Koro, Trans. by Drury Low
Twenty-seven or twenty-eight generations
ago on an island called Taputapuatea [Ra'iatea or Havai'i],
which is far to the north and east of Ututaki Enua [Aitutaki], lived a young
chief of royal blood named Ruatapu. He was the only son of Uanuku Rakeiora,
an ariki or high chief of that island. From boyhood Ruatapu had been fond
of canoes, and he had made many short voyages to neighboring islands. Ruatapu
grew up to be a tall, strong, and handsome young man. While still young
he decided to build a canoe to search for a new island where he could become
ariki. To this end he approached his father, Uanuku, who at last gave his
With the help of others skilled in canoe work, Ruatapu made a new canoe
out of a tamanu tree and when it was at last finished he named it Te Kare-roa-i-tai
(Sea Foam) and lost no time in stocking it with food and water. Early one
morning he sailed alone from Taputapuatea in search of new lands.
Keeping his canoe running before the prevailing southeast tradewinds he
made Rarotonga eight or nine days later. He landed at a small harbor named
Avarau where he was met by some of the inhabitants who welcomed and fed
The first man he met was named
Potiki-taua, the chief of the village
of Avana-nui where they were. Ruatapu asked, "Who is the chief of the
island?" Potiki-taua told him it was Tangiia.
Ruatapu also asked if there were many people living on the island, and
was told that the island was full of people.
Ruatapu settled down at
Avana-nui, and shortly after took as wife a woman
named Uanuku-kaiatia. They had a male child and named him Tamaiva. When
the child was about four years old Ruatapu, who had grown tired of Rarotonga,
decided to leave the island. So once again he put to sea alone in search
of other islands.
After spending many days and nights at sea he sighted a large island.
On reaching the shore the first person he met was a woman. Ruatapu asked
her the name of the island, how many people were living there, and also
the name of the ariki. The woman replied that the island was called Tonga-tapu,
that the ariki's name was Kaukura, and that the island was full of people.
Ruatapu also asked the woman her name and was told that it was Tapotu-ki-Tonga.
Ruatapu made up his mind that as the people already had an ariki, this island
was no place for him to stay at, so he asked the woman if he could stay
with her a few days in order to rest before continuing his journey. Tapotu-ki-Tonga
agreed and took him to her house and fed him. Ruatapu grew fond of Tapotu-ki-Tonga
and stayed on. They had a child which they named Moenau ("Sleeping
While Moenau was still very young Ruatapu decided to move on, but first
he sent his son Moenau to Rarotonga with his grandfather, a noted canoe
voyager named Rangiura. Ruatapu told Rangiura that on arrival at Rarotonga
he was to place Moenau with his half-brother Tamaiva, son of Ruatapu's Rarotongan
wife. To this, his wife Tapotu-ki-Tonga agreed. Rangiura built a new canoe
for the voyage and when it was finished he named it Pouara. Ruatapu told
Rangiura that he would find Uanuku-kaiatia, the mother of Tamaiva, living
in the settlement of Matavera. Soon after this Rangiura and his grandson
sailed from Tonga-tapu and later arrived safely at Rarotonga.
During the voyage Moenau had been very much afraid, and on getting close
to the reef at Rarotonga begged Rangiura to take him quickly ashore or else
he would die. As the sea broke heavily on the reef, Rangiura wanted to take
time to find a suitable passage to make a landing, but fearing that Moenau
might die if not landed at once, he tried to shoot the reef. The canoe was
upset and smashed, and Moenau was swept some distance away by the waves.
Rangiura swam after him and brought him safely ashore, then went after the
broken canoe and brought it ashore. The place where the canoe capsized he
named Vaenga ("The place where we parted"); the place where they
landed he named Pouara after his canoe.
Rangiura asked some people who had come to the beach where
of Ruatapu, was to be found. A man named Anga offered to take Rangiura and
Moenau to him. On meeting Tamaiva and his mother, Rangiura explained who
he was and said that it was Ruatapu's wish that Moenau should live with
them in Rarotonga. This did not please Tamaiva or his mother, who were jealous
of Moenau. They asked where Ruatapu was. On being told that he was at Tonga-tapu,
they told Rangiura they did not want to take charge of Moenau and that he
had better take Moenau away to some other islands called Ngaputoru,
referring to 'Atiu, Ma'uke, and Miti'aro, where they said
Moenau would become a man of rank and also have plenty of flying-fish to
Rangiura and Moenau were very much angered on hearing this, and Rangiura
decided that as soon as they had rested and he had repaired his canoe or
obtained another, they would continue on to Ngaputoru as he
would not leave Moenau where the boy was not wanted.
Five days later, after resting and repairing the canoe, Rangiura and
Moenau left Rarotonga for Ngaputoru. This time they struck
very bad weather at sea. Weak and exhausted, Rangiura at last reached Ma'uke,
but when trying to reach shore, he was killed on the reef. Moenau, however,
was rescued by the people of Ma'uke, taken ashore, and well treated.
Some years later when he had grown into a strong, young man Moenau married
a Ma'uke woman named Te Kaumarokura. A son was born whom they named Te
Moenau, who had by this time grown into a very big and powerful man,
was very proud of his size and strength and also of the fact that he was
a son of Ruatapu. He would seldom go fishing, but would go down to the beach
and meet the canoes coming in from fishing. He would then help himself to
any fish he fancied, often taking all the fish from one canoe and leaving
the owner to go home hungry without any fish for his family. This made the
Ma'uke men very angry but for a long time they suffered in silence, being
afraid of Moenau's size and strength.
At last they met secretly and planned to kill him. Two of the strongest
fighting men were asked to ambush Moenau and kill him with spears; but they
would not agree, saying that Moenau was more than a match for any six men
on the island, and would surely kill them. In the end they decided to try
to kill him by using what they called "kaa natipui," a fine rope
or cord made out of coconut-fibre, their plan being to catch Moenau unprepared.
On the day chosen for the deed
Tara-te-kui, one of the two men, who was
a very good fisherman, went out fishing; the other toa chosen, named Tara-te-kurapo,
was to stay ashore and prepare the trap. Tara-te-kui was to stay out fishing
until after sunset, then come quickly ashore to the spot agreed upon.
