Volume 37 1928 > Volume 37, No. 147 > The story of Ngae and Tutununui. An east coast version of the Kae-Tutunui myth, p 261-270
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The following tale serves as an excellent illustration of the Maori habit of localising myths, tales, and incidents brought hither from the far isles of Polynesia. In most of the versions collected the scene is laid in Hawaiki, that is to say Polynesia, and the above names appear as Kae and Tutunui, though the Matatua folk know Kae as Kau-niho-haha. The present version has been culled from an MS. volume of Maori lore containing many legends, etc., narrated by Mohi Ruatapu and Henare Potae, of the East Coast. These experts have boldly proclaimed that Ngae was a resident of Reporua, on that coast line, and even give the name of his house; presumably they related the story as their elders had given it.

In twenty days a drift vessel carries Ngae to far Hawaiki, where he encounters Tinirau, a famous being in Maori myth, the guardian of all fish and the temporary husband of Hine-te-iwaiwa, the Moon Maiden. His six brothers perish during the drift voyage, but another appears only to die on reaching land. The ocean waif is kindly treated by Tinirau, who lends him his tame whale to bear him home to Reporua. Ngae is earnestly requested not to take his huge bearer near the beach, lest he be stranded and so perish, but to allow him to return to Tinirau. Ngae repays the kindness of Tinirau by slaying and eating Tutununui, and the odour of the cooked flesh reaches Tinirau, presumably about 2,000 miles away, hence Hine-te-iwaiwa and others are sent out to find Ngae and convey him to the home of Tinirau for judgment and punishment. So they set forth, visiting many isles, and at length reach the South Island of New Zealand, called Kaikoura by some North Island tribes. From that island they crossed Cook Strait to “New Zealand,” as the narrator termed the North Island. At all villages visited the women searchers played many games, sang songs, and performed posture-dances in order to make the people laugh, so that they might recognise Ngae by the sign of the broken tooth. On reaching Reporua they found Ngae, and so, having caused him and all his people to fall into a heavy sleep, they transported him and his house, by means of magic, to far Hawaiki, where he was slain and eaten by the people of Tinirau.

The point of the story of the transported house is not explained in this version, but the object was to make Ngae believe that he was still at his own home when he awoke. In other versions a house is said to have been so built at Tinirau's home as to closely resemble that of Ngae. When he awoke therein Tinirau entered and bantered him as to his whereabouts; Ngae looked round the house and - 262 believed it to be his own. He was then conducted outside, where knowledge of the truth, and death, came swiftly to him.

As to New Zealand being a different country from the South Island, we recall another such remark, heard in the “seventies,” when a detachment of Ngati-Porou troops was stationed at the Pukearuhe redoubt, near White Cliffs. A member of the force named Te Hau was asked what he thought of the Taranaki district; he replied:—“I think it a poor place, and the houses of the Maori folk are inferior. E hoa! Nui atu te pai o Niu Tireni!” (O friend! New Zealand is a much better place!) To him New Zealand was the East Coast.

The version of the story published by Sir G. Grey differs in detail from the above, Kae being asked to come to the home of Tinirau in order to perform a baptismal rite over Tuhuruhuru. There is no word about voyaging to a far land, and the incident is described as a local one, that occurred at Hawaiki.

Taylor's version, in Te Ika a Maui, resemble's Grey's, but introduces a cunning trick performed by Kae, who, when the rotu or sleep-compelling charm was uttered, placed bright pieces of pearl shell over his eyes, in order that the charmers might think him still awake. All to no purpose; he was overcome, and so conveyed to the home of Tinirau. There he was seated on a hot oven, dense steam arose, and so Kae perished, cooked to a turn.

In his Story of New Zealand Dr. Thomson gives a Waikato version, which makes out that the whale contained the spirit of a defunct person named Tutunui. This tapu creature drifted ashore, and Kae ate some of its flesh, hence the descendants of Tutunui found it necessary to slay Kae, and also to consume his body. This called for retaliation, and so came the custom of cannibalism. It is not clear where these incidents occurred.

