W hat I believe to be genuine and authentic the collected publications of William Colenso


The Story of a Thief, and of his Sad End



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7. The Story of a Thief, and of his Sad End.


The thief’s name was Hotungakau; he went by night to the taro (Caladium esculentum) plantation of Tamateatitaka, and stole some taros; he baked [52] them and ate them all up that same night, and so, having fully satiated his appetite, he went to his house to sleep. In the morning the man to whom belonged the taro plantation went thither, and lo! he saw what had been done by a thief, so he said to his friend, “My good fellow, our taro is being stolen by some thief and will soon be all consumed, I must go to-night and keep watch.” So when it was evening he went thither, and sat down concealed. It was not very long after when the same thief returned, and was busy uprooting the taro; on this the man in ambush let fly his spear, which struck the thief in his side breast; he feeling the pain from the wound ran off and escaped to his own house. On reaching it he bound his girdle tightly around the wound and lay down to sleep, the pain being excessive and the blood though confined flowing inwardly. By-and-by the man who had thrown the spear went to the house of the wounded man. Arriving there he found the fire had gone out, so he called out, “Oh dear! kindle the fire, make it to blaze, that it may be light.” So the fire was kindled and it soon burnt well; and Hotungakau was awaked out of his sleep and sat up. Then the man who had thrown the spear related his story, ending with saying to Hotungakau, “It seems to me that thou art the very man who was wounded by me with my spear?” On which Hotungakau replied, “It was not me, for here have I been sleeping ever since the setting-in of the evening.” (Although at this very time he was suffering dreadful internal pain.) The spear-thrower rejoined, “The appearance of that man was exactly similar to thine.” Hotungakau retorted, “I tell thee it was not me: thou art indeed beginning an evil altercation with me.” On hearing this the visitor returned to his own place; but Hotungakau died just at daylight. His sudden and violent and shameful death was greatly lamented by the people of the village. His father, Rongomaikohina, being completely overwhelmed with shame at the doings of his son, came quietly, and wrapping the body in a garment, put it into his canoe and paddled off. Before, however, he went away, he laid a heavy and deadly spell upon the place. He paddled far away, even unto Waikawa, here he was pursued overland by some of the people he had left behind, because so many had died through his powerful spell, by which also the death of his son was fully avenged. At last a herald came to him, to Rongomaikohina, saying, “There are scarcely any people left alive owing to thy deadly spell, whatever shall we do that the remainder may be spared?” To which Rongomaikohina replied, “Kindle ceremonially a fresh fire by friction with the rubbing-sticks, letting a woman tread on the lowermost stick (to keep it steady), through that the power of my man-destroying spell shall be dissolved.” Rongomaikohina never afterwards returned to his former place of residence. [53]

8. The Story of a Brave Boy, named Tautiniawhitia.


Once there was a chief, named Porouanoano, whose wife was called Hurumaangiangi. They dwelt together for some time; the woman becoming pregnant hungered after a bird, and said to her husband, “I am very desirous of having a bird to eat.” On hearing this he took up his bird-spear and went away to the forest; but he was unsuccessful in spearing any of the birds commonly eaten; notwithstanding, he brought back with him two living birds, one was a huia (Heteralocha gouldi), and one was a kotuku (Ardea flavirostris); these, however, the woman would not eat, but kept as pets. After some time the man went away to his own (other) place of residence, while the woman remained. By-and-by, at the proper moon, she was delivered of a child, a boy, whom she fed and nourished and brought up. When he became a big boy he played at the sailing of canoes, at the whipping of tops, at the running of races on the sandy beach, and at the catching of small birds, with the other boys of the place. Then those other boys, who had fathers, would say,—“Those (doings, actions) of the fatherless brat are the only ones which go ahead!” On hearing this, Tautiniawhitia was swallowed up with shame, through his having no father; and he went crying and complaining to his mother, saying, “O mother dear, mother dear, wherever is my father?” She replied, “Thy father is not here, he is a long way off, at a very great distance; look towards the sun-rising, there away in that direction is thy father.” Then the boy went into the forest, and sought about, and brought back with him a seed-pod of the rewarewa tree (Knightia excelsa), this he took to the water and tried it, and found that it remained upright very well, and did not upset. Then he returned to their dwelling place to his mother, and said, “My dear mother, I am going to the residence of my father;” saying also to her, “on no account will I remain here in this place, I am so greatly overwhelmed with shame.” The mother said to him, “My dear child, at all events stay awhile until some food is cooked (and prepared to take with you), that you may be strong and able to endure for your journey.” He said unto her, “Indeed I will not eat; ‘a wooden spear-thrust can be parried, but a spoken spear-thrust cannot be warded off.”572 And so saying, he went his way to his canoe (made like) a pod of the rewarewa tree;573 this he dragged into the water, and entering on board of his canoe paddled away. The mother cried affectionately after him, and he also cried back lovingly to his mother; he gave her his last words (to be remembered), and she did the [54] same to him. He went away out on the sea; then his mother chaunted the following charm—