Tara-te-kurapo was sure Tara-te-kui had caught enough fish, he
went to Moenau's house and told him that Tara-te-kui was just coming in
from fishing and had made a good catch. Moenau started for the beach at
once and Tara-te-kurapo went with him. When they reached the canoe, it was
dark and Tara-te-kui was just beginning a meal of taro and fish. This was
all part of their plot. Tara-te-kui had the rope snare all set where he
intended Moenau to sit down.
Tara-te-kui invited both Moenau and
Tara-te-kurapo to sit down and have
some food with him before Moenau took some fish home. This pleased Moenau,
who readily sat down where Tara-te-kui placed his food. As soon as he commenced
to eat Tarate-kui and Tara-te-kurapo each took an end of the snare and pulled
it tight. Moenau was caught by the testicles and was soon overpowered and
killed with spears hidden close by. The two men dragged his body to a cave
nearby and threw it in. Then they took their fish and went home.
Next morning they told the people of Ma'uke that they had killed
This greatly pleased the Ma'uke people, who had feared Moenau and were glad
to be rid of him and his fish-stealing ways. At the time of Moenau's death,
his son Te Aukura-ariki-ki-Mauketau was about four years old. Moenau's wife
grieved over the killing of Moenau, and for a long time it was thought that
she would die. Tara-te-kui and Tara-te-kurapo were very sorry for her and
the child. They looked after her like a sister and took fish to her each
All these years Ruatapu had waited on
Tonga-tapu for Rangiuri to bring
him word of the safe arrival of Moenau at Rarotonga. He feared that both
Rangiura and Moenau were dead and he decided to follow them to Rarotonga
to see if they were there. He reached Rarotonga safely and on finding his
son Tamaiva, asked where his younger brother Moenau was. Tamaiva replied,
"He came here but I and my mother told Rangiuri to take him on to Ngaputoru
so that he would be sure of having plenty of flying-fish to eat." On
hearing this Ruatapu was angered and shouted, "Well, I am sure you
sent him to his death. I sent him to you to be cared for and now he is dead."
Ruatapu sailed at once from
Rarotonga, leaving his son Tamaiva behind.
He soon sighted Ma'uke and passed the reef and landed on the beach. He noticed
a number of children playing near the landing place, one of whom was very
like Moenau as Ruatapu remembered him. Calling the child to him he asked
his name and who his father was. The boy said he was called Te
and that his father's name was Moenau. Ruatapu asked for Moenau, and on
being told that he was dead, lamented.
Later he asked the boy if his mother were still alive and where she was
to be found. The boy replied that his mother, Te Kaumarokura, still lived.
Ruatapu asked to be taken to her, and when they reached the house, he met
Moenau's wife and also found there Tara-te-kui and Tara-te-kurapo.
Ruatapu asked Te Kaumarokura if she was the wife of Moenau and she replied,
"Yes." He also asked her where Moenau was and she told him that
he was dead. Ruatapu asked her if the two men were her new husbands. Te
Kaumarokura said that they were not, but that they were relatives and like
fathers to her and her child.
She then asked Ruatapu what had brought him to Ma'uke and he said that
he had come in search of his son Moenau. She said that he had come too late-Moenau
was dead. Ruatapu asked her how many children Moenau had. Te Kaumarokura
answered that he had only one son, Te Aukura-ariki-ki-Mauketau, who was
standing beside him. Te Kaumarokura then asked Ruatapu how long he intended
staying in Ma'uke, and he said he would decide the next day. Te Kaumarokura,
Tara-te-kui, and Tara-te-kurapo prepared food for Ruatapu, and after he
had eaten he soon fell asleep.
Tara-te-kurapo, and Moenau's wife talked quietly together,
and the two men said that they were afraid of Ruatapu who, they said, must
be either a powerful ariki or else a god, as never before had they seen
a man like him. They asked her if she did not feel sorry for them and begged
that she would not tell Ruatapu that they had killed Moenau. Te Kaumarokura
promised, saying that they were now more to her than brothers.
Early next morning Ruatapu arose and his first questions were "How
did Moenau die? Was he killed in fighting and, if so, who killed him?"
Moenau's wife answered that Moenau had not been killed in fighting but had
fallen into a cave or hole in the Makatea. Ruatapu told her that he had
supposed Moenau had been killed fighting; but if her answer was true, he
could not avenge his death.
Ruatapu then told Te Kaumarokura that he would not remain long in Ma'uke
but asked to be allowed to take Moenau's son with him. To this Te Kaumarokura
would not agree, saying that she had already lost Moenau and that if she
were to lose the boy, she would die. Ruatapu then asked Moenau's son if
he would not like to go with him, but Te Aukura-ariki-ki-Mauketau replied
that on the island where his father had died, there also would he die. Ruatapu
then said to the mother and son that they were right; for if he were to
take the boy away, Moenau's name would be forgotten in Ma'uke.
All the people of Ma'uke had heard that Ruatapu, the father of Moenau,
had arrived looking for his son, and when they saw him, they were very much
afraid lest he should hear how Moenau had died. But no word of the truth
reached Ruatapu and he left Ma'uke three days later.
After clearing the reef Ruatapu met some fishing canoes. A man in one
of the canoes hailed him and asked why he was leaving so soon. Ruatapu replied
that as Moenau was dead and as he had seen his son's wife and child, there
was nothing more to stay for. The fisherman then asked Ruatapu if he knew
how Moenau had died. Ruatapu replied that he had met his death by falling
into a cave. The man then told Ruatapu the truth about Moenau. Ruatapu asked
who had killed his son, and he was told "The two men living in the
house with Te Kaumarokura, Tara-te-kui and Tara-te-kurapo." Ruatapu
replied, "It is now too late. They have lied to me. Had I known this
while I was ashore, I would have killed both Tara-te-kui and Tara-te-kurapo,
but I have parted from them in peace and cannot return now."
On the following evening Ruatapu reached 'Atiu and went ashore.