A similar tale is told by the Tuhoe folk concerning one Pourangahua, who was carried out to sea in his canoe and drifted to Hawaiki, where he borrowed from Tane the huge bird called the Manu nui a Ruakapanga to bear him home to Turanga, in New Zealand. He treated the bird as Kae had treated Tutunui, and so it was destroyed by the dread ogre Tama, who dwelt on the summit of Mount Hikurangi. Tane sent Taukata to capture the ogre Tama, telling him that he would recognise Tama by his uneven teeth, and Taukata succeeded in making Tama laugh, whereupon he exposed his teeth. The story ends as does that of Kae, Tama was put to sleep and conveyed to Hawaiki, where he was slain. This story appears in the original at p. 926 of Tuhoe, English version at p. 918. A similar tale concerning 'Ae and Tinilau occurs at Samoa, and the tale seems to have also been known at Mangaia.

The second version of the story, commencing at paragraph 5, is a much condensed one, and there is no word of any long whale trips to New Zealand; it follows Grey's version fairly closely. The surprising part of it is that, when Kae returned home from what was, apparently, an island in Polynesia, he crossed a celestial sea on his borrowed whale steed, and reached Rangi-naonao-ariki, where - 263 the famed mountain, Tihi-o-Manono, stands. Now, Rangi-naonao-ariki is the name of the tenth of the twelve heavens, counting upwards, and so we see that one never knows where a Maori folk tale may lead one, or where a whale-riding man may stray to. We see that Tinirau was a member of the whale family himself, and hence he merely adopted a member of his own family when he kept a tame whale, and, naturally, he would desire to avenge the death of the creature.

In a version recorded by White occurs a detailed account of the awakening of Kae in a house resembling his own at the home of Tinirau, and of a conversation between the two that took place. This writer gives several long versions of the adventures of Tinirau, Hine-te-iwaiwa, and Kae.


(1) This tale pertains to Ngae and his younger brothers, whose permanent home was at Reporua, in the Waiapu district, Te Kikihi being the name of their house, Te Kikihi-taihaki. They went out to sea on a fishing trip, when a wind, the name of which is the Aputahi-a-Pawa, rose, and by it they were driven afar off. So they drifted across the ocean for twenty days and twenty nights. His six brothers perished, while he [Ngae], the seventh, survived; they were overcome by the lack of food and water, and by cold; when dead they were cast overboard, so he, the only survivor, drifted onward. When the craft reach Hawaiki another of the brothers [?] died and was buried in the shingle. The people of the land looked at him and called out to the village:—“O! There is a person trespassing on the forbidden places. It is demanded that he be slain.” Tinirau said:—“Do not allow him to be slain, but rather bring him into the village, he may be a stranger, who knows not the tapu places.” So the man went on his errand, and Ngae was conducted to the village, where Tinirau greeted him, and the people of Tinirau, the women, men, and children, gazed at him. Tinirau enquired of him:—“Whence come you?” But the man did not answer Tinirau; when food had been prepared and water given him he drank and ate, and then he spoke to Tinirau:—“A vessel driven hither by the wind.” He was kindly treated by Tinirau, he was fed and clothed, and lived with Tinirau.

