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No. 26 (March 1959)
– 55 –
 

A canoe for everyday use.

Ancient Maoridom lived a communal life. A house, a canoe and other treasured possessions did not belong to an individual but to a tribe or sub-tribe. There were very few personal possessions. A majority of these possessions, however, were regarded as “tapu”.

This proverb refers to those objects without any “tapu” or real value attached to them. Unlike the prized war canoes and other important types of canoes, this canoe (or object, or any article) is for general purposes only, and one that can be used by all and sundry except those of high standing.

A loved man will be overtaken; a treasured land, never.

A treasured home can be revisited; not so, a loved man.

These two proverbs, although in Maori they are worded differently, are similar in meaning. Another similar proverb is, “Man disappears, but land still stands.” There are several proverbs in connection with the land. A landless person is regarded as an unworthy citizen. In all instances, the meaning of the proverbs is apparent. Man dies; the land lives! Land has caused most of the wars in this country and several hakas have been written which express disgust with any legislation concerning Maori lands which the Maoris themselves are not in agreement. According to another Maori belief, when land disappears, a person's ‘mana’ (prestige) also disappears.

A self-extolling (or ambitious) child (or last born).

Some claim that the youngest child of a family is often the most pert or most capable. This proverb is meant for such a child! A similar saying is: ‘An adze-breaking child”, as denoting a mischievous young brat who gets possession of his father's stone adze and ruins the cutting edge.

Food provided by another merely tickles one's throat; it never equals that gained by one's own exertions, which is the best and most satisfying.

The meaning is obvious and needs no further explanation.

Te Arahe eats greedily.

Te Arahe was a noted selfish old woman. According to stories related about her, she always ate the choicest food and gave to her husband and children whatever remained over from her plate. At times, she even ate in secret, else others would see the quality of her food. This proverb is obviously meant for selfish persons.