As it was nearly dark when he landed no one saw him and he had to find his
own way to the place where the people of 'Atiu were living. He was
taken into a house and fed. In the morning he rose early and asked who the
ariki was and where he lived. Ruatapu was told that the ariki was Renga;
Ruatapu was then taken to meet him. Renga appeared pleased to meet Ruatapu,
and fed him and made him welcome, insisting upon Ruatapu staying with him.
Renga told Ruatapu that all the people of 'Atiu had for a long
time been at work trying to make a canoe-passage through the reef at a small
natural passage called Taunganui. He said that the work was hard and very
slow. Renga asked Ruatapu if he would help them, and perhaps show them a
better and quicker way. Ruatapu agreed to this and for the next few days
was busy helping Renga and his people to improve the Taunganui passage.
Ruatapu found the work hard and there was very little food to eat, so
he complained to Renga that he and all the others were hungry, and he asked
Renga to see that they received more food each day. Renga replied by asking
where the food would come from. He explained that they had been working
so long at the passage that nearly all the food on the island had been eaten
up. After hearing this, Ruatapu decided to cut short his stay on 'Atiu.
Two days later, having secured sufficient food from Renga to continue
his voyage, Ruatapu left 'Atiu. As a parting gift Renga gave him
some coconuts and two kinds of small birds, one kind named kura, and the
other moo; he also gave Ruatapu some roots of a sweet-smelling flower called
tiare maori. Three days later Ruatapu sighted two fairly large islands,
both sharing one lagoon and surrounded by a reef. He decided to land and
rest before going any farther. He found that the passage through the reef
was a very bad one, but he reached shore safely. Because of the large number
of tavake (boatswain birds) nesting there he named these islands Manu-enua.
Ruatapu found both islands to be uninhabited.
Ruatapu spent four days resting on Manu-enua and collecting food to continue
his voyage. He freed the birds given to him by Renga, planted one coconut-tree
which he named Tuiorongo, and also planted the tiare maori roots to which
he gave the name of Aravaine ("Looking for a woman").
Again Ruatapu put to sea, steering WNW. Two days later he sighted a high
hill and soon afterwards was able to see what appeared to be a large island
nearly ahead of him. On approaching he could distinguish a number of small
islands in the same lagoon, which he entered a little before dark through
a small passage named Kopuaonu. He went ashore and spent that night on a
small island named Oaka.
Early next morning Ruatapu rose and as he was on his way to his canoe
he found a large unga (hermit crab). This he killed and ate and named the
place where he had found it Kai-unga. Near this place he planted his last
tiare maori root and this he named Ngaevaeva-i-te-inai-te-upoko-o-Tapotu-ki-Tongatapu
("The grey hairs of his wife Tapotu in Tongatapu"). This tiare
maori tree can be seen to this day and is by far the largest of its kind
in the Cook Islands.
Ruatapu then sailed over to the mainland, and the place where he landed
he named Maitai ("The place where he rested"). Going a short way
inland from there he named the place Paengamanuiri ("Where the visitor
landed"). Going still further inland he commenced to build his marae
which he named Aumatangi ("Sheltered from the winds").
The place where Ruatapu had landed was near the settlement of Vaitupa;
it was then a very small settlement. The people there made Ruatapu welcome
and took him to their homes. Ruatapu asked the name of the island and was
told that it was Ututaki-enua-o-Ru (now called Aitutaki). He also asked
the name of their ariki and was told that he was called Taruia.
Ruatapu settled among the people of Vaitupa and took as a wife a woman
named Tutunoa. By her he had four children, the first a boy named Kirikava,
the second also a boy whom they named Te Urutupui, the third a girl named
Tongirau, and the fourth a boy named Touketa.
Ruatapu was now happy living among his people. When the eldest boy was
old enough he asked Ruatapu to teach him all the different ways of fishing.
Ruatapu told him that the best and quickest way to catch fish was by making
two kinds of fishing-nets, one a long one for catching big fish, and the
other a short net on two sticks; this net could easily be handled by two
men. (This kind of net is a very good one for catching fish in small passages
along the reef.)
Ruatapu asked Kirikava which of the two kinds he would like made. Kirikava
said that he wanted the big one to catch big fish as he did not want to
catch little fish. Ruatapu then collected a large quantity of the bark of
the au (hibiscus) tree and soaked in the sea for four days, after which
he had it all brought ashore, dressed, cleaned, and hung up to dry. Treated
in this way it is called kiriau and will last at least a year before rotting.
Then Ruatapu called the people of Vaitupa together and began to teach
them how to make both the long net and the short one called tuturua. These
nets took a long time to make as the people were only learners; they were
the first two nets ever seen on the island, and Ruatapu had to teach them
all how to make them. The small net was finished first, and Ruatapu gave
it to his second son Te Urutupui, making him the owner of it. Some days
later Kirikava's net was completed. At last the day came when both nets
were taken out for the first time. Ruatapu divided the men of the settlement
into two parties, one for each net.
On the first day out both nets had very big catches. Te Urutupui's fish
were all small ones, while Kirikava's net had caught big fish and also two
turtles. Kirikava divided among those who had been of his party all the
fish his net had caught; he did not give any to Ruatapu. Te Urutupui first
picked the finest fish out of his catch and sent them along to Ruatapu;
the rest of the catch he then divided among those who had been of his party.
Ruatapu was very pleased that Te Urutupui had not forgotten him and had
shown his gratitude in this way. With Kirikava, on the other hand, Ruatapu
was very angry. He went to Kirikava and told him what his brother had done;
by acting thus, not only had he shown his gratitude to his father, but had
also made sure that in the future, the net would always be successful. Such
was the Maori custom.
Some days later both nets were taken out again and both had big catches.
Again the second son gave the pick of his catch to his father while Kirikava,
as before, gave none. This second slight made Ruatapu angrier still. He
went to Kirikava and asked him how his net had prospered. Kirikava told
him they had had a very good catch, including some very fine-eating fish.
