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No. 54 (March 1966)
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The Boy Who Went to
Find His Father

In ancient times there lived a man named Porou-anoano and his wife Huruma-angiangi.

After they had been married for some time Huruma became pregnant. She had a longing for a bird to eat, and said to her husband, ‘I very much wish to have a bird to eat.’

So Porou took his bird-spear and went to the forest. But instead of catching any of the kinds of birds which are usually eaten, he brought back two living birds; one was a huia, and the other a white heron. These his wife would not eat, but kept as pets.

Some time after this Porou went to live at his other home, but his wife remained at that place. When the right moon came she had a son, who was named Tautini. She fed, nourished, and brought up her son.

When he grew to be a big boy, he played with all the other children at the games of sailing canoes, whipping tops, running races on the sandy beach, and snaring and spearing birds. Often the other boys, who had fathers at home, would speak of Tautini's exploits, and say, ‘It is the fatherless boy who is best at the games.’ When he heard this, Tautini was very much ashamed, for he had not seen or known his father. So he went crying to his mother, and said, ‘Mother! Where is my father?’

She replied, ‘Your father is not here—he is a long way off, at a very great distance. Look towards the sunrise; there, far away in that direction, is your father.’

The boy went into the forest, searched about, and brought back a seedpod of the rewarewa tree. He took this to a stream to see whether it would float. He found that it kept upright as it floated on the water, and did not upset. Then he went to his mother's house, and said to her, ‘Mother! I am going to the place where my father lives.’ And he added, ‘On no account will I stay here—I am so ashamed.’

His mother said, ‘My son! Stay until I cook some food for your journey, so that you may be strong to go on the path that you will have to travel.’

He answered, ‘I will not eat. The thrust of a spear can be parried, but the thrust of a spoken word cannot be parried.’

So saying he departed, and began his voyage in his canoe of the rewarewa pod. His mother wept as he went, and he answered her with his weeping. He spoke his last words to her, and she gave him her last commands.

He travelled far out to sea, and his mother chanted this spell for him—

From whom is this canoe?
From whom is this canoe?
From me—it is mine.
From Uru-ma-angiangi.
From Tara-ma-angiangi.
The cunning snares of Rei
Can do no harm.
The canoe glides swiftly;
Let all the threatening winds
Be stayed.
Pass through space,
Pass through gloom,
Pass through the billows.
See! the earth glides by.
Sail on to the good landing.
Now land quietly, gently, thus—
A canoe lightly passing over the waves.
Now is the time of travelling afar—
I behold with satisfaction.

Onward the boy sped in his canoe, away, away, until at last he reached the very place where his father lived. Jumping on shore, he dragged his canoe up to the beach and hid it under the gravel.

The young people of the village, seeing the new arrival, came running down to the shore, each of them shouting out, ‘He is my slave! My slave!’

They took hold of Tautini and led him to their village and to their elders. Then each of the adults, and each of the boys and girls, with much shouting and waving of arms claimed Tautini as his or her own.

In the end he became the property of a very little boy who was his half-brother, being the son of Porou by another mother. This little

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boy ran off excited to his father, shouting as he went, ‘Father! Look, here is my new slave!’

The father was very pleased at his son's new acquisition, and said, ‘Take him away to live in the scrub.’

One day soon after this, the boys in the village went to play in their usual way: some to catch birds, some to sail their toy canoes, and some to the various other games that children play at. But instead of accompanying them, Tautini went into the forest, later coming back with two birds similar to those for which he was longing before he was born. One was a huia, the other a white heron.

He taught these birds, saying to the huia, ‘This is the cry which you must utter: “The fire does not burn—dark, dark, darkness prevails”.’ And to the white heron, he said, ‘This is the cry you must utter: “The fire is smouldering—it is dark, dark all around us”.’

And thus he taught these two birds what they had to say, living with them there in the scrub.

One night he went to the great house where the chief and the principal men of the tribe slept, and found them all fast asleep and snoring. He went back of the scrub, then took his two birds to the great house. He carefully opened the sliding door, entered without any noise, and put down his birds, placing their supplejack cages amongst the ashes of the fireplace.

Suddenly the huia cried out, ‘The fire does not burn—dark, dark, darkness prevails!’ And the white heron cried, ‘The fire is smouldering—it is dark, dark all around us!’

Hearing the shrill cry and human words uttered by the birds, the sleepers all awoke. Sitting up, they gazed at the birds with wonder, expressing their feelings of admiration and astonishment.

Then the father of Tautini rose up, and for some time he stood silently looking at the birds. At last he exclaimed, ‘Truly, this boy is my son, for those birds are of the very kind for which his mother longed.’

He wept over his son, rejoicing, and at dawn of day he took him to a stream and chanted the incantations and performed the usual and proper ceremonies fitting for a chief's son.

This story is retold from a translation of a Maori text published by William Colenso in ‘The Transactions of the New Zealand Institute’, vol. XIV.

‘Maori Language

Should be Taught at Primary School’

At a meeting at Kaitaia last December the associate professor of anthropology at Auckland University, Dr Bruce Biggs, strongly advocated the teaching of Maori in primary schools. He said also that Maori children should be taught the language in the home, and should not hear slighting references to it.

He said, ‘In one district recently, I wanted some children to record some Maori on tape. They were quite shy and then said, “He wants some lingo”. I am sure that they did not learn that word from the Pakeha, and if you want your children to learn and respect Maori, it is over to you.’

Learning a language, he said, is one of the hardest things to do. ‘It takes several thousand hours and you won't learn it by going to an adult education class for about 60 hours. It must be taught at primary school.

‘The present system operates against Maori surviving and it is difficult to see how Maori ceremonial life, which Pakehas do not have and do not know anything about, can exist unless the language survives.’