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