Ngati Rangi

Ruapehu – Mountain of the Whanganui

Ruapehu te maunga, 
Whanganui te awa,
Te Atihau nui a papa rangi te iwi.

Ruapehu is the mountain,
Whanganui is the river,
Te Atihau nui a papa rangi are the people.

Deep in time, and deep in the ancient history of the Whanganui people, Maui Tikitiki-a-taranga and his elder brothers went fishing far to the south of Hawaiiki, their spiritual homeland.

Maui cast his great fishing line, Rangi Tukutuku, and his great hook, Pikimai Rawea, into the oceans of Tangaroa, the god of the sea.

There was a bite and a great line spread up Māui line. As he hauled in his catch the light grew brighter and brighter until the great waka or canoe, Tahu-a-rangi, could no longer shelter Maui and his brothers from its intensity.

The sea frothed and boiled as the great fish of Maui broke the surface. Here was Te Ika-a-Maui, the North Island of Aotearoa thrashing its mighty bulk on the surface of the ocean.

Maui returned to Hawaiiki to seek help, leaving his fearful brothers to guard the mighty catch. In their terror of the great power of Māui fish the brothers pleaded for help from Ranginui, the supreme universe.

Ranginui replied to subdue their fears. "The mana of Te Ika-a-Maui can only be subdued by a greater mana. I give you this in Ruapehu," he said.

Ranginui placed a great mountain in the centre of the new island. Ruapehu, standing proud and supreme, brought calm to the land.

But as time passed, Ruapehu became more and more lonely, for he was the only mountain in the land. His sorrow was noticed by Ranginui who placed two teardrops at the mountain’s feet. One teardrop was the beginning of the Whanganui River. The other flowed into the land of the Tuwharetoa and the Waikato. Ruapehu’s loneliness grew and in desperation he pleaded with Ranginui for company and over a period of time Ranginui sent him four companions.

First came Tongariro, the warrior guardian of the two teardrops. Taranaki appeared next as the custodian of the tapu of the new mountain clan. Ngauruhoe was third and the ultimate servant, there to do the mountains’ bidding.

The last to arrive was Pihanga, a fertile maiden, given as a bride to Tongariro to ensure the survival and future of the mountain clan.

But Pihanga was tempted by the magnificence of the tall, elegant Taranaki. Taranaki, as guardian of the clan’s tapu, could not afford to have his mana tarnished by a liaison with Tongariro’s wife. He sought council from his brother Ruapehu. Following Ruapehu’s advice, Taranaki left the mountain clan and sadly meandered down the twisting course of the Whanganui River, finally settling in Te Hau-a-uru on the west coast. There he forever guards the place of the setting sun.


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