Ruatapu then asked for his share, and why the Maori custom of tapuing the
net had not been followed as the younger brother had done. At the same time
he told Kirikava that he, Ruatapu, was ariki in his own island. Kirikava
replied that he was master of his own net, and that as Ruatapu was an ariki,
he, being the eldest son, must also be an ariki. Ruatapu then said that
Kirikava was no longer a son of his and that he had better leave his father's
house and go and be an ariki, but that he would not be an ariki for long.
Kirikava left his father's house and went to live in another house close
by. He made for himself a marae which he named Aputu. Soon after this he
took as wife a woman named Te Nonoioiva. They had a son whom they named
Maeva-rangi. Ruatapu's three other children still lived with their father
but about this time Te Urutupui took as wife a woman named Vaine-puarangi.
[Te Nonoioiva and Vaine-puarangi had come to Aitutaki with Ru.]
Ever since he had quarrelled with Kirikava, Ruatapu had grown to depend
more and more upon his second son, and he no longer thought of Kirikava
as a son. After Te Urutupui had taken a wife Ruatapu called him and told
him that now that Te Urutupui had a woman of his own, Ruatapu intended to
give him his canoe called Tueu-moana (sea-foam), so named for her sailing
qualities and the way in which she threw the seas aside. He told Te Urutupui,
"Take your wife and go to Manu-enua. These islands are mine. I found
them. I had intended to send your eldest brother there to go and reign as
ariki, but now you are to go in his place. Now the islands are yours, and
you and your wife must try and fill them with children."
A few days later Te Urutupui and his wife left for Manu-enua (now known
as Manuae or Hervey) in the canoe Tueu-moana. It took them three days to
find Manu-enua; they had a rough journey, and the landing was even worse
owing to a big sea running on the reef. They landed on the smaller of the
two islands. The following morning they went first of all to look for the
tiare maori and the coconut tree planted there by Ruatapu when he discovered
the lands. Both the flowers and the coconut had grown well. Te Urutupui
and his wife soon moved over to the larger island, and liking it better,
decided to live there. This land they named Te Au-o-Tepui. There they lived
and found life easy, as fish was very plentiful.
Two years later another canoe arrived bringing only one man named Rongovei.
His canoe was named Tane-maitai ("Tane of the seas").
Te Urutupui welcomed and fed him. Soon they became very good friends. Te
Urutupui proposed that Rongovei should go over to Ututaki-enua-o-Ru to get
a woman for himself and to return to Manu-enua and rule there as ariki as
there was room for many more people on both islands. Rongovei agreed and
taking his directions from Te Urutupui set out in his canoe Tane-maitai.
He made a fast trip over, and landed at the large passage named Ruaikakau
(at a settlement called Reureu-te-matao-Te Erui). There he stayed for a
few days and took two women as wives, one named Tiapara and the other Punangaatua.
He then visited Ruatapu and gave him news of his son and his son's wife.
Soon after this Rongovei and his two wives departed for Manu-enua. Having
good winds and weather, they reached the island on the evening of the second
day. Te Ututupui met them and there he installed Rongovei as ariki of Manu-enua.
This done, he and his wife sailed across the lagoon to their own island.
In the meantime, owing to the trouble with his son Kirikava, Ruatapu
left his marae and the settlement of Vaitupa and moved inland towards the
highest point of Ututaki-enua-o-Ru. When he reached this place he sat down
under a large utu tree, and the place where he rested he named Te-utu-marama
("The tree with a good view"). After resting for a short time
he went a little farther.
Hearing that Ruatapu had left, Kirikava set out in pursuit of his father.
On catching up with him, Kirikava begged him not to desert them, but to
return with him and to forget the trouble between them, saying that it was
now a thing of the past; he had seen his mistake and would cause no more
trouble. Ruatapu told Kirikava to return whence he had come and he himself
would go in search of a new home.
Kirikava still urged his father to return with him. Ruatapu replied angrily
that if his son did not leave him, his son would be food for his spear and
Kirikava replied, "All right, my father, if it pleases you to kill
your son, do so. I won't try to stop you." On hearing these words,
Ruatapu was overcome and began to weep. Later Ruatapu gave to this place
the name Te Rua-toke ("The hole the axe made"). Ruatapu asked
Kirikava to sit down and talk things over with him. He said, "Here
you and I will make two lines of stones that will remain forever to mark
the spot where we settled our troubles." (To this day the two lines
of black stones set end on end in the ground may be seen, certainly the
work of human hands.)
Ruatapu then told Kirikava to go back to the house at Vaitupa where his
brother and sister were and to live with them there, concluding, "If
I become ariki of all this island I won't forget you, my son." Kirikava
returned home as his father had said.
Ruatapu continued on till he reached a settlement named Anainga. Here
he met a number of people all going in one direction carrying food. He asked
them where they were going and what they were doing. The people told him
that they were taking food to their ariki, Taruia. On hearing this Ruatapu
sat down to think things over. He decided to try to make himself ariki of
the island in place of Taruia.
In the meantime he would stay where he was and make a kopae (a small
model of a canoe made out of coconut leaves with coconut-leaves as sails,
and the ribs of coconut leaves as masts). When completed he took the kopae
down to the lagoon and set its rudder so that it would sail along in a straight
line close in to the shore. About a mile away from the place where Ruatapu
had set it adrift it was seen by one of Taruia's men, who, never before
having seen anything like it, chased and caught it. He immediately ran with
it to Taruia.
As soon as Taruia took hold of it he turned to the man who had brought
it and asked where he had found it. He was told that it was in the lagoon
close in to the shore. Taruia then told all the people standing around him
that this was an akairo (sign) that on the island there was another ariki
of high rank, and that from the direction of the wind he must be somewhere
about a place called Te Upoko-enua. He sent some of his people to search
for this ariki and told them to bring him back when they had found him,
so that he, Taruia, might find out who this ariki was and what he was doing
on the island.
When they reached Te Upoko-enua, the people found a stranger sitting
on the sand down by the lagoon. They went up to him and asked him who he
was. Ruatapu told them that he was Ruatapu from Taputapuatea and
that he had left his island long ago to go visiting other islands. They
told Ruatapu that they had been sent by their ariki, Taruia, in order to
find him and take him to Taruia. This pleased Ruatapu.