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(2) Some time later a land wind sprang up, whereupon Ngae began to bewail his sad lot, and so Tinirau asked him:—“O friend! Are you weeping?” Ngae said to him:—“I am just greeting the wind that has come from the region of my home.” Said Tinirau to him:—“Here is my tame creature, that will serve as a means of conveying you to your home.” So his tame attendant was called up by Tinirau, its name being Tutununui, and when it arrived Tinirau said to Ngae:—“O friend! Be very careful with my creature, lest it perish; get off it and leave it well offshore; you will know when to do so, when it shakes itself then land is near and you will be near your home; by these means my pet will be able to return safely to me.” Ngae said to him:—“I will not ill-treat your creature, O friend! but will allow it to depart, on account of your kindness and liberality to me; my own relatives could not equal you in kindness.” So their talk ceased. So Ngae set off, mounted on the fish, and he and Tinirau bade each other farewell; the fish Tutununui went on his way, and, when it neared the home of Ngae, the whale shook itself, so that he would leave it and proceed to land, but he held firmly on, and so it perished, for its gills became filled with gravel. When dead it was dragged ashore and cut up, while some firewood was procured wherewith to cook it; the fuel by means of which Tutununui, the tame creature of Tinirau, was cooked was kokomuka. The odour of the cooked flesh was wafted afar off by the wind, and Tinirau lamented the loss of his pet, saying:—“Here truly is the odour of Tutununui, brought hither by the wind.” Even so he lamented, saying:—“Well, it is even so.” He then summoned his sisters and young folk, Raukatauri, Raukatamea, Itiiti, Rekareka, Rawea, Kurahau, Poruhiruhi, Poroherohe, Whakaarorangi, Ruhi-i-te-rangi, and Hine-te-iwaiwa. They went and asked Tinirau:—“By what token may Ngae be recognised?” “By the sign of a broken tooth”—and so they came hitherward, seeking the home of Ngae in all isles, even unto Kaikoura, then, crossing over to this island, New Zealand, they continued to search for Ngae. Thus the party of Raukatauri sought Ngae, but found him not; they visited all villages, but at that time had not yet traced him. They practised their many accomplishments, such as dart-throwing, ku, cat's cradle, whirligig, top-spinning, all the - 265 the numerous arts of Raukatauri, in order to beguile Ngae, the man who had treacherously done the pet of Tinirau to death. So they came on, and on, and at Reporua tarried a while, where also they performed their feats, including the thrusting of fire down their throats. One of their performances was the casting of darts over a house, the people of the place being on one side of the house and the travellers on the other side. The local folk closely watched this performance of the travellers, and then performed a posture dance in four ranks. This performance was a poteteke, in which the performers' legs were uppermost and their heads downward, as they recited their song:—

See p. 269 of the original text.

(3) Ngae did not laugh at this poteteke performance of theirs. They considered a while, and then, near the end of the performance, they started another haka:—

See p. 269 of the original text.

(4) Then at last Ngae laughed, and called out to them:—“Go on, friends, your performance is admirable.” Then the fire was extinguished, and, by means of charms, the people of the place were caused to fall into profound sleep. Then the wall posts and the very site of the house were, by the powers of magic, lifted and borne away through the heavens, though the stones of the fireplace fell down and are still seen. This is known as the marvellous removal in the time of Ngae—and they came to earth at the home of Tinirau. In the morning Tinirau went to see Ngae, and said to him:—“Where is my pet creature?” Ngae replied:—“I allowed him to return to you at once.” Said Tinirau to him:—“You have consumed him as food for your stomach. The odour has reached and pervaded this place.” As the talking ceased Ngae was dragged outside and slain. When dead he was cooked and eaten. So ends this tale of treachery.

The following version of the above story was obtained from Takitumu sources, and it will be observed that it bears a different aspect to the above:—

(5) Now when Tuhuruhuru, the child of Tinirau, was born, then Kae was asked to come from Tihi-o-Manono to perform the baptismal rite over him. When Kae arrived there - 266 happened to be no choice food for him, and so Tutunui, a tame whale, was summoned, and its young one was slain to serve as food for Kae. When Kae returned home he asked for the services of Tutunui to convey him across to the other side of Mata-ahurangi, which is a sea at Rangi-naonao-ariki, where is situated the great hill Tihi-o-Manono, the home of the offspring of Tawhiri-matea and his grandchildren. Tinirau, the owner of the whale, consented to this.

Family Tree. Te Puwhakahara=Rehuroa, Uetanguru, Tutara-kauika, Te Wehenga-kauki, Tutemakehurangi, Tinirau, Takeuruahi, Kaukohea

(6) The above explains the origin of whales and all such creatures, such as porpoises and all similar things.

(7) The odour of [the cooked flesh of] Tutunui reached Tinirau and his wife, and so they knew that the creature was dead, hence the war canoes named Te Paraha and Te Aweawe-rangi were manned by a force of warriors.

(8) Tinirau asked his sister:—“By what sign may Kae be known?” His sister replied:—“By his divided teeth”—meaning that there were spaces between his front teeth. So the party conducted various diversions in the home of Kae, such as flute-playing, the to and torehe, hand-clapping, twirling the whizzer, and the kaupeka, but at none of these did Kae laugh. Then Hine-te-iwaiwa, Raukatauri, Raukatamea, Hine-awhirangi, Ruhiruhi, and other highborn women doffed their garments and arranged themselves in two ranks. They then performed an extravagant posture-dance, with fluttering hands, glaring eyes, and open mouths, while some made strange movements with their legs. Now Kae was sitting at the base of the central post when Raukatauri led the following chant:—

See p. 270 for chant.

(9) When the performance was but half through all people in the house were laughing heartily, and then at last Kae laughed. Kae was conveyed to a canoe while asleep, and so carried to the home of Tinirau and there laid on his - 267 usual sleeping place at the base of the central post, and afterwards slain. Ngati-Poporokewa then rose and avenged his death by killing Tuhuruhuru.


(From the MS. volume, now in the Turnbull Library, written by Henare Potae of Uawa, and Mohi Ruatapu, for Samuel Lock, M.H.R.)

(1) He korero no Ngae ratou ko ona teina, kei Reporua to ratou kainga pumau, wahi o Waiapu; ko Te Kikihi te ingoa o to ratou whare, ko Te Kikihi-taihaki. Ka haere ratou ki te moana ki te hi ika, ka puta te hau ra, ko te Aputahi-a-Pawa te ingoa o taua hau nei, ka puhia e te hau ki tawhiti. Ka haere ratou i te moana, e rua tekau o nga ra, e rua tekau o nga po ki te moana. Ka mate ona teina, toko ono ratou, koia te tokowhitu i ora; na te kai, na te wai, na te makariri nana i patu; ka mate ratou ka torotoroa ki te moana; ka haere, koia anake i ora i runga i to ratou waka. Ka u ki Hawaiki ka mate tetahi o nga taina ki reira, ka tanumia ki ro kirikiri. Ka titiro mai te tangata whenua ki a ia, ka karanga ki te pa:—“E! He tangata kei nga wahi tapu e noho ana. E karanga ana kia tikina mai kia patua.” Ka mea a Tinirau:—“Kauaka e patua, engari me arahi mai ki ro pa nei; tena pea he tangata tauhou i pohehe ai ki nga wahi tapu.” Ka haere atu te tangata ka arahina ki te pa, ka tangi a Tinirau ki a ia; ka matakitaki tera te iwi o Tinirau ki a ia, te wahine me nga tane, me nga tamariki. Ka patai a Tinirau ki a ia:—“No hea koe?” Kaore i ki atu te waha o tera ki a Tinirau; kia meatia he kai, kia homai he wai, ka inu ia, ka kai, katahi ano ia ka korero ki a Tinirau:—“He waka riro mai i te hau.” Ka manaakitia ia e Tinirau, ka whangaia ki te kai, ka uhia ki te kakahu, ka noho tonu i te aroaro o Tinirau.

