Topic: Traditional Story: Te Toka a Tirikawa

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There once lived at Te Kaha, in the eastern Bay of Plenty, a group of people whose chief was called Apanui Ringamutu (in Evelyn Stokes original translation it is "Apanuimutu"). He is the ancestor of the tribe called Whanau Apanui.

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There once lived at Te Kaha, in the eastern Bay of Plenty, a group of people whose chief was called Apanui Ringamutu (in Evelyn Stokes original tranlsation it is "Apanuimutu"). He is the ancestor of the tribe called Whanau Apanui. At this time though, he had nothing to be famous for. He did not look handsome or distinguished. He did not really look like a chief at all. His men had been beaten so often in battles that their mana was very low. They had no influence among the tribes around. Because they had failed to make an impression in the battlefield or in speech-making, they had a very low opinion of themselves too. Apanui often wondered why they were such failures but could not find the real answer.
The worst time of all for the Apanui was the day a war party of Ngati Porou, led by the chief Hikawera, attacked them. Again Apanui had to concede defeat, and his men fell back. Hikawera added further insult by shouting at them, and calling Apanui to a meal with him. What he really meant was that Apanui was to become the meal for Hikawera. Already two of Apanui's leading warriors had fallen to Hikawera. This was adding insult to injury. Apanui felt very whakamā, depressed and dejected, a miserable failure.
As the defeated men retreated, Apanui looked up toward a hilltop where the tohunga of Hikawera stood watching them. Apanui called out, "Aue! Why am I always such a failure as a warrior chief?" Apanui must have felt really desperate to call on the tohunga of an enemy tribe like this. Nevertheless, the tohunga gave him an answer, though it was not obvious to Apanui just what it meant. "That which you seek," said the tohunga, "will be found by following the setting sun."
Apanui returned home to his pa at Te Kaha and thought about what the tohunga had said. Finally, he decided that somewhere in the western Bay of Plenty, in Tauranga Moana, there was someone who could give him the power to succeed, to really become a toa.
Meanwhile, in Tauranga Moana, there lived in the pa at Matuaiwi a tohunga called Kinomoerua. This priest was the proud owner of a pet tui, a talking tui, which followed him wherever he went. This tui also helped him in his rituals and was a real friend of Kinomoerua. One day the tohunga was in the kumara patch chanting a karakia to protect the crop from the kumara grub. The tui called out "Koka ē! Tahia te marae – Hey Dad, better get the marae ready." This was how the tui warned Kinomoerua that visitors were approaching and he had better get ready to greet them and offer hospitality. Kinomoerua asked the tui who the visitors were: "Uia te manuhiri meke ko wai?" The tui replied, "Kukuti to wera te haua ko Apanui – Apanui the man with the shrivelled skin and lame leg."
Kinomoerua went back to the pa at Matuaiwi. Apanui and his ope were received and entertained and made welcome there. After a while, and after the usual speeches, Apanui finally got round to telling Kinomoerua why he had travelled west to Tauranga Moana. Could Kinomoerua tell him how to become a successful toa? Kinomoerua said nothing, but led his visitor outside the wharenui. They looked out over the harbour towards Rangiwaea and Matakana. As they looked, a bird swooped down out of the sky, and dived into the water. It was a kawau, a shag. Soon the bird reappeared, above the water. It opened its mouth and ate the wind. It had failed to catch the fish it had been after. Several times it opened its mouth and achieved nothing. "See," said Kinomoerua, "See that shag. Don't you perform like that, Apanui, it gets nothing, and like you, it gets nowhere."
Kinomoerua went down to the beach with Apanui and dragged a canoe into the water. They paddled across the harbour to Maunganui, and beached the canoe. Then Kinomoerua led Apanui around the Mount to the ocean beach, and to the north side where the rocks guard the entrance to the harbour of Tauranga Moana. They sat on the slope and looked down on the rock called Te Toka a Tirikawa, or North Rock, as it is often called now. The waves crashed and broke over the rock in succession, one after the other, over and over again. Again and again the rock reappeared as the foaming waves poured off it. "See that rock," said Kinomoerua, "Look on Te Toka a Tirikawa and conduct yourself as it does. Ka ngaro ka ngaro, ka ea ka ea Te Toka a Tirikawa." Kinomoerua also chanted a karakia, and then sent Apanui and his party back to Te Kaha.
Apanui was strengthened by the karakia of Kinomoerua and he never lost sight of the vision of the waves breaking on the rock of Tirikawa. He defeated his enemy Hikawera of Ngati Porou and went on to further victories. He became a chief whom Whanau Apanui are proud to acknowledge as their ancestor. This saying of Kinomoerua to Apanui, this whakataukī, is still quoted around Tauranga Moana: Ka ngaro ka ngaro, ka ea ka ea, Te Toka a Tirikawa. Though it is submerged and lost, the rock of Tirikawa will always appear again. In spite of the storms of many generations, the waves are still crashing and breaking on Tirikawa and the rock stands firm for ever at Maunganui.

Other stories are found off the article - An Introduction to this collection (please click) 


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