The Maoris are indigenous Polynesian people who canoed their way into New Zealand well before the European settlers arrived in the 17th century. They called their new home Aotearoa (land of the long white cloud). Here’s a story from their mythology.
Rona and Tamanui tera were married in accordance with the custom of their people, a traditional taumau ceremony in which they were chosen for each other by their families and tribesmen. What those well meaning folk did not realise was that these two were totally mismatched from day one.
In fact, they began quarrelling on their wedding night for it had been raining so heavily and all of Rona’s whanau (extended family) had to sleep in a hall with a leaking roof. Of course, that
was only a sign of things to come. Over the years, they fought with each other bitterly every single day. A typical day would go like this:
“Tamanui, do you really take me for a slave or what? Why do I have to do all the work in the house while you just laze around and do nothing?” Rona would begin.
“Ah, fine one to talk you are… who goes to fish and chop the wood?” Tamanui would retort.
“But it’s I who cook the fish and all the vegetables that I grow!” pat would come Rona’s answer.
“Ugh! Burned fish...Who can eat what you cook?” Tamanui would begin making faces at this point.
“Those who cannot appreciate good food, need not eat what I serve…” That would be the cue for Tamanui to storm out of their whare (home).
One particularly hot summer night, just as they had retired to bed, Rona felt very thirsty. But she knew there was no water in the house and the taha wai (water container made from gourd) was empty. Neither of them had gone to fetch the water from the stream that day, hoping the other would do it.
“I’m so thirsty, could you go out and get me some water?” asked Rona but Tamanui turned to the other side and let out a loud snore.
“Don’t pretend! I really need to drink some water now!” started Rona shaking Tamanui violently.
“No way am I going to go out now! You have legs to walk, go yourself!”
And so Rona took the taha wai and left for the stream. It was quite bright outside as the Marama (moon) was full that night. Cursing her husband, Rona walked along the path. A sudden breeze blew some clouds across the Marama and in that darkness, Rona stumbled upon a root of a tree and fell down.
“Foolish Marama! How could you be so stupid and hide behind those clouds and let me fall?” shouted Rona angrily. “Even the stars have more sense than you! You are just a stupid Marama! That’s what, STUPID! STUPID!STUPID!”
The clouds moved away and it was bright again. Rona found her taha and walked on, still grumbling. Now the moon had been listening for a while and decided enough was enough.He came down without warning and reached for her. Rona saw the Marama’s blinding light approach and clung to a ngaio tree but the moon grabbed her along with the tree and took her heavenwards.
You can be sure that she continued her grumbling there too, but the Marama treated her with kindness, not once shouting back at her like Tamanui did. Soon Rona was reconciled to her fate and made the best of what she could. She grew a vegetable garden and began to weave robes from star dust. She even told Marama about her life on earth and how unhappy she had been all along.
Rona came to love her new life on the moon and was happy there. “Do you wish to return?” asked the Marama.
“No, I’d rather stay with you,” she replied shyly. The Marama gave her a korowai, ( a cloak) sprinkled with stars.
With that magical korowai, Rona became the controller of the tides — the sea, the river and all water bodies.
On a full moon night, when her people looked up at the sky, they could see her standing there in her lovely korowai, holding the ngaio tree and her taha in her hand. She looks happy now, they said to themselves. As for Tamanui, he married another woman and was happy this time for he had learnt to be patient, kind and responsible too.