Topic: Traditional Story: Mangatawa

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Te Waiū-o-Te-Tohorā (the breast milk of the whale) is the name of a spring of white water associated with hills around Welcome Bay and Pāpāmoa in the Tauranga area. The hills represent a family of whales (mother, father and baby) that lost their way. After drinking from a magical spring at Karikari, they were all magically transformed into the ranges in this area.

Archived version here.

To the east of Tauranga Moana is a branching ridge which extends north toward the sea from the Hautere. The northern end is called Mangatawa and when viewed across the Rangataua branch of the harbour from Maungatapu or Matapihi, it looks like a whale. Te Arawa people say this whale was the taniwha that guided their canoe from Hawaiki to their final landfall at Maketu. Unfortunately, it looks much less like a whale now because the northern end, Maungamana, the eye of the whale, has been quarried away since the 1950s by irreverent Pakeha to build roads in the district. There used to be a great pa on Mangatawa. It was the place where Tamatea of the Takitimu canoe built his pa. Later, when Ngaiterangi people moved into Tauranga Moana, the chief Tamapahore settled there. On the part that has not been quarried, the terraces of the old pa can still be seen. Maungamana, at the northern end of Mangatawa, was the landmark from which fishermen out at sea used to take their bearings to locate the best fishing grounds. The whole ridge of Mangatawa looked like a whale gazing out to sea. The people of Tauranga Moana, like Te Arawa, say that it was once a whale. 

Nga Roimata o Mangatawa (The Tears of Mangatawa) by Duane Moyle
Nga Roimata o Mangatawa (The Tears of Mangatawa) by Duane Moyle

Long, long ago, a whale and her baby cruised into the harbour through the entrance past Maunganui and Matakana. They swam up the harbour past Te Papa and Matapihi toward Maungatapu. They found the water was getting more shallow and they turned round to return to deeper water. Unfortunately, they turned into the Rangataua arm of the harbour between Matapihi and Maungatapu. They knew which direction the ocean lay. They could hear the waves pounding on the beach at Omanu and Papamoa. They struggled over the mudflats of Rangataua, trying to find a way back to the open sea. They stopped at Karikari on the eastern shore of Rangataua. There was a spring there and they drank from it, because they were tired and thirsty. They did not know that this spring was magic. All life departed from the body of the mother whale and she was fixed there, gazing northward out to sea. The baby nestled beside the mother and was also fixed there as the smaller hill beside Mangatawa on the Papamoa side.

'Three Whales' sculpture by Peter Cramond outside the Papamoa Library

'Three Whales' - sculpture by Peter Cramond outside the Papamoa Library

The father whale came into Tauranga Moana looking for his family. He followed them up the harbour and he too struggled across the Rangataua mudflats and drank at the spring at Karikari. He was also transformed into the high rounded hill south of Mangatawa that is called Kopukairoa.  

Glass etching depicting Mangatawa traditional story
Glass etching depicting the story on the Tauranga City Library Learning Centre (2nd floor).

There is still a spring at Karikari and it is called Te Waiū o te Tohorā, the milk of the whale. It is at the base of Mangatawa near the shore of Rangataua. Sometimes the water flowing from it is quite white, so it must be the milk from the whale, which rests there as a guardian of the people of Te Arawa and Tauranga Moana.  

Other stories can be found here: An Introduction to this collection.

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This page archived at Perma CC in October of 2016: https://perma.cc/Y4EC-49S5

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License
Traditional Story: Mangatawa by Harley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License