Sunday, 29 April 2012

How Ahu was orphaned

The continuing story of Ahu and Ahuahu her husband in a Maori village in Aotearoa before European settlement of New Zealand. (Missed an episode? Click on Ahu in the labels bar for previous posts.)

Note in this episode we tell of Ahu’s early childhood. All the family are gathered together and even Moana is home with them too. Ahuahu narrates the story on this cold and wintry night. 


Ahu could not remember her mother’s or her father’s names only that they lived just outside the Village of Gannet Island to the north or perhaps that is what she had been told. Her father was a fisherman as most men were and her mother had come from Rocky Outcrop long before the fighting and enmity had started between the two villages.

Because he had not yet had a son her father treated Ahu as if she were a boy and insisted he take her fishing. Her mother said that as Ahu was only about five years old said she would always come too. Her father was not a kind man and would scoff at his wife that she came from a village where the fishing was poor. She said nothing as she felt alone now and shamed that she had been given away to marry this man from the south and hurt that he did not cherish her. She had given him a girl child, but a boy child would not come for him to boast about. So she mostly kept her mouth shut except when she and Ahu were together.

Ahu’s mother loved Ahu tenderly and would wrap her up in her arms and talked to her of the birds and the insects and of the plants and the secrets of the forest that had been her home. Ahu listened but the words were but songs of love to her as she nestled into her mother’s warm body and she often fell asleep in this way.

It was springtime and Ahu’s father wanted to take the boat across to Gannet Island and for him to fish while his wife and Ahu would search for birds’ eggs to take home. There were thousands of birds on the island not only gannets but terns and silver gulls and even the larger pacific gulls as well. Then there were sea eagles and the osprey that did not live there but came to pick up chicks and steal the eggs too. After they had been put ashore, Ahu and her mother walked up and down by the side of the nesting birds’ not threatening or stealing eggs but just getting the birds used to them being there. Every now and then they would sit on the guano covered rocks and talk but not keeping still but moving slightly so the birds knew they were still there and formed part of their environment.

After they had been there for about an hour they walked slowly by the nesting birds and when a scrape of pebbles had been temporarily abandoned by a bird they took the exposed egg and hid it away in the bags they were carrying and sat down again as though they were not the robbers. By early afternoon they had collected enough eggs and apart from a few pecks and scratches they were unharmed. Ahu remembered her mother saying “Even if you have to steal do it with love” she then smiled at Ahu and said reassuringly, “They will know there is still yet time for them to lay more eggs”. She then turned to Ahu and said, “Whatever you do in your life do it with love and the gods with look on you with kindness.”

They got back to the sheltered cove where they were to meet her father and saw him slowly paddle his way toward them. The tide had turned and the wind had risen and both Ahu’s and her mother’s hair streamed out from their heads with the storm approaching. With much difficulty her father came close to the rocks where they waited and he shouted at them as they scrambled aboard breaking a few eggs as they did so. Her father cursed the unruly sea while Ahu prayed that they would be safe and slowly they made their way off shore again to navigate around the island and back to the mainland beach.

Out of the lee of the island the waves were high and the wind blew relentlessly and they were at the mercy of the waves despite both her parents paddling furiously to get away. It was no use, the wind and the tide threw them back on to the island’s rocks and the canoe was overturned. Ahu was still grasping her bag of eggs when she was thrown overboard and went under then bobbed to the surface again gasping for breath and swimming as best she could towards the rocks. Luckily she was tossed between two large boulders into a pool of water behind them and was able to scramble to safety out of the reach of the waves. As soon as she could get to her feet she turned and looked back to find her parents but there was no sign of them or of the canoe either in the wind tossed waves.

She found her way to a higher point on the island facing the shore and searched long for them or for any other canoes on the water but there were none. So as the day darkened, soaking wet and frightened she had to stay all night on the island and hid under a rock with only the wet tussock grass to lie on. She was found the next morning by some men from the village. She was then taken to her aunts; her father’s sisters who then had the responsibility of looking after as she was now an orphan and called feeding child, unwanted.

For all the hardships and unfriendliness of her aunts and cousins she never forgot her mothers words, “Whatever you do in your life do it with love and the gods with look on you with kindness.”

When she became of marriageable age Ahu was told that she should marry and no longer be a burden to her relatives. They had chosen Ahuahu for her who was another orphan in the village who came from an island far, far away. She was scared but for her it was the first day of her new life.

Feeding child - Is a term used to describe a child orphaned or abandoned and in the care of relatives and thus a burden to them.


  1. Very interesting. If you leave a legacy with your children, that's a good one--love and kindness.

  2. Stealing with an interesting it a Maori act fragile on the outside but full of heart inside? an egg..Jae

  3. This was lovely. We all should try doing everything with love. If we sow love, we should reap a big harvest in return. Great, great episode!

  4. I love getting backstory on characters. So much fun!

  5. just caught this chapter. I like the story and the way you write it. Makes want to come back for more.

  6. the gentle lack of bitterness is entrancing. Though their lives are quite harsh there is such a beauty to them :)

  7. I have a hunger for these stories, they are of such unintrusive people. Ahu's mother speaks of a harmonious world. You've given me the reason why I love Ahu.

    This week, I will hold onto their song.

  8. this was such a good read..I enjoyed this fully. I was totally lazy to read stories and novels but here I forgot that laziness....thanks that you wrote whatever you do do with love and god will look at you in kindness...

  9. Nice piece of background filling. It just shows the character of Ahu's mother, that she has learned, and hung on to what she was taught.

  10. Robin, love the story, all of it. So happy the Scribs prompt prompted YOU to look back on Ahu's childhood. What she went through, especially being called "feeding child," a burden... her mother's influence, however short, seems to have made a lasting impression. Ahu is a lovable person because of it. Thanks so much, Amy

  11. This helps explain how she managed to come out such a nice person in spite of all that befell her in life.

  12. full of love and kindness

    the river