Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa Go to Te Ao Hou homepage
No. 26 (March 1959)
– 47 –

Second of a series of bedtime stories for young and old, describing the eventful friendship between Tu and the Taniwha. Mrs Shaw, who is of part-Maori descent, lives in Palmerston North.


One day Little Tu went for a walk in the bush. “I like this,” he said to himself, “It is nice and warm in the sun but the bush looks very interesting. I might find a new playmate in here.” He loved the soft green coolness of the bush. The trees were so tall, the ferns so green and the leaves were so thick and rustly on the ground.

He went along for a time, then stopped to rest. He could hear Tui a long way above him on a tall tree. Tui was chuckling because he had just had a very good meal. He was making up a song about it. He sang:
  • Chuckle chuckle it was good

  • Sweet and sound and lovely food

  • Never had such food before

  • I must look for more and more.

“Oh the greedy thing,” Tu thought, “Fancy singing about food.” Then he called, “Hey Tui, come down and talk to me.”

Tui flew down with a rustle of his black wings. “Hullo Tu, what are you doing in the bush? I thought you loved the sunshine.”

“Yes, I do, but I like to find new places and new friends. I like ADVENTURE!”

“Oh yes,” said Tui. “Yes indeed. Well, what do you want to talk about? Food? Now that's a good subject, Tu. Let's talk about food.”

“Oh no, Tui. Can't we talk about something more ro-man-tic. Like finding a new world or flying up to the clouds, or” …… Just then a voice said “Flying to the clouds! What a silly idea! Who wants to fly at all? Let alone fly to the clouds!”

Tui jumped and Tu jumped. They didn't know anyone else was there. “Who are you?” they both said. And they looked about but they couldn't see anyone. Then there was a long beak sticking out from behind a tree fern trunk and they said again “Who are you? Come out [ unclear: ] o we can see you.”

The beak moved and the rest of the person followed. “I am Kiwi,” he said. “I simply hate flying. Why do you keep on talking about flying?”

– 48 –

“How strange,” said Tu. “You look as though you should be able to fly. Why do you hate flying?”

“Because I tried one day and couldn't do it. I climbed up on a branch and tried to fly and only flopped down to the ground instead. It hurt quite a bit.”

“I'll teach you to fly,” said Tui.

“Oh no,” said Kiwi. “No, thank you. My mother said nobody could teach me.”

“Why?” said Tu.

“Because my great-great-great-great-great grandfather was so lazy he forgot all about flying and none of us has remembered ever since.”

“All right,” said Tui. “But you miss a lot staying on the ground. I like the tree tops where I can be happy and sing all day long.”

“Yes, sing about food,” said Tu and he grinned as he said it.

“Oh I have other songs,” said Tui—“Listen.” Kiwi and Tu listened and heard a twittering sound that wasn't at all like Tui's usual chuckle. “We can hear fantails,” they said, “Where are they?”

Tui laughed very loudly. “That was me,” he said, “Listen again.” This time his friends heard a shrill whistle. It sounded like “twee-twee-twee-ti-o-ti-o-.” “That's Pipi, the shining cuckoo,” said Tu.

“No,” said Tui, “You're wrong again, Tu. I was whistling.”

“Oh Tui,” said Tu and Kiwi together, “How clever you are.”

Tui looked very pleased and was more pleased than ever when Tu said “Let's have a concert. Tui can do Im-per-son-a-tions, I can dance and Kiwi can recite.

“But we will need an audience,” said Tui.

“No audience,” said Kiwi, “I am very shy. [ unclear: ]

“Don't be silly Kiwi,” said Tu, “I'm shy too but I won't mind an audience. Tui is right. We must have one. Suppose you ring a bell Tui. That will call the people.”

Tui lifted his head and out pealed the sound of a deep bell. Three times he rang the bell and soon the people began to come. The first one to arrive was Wini Weka. “I came as quickly as I could,” she said. “What is happening? Tell me quickly. I must know.”

“Just take a breath. Wini,” said Tu. “We're giving a concert that's all. You are the audience. [ unclear: ]

“Oh,” said Wini, “I thought it must be something exciting.”

“It will be exciting, you'll see,” said Tu.

Then everyone heard a great rustling of leaves and in stalked Tiki Moa. He said “Tu, Tu, what's to do?”

“It's a concert Tiki, you are the audience.”

“Not a performer?” asked Tiki, “I have a very fine deep bass voice you know,” and Tu could see he was very disappointed.

“Not today Tiki, but you can make as much noise as you like applauding the items,” he said.

“Perhaps we can have another concert later on, then you can perform.” Someone else spoke, “I am the one with the deep bass voice,” he said, “Boom, boom.”

“Hullo Tuku,” said Tu. “Sorry there are no bitterns on the programme today. You won't mind being audience old chap, wi [ unclear: ] l you?”

“Not at all, not at all,” boomed Tuku, “But the items must be good.”

