Maoriland Fairy Tales
Category: Children
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The Maori are the Polynesian people of New Zealand. They came from the East beginning in 1320 in canoes and eventually created their own culture after centuries of living there. Maoriland Fairy Tales is a collection of unique fairy tales created and retold by the indigenous people and published in 1913. Read these familiar yet exotic tales written so that children can enjoy them!

Maoriland Fairy Tales

Edith Howes

Marama shows Ina the Moon-Land.Marama shows Ina the Moon-Land.

The Wanderers

Somewhere far across the sea lies Hawa-iki, that wonderful Motherland where the sun’s rays glow from early dawn to sudden night. Nobody knows now where that old land is, nobody has ever found it again, but its far-strewn sons and daughters still tell of its remembered glories, its radiant sunshine, its flowers and butterflies, its white-topped mountains and its mighty streams. Some think it may have been India, while others say it must have been some age-old continent which has since sunk and now lies buried under the Pacific Ocean.

The brave people of that old Motherland were ready for adventure. When wars and famine drove them out from their ancient homes, they said, “Let us set out across the sea that we may find new homes in which to live.”

They sailed across tropical seas to the islands of the Pacific, some now and some again, setting up their homes where the cocoa-nut and bread-fruit grow. There they lived their island lives, swimming, diving, fishing, boating; sometimes making long voyages in their carved canoes far out into the great unknown seas.

One voyager returned with tidings of a new land seen far to the south, with white-topped mountain peaks such as had shone in Hawa-iki. “Let us go to that land. These islands are already overfull,” said some.

They prepared for the voyage. They built three great canoes, so long and wide that hundreds of people could sit in them. They curved them high at the prow, and ornamented them with beautiful carving. They loaded them with food and water and everything necessary for a long voyage. Then those who were departing bade farewell to friends and sailed across wide, lonely seas to look for that new land.

At first the voyage went happily. The sun shone, the sea was calm, the voyagers were gay. But after many days, when all the songs were sung and all the stories told, and every one was tired of sitting still so long, quarrels began and blows seemed near.

Ngatoro the magician was there. He resolved to put a stop to all quarrelling. With a mighty spell he raised a storm so fierce that the voyagers cried out in fear. Chanting more loudly still, he drew a terrible whirlpool from the depths of the sea. It rose in front of the canoes. The people shrieked.

“Save us, Ngatoro!” they begged. “We quarrel no more.”

Changing his spell, Ngatoro quietened the storm. The wind dropped, waves and whirl-pool fell away, the canoes went on their quiet course. The thankful people, remembering their lesson, quarrelled no more throughout the voyage.

After many weeks they saw a long white cloud that seemed to hang across the meeting-place of sea and sky. All day they drew nearer to it. Next day they saw it plainly — the new land. At the welcome sight weary eyes brightened with relief. “Ao-tea-roa,” the voyagers called it — “Land-of-the-Long-White-Cloud.”

As they drew near the fairness of the land came into view. Mountains reared their snow-wreathed heads above the cloud; from them green forests ran down to the sea. Here and there the gleam of mountain torrents showed between the green, or clusters of crimson flowers glowed beneath the sun. The people cast off their red necklaces and ornaments. “In this new land we can pluck gems from the trees,” they said, gazing at the crimson rata flowers.

They sprang on shore. With joy they found that this new land was rich in food and water. They settled, built houses, and planted the sweet potatoes they had brought with them. They fished, speared birds, and hunted the moa.

Ngatoro the magician said: “I go to travel through the new country, enriching it and making it safe for my people.” He went. At his magic word hills were levelled, marshes were dried and made firm for walking. Stamping on the ground, he brought forth springs of water wherever they were needed. He travelled through the forests, placing guardian fairies everywhere.

He said: “I go to climb yonder mountain. Fast till my return, that my magic power may be sustained.” He climbed and climbed. When he was hidden from their sight among the clouds, the people forgot his words and ate. At once his magic power left him. Crawling painfully where he should be striding lightly, he reached at last the top, only to sink exhausted in the snow.

He was freezing in the bitter cold, yet he had no strength to help himself. “I perish,” he said, “unless the Fire-god send me help.”

He called, and the Fire-god sent help; from the mountain-top fire spouted, flowing over one side. Ngatoro, warming himself, gathered strength to finish his work and descend to his people.

When they heard how their carelessness had nearly cost their beloved magician his life, the people were sorry. They promised never again to forget his words. “The fire on the mountain will remind you,” he said.

The fire still burns, sometimes far down, sometimes at the top. Men call that mountain a volcano.

