Kupe and Te Wheke - River Jayden

Pūrakau: Kupe and Te Wheke

This is pūrakau that talks about Kupe and Te Wheke, and how Kupe discovered Aotearoa from Hawaiki. Kupe was a very skilled fisherman and always ensured his whānau were well-fed. However, one day they were unable to catch any kaimoana which surprised them as this has never happened before.

Kupe tried to find more kai for his people and went to their favourite fishing spot but still nothing. It was only when he pulled up his hook and noticed a slimy substance that he realised they were dealing with an octopus. After this discovery, Kupe ordered the men to stop fishing as it was pointless to continue.

Kupe knew that Rangatira Muturangi had a giant octopus and Kupe went to talk to Muturangi about the havoc his pet octopus Te Wheke o Muturangi was causing on their fishing spots. This argument between Kupe and Muturangi turned heated.

Muturangi looked at Kupe and laughed,

"I don't tell Te Wheke when to eat or what to eat. If it chooses to eat your bait or your fish for that matter, then that's what it does." Muturangi asked Kupe to leave.

"Then I will slay your pet, Te Wheke o Muturangi, and it will never trouble my people again," Kupe told Muturangi.

"Unless it kills you first" was Muturangi's quick reply.

Kupe went back to his people and together they built a large waka called Matahorua and set upon their journey.

Once out in the moana, Te Wheke o Muturangi finally showed with this tentacles. Each tentacle larger than Kupes waka. Te Wheke used his tentacle and suckled onto their waka trying to capsize it.

Kupe held his mere (club/weapon) and with all his strength he hit Te Wheke, which tore a huge chunk of flesh from the octopus.

This started the great battle between Kupe and Te Wheke o Muturangi. On they fought, on and on, striking, blocking, spinning out of the way, again and again. 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) and with greater effort began to land more blows against Te Wheke.

In a climactic moment, Kupe delivered a powerful blow that split Te Wheke in two, causing the eyes of the octopus to be thrown to different parts of the Te Tau Ihu region.

These eyes transformed into rocks, with one located near Arapawa Island in the Tori Channel, and the other in Ngawhatu, a small valley behind Stoke. The valley became known as Nga Whatu o Te Wheke o Muturangi, meaning "The Eyes of The Octopus Of Muturangi."

The kōrero of Kupe and Te Wheke explains the relationship that Māori have with our creation narratives which embody stories of the ocean, the land, Hawaiiki etc. It also talks about the journey Māori had from Hawaiki to Aotearoa

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River Jayden

River has studied Art History and Māori and Indigenous studies at University of Canterbury. A passionate writer on the colonial and religious approriation of Māori culture and the use of toi Māori as an assimilation technique.

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