Suddenly the air was bright and golden as Pepe and all her brother and sister butterflies fluttered in to make the audience larger. [ unclear: ] pe went past Tu and whispered, “We'll be quiet as quiet and just look and listen.”

Others were coming now. Among them were Kere the pigeon and Pipi the shining cuckoo. The audience was growing quite big.

“Now we need someone to announce the items,” said Tui. “Mr Kaka would be splendid. Where is Mr Kaka?”

“Here I am,” said a gay voice and there was Mr Kaka, looking bright and beautiful and pleased with himself.

“And here am I,” said another voice that was harsh and shrieking. “I'll announce the items. I can do it miles better than Mr Kaka.” It was Old Koe the long-tailed cuckoo and everyone could see he was in a quarrelsome mood. Kiwi and Tu and Tui thought Oh dear, they didn't want any trouble and Oh dear, what could they do to make it right and Oh dear, they would never get on with the concert now. Mr Kaka thought Oh dear he wanted to do the announcing.

Old Koe kept shrieking and grumbling. “I want to be the announcer” and everyone was wondering how to keep him quiet and yet not let him be the announcer. [ unclear: ] Then there was a kind of roar and a loud voice said, “I am the Taniwha; I want some food; and the food I like best is long-tailed cuckoo!”

Everybody looked startled and Old Koe stopped right in the middle of a shriek. Then they heard the voice again, “I am coming nearer,” it said, “I want long-tailed cuckoo for dinner.”

Old Koe shrieked louder than he had ever shrieked before and in one second he had disappeared. Everybody still looked startled except Tui and he was laughing so much he just rocked backwards and forwards. “That wasn't really the taniwha, people,” he said. “That was me pretending to be the taniwha. Old Koe is so frightened he won't come back and now we can get on with the concert. Mr Kaka, please announce the first item.”

Mr Kaka stepped forward and turned his head from side to side. Then he said in a loud important voice: “The first item will be a dance by Little Tu.”

Tu came forward and he bowed to the audience on the other side. Then he looked rather upset and he said, “There's no music, I can't dance without music.”

– 49 –

When he stopped speaking he heard the cicada family on the trees overhead. “We will give you music, Tu,” they said. So they began to play and Tu began to dance. He swayed from side to side and he moved forward and back with great dignity and grace. Then he turned quickly round three times in time to the music and the audience thought it was a lovely dance. When it was over they clapped and cheered and stamped their feet. So Tu danced again. This time it was a comic dance. He slithered about as though he didn't know what he was doing; he stood on his head; he rolled over several times; and he ran up to Tiki Moa and danced in and out of his big feet. The audience cheered and clapped until they couldn't cheer and clap any more and Tu bowed and made room for Mr Kaka to announce the next item.

Mr Kaka said, “The next item will be a recitation from Mr Kiwi.”

Kiwi walked over very slowly and very shyly and he bowed until his long beak touched the ground. This was his recitation:

I'm very shy, I'm very shy
I go abroad at night
I cannot fly, I cannot fly
Tho’ I've tried with all my might.

Kiwi's voice wasn't very strong and he looked so shy and sorry for himself that everybody c [ unclear: ] apped and cheered to make him feel better. And they called out “Encore, encore.”

Kiwi looked shyer than ever. “I don't know anything else,” he said.

“Never mind,” shouted the audience, “Never mind, say the same one again.”

So Kiwi recited the same piece and everybody clapped and clapped. He bowed standing on two feet and bowed standing on his right foot, then as he tried to bow standing on his left foot he tripped and fell. He looked so surprised and so funny that everyone laughed but they raid his item was very good indeed so he didn't mind.

Now Mr Kaka said, “Attention everybody. The last item is Im-per-son-a-tions by Mr Tui. This is something you will enjoy very much.”

Tui flew up and sat on a low branch. He cleared his throat and suddenly the audience heard a croaking like a lot of frogs in a pond. They looked all round because they didn't think there was a pool near. Tui laughed and said, “No frogs, ladies and gentlemen, I did the croaking.” Then they heard a gentle “Ku, ku, ku” and thought Kere was speaking when she should have been quiet, but she really was quiet. It was Tui again saying “ku, ku.”

They said, “You are clever Tui, give us some more. So Tui twittered like a fantail, whistled like a cuckoo, screeched like an owl, rang like a bell, creaked like an old branch of a tree, and sang like a cricket. Then he was quiet while everybody clapped and called for more.

Then they could hear a roar in the distance and they laughed thinking it was Tui pretending to be the taniwha. But Tui said “Run home quickly everybody. That wasn't me; it really is the taniwha this time.” Everyone was scared and everyone went off as fast as possible except Tu. “The taniwha is my friend,” he thought. “He won't hurt me.” Presently the taniwha arrived looking very fierce. But when he saw Tu he didn't look fierce any more. He smiled his queer taniwha smile and said, “Hullo Little Tu.” Tu said, “Hullo Mr Taniwha.”