A Maori Tale: The Legend of the Kiwi

A Maori Tale: The Legend of the Kiwi

by | Jul 17, 2015

Lake Mapourika and Okarito 2

As we paddle into the kiwi sanctuary on the far side of Lake Mapourika, we often tell the tale of ‘How the Kiwi Lost His Wings’.  This is a beautiful Maori Legend which depicts many Native New Zealand birds, and of the course the iconic Kiwi.  Enjoy!

 

One day, Tanemahuta (the king of the forest) was walking through the forest. He looked up at his children reaching for the sky and he noticed that the trees were starting to sicken, as the bugs were eating them from the forest floor.

 

In a great worry, he spoke to his brother, Tanehokahoka, who called upon all of his children (the birds of the air) together.

 

Tanemahuta spoke to them:

 

“Something is eating my children, the trees. I need one of you to come down from the forests canopy and dwell on the forset floor, so that my children can be saved, and your home can be saved too. Who is brave enough to accomplish this task?”

 

All was quiet, and not a bird spoke.

 

Tanehokahoka turned to Tui.

 

“Tui, will you come down from the forest canopy?”

 

Tui looked up at the trees and saw the sun filtering through the leaves. Tui looked down at the forest floor and saw the cold, dark earth and shuddered.

 

“Kao, Tanehokahoka, for it is too dark and I am afraid of the dark.”

 

Tanehokahoka turned to Pukeko.

 

“Pukeko, will you come down from the forest canopy?”

 

Pukeko looked down at the forest floor and saw the cold, damp earth and shuddered.

 

“Kao, Tanehokahoka, for it is too damp and I do not want to get my feet wet.”

 

All was quiet, and not a bird spoke.

 

Tanehokahoka turned to Pipiwharauroa.

 

“Pipiwharauroa, will you come down from the forest canopy?”

 

Pipiwharauroa looked up at the trees and saw the sun filtering through the leaves. Pipiwharauroa looked around and saw his family.

 

“Kao, Tanehokahoka, for I am busy at the moment building my nest.”

 

All was quiet, and not a bird spoke. And great was the sadness in the heart of Tanehokahoka, for he knew, that if one of his children did not come down from the forest roof, not only would his brother loose his children, but the birds would have no home.

 

Tanehokahoka turned to Kiwi.

 

“E kiwi, will you come down from the forest canopy?”

 

Kiwi looked up at the trees and saw the sun filtering through the leaves. Kiwi looked around and saw his family. Kiwi looked at the cold damp earth. Looking around once more, he turned to Tanehokahoka and said,

 

“I will.”

 

Great was the joy in the hearts of Tanehokahoka and Tanemahuta, for this little bird was giving them hope. But Tanemahuta felt that he should warn kiwi of what would happen.

 

“E kiwi, do you realise that if you do this, you will have to grow thick, strong legs so that you can rip apart the logs on the ground and you will lose your beautiful coloured feathers and wings so that you will never be able to return to the tree tops. You will never see the light on day again.”

 

All was quiet, and not a bird spoke.

 

“E kiwi, will you come down from the forest canopy?”

 

Kiwi took one last look at the sun filtering through the trees and said a silent goodbye. Kiwi took one last look at the other birds, their wings and their coloured feathers and said a silent goodbye. Looking around once more, he turned to Tanehokahoka and said,

 

“I will.”

 

Then Tanehokahoka turned to the other birds and said:

 

“E Tui, because you were too scared to come down from the forest roof, from now on you will wear the two white feathers at your throat as the mark of a coward.

 

Pukeko, because you did not want to get your feet wet, you will live forever in the swamp.

 

Pipiwharauroa, because you were too busy building your nest, from now on you will never build another nest again, but lay your eggs in other bird’s nests.

 

But you kiwi, because of your great sacrifice, you will become the most well known and most loved bird of them all.”