On meeting Taruia, Ruatapu was again asked who he was and what he was
doing on the island. He replied as before, which pleased Taruia, who then
fed Ruatapu and insisted upon his staying with him. Ruatapu agreed. Some
days later Ruatapu asked Taruia to guess what he was thinking about (tuku
piri). Taruia asked what Ruatapu had on his mind, and Ruatapu told him that
he was thinking out a way to stop Vai-reirei, a small creek close by, from
running into the sea. Taruia agreed that each of them in turn should have
a try at damming this creek and so stop the water from running to waste.
Taruia was to try first.
During the next few days Taruia tried many different ways of stopping
the creek, but failed. Then came Ruatapu's turn and on the second day he
succeeded in damming up the creek with carefully selected stones properly
spaced. Thus Ruatapu won the first test of skill between the two ariki,
and Ruatapu was sure in his own mind that it was only a matter of time till
he should become ariki of the island.
A few days later he told Taruia, "I've thought up another contest
Taruia replied,"I've never met a man like you always wanting contests."
Ruatapu said, "Let's see who can build a new canoe faster. When
the canoes are finished, we can go together to visit other islands."
Taruia replied, "Why go and see them? They are all the same, and
no better than this."
This made Ruatapu laugh, and he told Taruia that there were many bigger
and better islands than Aitutaki. He knew, having seen many of them. At
this Taruia appeared interested, and when Ruatapu told him that on many
of the other islands, the women were very light-skinned, in fact some nearly
white, with light-colored hair, and that on Taruia's island the women were
dark and ugly, Taruia was eager to go and would not rest until the canoes
were begun. This was also to be a test of skill for the two ariki to see
whose canoe should be finished first. In this also Ruatapu proved the better
man and when his canoe was finished, he named it Te Atua-apaipai ("The
gods will take his canoe where he wants to go").
Then Ruatapu took his canoe down to the lagoon-side and told Taruia that
he was leaving in the morning for Rarotonga. Taruia asked him not to be
in a hurry as his canoe was nearly finished and they could then go together.
At first Ruatapu would not agree, saying that he would go first and that
on arriving in Rarotonga would call out to Taruia to come to him. Afterwards
he agreed to wait until the next day to give Taruia time to finish his canoe.
The following day Ruatapu put to sea about two hours ahead of Taruia
and when about ten miles away from land, he purposely capsized his canoe,
knowing that Taruia would shortly come along , see him, and approach to
find out what was the matter. Close to where Ruatapu upset his canoe was
a small island called Maina-ina-ra, and the place where he upset his canoe
was called Raukuru-vaka.
He was not long in the sea before he saw Taruia's canoe sailing along.
Seeing Ruatapu's canoe overturned, Taruia came close by, Ruatapu called
out to him, "My friend, come and help me right my canoe."
Taruia laughed and said, "My friend I told you to wait so that we
might go together, but you replied that you would be waiting for me in Rarotonga.
Now I am going on alone and when I reach Rarotonga, I'll call for you."
Again Ruatapu asked Taruia to come and help, and again Taruia laughed at
him and sailed away.
As soon as Taruia was out of sight, Ruatapu quickly righted his canoe,
bailed out the water, and returned to Aitutaki, laughing to himself over
how easily he had got rid of Taruia. As soon as Ruatapu got ashore, he went
to Taruia's house.
In the morning he called a meeting of all Taruia's people and told the
mataipo (district chiefs) that soon after leaving land, he had had bad luck
and his canoe capsized. He did not know how Taruia had fared or whether
Taruia was alive or dead. After talking among themselves for a few days,
some of Taruia's enemies suggested that as they did not know if Taruia was
still alive, it would be a good thing to make Ruatapu their ariki before
he too went away and left them. This was soon agreed to and three days later
Ruatapu was elected ariki of Ututaki-enua-o-Ru, and Taruia's people soon
In the meantime Taruia arrived in Rarotonga where he was made much of.
He waited there for some time for Ruatapu to arrive, and when Ruatapu failed
to appear, he began to realize that he had been tricked and that he was
no longer an ariki. He was afraid to return to Ututaki-enua-o-Ru by himself,
so he went among his new friends and invited a number of the strong young
men to build canoes and go back with him to see his island and be his guests
there. He did not tell them that he was afraid of what he would find on
He was successful in gathering a party which included a number of good
fighting men. When all was ready, they started out for Ututaki-enua-o-Ru.
When they arrived off the reef, they were seen by the people from the shore,
who went and told Ruatapu that there were some canoes approaching the island.
Ruatapu went down to the beach, and as soon as he saw the canoes approaching,
knew it was Taruia returning home. He went back and called his people quickly
together telling them it was Taruia returning with a war-party to fight
them. He proposed that they should go out and meet them and give them battle,
and to this they agreed.
Quickly getting their canoes together they were soon outside the lagoon
and, headed by Ruatapu, met the approaching canoes off the main passage
called Ruaikakau. Taruia's party was soon beaten off. They had not expected
to fight, much less to fight at sea. Taruia seeing his party getting the
worst of the fight, and hoping yet to win his people back again, came in
close to them and standing up in his canoe, shouted out, "This is I,
Taruia, your ariki who went to Rarotonga."
Ruatapu, who was fighting his way close to Taruia's canoe, stood up and
answered, "Taruia, ariki who went to Rarotonga, I have taken your rule
On hearing this the few of Taruia's party who were left gave up fighting
and headed their canoes north, eventually reaching an island called Mangarongaro
(now called Penrhyn). Although they had good weather all the way it took
nearly three weeks, and when they arrived off the reef at Mangarongaro they
were very weak for want of food. They went ashore at a small harbor which
Taruia named, after himself, Taruia. (To this day the descendants of Taruia
are still to be found at Mangarongaro.)
As soon as Taruia's party had been beaten off, Ruatapu returned ashore
and went to the Paepae-o-ronga, the house of the ariki. The following day,
remembering his promise to Kirikava, his eldest son. Ruatapu felt that now
that he was firmly established upon the island, it was time to fulfil his
promise to Kirikava; so he sent a party to bring his son to Paepae-o-ronga.
