Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Mahuika's Tales No 25 Hekeheke tells the story of Tawhaki and Hapai

                                    Deep in a Kauri forest

Hekeheke knew she was pregnant now and was very happy about it. She thought that she must go and tell Mahuika because she was one of the friends she wanted to tell first. She had told Maui her husband of course and as expected he wanted lay his head on her tummy and talk to baby because he was that sort of person. She was so glad that he was her husband that each morning she wanted to shout it out loud for everyone to hear. Although they probably guessed already and Horowai, Tangaroa’s wife would be told too as they they were such great friends.
The day after she told Maui her husband she went to the meeting house as usual to tell the children a story. She was glad she had finished all the stories she knew about Maui the wilful hero of long ago as she had a love story to tell the children today. So that morning as usual with a different youngster sitting with her, she began her story:

A long time ago the beautiful goddess in the heavens Hapai came floating down to earth one night to inspect that land they could see from on high. As she wandered about unseen she saw this handsome young man sleeping in his whare (house) who she immediately fell in love with as he had such a noble appearance.  So she went up to him as he slept and lifted his covers and lay down by his side just looking at him with admiration. Went he turned over he thought that a girl from his village had boldly come to him. So he wrapped his arms around her and told her she was beautiful. Hapai was very pleased that he was so bold and confident and he thinking that she was woman of his world stroked and fondled her and so from then on they lived together. 

Their union was very happy and soon a baby was born, a little girl. Hapai was happy living on earth with Tawhaki and their baby and so she revealed to him that she was from the heavens above. He loved her so much that he didn’t see there was a problem in that until one day as their little girl was growing up Tawhaki scolded their daughter for being naughty as children sometime are. Hapai was very cross that he did this as she was upset that both she and her daughter who heavenly beings should be reprimanded by this mere human. Her motherly love was wounded so deeply that she resolved to leave her earthly husband and return to her heavenly home.

Tawhaki realizing what he had done tried to apologize but Hapai with her child in her arms climbed to the roof of their house and standing on the carved tekoteko (figurehead on gable) above the front of the dwelling said farewell to Tawhaki saying if he wished to follow her to her far-away home he must seek a secure vine or forest rope by which to ascend to the higher regions where they would be. She said that it would however be difficult for him to follow her. Despite pleading with her not to go she sailed off into the sky and vanished from view.

For a longtime Tawhaki mourned for his lovely wife and child. Then he determined to see them again, he set out to find some way to ascend to the land of the gods. He entered the great forest where the tallest trees were and looked for a tree-vine by which he might climb to the sky. There in the deep and gloomy forest as he was searching he met the guardian of the forest the old and blind Mata-kere-po, who was in fact his grandmother. She somehow survived in the dark forest with other creatures of the night but did not recognize him when he greeted her. Tawhaki could see it was his father’s mother and greeted her as such and in doing so miraculously cured her blindness. 

When he told her he wanted to climb up to heaven to rejoin Hapai, Mata-kere-po in her gratitude showed him the aka (vine) he could trust. He grasped it and shook it, and began his great climb to the upper regions. As he climbed, the old woman chanted her incantation of encouragement, the chant for his pikitanga (ascent) up the sacred vine called the toi-huarewa (rise to the summit).

“Piki ake Tawhaki
Ki te rangi tuatahi,
Ki te rangi tuarua”


 “Ascend on high, Tawhaki,
To the first heaven,
To the second heaven.”


And so on the recital went, right up to the tenth heaven where Hapai’s home should be. The high winds of the heights buffeted Tawhaki, he was blown and tossed to and fro, but he clung tightly to the secure aka vine and steadily climbed to the uppermost heaven. Tawhaki finally came to where he hoped he would find his wife. It resembled the land of earth in some respects, for there was a forest, and as he explored it he saw a party of workmen making a canoe out of a great felled tree. He joined them and when they were about to go home he offered to carry their axes to their village. He waited until they were out of sight, and he set to work on the half-finished canoe, and chopped away until he had completed the hollowing out and shaping. Then he followed at a distance from the men as they walked home. The other villagers did not take much notice of Tawhaki until they saw his joyful meeting with the beautiful Hapai, for she too lived in that village. They were all amazed, for she was a tapu woman and a high Kahurangi (chieftainess) herself.

The loving reunion of Tawhaki, Hapai and their daughter was a meeting from which they would never part again, for he remained in the celestial home. The inhabitants of that place knew he had become a god too, for he was of radiant appearance and lightning flashed from his arms showing that he was one of them.

The little girl sitting on her then turned to her an asked "Will you always tell stories to us, Hekeheke?" Hekeheke nodded and said "I will try, little one. Why do you ask?" 

The little girl then said "My mother said you would probably have a baby of your own soon."

"One day perhaps." Hekeheke replied smiling shyly.


  1. I love Hekeheke's story A good story to prevent jealousy of the baby.

  2. They are so lucky to have everything work out so easily. Of course, being a grandson of a god does help. It's a sweet story.