Hinepoupou and Te Oriparoa
This story was written by the late W. W. Bird a few days before his death. It is based on the untranslated Maori version in Sir George Grey's ‘Nga Mahi a nga Tupuna’.
Hinepoupou and her husband, Te Oriparoa, were living for a time on Kapiti Island, their home being Rangitoto, Durville Is. When the time came to return home, Te Oriparoa prepared his canoes to carry his people across and Hinepoupou was set to get ready some food for their journey. So she got some birds (penguins) plucked them, made a fire and, placing them on it covered the oven in order that they might be cooked. When, however, the oven was opened up, it was seen that the birds were raw and not fit to eat. Thereupon the husband and the other men upbraided her and she was made ashamed in the sight of them all. She left them and, going to some distance away from them, remained apart from them.
Shortly afterwards, Te Oriparoa launched his canoes and with his brothers and his people together with his wife's father, got on board and sailed away, his wife being left behind, deserted. The canoes kept on their course until they reached Nga Rewai. Stopping there for a while, they continued their voyage and finally reached Rangitoto and their own village. When Hinepoupou returned to the spot where the canoes had been drawn up she found them gone.
In great distress, she went back to the fire and, being now very hungry, searched amongst the stones of the oven to pick up any scraps that might be left there. All she found were some bits of fernroot and these she ate first dipping them in water to soften them; there was no other food left for her.
Three days later after thinking over her position, she arose and walked over to a rocky point called Tarere-Mango. She clambered down to the shore and reached the water below. Then she took a dry stalk of toetoe such as is used for making kites and, having recited a prayer over it, launched it into the tide. It floated away eagerly watched by the woman but it had not gone far when it turned back to the shore. Hence Hinepoupou concluded that this particular spot was useless for her purpose at present and she returned to the camping place.
Three days later, she went back to Tarere-Mango, took another stalk of toetoe, repeated a prayer over it and launched it from her hand into
the sea to find that this time it simply flew away, on the water like a bird. She watched it for some time and soon it was out of sight. And so she decided that this was the right place for her to make the attempt to escape.
She tucked her clothes right up to her kilts which were made of aute bark, a white one in front and a red one behind, and, entering the water soon reached Nga Kuri-a-Kupe. After reciting another prayer, she again lowered herself into the sea to rest awhile drifting like a calabash set afloat by children.
She swam Raukawa (Cook Strait) for two days but with the incoming tide she was carried back towards Kapiti only to be brought back to Omere when the tide turned. In two and a half days she reached Toka Kotuku, a rock beyond Waihi and Pirikawau, that is to say, the rock in the middle of the strait. She got on to the rock and sat there to rest awhile. When she had recovered her breath she swam on and in two and a half more days she reached Nga Tai-whakahokihoki-a-Pare, between Rangitoto and Toka-Pourewa (Stephen's Island). With the incoming tide she was borne towards the shore but with the ebbtide, she was carried away from Rangitoto. Finally she reached a rock called Pareraututu and she rested there. She took off her kilts and threw the white one into the mouth of a big hapuku and the red one into the jaws of a great taniwha (shark). Reaching the seaweed on the rock, she broke some off and made a new kilt for herself. As she sat there and watched she saw a hapuku rise to the surface when at once the taniwha swam up with its jaws open and killed it. Again the taniwha rose up and seized a hapuku taking its tail. This went on for some time before it ended.
Then Hinepoupou lowered herself into the water and again swam on reaching Whaka-te-Papa-nui.
She warmed herself in the sun, first turning on one side and then on the other and was soon warm again and felt revived.
She swam to the shore and landed at Papa-a-Nau outside of Otara-wao which was the pa of her husband and her father who had so cruelly deserted her. She kept straight on and, as she neared the village, she heard the voices of her father and mother bewailing her loss. Without stopping, she reached the window of their home, sat down and reaching upwards with her right hand, touched her father's face. He awoke and cried out, ‘Who is that?’ His wife said ‘I don't know’ and they went to sleep again. After awhile Hinepoupou's hand was again stretched out and this time her father saw her and brought her inside, looked at her closely and recognised his daughter. Then he began to weep over her but Hinepoupou said, ‘Don't tell anyone that I am here’.
When the first rays of dawn appeared she went up to the sacred places to recite the necessary prayers.
By this time it was quite light and, having ended her devotions she returned to her parents who came out continuing their wailing. Then the cry arose: ‘It is Hinepoupou, it is Hinepoupou’. The sound was carried from one end of the village to the other and soon came to her husband's dwelling. When Te Oriparoa heard he said, ‘Surely not Hinepoupou in person, it must be her spirit’. He was only pretending, being ashamed at his having deserted her as he had done. She remained among them for a month but she had not forgotten their cruel treatment. She said to her brother, ‘Get the canoes ready’. This was soon done—those of her brothers, her husband and all his people.
When the sea was calm enough, they were all launched with some hundreds of people. Hinepoupou rose up and boarded her canoe, her elder brother came joined her and they paddled out to sea. Presently the shore was left behind and only the tops of the hills could be seen. Her brothers asked, ‘Where is the anchorage of which you spoke’. She replied, ‘Paddle on’. They did so, and when they got nearer the top of the rock rose up before them. Hinepoupou's canoes came to a stop and awaited those of her husband. As they waited, up rose the hapuku to the surface to be caught by the taniwha. Again the hapuku appeared only to meet the same fate at the jaws of the taniwha.
Then Hinepoupou performed certain rites, immersing herself and sinking beneath the surface of the water and she called out to the crowd, ‘Keep quiet, I am the only one who knows the right thing to do here’. Going on further till they arrived at the place at which to anchor, she took their anchor, let it go and it reached the bottom. Then she cried aloud, ‘Throw your lines out’. Hardly had the lines run out when, behold, they were taken by the fish—two at a time. Very soon her own canoe was laden to the gunwale.
Then arrived the canoes of Te Oriparoa and his company. Hinepoupou called to them, ‘Keep your canoes behind at the place where the taniwha is.’ They dropped their anchors and the woman waited as they were yet gathered on only a small compass. Then she called to the elder brother, ‘Give me your line’. He did so and she struck her nose with it. She let it run out and the fish were caught two at a time as fast as she could pull them up; even when there were only scraps of bait on the hooks, they came up from the reef for the blood from her nose. She swung her line into the air and cast it into the sea. Immediately the anchors were raised and as they came up her husband's canoes were thrown into confusion as the wind rose.
Soon, one after another the canoes were upset and their crews were swallowed up in the sea, but Hinepoupou's canoes came safely through and reached the shore. And so Oriparoa met his end and his ill treatment of Hinepoupou was paid for.