(2) Ka aua atu ka puta te hau o uta nei, ka tangi a Ngae i reira; ka pataitia ano e Tinirau ki a ia:—“E hoa! E tangi ana koe?” Ka mea atu a Ngae ki a ia:—“He tangi noa ake ki te hau nei i haramai rawa i te wa ki te kainga.” Ka mea a Tinirau ki a ia:—“Tenei taku mokaikai hei ara - 268 mohou ki to kainga.” Ka karangatia e Tinirau tona mokaikai, te ingoa ko Tutununui, ka tae mai ka korero atu a Tinirau ki a Ngae:—“E hoa! Kia tupato rawa koe i taku mokaikai, kei mate, waiho ano e koe i waho ka rere ki raro, e kore e ngaro, ka kori ko uta tena, ka tutata koe ki to kainga, kia ata hoki mai ai taku moka ki ahau.” Ka mea a Ngae ki a ia:—“E kore au e patu i to mokaikai, kei ko atu hoki te mau kino e taua, e te hoa, tera tonu e tukua mai e au i runga i to atawhai ki ahau, i to manaaki, kaore i penei te whanaunga tupu me koe”—a korero ana raua, a ka mutu. Ka haere ia ki runga o te ika, ka poroporoaki atu, ka poroporoaki mai; ka haere tera te ika ra, a Tutununui, ka tae kei tona kainga ka kori te pakake ra kia rere atu a Ngae ki uta, noho tonu i runga pupuri ai, ka mate, ka ki hoki nga pihapiha i te kirikiri. Ka mate ka toia ki uta haehae ai, ka tikina he peka hei tao, he kokomuka te peka i taona ai a Tutununui, te mokaikai a Tinirau. Ka haere te kakara, ka puhia e te hau ki tawhiti, ka tangi a Tinirau ki tana mokaikai, ka mea:—“Ina rawa te kakara o Tutununui e homai nei e te hau nei.” Ka tangi ia, ka mea:—“E tika! E tika! Ka heitau.” Ka karangatia e ia ana tamariki, ona tuahine, a Raukatauri, a Raukatamea, a Itiiti, a Rekareka, a Rawea, a Kurahau, a Poruhiruhi, a Poroherohe, a Whakaarorangi, a Ruhi-i-te-rangi, a Hine-te-iwaiwa. Ka haere ratou, ki te korero atu ki a Tinirau:—“He aha te tohu o Ngae?” “He niho whati”—a ka haere mai i nga motu katoa e rapa ana i te kainga o Ngae, a tae noa ki Kaikoura, whakawhiti mai ki tenei motu ki Nui tireni ka mahia ano ki te rapa i a Ngae. Ka mahi tera te hokowhitu o Raukatauri, kaore i kitea a Ngae; ka haere i nga kainga katoa kaore ano i kitea e ratou. E mahi nei ano ratou ki te teka, ki te ku, ki te whai, ki te porotiti, ki te ta potaka, ki te tini noa iho o nga mahi a Raukatauri hei whakaware mo Ngae, mo te tangata kohuru i te mokaikai a Tinirau. Haere mai ra, haere mai ra kei Reporua ka noho i reira, ka mahi ano ratou, ta ratou mahi he kokomo i te ahi ki roto ki o ratou korokoro. Tetahi mahi he pere ki runga whare, ko tetahi tarawahi o te whare i te tangata whenua, ko tetahi tarawahi i a ratou, i te ope. Ka matakitaki tera te tangata whenua ki te mahi a te ope nei e mahia ana; ka whakaturia ta ratou haka, e wha nga kapa. Ko - 269 te haka nei he poteteke, pare ai nga upoko ki raro, ko nga waewae ki runga ka takitakina ta ratou haka:—

“E poteteke ma taua e kawe ki hea?
E kawe ki te ruai te konokono
E kono, e konokono ki tua ki Waikato
Tu whakarere to tapa tu ana i raro
Ka mate au i te haunga i a Poruhiruhi
I te haunga i a Poroherohe, Ruhiruhi
Haramai ki roto Ruhiruhi, haramai ki roto
E, tenei te hope ka tihake, ka tihake
Kuku te haere, taroiroi te haere ki Karewa raia,
Ki te mahi kai mahau.”

(3) Kaore a Ngae i kata i tenei mahi a ratou i te poteteke. Ka whakaaro ano ratou, ka tata te mutu ka whakaturia ano te rua o a ratou haka:—

“E ko au ki te kohiti, kaore te kohiti
Ko au ki te whewhera, kaore te whewhera,
E kohiti nuku, e kohiti rangi
E kohiti werewere, puapua hanahana e tinaku ai e.”

Ka tukua ano te mutunga o ta ratou haka:—

“Ei, kai taku tara e kopi nei tuhera.”

