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No. 65 (December 1968)
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Tapa-kakahu and his Fish-hook

This story was written by Timi Wata Rimini and given by him to George Davies, who published it in 1891 in the Journal of the Polynesian Society (vol. X, pp. 188–9). The text was heavily edited, with explanations added and the last sentence omitted. Some expressions were altered; for example, the editor objected to puihi, the transliteration of ‘bush’, and pīki, the transliteration of ‘big’.

The text published here is from the original manuscript, which is in the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington (Alexander Turnbull's Scrapbook, p. 58).

After the story there is a comment written in another hand: ‘Tiimi says that Motu river is the puna or source of all kahawai, they ascend a long way up the river to a tupua or rock where they breed.’

Timi Wata Rimini wrote another account, also published in the Journal of the Polynesian Society (vol. X, pp. 183–7), in which he described how Te Whanau-a-Apanui each year caught great quantities of kahawai at the Motu river. He also related the myth of Pou and Tangaroa that was associated with this event.

The Motu river is still a very good place to catch kahawai, and every year people gather there for this purpose.

Maraenui, at the mouth of the Motu river, is about 29 miles from Opotiki. Tapakakahu was out fishing a few miles to the east of Opotiki. So according to the story, he ran about 20 miles.

Hooks faced with paua shell were used in trolling for kahawai. Eldson Best tells us that occasionally, these hooks were made of greenstone (Fishing Methods and Devices of the Maori, p. 30).

Te Rironga o te Paua a Tapa-
kakahu i te Kahawai

Pērātia ake, ka noho tērā tangata, a Tapa-kākahu, i tōna kāinga puihi i Waiaua, i te taha whakauta o Opōtiki.

Ka mate taua māia rā i te hiakai ika, ka tae ki tāna pāua pounamu, ka hoe ki te moana, ka whiua tāna pāua ki te wai. I runga anō e haere ana, ka hopukia e te kahawai. A, nō ka tata pū ki te ngahuru āna ika, ka kawea rāpea e te pārekareka, ēhara, ka riro i te pīki kahawai tāna pāua.

Ka pōuri te māia nei ki tāna pāua, he oha hoki nā ōna tūpuna. Ka hoki ki uta, ka tae ki te kākahu waero, hīpokina iho ki runga i a ia. Ka haere te māia nei ki te whai i te tere kahawai rā; ko te tere kahawai rā ki waho i te moana haere ai, ko te māia rā ki uta oma haere ai, me te oma, [m]e te karakia haere.

Kua mōhio hoki te māia nei, e ahu ana te tere kahawai rā ki Mōtū, koirā hoki te

 

How Tapa-kakahu's Fish-hook was
Taken by a Kahawai

Once upon a time there was a man named Tapa-kakahu who lived at his home in the bush at Waiaua, inland from Opotiki.

One day he wanted some fish to eat, so he took his greenstone fish-hook inlaid with paua, paddled out to sea, and threw the hook into the water. While it was still above the water, the kahawai rose to take it. Then when he had as many as ten fish, and was highly delighted, a big kahawai suddenly carried off the fish-hook!

Our hero was very upset at this, for the hook was an ancestral heirloom. He went back to the shore and put on his dogs'-tail cloak. Then he started following the shoal of kahawai. They swam along out at sea and he ran along the shore, reciting incantations as he went.

He thought that the shoal must be making for the Motu river, for that is the

 
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puna o te kahawai i tēnei motu katoa. A, he mōhio hoki nōna, tērā pea e haoa e Te Whānau-a-Apanui ki te kupenga te tere kahawai rā, tērā pea ka mau mai i roto i te tini o te kahawai te nanakia kahawai rā i kāhaki atu rā i tāna pāua.

Heoi, ka tae atu te māia nei ki Mōtū, i Maraenui. Tae rawa atu, kua haoa mai te tere kahawai rā e Te Whānau-a-Apanui ki te kupenga, rite tonu ki tāna i whakaaro ai.

