The Old Woman of Takaroa

The Old Woman of Takaroa

Part I: Maui and Hina

Many years ago there was an old woman on Takaroa. One night when the moon was full she led the children of Takaroa island onto a beach to a place where there was a bit of a wind to blow away the insects. They laid mats out onto the beach and she told them stories about when she was young. Because she was born in the time before the Europeans came she knew much of the ancient knowledge.

This is one of her stories.

In ancient times there was a man who lived on Takaroa named Maui. Maui means broken and that is what Maui looked like. He looked like he was broken. His face was crooked, his back was bent, he walked funny. But there is one thing about Maui: no one had more mana (magic, power, the ability to do things) than Maui.

Maui had a brother named Kuri. These days, Kuri means dog. But in those days there were no dogs in the world so Kuri was a perfectly fine name. Kuri was very handsome. Because Kuri was so handsome he always had lots of girlfriends around him.

Maui didn’t have any girlfriends because of the way that he looked. But there came a time when Maui had a girlfriend. Her name was Hina. Hina and Maui lived in a house and at night Maui would go fishing. When Maui would return from fishing he would give the fish that he had caught to Hina and she would cook the fish. Then Maui and Hina would eat the fish together.

But there came a time when Hina started to like Kuri. When Maui would bring her a fish she would cook it and give it to Kuri. Maui started to notice that the fish that he would catch would not be the fish that he would eat. He was suspicious that something was going on. So this was his plan. One night he told Hina, “I am going fishing and I will not come back until tomorrow morning.” Then he got into his canoe and he went fishing. He waited a couple of hours and then he came back home early. When he came into his house he found Hina with his brother Kuri.

This made Maui mad and he said to his brother: Kumehia te gutu, kia roa,
Kumehia te tariga, kia roa,
Kumehia te kaero, kia roa,
Fatifati ka, fatifati ka,

Fati goru e, This means: Pull out the mouth that it be long,
Pull out the ears that they be long,
Pull out the tail, that it be long,
Broken and broken, broken and broken,

Broken and swollen,

Because of Maui’s mana (magic) his brother’s mouth grew long, he grew a tail, his ears grew long. His body was broken up and swollen in different places. He became the world’s first dog and that is why they are called kuri. Because Kuri was the first.

Maui didn’t turn Hina into a dog that night, but she was still scared that he would turn her into a dog. She wanted to get away from him and this is what she did. Everyday in the afternoon she would go out on the beach and feel sad and cry. In those days because of the mana that was on the land, you could send your words to far away places without a telephone or a radio. Just because of the mana on the land. That is what happened to Hina’s feeling sad and crying. It went to a faraway place to her brother and he came to her.

Hina’s brother was different than you and I, he was a bird. When he came to Hina he asked her what was wrong. She told him what Maui had done to Kuri and then she asked her brother. “Take me some place so far away that Maui’s mana won’t get to me.” He said to her, “Hina there is no place that’s far enough away that Maui’s mana won’t get to you.” She replied, “Isn’t there at least one place?” He replied, “Yes, there is. But to get there we will have to work hard.” She said, “Take me there.” So he took her there. To this day when the moon comes up when it is full, look to the moon and you will see Hina. Because the moon is the one place that is far enough away that Maui’s mana won’t get to Hina.

Part II: Moeava: The Two Cousins

This is another one of the old woman’s stories that she told to the children of Takaroa.

In the latter part of the eighteenth century there were two brothers who lived on the island of Napuka in the Tuamotus. One was named Moeava and the other was named Tangaroa. Tangaroa married a woman from Takaroa and he went to live there with her on Takaroa. Moeava married a wife from Napuka and he stayed at Napuka.

In time the wife of each brother bore a son, Tangaroa who had moved to Takaroa named his son Tangihia-Ariki. Moeava who had stayed on Napuka named his son Kehauri. These two sons were first cousins to each other.

After the two boys had grown up to be young men Moeava took his son, Kehauri, and went to visit his brother on Takaroa. While Moeava and Kehauri were on Takaroa a turtle was caught as part of the solemn marae ritual. It was taken to the marae and sacrificed and cooked there. The ritual required that after the turtle was cooked that the first born son for that particular marae had the right to eat the head of the turtle. No one else had that right.

On the marae at Takaroa, Tangihia-Ariki had that right because he was the first born son for the marae on Takaroa. On the marae at Napuka, Kehauri had the right to the head of the turtle but he did not have the right on Takaroa, because he had not been born on Takaroa.

Because Kehauri was used to eating the head of the turtle on the marae at Napuka he expected to have the head of the turtle at Takaroa. When the head of this turtle that had been cooked was presented to Tangihia Ariki, Kehauri tried to claim it as his own. He was rebuked, this is what he was told,

I to kainga ra,
Na koe te uru o te honu,
I ko nei ra,
Na to tuakana O Tangihia,
Te uru o te honu, In your homeland,
The head of the turtle is yours,
But here,
The head of the turtle belongs
to your cousin Tangihia (Ariki),

Kehauri backed down from his demand, but he stayed angry in his heart at the apparent insult. He vowed revenge even though he put forth the appearance of having forgotten the incident.

One day the two fathers went fishing way out on the ocean. While they were away, warriors came from Anaa to fight the people of Takaroa. The warriors from Anaa were led by Rongo and they were called ‘Parata’ because their canoes are like great white sharks (ma’o parata) when they come onto the land. The two sons took their spears and went out to the beach to face the warriors from Anaa.

It is said: Huri tua mano, Huri tua uta.

This means that they stood back to back on the beach defending each other’s back from attack. When a thousand warriors came from the ocean Kehauri speared them all on his spear. When a thousand warriors came from the lagoon, Tangihia-Ariki speared them on his spear like his cousin had done.

While they were fighting Kehauri decided that it was a good time to take his revenge against his cousin. So he threw down his pear and laid down on the sand. As soon as he had done that he was speared through by a warrior from Anaa. By doing this he left the back of his cousin Tangihia-Ariki unprotected. Within a short time Tangihia-Ariki was killed because his cousin was no longer there to protect his back.

After the battle the warriors from Anaa took these two cousins and cut off their ‘huas’ and put their ‘huas’ into baskets. They hung the baskets from branches of the trees that stood around the worship ground there on Takaroa. Then these warriors left to return to Anaa.

Because of the great mana that was on the land in those days the baskets that had been hung in the marae were possessed so that they flew out of the trees and across the ocean to where the fathers of the two sons were fishing. When these two fathers saw the baskets flying over the waves they realized that it was an omen that trouble had happened back home. So they headed back to their island of Takaroa to see what had happenned.

When they discovered that their two sons had been murdered and mutilated they set sail to Anaa and avenge the deaths of their sons. They chased those warriors all the way to Anaa and then to Anitua then to Makatea and finally to Tahiti to the court of King Pomare who mediated the dispute and made peace between the warriors of Anaa and the two fathers from Takaroa. As part of the peace settlement Pomare got influence in Anaa.

This story was taught to me from Maina a Manuarii who is from Takaroa island Revised: June 13, 1996 Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff