Ponga and Puhihuia
The Story So Far
On the opposite page we begin our second instalment of ‘Ponga and Puhihuia’. The first instalment, which appeared in our September issue, told how Ponga, a young chief from Awhitu who was not of very high rank, and Puhihuia, the beautiful high-born daughter of the chief of Maungawhau, fell in love when a party of young people from Awhitu visited the people of Maungawhau (Mount Eden). They secretly agreed that Puhihuia would return with Ponga when his party left Mount Eden; she ran after them as they were going overland to their canoe at One-hunga and although her people pursued them, they reached the canoe in safety. Ponga had caused the lashings of the other canoes there to be cut, so that the people of Mount Eden could not at once pursue them.
We publish below an interesting letter concerning this story.
‘Te Ao Hou’.
It was pleasing to see my old favourite the story of Ponga and Puhihuia re-printed in ‘Te Ao Hou’.
I have in my possession a booklet, a translation of ‘Ponga and Puhihuia’, written in 1927 by the Rev. H. J. Fletcher. In the foreword Mr Fletcher says, ‘This old story of Ponga and Puhihuia dates from about the middle of the 17th century. A version was first published in Maori in the year 1854 in Sir George Grey's ‘Mythology and Traditions of the New Zealanders’. A translation of the same was published in 1855. In John White's ‘Ancient History of the Maori’ Vol. IV, there is a much fuller account of the same event. Unfortunately White's book is rare in the land, and the story little known. As a picture of the life and conversation of the old time Maori it is unsurpassed, and should be as well known to Europeans as the story of Hinemoa of Rotorua, or Te Huhuti of Hawkes Bay.
‘The original Maori of White's version is full of misprints, but some years ago the late Mr S. P. Smith lent me a copy he had corrected for his own use; he also supplied me with the meanings of many words not recorded in any published dictionary. Mr Smith also suggested that Mr White has added considerably to the original Maori from his own knowledge of Maori life and customs. The story is remarkable not only for its clear account of Maori life, but for its astonishingly large vocabulary. The original Maori of 50 pages contains upwards of 1,000 distinct words.’
My copy of the Rev. Fletcher's translation was given to me by Mr G. Allwright of the Polynesian Group of Palmerston North.
I have never heard the story of Te Huhuti of Hawkes Bay. I wonder if someone from there could send it along to ‘Te Ao Hou’ so we could all add it to our store of precious stories of our land.
The story of Te Huhuti, who swam across Te Roto a Tara (near Te Aute) to her lover, is in Sir George Grey's ‘Nga Mahinga a Nga Tupuna’, published in 1854. The story did not appear in the translation of this book which appeared in 1855, but it is in the recent (1956) edition. (‘Polynesian Mythology’, edited by the late Mr W. W. Bird). The version given there is not a very long one, and we would be most interested to hear from anyone who may be able to supply us with some more details.
In reprinting White's Maori text we have done our best to correct his misprints.