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 全民彩票官网下载land; others are oral maps for the guidance of travellers. Some well known ones are:

, and the names for Nelson-Marlborough - Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka a Aoraki or Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka a Maui.
  • , an oral map which identifies significant stone resources in Te Tau Ihu.
  • Stories of which challenged Māori ingenuity and courage, especially , 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). another terrible taniwha known across the Pacific, inhabited the Parapara Inlet in Golden Bay, and was an enormous shark caught in Tasman Bay who later preyed on human travellers on the Whanganui River.
  • 全民彩票官网下载Tutaeporoporo, The Taniwha of the WhanganuiTutaeporoporo, The Taniwha of the Whanganui from Cowan, J. (Ed.) Legends of the Maori. In New Zealand Electronic Text Centre
    Click image to enlarge

    There are stories of very early visitors to :

    •  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:

    • '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 in the Wairau Valley, a corruption of the name Ōhinemahuta.
    • exploration of the southern seas where he encountered icebergs
    • the origins of the name (Cook Strait).

    Some accounts of pre-whakapapa tribes and early whakapapa tribes have mythical elements:

    • 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.
    • 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.
    • , 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 全民彩票官网下载

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      Posted by Robin M Wright, 04/09/2019 5:40am (9 months ago)

    • I am from nz but i moved to aussie last year. and i never knew how much i would miss 全民彩票官网下载 so now i have been on the internet and searching maori stuff. im part maori and i love learning maori things. do you have any suggestions on how i could as my school to start maori culture? there are over 400 new zealanders at my school and over 10 teachers. any advice? Ed. I suggest you contact the Maori Language Commission (http://www.tetaurawhiri.govt.nz/). They should be able to provide you with information and resources.

      Posted by Cassie, ()

    • kia ora, bro it's awesome to see our maori people get into our beautiful culture, well cuz the best resource for learning te reo is "Tewhanake.maori.nz" http://www.tewhanake.maori.nz/
      hope this helps cuz
      kia pai a ratou ako
      mauri ora

      Posted by hehana, ()

    • Kia ora, I am a teacher at a kura kaupapa maori in Wellington and we will be studying korero on this area. Could you please recommend some resources or childrens books on legends and other korero we could teach our tamariki please.

      Kia Ora Muri, There is not much written for children on this area. I suggest John & Hilary Mitchell's book "Te Tau Ihu o te Waka" Volume I, p.18-42. We will search for further titles to add to our bibliography. Ed.

      Posted by Muri, ()

    • kia ora koe, my name is Wahine and i have been trying to search for any info on the three sacred rocks/stones that was scattered throughout the world namely, asia, new zealand and ?. i watched an episode on maori television a few months ago in regards to io and the three stones, have tried to google but come up with no answers. i believe tht these three stones were cast out over the world as portals to the next life. if you hve any info for me that would be so helpful thanx. Ed. We will get back to you on this

      Posted by wahine, ()

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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
    • 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.
       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]:

    Web Resources

    • 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:
    • Mitchell, H. & J. (2008) Te Tau Ihu tribes. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand:
    • Story of Boulder Bank. Retrieved from Te Ara: