Hangi - Earth Oven
One day the children at Gannet Island village were sitting down waiting for Mahuika to start a story for them but she did not begin. “Why do you not start the story Auntie” asked one boy.
“Because there is one of you missing” she said. So all the children started looking at each other to see who was missing. Then one boy shouted out “It is Maranu, look he is coming now” and there he was, racing as fast as he could in case he had missed a part of the story.
Mahuika smiled at him as he arrived and said “It is lucky you can run as fast as Te Houtaewa otherwise you would have missed the story.”
“Who is Te Houtaewa Auntie?” all the children then asked.“Well Te Houtaewa was the fastest runner of his day but he was a naughty boy and played many tricks especially on the neighbouring villages. I will tell you his story."
One morning his mother wanted some kumara (sweet potato) for the hangi (earth oven) and asked Te Houtaewa to go to the village garden at Te Kao a short distance away to fetch some. He agreed to fetch the kumara and bring it back in time to put in the hangi that afternoon.
Instead of going to the nearby gardens in their village, Te Houtaewa set off for the village of Ahipara as he wanted to annoy some Te Rarawa people who lived there as boys do. Carrying two large baskets for the kumara, he ran like the wind completing the journey over the hard sands of Te Oneroa a Tohe beach much quicker than anyone else could. As It takes a few hours to get a good hangi to heat up properly he knew he had plenty of time. On reaching Ahipara, he went straight to the villagers’ kumara pataka (a storehouse raised on stilts for the sweet potatoes) situated at the base of a hill.
While Te Houtaewa was filling his kete (baskets) with kumara he was spotted stealing the food and they recognised him immediately. "See who it is,” one said. “It is Te Houtaewa. Let’s catch him and we will punish him and make him work for us instead." Te Houtaewa stood up with one kete in each hand he saw a line of people blocking his escape. Quickly he ran in the opposite direction up the hill. Not realising what he was doing they chased after him.
As he ran, the blockade which had been formed against him at the bottom of the hill was broken up with some men chasing and some staying where they were and the ranks opened up. So he turned and waited for the oncoming pursuers. As they came closer, Te Houtaewa unexpectedly rushed back past them through the gaps and headed back down the hill sending those waiting sprawling as he pushed by them headed for the beach. Te Rarawa people were so astonished that Te Houtaewa still carrying his baskets of kumara reaching the beach had headed for home.
The Te Rarawa people were very angry at being fooled by Te Houtaewa. They sent their best runners after him, calling out to him to stop. But Te Houtaewa continued to speed along the hard sand, even though he was little slower now with his heavy load.
‘He must be tiring carrying those heavy baskets of kumara. We will catch him soon." His pursuers said as two of their fastest men separated from the main band and nearly caught up to Te Houteawa. But he was still too fast and they never caught him.
When he finally reached home, Te Houtaewa found his mother waiting for him with the hangi now ready for the kumara to be placed in it. She never knew what her naughty son had been doing during the time he had been away.
Mahuika smiled at them as she finished her story.
“You were not stealing some kumara were you?” said one little girl turning to Maranu, the boy who arrived late.
Maranu shook his head smiling. “No, but I was running an errand for my mother.”