Sunday, 10 June 2012

How Ahuahu came to Aotearoa

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 hear of how Ahuahu came to Aoteoroa. This time Ahu tells the story of how when she and Ahuahu were first married they talked to each other of their past to get to know each other.

Ahuahu’s family had been travelling over the ocean for many days. They were in a large party from one of the big islands to the north and they had been voyaging south and west for new islands to settle. They were in one of several great war canoes filled up with provisions and water, fishing nets and lines and of course many weapons.

They could survive for weeks without a landfall. They caught the rain for drinking and ate their catch of fish raw with seaweed that they found floating on the water. Most seabirds steered clear from them now after so many were caught with nooses as they fought for a share of the catch of fish. These too were eaten raw and their feathers were carefully plucked and stored away for headdresses and for cushioning their heads when they slept.

In the lead boat there was a cry of land ahead. Ahuahu looked up excitedly but his mother continued preparing their meal from the fish caught by his father a little earlier.  Landfalls were nothing to her only more work and her hands were already full now.

“We are very far south, father. Is it a big island or just another atoll?”

“It is another small island Ahu. Look at the water boy. Do you see anything floating? The larger the land the more vegetation there will be floating far out to sea.”

Ahu nodded despondently. Another small island or coral reef would mean they would not stop long, and there might be little for them to reprovision the canoes with.

Another hour or so might get them to the reef and then there would be the excitement as they crossed it with everyone at the paddles ensuring they cleared the breakers and got into the lagoon safely.

They had not travelled the thousands of miles without experiencing this hazardous point many times and each crossing was dangerous but no one had been lost yet this way. Ahuahu had heard of other travellers been lost in crossing the reefs or by injury from stings from the scorpion fish and sea snakes and one mother and her baby had died in childbirth. As each death occurred they thanked their gods that they had not been chosen and praised them for their mercy. It was deemed a fair return for what they themselves had taken from the sea.

Late afternoon they had crossed the reef safely and entered the lagoon. The island was small but it rose a little above the sea and there were many coconut palms. Ahuahu’s father nodded approvingly. “Let’s hope it is decided that we stay here awhile. It will support us for a little while.”

They pulled their canoes up the sandy beach and a large party of men were sent to explore the immediate surrounds. Ahuahu’s father was sent to find fresh water and Ahuahu was left to look after the canoes. Meanwhile the women started searching the vegetation for edible fruit and to collect the fallen coconuts.

Ahuahu started collecting shellfish along the shore with another boy who had also been left behind to mind the boats. He placed them in a woven net that he dragged behind him in the shallows to keep the shellfish wet and fresh.

After they had collected quite a haul to eat he looked up and out to sea and he could another large canoe approaching the shore. He looked quickly back to land and could see neither the women nor any of the men close to the boats so he called out to both the right and the left of him to alert them that there were more visitors.

He turned back to look out to sea again. Meanwhile the other boy stared first at him then started running away towards the trees. “Stop, we must defend the boats” cried Ahuahu but the other boy was gone. Ahuahu returned to their canoes and selected a fighting weapon. He chose a koa a short spear with embedded shark teeth in the blade to defend himself while he stood guard over the boats.

Nearer and nearer they came to shore and when they saw him they started chanting a war cry. He stood facing them with his weapon raised. He wanted to turn to see if help was coming but dare not. When they landed their boats they cautiously took their time to get close to him. Their costume was different from his people; they wore cloaks made of feathers and their faces were all tattooed. Ahuahu stared them down and made slight advancing movements toward them brandishing his weapon. They in turn stared back at him and poked their tongues out at him and shouted insults. Still he would not turn and flee. Then their leader stopped a few feet from him and beckoned the other to stop too.

“You are too brave to kill, boy, you will come with us”. With that he swung his hooked tewhatewha with a greenstone blade embedded in it and struck at Ahuahu's cheek. Ahuahu let loose his koa and at the same time he instinctively put his hand up to protect his face but it was too late the blade cut in and he fell to the ground unconscious and his spear narrowly missed his adversary.

“Put him my canoe”, he indicated to one of his men. “And you others smash their boats.”

The leader looked up and down the beach and saw none of Ahuahu’s people appear. He sneered, “They have lost their best warrior but he belongs to me now.” He then picked up Ahuahu’s weapon and examined it. “They have travelled far from the north but this is as far as they come. 

Later when Ahuahu parents and the others returned to the boats they found only wreckage and knew they would have to wait until the Maoris warriors returned to fight them. They also knew that they would all die unless they ran away like cowards but this they could not and would never do.

Koa – A short spear often with teeth embedded in the blade.

Tewhatewha – A club with a greenstone blade. (Pronounced tew-ah-tew -ah)


  1. He was just as much courageous and full of ice, as a child. I appreciate the episodes from the past, it makes the circle more complete.

    And hooray, you are back! I hope that you have been well.

  2. yes, Mr egg, I enjoy the continuing story and the fact that you rturned

  3. I'm glad you're back! I was getting worried. Your story is great, too.

  4. He was very brave, but I'm not surprised.

    I'm so glad to see you back! You can't do that again without warning us. We were worried.

  5. You know, Robin, some kids are born with enough piss and vinegar to stand up for themselves early on. I love these Ahu stories and hope one day you will publish the collection! Peace, Amy

  6. Amy has it pegged! It is good to have you back and to have a prequel..maybe the distance allowed for this look back..piss and vinegar inside is always good..jae

  7. 'Yeaaagh!' Great to have you back with a grand episode. I was frantic for a fortnight, until my old memory kicked in and I remembered where it was you were going. Tervetuloa takaisin!

  8. Wonderful writing. Sad for the boy to be taken from his family and kidnapped but, what a fabulous story.

  9. So in the end it was doing something that might seem foolhardy that saved his life.

  10. So here we sit in our safe, secure houses, reading a story that screams of the things we take so much for, security, family, home and love.

    Excellent writing. Thank you.