From whom (is this) canoe?


From whom (is this) canoe?
From me, mine;
From Urumaangiangi,574
From Taramaangiangi.
The cunning snares of Rei575
(Are) as nothing at all!
The canoe glides fleetly.
Let the scowling winds coming hither576
Be all stayed.
Pass through space;
Pass through weather;
Pass through billows:
Lo! the earth glides by!
Sail on to the nice landing;
Now beached nicely—so!
A canoe lightly passing over waves;
The doing—away, there,
(I am) beholding here with satisfaction.

Onwards the lad sped in his canoe, away, away, until at last he reached the very place where his father dwelt. Jumping ashore he dragged up his canoe, and hid it under the gravel of the beach. Then it was that the young folks of the village came running down to where he was, each exclaiming, “My slave! My slave!” and so he was seized and led up to the village, each boy and girl, and also each one of the adults, claiming him with much clamour and gestures. In the end, however, he became the property of a very small boy (who also was the son of Tautini’s father), who ran off with great glee to his father, shouting as he went, “O, sir, behold! Here is my new slave!” The father was greatly pleased at the good luck of his little son, and said to him, “Take him away to the little bush (or wood) to dwell.” One day, soon after this, the boys of the place went as usual to their play, some for the catching of small birds, some to the sailing of little canoes, and others to the many various games and sports of children. Tautini, however, went away into the forest, whence he brought back two birds exactly similar to those very two which he was made to hunger after when in the womb of [55] his mother. Then he said to the huia, “This is the cry for thee to utter, ‘The fire does not burn brightly; dark, dark, darkness prevails;’” and to the kotuku he also said, “This is thy cry, ‘The fire does not blaze; it is very dark all around.’” And thus the lad taught those two birds in the little bush where he dwelt. On a certain night when it was dark the lad went to the place where the big house of the chief was, to reconnoitre, and when he got there he found all the inmates were fast asleep and snoring loudly. Then he returned to the little bush, and, taking his two birds, carried them off to the big house. Arriving there in the porch he opened the closed door, sliding it back carefully. Then he entered the house, and took inside also his birds and set them down, placing their supplejack cages among the ashes of the fireplace. Suddenly the huia cried out, “The fire does not burn; dark, dark, darkness prevails;” and then the kotuku cried, “(There is) no blazing of this fire; smouldering, dark!” The sleepers were all now well aroused at those shrill cries and human words, and, sitting up, looked on with feelings of wonder and admiration, which they expressed. Then it was that Tautini’s father arose and stood, and, after observing closely for some time, exclaimed, “Verily, this lad is my own son, for those were the very birds which his mother longed for!” and, embracing his son, he wept over him rejoicing; and when it was daylight he took him away to the water, and there performed the usual and proper lustration and ceremonial service fitting for a chief’s son.



[Highly curious, as showing, among other things, the general vulgar European belief in the powers of the moral affections of the mother over her unborn offspring, extending to New Zealand.—W.C.]


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