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No. 25 (December 1958)
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We have decided to present in Te Ao Hou some bed-time stories for children on a genuine Maori theme. The Adventures of Tu and the Taniwha will be described in a series of five articles intended to amuse the young of all ages.


Tu Tuatara lived on an island. He had no brothers and sisters, so nearly every day he had to play alone. His mother and father just loved to lie and sleep in the sun and so did Tu, but he was young and he didn't like to sleep all the time. He loved to climb rocks and slither down banks and he was always thinking of adventure.

His mother was always telling him “Tu, you must not go past the last rock by the pohutukawa tree at the end of the beach,” but sometimes he would forget and would slip round the other side of the rock before he knew what he was doing. Then he would remember and go back but he would wish he hadn't promised his mother. He felt he would never find adventure unless he could go a long, long way past the rock and the pohutukawa tree.

He felt himself growing stronger and stronger and one day he just wished he could go out and wrestle with someone. But there was nobody there and that made him sad. He was sitting in the grass at the top of the beach wishing he had a playmate when he heard a voice say “Hullo! Can you wrestle?”

“Oh yea,” he yelled, and he was very excited. “Yes I can wrestle. I'm sure I can wrestle; only there's nobody here to wrestle with. Where are you? I can't see anybody. Who are you?”

“I'm in the grass, two manuka sticks away from you and my name is Timi Tuna.”

“Yes, I can see you now. Hullo. How did you

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get here? I've never seen anybody like you before. You don't seem to have any feet. Can you walk?”

“No, I can't walk exactly, but I can slide on the land. I swim in the water. I swam down the stream until I got here. My mother told me not to go past the big totara tree at the bend of the stream but I forgot.”

“Isn't that funny? I'm always forgetting too,” said Tu. “Anyway, now you're here let us have this wrestling match.”

So these two funny little fellows scrambled and rolled round in a very queer-looking wrestling match but they enjoyed it very much. When Timi got close to Tu he said “Ouch, your skin is prickly,” and when Tu got close to Timi he said “Ouch your skin is clammy. And you're very slippery, Timi,”

When they had wrestled and wrestled for a long time they were tired and stopped to rest. They puffed and blew and told each other what fun it was. As they sat in the grass they asked each other questions.

“How long have you lived here, Tu?” asked Timi.

“We have lived here a long time. In fact I have always lived here,” said Tu. “My mother and father love this place. And so do I, but I often wish I could see what the world is like on the other side of the rock and the pohutukawa tree. Where do you live, Timi?”

“I live in a lake. It's a long way off but not [ unclear: ] far if you swim down the stream. Going back will take a little longer so perhaps I'd better go or my mother will be wondering what has happened to me. She might think a taniwha has caught me.”

“What is a taniwha?” asked Tu.

“Don't you even know what a taniwha is? A taniwha is a dragon. It's a dragon that is very fond of eels for breakfast. It has a big head, a fiery eye, a long tongue and sharp, sharp teeth, and it has a great big lashing tail. Why, Tu, if you were big, a thousand times bigger than you are now, you'd be a taniwha. Are you sure you're not a baby one?”

“Quite sure,” said Tu. “I don't even know what a taniwha is, so how can I be one?”

“That's all right then,” said Timi. “A taniwha lives in a den sometimes on land and sometimes deep under the water. He is the hungriest monster you've ever seen and I am always told to keep out of his way.”

“I'd like to see him,” said Tu.

“Don't be silly, Tu,” said Timi, “The taniwha would just open his mouth, breathe in and down you would go inside him.”

Tu nodded his head but he still wanted to see the taniwha. Anything that looked like him, even if it was a thousand times bigger couldn't be such a bad fellow.

“I must go now, Tu,” said Timi and as he slid into the water Tu called out “Come back, won't you Timi? Let's have another wrestling match.” Timi called “Yes, I'll come back.”

After Timi went away Tu began to think about adventure again and he forgot about his promise to his mother. He went to the last rock and climbed over to the other side and there he saw another beach. When he looked the other way he saw a large sheet of smooth water and he thought “That must be Timi's lake. I will go there and I might see the taniwha. It will be an adventure.”

But the lake was a long way for a little fellow like Tu. He went on and on and never seemed to get there. So he stopped for a minute and found he was right beside a most inviting rock standing in a sunshiny place. He climbed to the top, stretched out and went to sleep. Right in the middle of a lovely dream all about wrestling and adventure he heard a voice say (it was a very loud voice) “Ho! Ho! What do I see on top of that rock? Something that looks like me and yet doesn't look like me. I wonder what it is!”

Tu was very startled when he looked round and saw a large fearsome creature standing at the foot of the rock. He was so large that his head came easily up to the top of the rock and therefore Tu was looking right into his fiery eye. But his eye didn't look so fiery after all. Perhaps the dragon was in a good mood. Tu knew it must be a dragon or a taniwha as his friend Timi had called it. And the taniwha was in a good temper. Tu saw a funny wrinkle cross his face. It must be a taniwha smile. So Tu stopped being startled. “My name is Tu Tuatara,” he squeaked. I live at the next beach. Where do you live Sir? Are you a taniwha?”

“Yes I am a taniwha. I am THE taniwha. I live quite near for the way I travel but it is a long way for your little legs. Where are you going?”

“I'm going to an adventure,” said Tu.

“An adventure eh? Well, you wasted time sleeping in the sun. It is late now and you should go home.’

“Must I go? Couldn't we go on an adventure together?” asked Tu.

“Not today.” said the taniwha. “Not today.

Perhaps another time. You go along now. Off you go. Off you go.”

Tu was a little disappointed but he said “Thank you, Mr Taniwha. After all, it was an adventure meeting you.”

The taniwha's face had a funny wrinkle again. It was a great big taniwha smile. Tu could see he was pleased. So he wasn't surprised when the taniwha said to him, “Would you like me to take you home little Tu?”

“Oh I would. I would, very much. It would be kind of you, Mr Taniwha,” said Tu.

So the taniwha picked Tu up and placed him gently on his back and set off for Tu's home. As they went swiftly along he said “There you are. Tu. You've never ridden on a taniwha before. That is another adventure for you.”

“A wonderful, wonderful adventure,” shouted Tu.