Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Mahuika's Tales No. 3. Kupe and Te Wheke

                        Te Wheke the Octopus

When Mahuika found the children waiting for the story one day they were all chattering together about what one boy's father had found in his fishing net the previous day. It was Te Wheke the octopus.

Mahuika laughed “Well  why not? That means he has learned from his ancestors that fish will be waiting to be eaten in mens nets if he is careful because he has been told to fish there.”

“Who told Te Wheke, Mahuika?” asked the boy whose father had found the octopus.

“Listen to the story to see if you can find out then.” So they all sat down around and waited for the story.

A long long time ago in far away Hawaiki, a Tohunga (a magic man) named Muturangi, sat brooding, thinking of his revenge upon the villagers who had banished him to the other side of the island far from his village because of the way he had used his magic
One day as he waded in the sea he came across Te Wheke (the octopus) feeding in the shallows. Quickly using his magic powers, he charmed the creature and became its master.
Muturangi would send Te Wheke, the octopus, out to catch fish and bring them back for him to eat. One day he had an idea, and told Te Wheke "Go over there where the villagers are setting their fishing nets and take some of the fish that are caught in their nets. It will be easier than having to catch the fish yourself".
This is what Te Wheke did but even with plenty of food, and revenge on the villagers, Muturangi was still not happy and continued to brood.
When the fishermen pulled in their nets not only were there no fish in them. But to make matters worse the nets too had been damaged, some even beyond repair.
"Who is taking our fish" cried one fisherman, "Look at my net, it's ruined" said another. The fishermen were mystified so they went to find Kupe, a very respected Maori warrior to ask him what it meant.
"I too will go fishing, and see what is destroying our nets and taking our fish" said Kupe. Paddling his Waka (canoe) before dawn, Kupe was already on the fishing grounds just as the Ra, the sun rose to start his new journey across the sky.
Setting his net, Kupe lay in wait. Only a short time had passed when he noticed a disturbance in the water and then slowly became aware of the presence of magic in the water as Te Wheke was unravelling the nets.
“It must be Muturangi using his powers“ He said to himself and thought he must be getting the Wheke to wreck the villagers nets and to feed himself!
Kupe struck Te Wheke with his Taiaha (a long club) and a great battle ensued, Kupe was very strong and as fast as the fastest wind, his fighting skill was famous but Te Wheke had eight arms and was quick and strong as well.
On they fought, on and on, striking, blocking, spinning out of the way, again and again as Kupe’s Taiaha (barbed spear) was stabbing everywhere.
This great struggle moved across Te Moana Nui a Kiwa, the great ocean of Kiwa (the Pacific Ocean), till Kupe managed to bring Te Wheke to Te Tau Ihu (the Northern part of the South Island of Aotearoa) and with greater effort began to land even more blows on Te Wheke.
Great gouges were carved out of the land and the sea rushed-into them during the titanic struggle until Te Wheke finally began to weaken, and tire.
Realising his doom Te Wheke became more and more desperate to get away, the motion of his many arms backing away caused great boulders to be churned up in a long line forming islands.
Kupe could sense victory. Leaping into the air Kupe brought all his weight to bear and delivered the mortal blow with such force that Te Wheke was killed outright, splitting him into two.
When Te Wheke was split his eyes eyes flew off in different directions and landed in separate places. They turned to into rock, one of the rocks is next to Arapawa Island but you should not look at it because it is bad luck to gaze upon the dark eye of the octopus. It is said that the other eye landed at Ngawhatu but I do not know where that is, concluded Mahuika.

All the children were wide eyed with the tale of the fight as Hoku walked by and heard her finish the story. “Oh, Mahuika the children will wake up screaming tonight after that story. Could you not tell them a happier one?”

“Tomorrow perhaps,” said Mahuika as she grinned at her.


  1. If I were a kid I'd be afraid I might accidentally look in the eye of the octopus. Frankly, I think Te Wheke got a raw deal.

  2. I'm with Alice. I'd be scared to look anywhere at all after that story, for fear the other eye might be there!