The Legend of
Hatupatu and the Bird-woman
When Hatupatu was hunting one day for birds in the forest, he met a woman who was spearing birds for herself. This woman had wings on her arms, and claws instead of fingers. Her lips were long and hard and pointed, like a bird's beak, and she was using them as a spear.
Now the woman speared a bird with her lips, but just at the same moment Hatupatu threw his spear at the bird, so that the spear stuck in her lips instead. When he saw this he ran away in terror. But the bird-woman soon caught him, for with her wings she could travel much faster than Hatupatu.
Then the woman, whose name was Kurangaituku, took Hatupatu home to her cave, and kept him prisoner there.
He found that this woman never ate anything but raw food, and she gave him only raw birds to eat. He pretended to eat these but hid them instead.
At dawn each day Kurangaituku went out to spear birds, but Hatupatu stayed at home. When she had gone he roasted the meat he had hidden, and looked at all the possessions in her cave. There were pet birds and lizards, a taiaha, and piles of precious cloaks: flaxen cloaks, cloaks of dogs' fur, and cloaks of red feathers. Every day Hatupatu admired these treasures, wishing very much that he could escape and take them with him.
One morning he said to Kurangaituku, ‘When you go hunting today you had better go a long way, and travel over a thousand hills. When you get there, you will find birds for us.’
Kurungaituku agreed to this, and she went.
Hatupatu stayed behind as usual, roasting birds for himself and thinking, ‘I wonder how far she's got by now.’
When he thought that she was far enough away, he began to gather up her flaxen cloaks, her cloaks of dogs' fur, her cloaks of red feathers, and her taiaha.
He thought to himself, ‘How magnificent I shall look when the feathers on these cloaks are stirred by the wind.’ And he brandished the taiaha, and attacked the lizards; soon they were all killed. Then he struck at the perch where the little pet birds sat, and he killed them all but one.
One little bird escaped, and flew away to fetch back Kurangaituku. And as the little bird flew along he sang, ‘Kurangaituku, our home is ruined, our things are all destroyed’; he kept singing this and flew on and on.
At last Kurangaituku heard him, and said, ‘By whom is all this done?’
And the little bird answered. ‘By Hatupatu—everything is gone.’
Then Kurangaituku hurried back to her home, and as she went she kept calling out, ‘Step along, stretch along, step along, stretch along. There you are Hatupatu, not far from me now.
She had made only three strides when she reached the cave, and found nobody there. But the little bird showed her where Hatupatu had gone, and she ran on, still calling out, ‘Step along, stretch along, step along, stretch along. There you are Hatupatu, not far from me now.’
Hatupatu heard her behind him, and he thought, ‘I'm done for now.’ So he repeated a magic charm he knew; ‘O rock, open for me, open.’
Then the rock opened, and he hid inside it.
Kurangaituku came running past the rock, but she could not see him, and she ran on, still calling out, ‘There you are Hatupatu, not far from me now.’
After her voice had died away in the distance, Hatupatu came out of the rock and ran on again. When he came to Rotorua, Kurangaituku saw him once more and pursued him, throwing stones at him as she went. But then Hatupatu came to the boiling springs at Whakarewarewa. He jumped over the springs, but Kurungaituku tried to wade through them, and so she was burnt to death.
Then Hatupatu came to the shores of Lake Rotorua. His home was on Mokoia Island in the middle of the lake. He dived in and swam under the water to the island, and there he was united with his parents, who had thought for a long time that he was dead.
The carving illustrated above depicts Hatupatu swimming back to his home on Mokoia Island. The one on page 30 shows Kurangaituku the Bird-Woman chasing him; her pet birds and lizards are also depicted. Both photographs are by Theo Schoon.
The carving of Kurangaituku was on the door of the meeting-house Nuku-te-apiapi which formerly stood outside the entrance to Whakarewarewa at Rotorua, and the carving of Hatupatu was on the shutter of the window. This meeting-house, now demolished, was carved by Tene Waitere and Neke Kapua, and erected in 1905. The photograph on the back cover shows the raparapa (lower end) of one of the maihi (bargeboards) of the house.