt expected, and caught him in the act of taking off a beautiful curly shaving as long as the boat itself; for he knew every trick of the boat builders of America, Polynesia, and the East. Led at once before the Queen Aah, who looked into these matters for herself and took a great interest in shipbuilding, he did not fall upon his face in that Divine Presence, but strode forward and seated himself by her side. Then looked Aah upon him, and gave no sign for his execution, but they joined hands and wept together, and those before them crept out with their robes before their faces, for that place was tapu when two gods met and would be alone with each other; but outside there arose great shoutings and wild rejoicings when it was heard that the Ibis, having winged its way round the world had returned to its nest in the moon……. . In later days Aah-mes (whom the author says was Tehuti's son) and his wife ranked with the great gods of old time, etc., etc.”

In John White's “Ancient History of the Maori,” Vol. I., p. 117, among the collection of Tawhaki legends is the following from the - 152 Ngai-Tahu tribe of the South Island. After the incident of the abstraction of the kumara tubers, comes Tawhaki's climb to what has been supposed to be the heavens, but which we have reason for thinking was a mountain. Mr. White says, “He got up and made himself as uninviting in appearance as he could and went on and was seen by his brothers-in-law and their men adzing out a canoe, who called and said, ‘There is an old man for us.’ He went on and sat down near them. When it was evening they called to him and said, ‘O old man! carry these axes!’ He took them, and they again said, ‘Take them to the settlement.’ He answered, ‘You go on and I will follow. I cannot travel as fast as you can.’ They went on, and Tawhaki adorned himself, and took an axe and dubbed the canoe. He began at the bows and worked up to the stern on one side; then he worked from the stern up to the bows on the other side and finished both sides. He now took the axes and went to the settlement. There he saw Hapai 1 sitting with his daughter. He assayed to go and sit down beside them. All the people called out to warn him away, and said, ‘Do not go where Hapai is sitting; it is sacred, and you will become sacred.’ He went on without heeding the warnings of the people and sat down with Hapai, where he remained till dawn of day. On the morrow his brothers-in-law said, ‘O old man! lift the axes again and take them to the canoe which is being made.’ He took them and they all started. Having got where the canoe was, his brothers-in-law said, ‘The canoe has a different appearance now from what it had.’ But they worked till the day was evening. Again Tawhaki was asked to carry the axes. The other people all left and proceeded to the settlement. Tawhaki again adorned himself, worked at the canoe and returned to the settlement and sat down near Hapai and caught his daughter in his arms. Many of the people seeing this fled to another place as the settlement of Hapai had become tapu by the act of Tawhaki; but those who remained uttered a loud shout of surprise at the noble look of the stranger—in other days he had appeared so mean and dirty……. .”

If Mr. Goodchild has derived his version from the Egyptian, there is a somewhat remarkable resemblance between the two narratives, causing us to think that both might have a common origin.

At the same time we think that the above incident, accredited to Tawhaki in the quotation from Mr. White, does not belong to the history of Tawhaki the Maori ancestor, but has been interpolated into the series, from some older source, as so often has occurred in other legends. The historical Tawhaki, ancestor of so many divisions of the Polynesian race, flourished about forty or fifty generations ago, i.e., - 153 between the seventh and eleventh centuries after Christ. 2 The above quotation from Mr. White is—we think—the only one of the Tawhaki traditions (and they are very numerous) that mentions that particular incident, i.e., of the return of Tawhaki and the meeting with his wife and child.

Whether Mr. Goodchild's identification of Tehuti the Egyptian voyager with Polynesian Tawhaki is correct or not, we have not the means here, through the absence of books, of deciding. But his attempt again allows us to call attention to the fact, that many of the Polynesian legends are immensely old, and date from long prior to the appearance of the latter people in the Pacific, which is proved by finding many of these traditions in the records of other races—somewhat altered according to environment it is true, but still the same. Tawhaki, for instance may be shown to be identical with the Greek hero Peleus, whilst the story of Māui can be traced through India, Babylonia, Scandinavia, and Egypt.

1   Hapai was Tawhaki's wife, of Celestial origin, according to the tradition we are following.
2   The true date of Tawhaki is not well fixed; native authorities vary considerably.