Puuraakau Ruatepukepuke

THIS is the story of Ruatepupuke, he who first made wood-carving known.

The cause of his discovery was the going of his child, Te Manuhauturuki, to sail a boat. The child was captured by Tangaroa, taken to his home, and set up on the gable of his house as an image. When the child was missed his father set forth to seek him, his friends having pointed out the place from which he had strayed.

Ruatepupuke at once knew that the child was at the home of Tangaroa, hence he went there, and so found the body of his child set up on the roof-gable of the house. There was no one at the hamlet except Hinematikotai. He enquired; “Where are Tangaroa and his family?” Hine replied; “They are away seeking food; they will return hither at sunset.” Said Rua; “By what means can they be destroyed?” She replied; “Fill all the crevices of the house, so that it may be dark within.”

When Rua entered the house the carved posts were talking among themselves; he heard the posts talking, but those outside remained silent. He closed up all the interstices of the house, even as Hinematikotai had commanded, and when the sun had set, then Tangaroa and his family arrived and sought repose within their house. There they amused themselves with posture-dancing, hand-clapping contests, cats' cradle, and other games, as is usual when many folk meet together; when dawn approached they slept. When day had arrived the interior of the house was still in darkness, and a person in the house called out; “Titi, awake!” Hinematikotai said; “Sleep, O sleep! It is the long night of Hinematikotai” and so they slept again. Anon a person in the house cried; “Titi, awake!” By this time Ruatepupuke had come and taken a position in the porch of the house, with his stone adze in his hand to serve as a weapon.

The house was set fire to by him, and the folk inside ran out; the first was Kanae, who was not caught, hence the saying; “Nawai te kanae rere tahatu.” Then came Maroro, who also escaped, and so we have the saying; “Te maroro kokoti ihu waka taua”. After that came Kokiri, the person who bears a spear. All the children of Tangaroa were destroyed, and the house was almost consumed by fire.

Some the carved posts of the outside of the house that did not talk were taken away, and so it is that carved images of the present time do not possess the power of speech.

Here is the song of those folk when in the midst of the flames:—“O Ruatepupuke! Dive down into the ocean, that your fish may be destroyed on land, a gurnard, a shark; gasping in the midst of the flames—hu! hu! Alas! fear assails us. Alas!”

When those folk were slain Rua departed, taking with him his child, and also the carved posts of the house Huiteananui; so the art of wood-carving was acquired and became known in this world.

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