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No. 59 (June 1967)
– 7 –

The Tohunga and the Taniwha

A South Island Story

The Maori text of this story was first published in 1901, in the Journal of the Polynesian Society, volume X, pages 72–73. It was sent to the Journal by ‘H.T., of Croisilles, Nelson District’.

Whaiwhaiā, also known as Weiweiā and Wawaiā, was said to be an enchanted log sometimes seen drifting along the rivers in the Waikato district. It also travelled to other parts of the country, even sometimes to the South Island. It was seen stranded in so many places that it was the origin of the saying quoted in this story. Such magic logs were common in Maori folklore. If someone interfered with one, it at once set off for some other place.

Whaiwhaiā was also said to be a taniwha, a protector of Ngati Maniapoto in the Waikato.

Te Tohunga me te Taniwha

Tērā tētehi tohunga Māori nō mua i haere ki a Ngāi Tahu ki te mahi i ngā mate a reira, arā o Te Umukaha, e Kīianei e te Pākehā ko Temuka. Ka mahia ngā mate me ngā tapu. Ka oti ō uta, ka Kīiae te ruānuku nei, kotahi i toe, kei te moana.

Ka whakaritea e taua ruānuku kia tokotoru hei hoa mōna, hei haere ki te roto wai māori. Nō te taenga atu, ka Kīiae te ruānuku kia noho ētehi i uta, ka haere tērā, te ruānuku nei, ki te moana hura ai i te tangata o tērā wāhi—arā, i te tawhiti nei, i a Taniwha. Nāwai, ā, ka rewa tērā atua tangata ki runga; nō te kaha o te tohunga ka mate te taniwha, ka ahu atu ki te kongutu awa o te roto nei, mate rawa atu i te whatinga tai moana; i mate rawa ki reira.

Ka hoki te tohunga nei me ōna hoa ki te kāinga. Ka Kīiae te ruānuku nei kia tapatapahia taua ika. Kātahi te iwi katoa ka haere nei kia kite. Tae atu, ka tapatapahia taua ika; momotu iho e ono tuporo, waiho atu. Ka moe te iwi nei; oho ake i te ata, kua kore te ika a te iwi nei: kua riro kei te moana.

E toru ngā rā, ka pae mai he rākau; ka kitea e tētehi Pākehā, ka tapatapahia taua rākau, motu iho e ono ngā tuporo. Ka hoki te Pākehā nei ki te tiki i āna taputapu, arā, i āna pea kau hei tōtō i āna rākau. Hoki noa atu ia, kua kore āna rākau: kua hohoki anō ki te moana. Kua pērā me tō Waikato, arā, me te Whaiwhaiā; nō reira tērā whakataukīU, ‘Ngā paenga he rau o Whaiwhaiā’.

The Tohunga and the Taniwha

There was once a tohunga who visited Ngai Tahu at Te Umukaha, which the Pakehas call Temuka, in order to remove the evils that afflicted those people. He disposed of the evils, and of the tapu. After he had completed his task on the land, this wise old man said that there was one evil that remained: it was in the sea.

Then he arranged for three men to accompany him to the fresh-water lake. When they reached the lake the wise man told his companions to remain there on the land. Then he went forward to the sea to bring forth the inhabitant of that place, this creature Taniwha. After some time the demon floated up to the surface. It was through the tohunga's power that the taniwha was affected; it made its way to the entrance to the lake, and died there in the breakers on the shore.

The tohunga and his companions returned to the village, and he told them to cut up the fish. All the people went to look at it, and when they arrived they cut it into six pieces and left it there. They slept, and in the morning when they awoke the fish was not there: it had gone back to the sea.

Three days later a log was cast up on the shore. A Pakeha saw the log and cut it up, chopping it into six pieces. Then he went to fetch his bullock team to drag up the wood. When he returned the wood was not there: it had gone back to the sea again. It was just like Whaiwhaiā, the log from the Waikato that was the origin of the saying, ‘The many stranding-places of Whaiwhaiā’.