On Kirikava's arrival Ruatapu told him, "As I am now ariki of the island
and becoming a very old man, I want you to stay and live with me."
Soon after this a canoe arrived from Taputapuatea bringing news
of a young and famous fighting-man, one well skilled in the art of fighting
and wrestling. This man's name was Tuotakura and he lived on the island
of Tahiti. So far he had met and defeated in single combat all the young
toa (warriors) from the other islands. On hearing this, Kirikava was anxious
to go and meet Tuotakura. He begged Ruatapu's permission to allow him to
make a voyage to Tahiti. At first Ruatapu would not agree to this saying
that while Kirikava was a very tall and powerful man, he was not skilled
enough to meet a famous toa like Tuotakura. He said, "My son, had you
listened to me and let me finish your training, you could have challenged
Ruatapu himself would have liked to meet this newcomer, but his fighting
days were over. Kirikava, however, persisted, and at last Ruatapu gave his
permission. Ruatapu and his people then set to work on a large canoe to
take Kirikava and his party to Tahiti. As soon as the canoe was finished
the party lost no time in setting out for Tahiti, and on arriving there
Kirikava arranged a test of strength and skill with Tuotakura.
On the day that Kirikava and his party arrived at Tahiti, Tuotakura had
arranged to meet three other young toa from neighboring islands. Kirikava
watched all these contests and could easily see that Tuotakura was far too
good for the others.
Two days later Kirikava's turn came and before meeting Tuotakura, Kirikava
told his people that he was afraid Tuotakura would prove too good for him.
Kirikava was offered his choice of fighting with spears or wrestling. From
what Kirikava had seen of the previous contests he decided that his best
chance lay in wrestling. Tuotakura readily agreed and in a very short time
he had Kirikava on the ground.
Then Tuotakura offered Kirikava another chance, which Kirikava refused
as he was quite satisfied that Tuotakura was by far the younger and stronger
man, and also the more skilful. The next day Kirikava and his party left
Tahiti. On arriving home they went ashore very much ashamed. Ruatapu asked
Kirikava how he came to be beaten. Kirikava said that Tuotakura was a younger,
taller, and stronger man than himself, and also a more skillful and better
man in every way.
On hearing this Ruatapu broke down and said, "If only Tuotakura
had been born forty or fifty years earlier, I would have gone and met him.
In my time I never met the man I could not beat and beat easily, but I am
now too old and must suffer this defeat."
The defeat of Kirikava appeared to affect Ruatapu deeply as from this
time it was plainly seen that Ruatapu was slowly dying of old age. When
he realized that he was dying, he called Kirikava and all his people before
him and told them that he had but a short time to live, and that when he
was dead, Kirikava was to be made ariki in his stead.
Soon after this he died, and for many days his people grieved for him.
After a short period Kirikava was made ariki.
Kirikava still smarted from his defeat by Tuotakura and dreamed of revenge.
That he should have his revenge appeared likely. His sister Tongirau, who
had married a man named Te Araroa, had a son named Te Aunui-o-ota. This
boy had grown very quickly and at a very early age was much taller and stronger
than any of the other boys and had beaten them all in trials of skill and
When Te Aunui-o-ota had been a very small boy Ruatapu had spent all his
spare time in teaching him the art of using the spear and wrestling. The
older men all picked him as the coming toa of the island. Kirikava insisted
on having him taught and trained with the idea of sending him to Tahiti
to meet Tuotakura. Te Aunui-o-ota when still a very young man stood well
over six feet and was very broad and exceedingly strong. He could easily
defeat at one time any three strong men on the island.
One day when he was a little over twenty years old, his mother called
him and said, "My son, we are still living in shame and disgrace."
When Te Aunui-o-ota asked her why, he was told that his uncle Kirikava
had once gone to Tahiti to meet a famous young toa named Tuotakura and had
been badly beaten. On returning home he had been laughed at by his people
and had since been living in shame.
The next day Te Aunui-o-ota went to visit his uncle and asked if it were
true that he had been beaten in Tahiti by Tuotakura.
His uncle replied, "My son, it is true, but who told you?"
Te Aunui-o-ota replied, "My mother."
Te Aunui-o-ota then asked permission of his uncle to go to Tahiti to
meet Tuotakura. Kirikava agreed and no time was lost in getting a canoe
and crew ready for Te Aunui-o-ota. When all was prepared, they set sail.
On arriving at Tahiti, Te Aunui-o-ota rested for six days and then challenged
Tuotakura to a trial of strength and skill. Of the two men Te Aunui-o-ota
was by far the younger and bigger, but Tuotakura was still in the prime
of life and was also a very skillful and cunning fighter.
On the day of the contest Te Aunui-o-ota proved the stronger and better
man and soon had Tuotakura crying for mercy. Twice they met and twice Tuotakura
had to admit defeat. When Te Aunui-o-ota had defeated the champion, he made
up and sang this akateni: "Kirikava ke te au poatu ia natangi, Kirikava
ki te taki puputu ki Tahiti te tua takura ka ei taku rima." Soon after
this Te Aunui-o-ota left Tahiti for his own island and on his return was
feasted and made much of. (To this day this akateni is still sung.)
Soon after Kirikava was made ariki, his son, Maeva-rangi, married a woman
named Te Kura-i-oneroa. A child was born to them, whom they named Maeva-kura.
This boy, when grown to manhood, married Puriterei. They had a daughter
whom they named Maine-maraerua.
On the death of Kirikava his grandson Maeva-kura was made ariki. When
Maine-maraerua was still a young girl, she went to Rarotonga with a visiting-party.
There she married a man named Tamaiva; this man was very handsome and news
of his good looks had already reached Ututaki-enua; it was on this account
that Maine-maraerua had gone to Rarotonga. At first Tamaiva did not want
Maine-maraerua so she married a man named Te Iimatetapua. They had a child,
a boy named Marouna.
During Maeva-kura's rule there came to Ututaki-enua many canoes bringing
people whom the people of Ututaki-enua named Aitu. These people came in
large numbers and soon caused trouble. Maeva-kura grew afraid of them and
for safety's sake left his home and went to live at a place called Te Rangi-Atea.