(4) Katahi ano a Ngae ka kata; ka karanga atu a Ngae ki a ratou:—“Tena! Tena! E hika ma! Katahi ano te mahi ataahua he whakatuwherawhera i o koutou tonetone.” Katahi ano ka tineia te ahi, ka poko, ka rotua te tangata whenua e te moe. Ka whakamaiangitia nga poupou me te papa o te whare, ka hikitia, ka hapainga, ka mauria, ka haere i runga i te rangi haere ai, ko nga takuahi i makere, e tu nei ano. Tona whakatauki ko te hikitanga nui i a Ngae, tau rawa atu i te kainga i a Tinirau. I te ata ka haere atu a Tinirau kia kite i a Ngae, ka mea atu ki a Ngae:—“Kei hea taku mokaikai?” Ka mea atu a Ngae:—“I tukua tonutia mai e au kia hoki mai ki a koe.” Ka mea atu a Tinirau ki a ia:—“Kua pau i a koe te kai ki roto ki to puku, kua tae ake te kakara, kua puta mai ki konei haere ai.” Ka mutu te korero ka toia a Ngae ki waho patu ai, ka mate ka taona, ka kainga, ka pau. Ka mutu tenei korero kohuru.

[He reo ke tenei e whai ake nei, na nga koeke o Kahungunu tenei.]

(5) Na, ka whanau a Tuhuruhuru, tamaiti a Tinirau, ka tonoa a Kae i Tihi-o-Manono kia haere mai hei tohi i a Tuhuruhuru. Na, ka tae mai a Kae kaore he kinaki kai ma - 270 te tohunga nei, ka tonoa a Tutunui he pakake, ka tangohia mai te miha pakake, te kuao a Tutunui. ka patua hei kai ma Kae. No te hokinga o Kae ka tonoa kia hoatu a Tutunui hei waha i a ia ki rawahi o Mata-ahurangi, he moana tera kei Rangi-naonao-ariki, kei reira taua maunga nui nei a Tihi-o-Manono, te kainga o te whanau a Tawhiri-matea me ona mokopuna. Na, ka whakaae atu a Tinirau, te tangata nana te mokai.

Family Tree. Te Puwhakahara=Rehuroa, Uetanguru, Tutara-kauika, Te Wehenga-kauki, Tutemakehurangi, Tinirau Takeuruahi, Kaukohea

(6) Koia tenei nga putake mai o te pakake me nga mea pera katoa, te upokohue, era atu tu pera katoa.

(7) Ka tae mai te tuhi o Tutunui ki a Tinirau raua ko te whaereere ka mohio kua mate; ka utaina te waka taua, a te Paraha, a te Aweawe-rangi, hokowhitu te taua nei.

(8) Na, ka ui atu a Tinirau ki te tuahine:—“He aha ra te tohu o Kae?” Ka ki mai te tuahine:—“He niho kowae”—ara he puare a mua o te niho. Na, ka tae te mahi, he ku, he pakuru, he to, he pu torino, he koauau, he torehe, he ti papaki ringa, he porotiti, he kaupeka—kaore a Kae i kata. Na, katahi a Hine-te-iwaiwa, a Raukatauri, a Raukatamea, a Hine-awhirangi, a Ruhiruhi, me era atu wahine ariki ka tu hokorua, ka maunu te kaka, ko te kiri tahanga anake. Ko etahi ki te whewhera i nga ringa, i te waha, i nga mata, ko etahi ki te whewhera i nga kuha o ratou ano. Na, ko Kae i te pou tokomanawa tonu e noho ana; na, ko Raukatauri ki te takitaki i ta ratou haka nei:—

“E ako au ki te haka, e ako au ki te ringaringa
E ako au ki te whewhera. E! Kaore te whewhera
E ako au ki te kowhiti. E! Kaore te kowhiti.
E kowhiti nuku, e kowhiti rangi
E kowhiti puapua, e kowhiti werewere
E hanahana a Tinaku…e.”

(9) I waenganui ana e haka ana kua…te whare o te haka nei i te kaha ki te kata, a ka kata a Kae i konei. Ka mauria moetia a Kae ki runga waka, tae noa ki te kainga o Tinirau, ka whakatakototia ano ki tona moenga i te pou tokomanawa, ka patua. Ka tikina e Ngati-Poporokewa ka ngakia te mate, ka mate a Tuhuruhuru.