Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Mahuika's Tales No 11. Kakuhura and the Net

As it was a fine day Mahuika had taken the children down to the beach again and as they sat down they saw their fathers fishing from the canoes on the water. Some of the women from the village were also on the beach fossicking around and catching crabs and putting them in baskets.

As she sat down the children sat down around her edging each other to get the best position. Hekeheke held a little one in her lap as the story began.

One morning, Kahukura was travelling along the coastline towards the territory of the Te Rarawa and came to Rangiawhia, a beach which was littered with the insides of fish. It was evident that some fish had been cleaned there not long before, because otherwise the mess would have been washed away by the previous high tide. Kahukura thought that the cleaning must have been done some time during the night or earlier that morning and his curiosity was excited for there were no signs of people living nearby. 

He examined the beach more carefully and decided that the work it must have been done by the Turehu (a light skinned fairy people) because there were no rushes scattered about, as would have been if Maori people like him had fished there. Rushes were were placed in the bottom of a canoe lose so that the fish caught on their lines would not be bruised and then tossed out onto the beach when the catch was brought ashore.
Kahukura was excited at the thought that he might be on the verge of a new discovery. He returned to the village where he was staying some distance away, and waited until night fall, when he returned to the same beach, he was just in time. The Turehu were there pulling out a net from the sea in which the fish were caught. Kahukura stood rooted to the ground in amazement, for he had never seen a fishing net before. The only way he knew how to catch fish was with a line and a hook.
Some of the Turehu were shouting, "Drop the net in the waters here! Haul the net from the water there!"
One of their canoes was paddled out and a net dropped overboard, while the two men on board sang, "Drop the net in the sea here and then let's haul it out."
When the net was fully paid out, the ends were brought ashore and the Turehu began to haul it in. The circle narrowed, and as the fish jumped out of the water, the ripples danced like sparkling flashes in the moonlight. 

There was a sudden shout, "Some of you get out to sea to stop the net from being caught on the rocks."
So they kept the net clear, while others pulled it steadily to the shore. Kahukura quietly joined them and was not detected in the half darkness for he was as short as they were as well and somewhat fair skinned like them too.

By the time the net was pulled in and the beach covered with fish, the sky was beginning to grow pale with the first light of dawn. Those who were hastily threading the gutted fish on twigs and cords, urging each other on and shouting, "Hurry, hurry. We must finish before the sun rises." 

Kahukura  went to help them too. However with his cord he made a slip knot at the end. As soon as it was fully threaded he lifted it up. The knot came undone with the weight of the fish, and they fell on the sand. Some of the Turehu noticed this and came to his aid, knotting the string tightly. As soon as they turned away, Kahukura untied the knot, substituting the slip knot again. Many times over the fish slipped off the string, delaying the work of the others. It was getting lighter, and as the last fish was loaded into the canoes, the sun lifted over the horizon and lit up the beach. 

The Turehu uttered cries of dismay. They then noticed the tattooed face of Kahukura and they sprang back in alarm. They rushed away, abandoning the canoes, which were made of flax stalks, as well as the net which was woven rush strands. 

The net lay in of tumbled heap on the sand. Kahukura picked it up and examined it carefully. There was no sign of the Turehu or the fish they had caught. He stood there alone, in the bright sunshine. Kahukura memorised the method of knotting and took back that knowledge of it to his people. 

From his encounter with the Tuheru the art of net making quickly spread to every part of New Zealand which was the unwitting gift of the Turehu to mankind. 

The boys then began to chatter amongst themselves of how good their fathers were at fishing with  their canoes. Most of the girls however preferred to catch shellfish and crabs by the shore with their mothers and aunts. Hekeheke then said to one of the boys, "Can you show me the difference between a proper knot and a slip knot?"

"I'll get my brother to show you as he is about your age," he replied. 

Hekeheke blushed and shook her head. "No it is better that you show me." She lowered her eyes but wondered what his brother looked like.

When she looked up, Mahuika eyes were laughing at her.


  1. Ooooooo, looks like we might get a little subplot in the frameworks story. Fun!

  2. Do I sense a possible romance in the future?

  3. Hekeheke looks like she's going to get a romance I hope so. I love how you incorporate how techniques were learned from them for fishing.