Maeva now feared for his life and decided to send a canoe secretly to
Rarotonga to find out if his daughter had married and whether she had sons
grown up and powerful enough to come to his assistance; and if she had,
she should send a party back to Ututaki-enua-o-Ru in the canoe that carried
Maeva-kura's message to Rarotonga. The name of the head man of the party
On Tuoarangi's arrival in Rarotonga, he found that Maine-maraerua had
a grown son called Marouna, who was then about eighteen years of age. Tuoarangi
told Maine-maraerua that Ututaki-enua-o-Ru was overrun with Aitu; that fearing
for his life, Maeva-kura had gone to live at Te Rangi-Atea; and that if
she had a child old enough, she should send him over before it was too late.
Maine-maraerua quickly agreed to send Marouna and a party to Maeva-kura's
assistance. Marouna asked his mother to give him time to make a canoe for
the voyage, but his mother replied that if he took the time to make a canoe,
he would find, on his arrival at Ututaki-enua, only his grandfather's bones
rotting at Te Rangi-Atea. The mother told Marouna to go down to the settlement
and there to pull one feather out of the hat he was wearing as the sign
that he was a grandson of an ariki and to demand a canoe belonging to a
man named Angainui.
Marouna did as he was instructed and went to Angainui, gave him the feather
from his hat, and demanded the man's canoe. Angainui agreed to let him have
the canoe, stipulating only that Marouna should take the canoe to his own
home that same day, and that he should not alter the name of the canoe,
The next day was spent by Marouna and his relatives in collecting food
and water for the coming voyage. This done, Marouna chose six good canoe
men to go with him and help sail the canoe. The following day Marouna and
his party put to sea, his mother telling him to go straight to Ututaki-enua.
But when clear of land, Marouna decided to go first to 'Atiu in order
to get a number of good fighting men to go with him to help rid Ututaki-enua
of the enemy.
The canoe soon reached 'Atiu and there Marouna went ashore and
was taken to visit the famous toa of 'Atiu, Uta. Uta told Marouna
to go to another part of the island called Maoake to call on a young and
very powerful toa named Taraapaitoa, as he himself was growing old and was
no longer strong enough to lead a war-party. Uta told Marouna where Taraapaitoa's
house was to be found, and also said that the house was close to a large
li tree; on reaching this tree Marouna was to take particular notice of
its leaves; if the leaves on the tree were rustling in the wind Marouna
was on no account to go any closer, but if the leaves were still then Marouna
was to go inside the house. There he would find Taraapaitoa asleep. Marouna
must then quickly and quietly gather up all Taraapaitoa's spears and axes,
tie them in a bundle, and take them some distance away and bury them.
Marouna went to Maoake, and finding the leaves of the tree still went
into the house and there, as described, found Taraapaitoa asleep. Quickly
he gathered the axes and spears and hid them. Then he wakened Taraapaitoa
who immediately felt for his weapons, and, finding them gone, decided to
talk to Marouna. He asked Marouna to be seated and Marouna explained that
he had not come looking for trouble but for help. Taraapaitoa listened to
all that Marouna had to say and then agreed to go with him. Marouna asked
Taraapaitoa to get a few more strong toa to go with them, but Taraapaitoa
laughed and said that there was no man on 'Atiu equal to him in battle
and he did not want to fight with weaker men.
The next day Marouna and Taraapaitoa left 'Atiu. From 'Atiu
they went to Miti'aro to see another toa named Taratekui whom Taraapaitoa
said was Miti'aro's best fighting man. On arriving at Miti'aro,
Marouna approached Taratekui, told him of his trouble, and asked his help.
Taratekui agreed to go and they spent that night in feasting and dancing.
Next morning Marouna and his party left for Ma'uke. There Taraapaitoa
told Marouna to ask for a man named Taratekurapa who was Ma'uke's best fighting
man. Here again Marouna was successful and Taratekurapa joined the party.
The next morning they set out for Mangaia but this time the canoe struck
bad weather and it took them three days to reach Mangaia. On going ashore
Marouna lost no time in making known what he had come for. He asked the
Mangaia people the name of their best fighting man, and was told his name
was Ue. Marouna found Ue and again told his troubles and asked him to go
with them to Ututaki-enua-o-Ru. Ue agreed to go if the Mangaia people would
allow him to go. Permission being granted, Ue told Marouna that living on
the island was another strong toa named Kavau from the island of Niue.
Ue asked Marouna to get permission from the Mangaia people to take Kavau
with them. At first the people would not agree, saying that Kavau must remain
to look after the island until Ue returned, but later in the night they
all agreed that Kavau should go with Marouna. The following day Marouna
and his party again put to sea, but before they left their canoe was decorated
by the women with rau ti para, and also renamed Rau-ti-para-ki-auau.
The canoe was then headed for Ututaki-enua-o-Ru. In the late afternoon
of the third day when they were close to the island, they overtook another
smaller canoe, also making for the island. There were two men in it whom
Marouna questioned as to their destination and their names. They told Marouna
they were looking for their father whom they thought might be on Ututaki-enua-o-Ru;
they were brothers, the elder named Koroki-matangi, and the younger Koroki-vananga;
their father's name was Tavake.
Marouna asked them to join his party and help clear the island of the
Aitu. They agreed, telling Marouna and his party to go on ashore and they
would wait outside near the passage and deal with anyone who attempted to
escape by canoe. Marouna and his party landed about midnight. Everyone on
shore was asleep, so no one saw them land. They anchored their canoe out
in deep water at a place called Vaiora.
Marouna said that as they had all had a long hard day and were tired,
they had better sleep in the canoe till daylight, then go ashore and start
killing the Aitu. Taraapaitoa thought that they should all go ashore at
once and take the Aitu by surprise. But Marouna would not agree, arguing
back that they had better get some sleep in order to be fresh in the morning.