Ka uia mai e ngā rangatira o Te Whānau-a-Apanui, ‘He aha rawa te take i kitea mai [ai] koe?’

Kāhore rawa i hamumu te waha o te māia nei; e whakamau tonu ana hoki ōna mata ki te tini o te wāhine e tuaki ana i te kahawai.

Inamata, kīhai i roa, ēhara, ka kitea e te wahine rā te pāua rā, e mau tonu ana i te waha o te nanakia kahawai i kāhaki mai rā i te pāua rā. Ka pā te karanga a te wahine rā, ‘He pāua, ē, he pāua pounamu tāku, i te waha o te kahawai nei e mau ana!’

I hikitia tonutia mai hoki te nanakia kahawai rā e te wahine rā. Ka popō i konei te tini o te tāngata ki te mātakitaki.

Anō rā ko te māia rā ka tū ki runga i roto i te tini o te tāngata. Kātahi anō ka hamumu te waha, ka karanga atu ki te wahine rā, i roto i ngā mano. ‘E hika ē, koinā te take i kite[a] mai ai [a]hau: he whai mai i tāku pāua, nā te nanakia kahawai nā i kāhaki mai i Tirohanga.’

Anō rā ko te wahine ka hoatu te pāua a te māia rā. Ka tae te māia nei, a Tapa-kākahu, ka hīpokina atu tōna kākahu waero ki te wahine rā.

Ka hoki te māia nei ki tōna kāinga, ki Waiaua, i te mea kua hari tōna ngākau.

Ēngari kua mate rawa hoki te māia nei i te hiakai; kāore anō i kai mai anō o te ata, ā kua tata tēnei ki te torengi o te rā. Ka mea atu ngā tāngata ki a ia, ‘E noho ki te kai; kia ora, ka haere ai.’

Ka whakahokia mai e taua māia, ka mea, ‘A, he kai rā hoki i Waiaua rā!’

Mau tonu iho hai whakataukī mā ōna uri i muri nei, taea noatia tēnei rā.

Whakamāoritanga o tēnei whakataukī: ko te tangata e haere kaikā ana ki tōna kāinga, ka puritia atu e tētchi tangata kia kai, ka haere, ka whakataukī mai, ‘A, he kai rā hoki i Waiaua rā!’

 

source of all the kahawai in the land. He also thought to himself that Te Whanau-a-Apanui would probably net the kahawai, and that the one that had carried off his fish-hook would very likely be among all the fish they caught.

At last he came to Maraenui, on the Motu river. When he arrived he found that Te Whanau-a-Apanui had caught the shoal of kahawai in their net, just as he had thought they would.

The leaders of Te Whanau-a-Apanui asked him, ‘Why are you here?’

But our hero didn't say a word; he kept gazing at all the women gutting the fish.

Very soon, one of them found the fish-hook! It was still in the mouth of the rascally kahawai that had carried it off. The woman cried, ‘Why, here's a paua fish-hook—I've got a paua fish-hook of greenstone, here in the mouth of this fish!’

She held up the fish, and everyone crowded round to look at it.

Then our hero stood up in the midst of all those people. At last he spoke; he called to the woman, there among that multitude, ‘My friend, that is why I am here. I came after my paua fish-hook, which was carried off at Tirohanga by that rascally kahawai there.’

The woman gave the paua fish-hook to our hero, and he, Tapa-kakahu, took off his dogs'-tail cloak and presented it to her. After this he returned to his home at Waiaua, for he was well satisfied.

But he was very hungry indeed, for he had not eaten since morning and it was now near sundown. They said to him, ‘Stay for a meal, and go back after you have eaten.’

His answer was, ‘But there is also food at Waiaua!’

This reply became a proverb among his descendants, and they still use it today.

This is how they do so. If someone who is going home, and is anxious to get there, is pressed to have a meal, he will continue on his way saying, ‘But there is also food at Waiaua!’