The voyagers stayed on in their new land. When the last of them had gone to his long rest there were thousands of their children left. These lived and loved and died, as men and women have always done, and their children took their places.

So five hundred years have passed. The new land has become old, and the story of the great voyage a tale of long ago. But still, in the Land-of-the-Long-White-Cloud, as in the sunny islands of the tropics, the ancient stories of the unforgotten Motherland are told, blended with new happenings in the newer lands.

They are the old traditions of the race; mysteries of moon and star and the making of the world, of fire and life and death, and of the making of man. Among them too are brave deeds of ancient heroes, and the doings of princes and magicians and the fairy folk that lived in every forest.

Listen, little children of to-day, while I tell you these stories that have for centuries been told to the little brown children in these far islands of the South.

The Six Brothers

In the beginning, so the ancient stories say the land was dark. No light ever shone upon its surface, for Rangi, Master-of-the-Sky, hung low over Papa, the earth. In Papa’s garden, which was the land, no flowers grew, nor trees; nothing but strange half-grown plants whose leaves were flattened as they pressed against great Rangi’s arms.

For the sake of being together, Sky-father and Earth-mother forgot to care for the growth of flowers and trees, and even for the lives of their own children.

In the low dark garden lived six sons, knowing nothing of the light, but wondering much what lay outside, and longing, as they grew, to stretch themselves and stand upright.

Once Rangi lifted up his arms, and for a radiant moment the light streamed in.

“Oh, what is that?” the brothers asked.

“It is nothing but the light,” said Rangi. He dropped his arms again and darkness fell.

“But it was beautiful!” cried Tané, the eldest of the brothers. “Lift your arms again, Rangi. Let us look at this wonderful thing you call light.”

“No, no,” cried Rangi; “be contented as you are.”

But the brothers were no longer contented. They began to make plans for letting in the light.

“Our home would grow beautiful,” said Tané; “and besides, we could see to move about.”

“If Rangi would but move and give us room we could stand upright,” said Tu, the next in age.

“Let us ask him!” said the rest. They begged Rangi to give them light and room, but he would not move. “No,” he said, “I am happy here. My place is near the Earth-mother.” Many times they asked, but each time he refused.

The brothers grew angry. “Kill him,” said Tu, who was the fiercest. “Push him up,” said Tané. “Leave him alone,” said Tawhiri.

For a long time they argued. At last they decided that each brother should try to push him up out of the way.

“I will try first,” said Rongo. He pushed with all his strength, but he could not move the great Rangi. Haumia tried, and Tangaroa, and Tu, but none of them could move him.

Now Tané put forth all his strength. Pushing with both hands against Rangi’s mighty chest, he raised him slightly from his resting-place.

“Ah, the Light! the Light!” cried the brothers. “Push, Tané, push harder yet.”

Tané pushed, using his feet for greater strength. The light streamed in. Higher and higher rose the helpless Sky-giant.

The Earth-mother wept aloud as Rangi was torn from her. Tané, resting a moment from his labours, heard an answering cry from above. “Cruel Tané! You have left me on the mountain peaks. They are tearing my sides.”

Tané looked up. He had become a giant, had pushed Rangi to the mountain tops, and in his breathing space had left him there to rest upon their jagged peaks.

Quick as thought, he ran across the land and up the mountain sides. Lifting Rangi off, he bound up his wounds; for Tané was not really cruel. He was determined, however. When he returned to his brothers he said: “I shall send him so high that he can never come down again.”

He stood on his head and hands. Bending his right knee, he kicked Rangi so far into the heavens that he has had to stay there ever since.

“Now let us make the garden beautiful,” said Tané.

Tawhiri said, “I shall not help you. I shall go to Rangi.” For Tawhiri was always jealous of his brothers. He went to Rangi, and lived with him in the sky. The others stayed with the Earth-mother, making her garden beautiful.

Tané said, “I will make trees.” He made trees and bushes, flowers and moths and butterflies, and sweet singing birds. The sunshine fell warmly on the garden, and everything grew. Tané was well pleased.

Rongo made all the food-plants that grow in gardens; Haumia made wild food-plants; Tangaroa filled the rivers and lakes and sea with fishes.

“Earth-mother,” said Tané, “weep no more for Rangi. Be happy in your garden.”

“I am pleased with your love for me, and all your kindness to me,” said the Earth-mother, “but I cannot cease weeping for Rangi. I think always how cold he must be in the sky, for he is not warmly clad.”

“I will clothe him better,” said Tané. He made a warm wide cloak of glowing red for Rangi. “I will fasten it with stars,” he said. “They are the most beautiful things I have ever seen.”

He went to the Star-goblin. “Give me stars for Rangi’s cloak,” he begged.

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