Taraapaitoa left the others sleeping in the canoe and went ashore. Finding
the village where the people were sleeping, he went quietly into the houses
and felt about until he found the heads of the sleeping people. The heads
he quietly lifted up. When he felt a small fine head, he left it, but when
he found a big heavy head he lingered knowing it must belong to a strong
man. He was tempted to kill the men but was afraid of killing friends, mistaking
them for enemies, so he went back to the canoe where the others were still
asleep and snoring.
He wakened them and told them to come ashore and also told them what
he had been doing. At this Marouna and the others were ashamed and all agreed
to accompany him ashore. They took their canoe into a small creek named
Tangaro and there sunk the canoe, so that it was safely out of sight. They
named this place Vai-veu.
Tuoarangi then led them to where he had left Maeva-kura living. They
waited outside his house and called out to him. After calling softly several
times they wakened Maeva-kura who sang out that night was not the time for
fighting, to go home and wait for daylight and then fight.
Marouna then called out, "It is I, your grandson Marouna."
Maeva-kura replied, "Marouna is on Rarotonga, and who could bring
Marouna replied, "Did you not send Tuoarangi to fetch me?"
Maeva-kura answered, "Yes, I did."
Then Marouna said, "This is I, your grandson."
Then Maeva-kura opened the door and Marouna and his people entered; on
meeting his grandson Maeva-kura wept.
Maeva-kura then called the women of the house to bring food for Marouna
and his people; this food was mai, which is made out of fermented breadfruit,
and also some coconuts. After they had eaten, Marouna asked why Maeva-kura
had sent to Rarotonga for him. Maeva-kura replied that the island was full
of Aitu (people from other islands) who had been steadily arriving in canoes.
He was no longer ariki of the island, and had had to leave his own house
and come to live where they now found him. He knew it would be only a short
time before the Aitu killed him and that was why they had found the house
barricaded up. He was in fear of his life each night.
Marouna then told Maeva-kura not to worry anymore, as he would take charge
of the island and soon clear it of Aitu. The young man explained also that
all the men of his party were famous toa from other islands; these had all
come to help kill the Aitu.
A short council of war was then held and it was decided to wait another
hour until daylight before commencing to fight the Aitu. Again Taraapaitoa
disagreed, thinking it better to catch the Aitu still asleep and make sure
that none escaped. Marouna said that in the dark it would be very easy to
kill friends and suggested a short sleep so that they might be strong for
the killing. Taraapaitoa had to agree, but he himself scorned sleep, saying
that the thought of killing was sleep enough for him, and that it was only
women who required sleep before work was to be done. Marouna and the others
snatched a short sleep while Taraapaitoa kept watch.
At daybreak he wakened them, none too gently, as he was angry at having
already lost valuable time. Led by Tuoarangi and Mama, they began in the
houses nearest, and as fast as Tuoarangi pointed out the Aitu, they were
given a chance to fight but none of them proved a match for Marouna's party
of toa. Taraapaitoa soon proved his worth and was by far the strongest and
best fighter. He was very fierce and appeared tireless; no man was found
who could give him battle. In many cases he tackled lone-handed a house
in which there were three and four Aitu. Taking them altogether he would
very soon kill them, all the time shouting out akateni; Taraapaitoa seemed
to glory in killing.
For four days the fighting went on and on the fifth day, search as they
would, they could not find another Aitu man on the mainland. Led by Taraapaitoa,
the party now took canoes and went to search the small islands in the lagoon.
Two men were supposed to have escaped during the fighting to a small island
When they reached this island they could see plainly the footprints of
one man who must have landed on the beach; this man, Tangaroa-iku-reo, was
soon found and killed. They then returned to the mainland and told Marouna
that all the Aitu were now killed. The next two days were spent in dancing,
feasting, and rejoicing in the defeat of the Aitu.
Marouna composed the following akateni: "Marouna i te titi, Marouna
ie te tata, Marouna ie te tapuni enua, e varu taua a Marouna." This
was a song of victory singing his own praises because he had cleared the
island of its enemies. Shortly after this Marouna gave to each of the toa
who had come to his assistance a large piece of land; to Ue he gave a large
piece of land at Vaipae; to Taraapaitoa, the champion of all toa, he gave
another and larger piece, also at Vaipae, called Ngaitikaura; Kavau was
given a piece of land called Nukunoni; Taratekui and Taratekurapo were each
given a piece of land at a place called Vaiorea. It was Marouna's idea to
try and persuade these toa to remain on the island and thus breed a race
of toa, men strong in battle.
The island now settled down to a period of peace. On the death of Maeva-kura,
Marouna was made ariki; he proved himself a wise ruler and kept the island
free from wars and tribal fighting. At his death his son, Te Tapu-o-ronga,
was made ariki.
Te Tapu-o-ronga had three wives. His first wife was named Te Urei; their
first child was a boy whom they named Te Rangi-o-Tangaroa. By his second
wife, Katapu-kite-marae, the first child was also a boy, whom they named
Nga Ariki-tokoa. The first child of Marouna's third wife, Pureupoko, was
also a boy named Te Ariki-vao. On the death of Te Tapu-o-ronga, these three
sons all became ariki. Te Rangi-o-Tangaroa was elected as Vairuarangi; Nga
Ariki-tokoa was elected Tamatoa; Te Ariki-vao was elected Te Urukura. (To
the present day the descendants of these people have been rulers of Ututaki-enua-o-Ru
and still carry or use the same names. The name of the island is now Aitutaki
having been changed by the early missionaries from Ra'iatea, to whom
the name Ututaki sounded like Aitutaki.)
The story of Ruatapu was recorded and translated by Drury Low from the
words of Timi Koro, tumu korero of Aitutaki. The translation appeared in
Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol. 43, 1934, pp. 171-186 and 258-266.
The name of Ruatapu's canoe was Te Kare-roa-i-tai. Other versions of the
Ruatapu story can be found in S. Percy Smith's History of the Taranaki Coast
(pp. 80-84); John Pakoti's "First Inahabitants of Aitutaki" in
Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol. 4, 1895, pp .67-70;.and J.T. Large
(translator) "Ruatapu-A Celebrated Maori Ancestor and his Cook Island
Descendants," in Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol. 15, 1906,