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Kawariki and the shark man

Kawariki and the shark man

Tutira was born into a family captured by a tribe that lived near the coast. He worked in the gardens, carried water for the rangatira, and kept the fires burning. The rangatira of the tribe worked alongside the slaves, together the work was easier and kept the tribe well fed and wealthy.

Tutira worked and sometimes played with the children of the rangatira. Tutira was envious of his friends when he was left to the gardens and regular chores and they were taken to be instructed as future leaders.

The years passed and Tutira grew into a young man. One of Tutira's special friends was Kawariki, the daughter of a powerful tohunga called Matakite. Kawariki was raised to be a future leader of their tribe and Matakite insisted that she train hard to fulfil her role.

One day Matakite announced that Kawariki had been betrothed to a rangatira from a neighbouring tribe, securing allies and strengthening blood ties between both tribes. From that day on, Kawariki was forbidden to see or talk to Tutira. But Kawariki was a strong willed young woman who thought for herself. She secretly sent messages to Tutira and would often meet him at night at a quiet place in the hills. Together they would lie on their backs, look up at the night sky and talk of their dreams. This is how their love for each other first began.

When the wedding preparations began, Kawariki refused to cooperate, stating she would never marry a person she didn't love. Matakite became suspicious and decided to keep a close eye on his daughter. One night, when Kawariki snuck out of her whare, and up into the hills, Matakite secretly followed behind.

Matakite found Kawariki and Tutira together and instantly cast a powerful spell. Kawariki screamed in horror as Tutira fell to the ground squirming in agony as his body darkened and took on the form of a fish, then slithered into the bush. Kawariki tried to plead with her father to reverse the spell but Matakite ignored her and walked off into the night.

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Kawariki desperately searched for Tutira, but to no avail. Finally she sat and calmed her mind, asking for guidance from Tāne Mahuta. Tāne Mahuta sent her a vision which led Kawariki through the bush to where Tutira lay. Two eyes glowed dimly in the dark. Kawariki scrambled through the undergrowth pulling back tangled vines and branches, finding the body of a shark. The shark was dying, its eyes glassing over, its gills moving ever so slightly.

Kawariki grabbed Tutira by the tail and dragged him through the bush towards the sea. She called on Tāne Mahuta to clear a pathway and once more he answered her call. It was just before dawn when Kawariki finally succeeded in dragging Tutira to the beach and laying him in shallow water. His eyes had turned grey, stared blankly ahead, his body limp and lifeless.

Kawariki held him in her arms, her salt water tears falling onto the shark as she sang her lament. Hinemoana, atua of the ocean, heard the despair in Kawariki's song and was moved by her grief. Hinemoana began a powerful oriori which she sent on a wave and upon reaching Kawariki, filled her tears with magic.

Life slowly returned to Tutira's shark body, twisting in the shallow water. Kawariki released him and he headed to deeper water and out to sea. Just before Tutira was completely submerged, he turned back to Kawariki and spoke in a raspy voice. "When the new moon rises, wait on this shore and I will come to you." Tutira turned and disappeared into the waves and the embrace of Hinemoana.

Matakite decreed that the date for Kawariki to be married was set for the summer. Her husband to be and many of his tribe would be travelling by waka with gifts and food to celebrate the special occasion. Matakite and the rest of the tribe worked hard to have everything ready for the hui.

When the new moon rose, Kawariki waited on the shore looking out to sea. Kawariki expected to see a dorsal fin swimming towards her, but instead, Tutira appeared from behind some rocks. He had changed back into his shape as a man.

Kawariki and Tutira stayed together all night. When morning neared Tutira insisted that he had to leave, but Kawariki refused to let him go. Tutira led Kawariki into shallow water, he explained that when Kawariki cried over him, Hinemoana had filled her tears with magic. Magic which gave him the ability to change back into his human form each month, when the new moon rose, the one condition being, that he returned to the sea by morning.

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As the first rays of the new day began to colour the sky, the morning light changed Tutira's skin to the dark grey of a shark. Tutira and Kawariki vowed to meet again before Tutira took on his shark form, thrashed his tail and glided through the shallow water. He then descended into the depths of the ocean and the world where fish and sea creatures fled from his path. When the new moon rose each month, Kawariki and Tutira met and strengthened their love for each other. But as the wedding drew near, Kawariki was forced to tell Tutira of her fate. Tutira was powerless to influence anything in Kawariki's life. With great sadness he turned back to his ocean world, knowing he would never see Kawariki again.

When the day finally arrived for Kawariki's marriage, she was taken to the beach with the rest of her tribe to welcome the visitors. The sea was calm, a perfect day for travelling by waka. When the neighbouring tribe were seen on the horizon facing their waka towards the beach, the tohunga, Matakite, stood and recited an incantation to guide their waka safely to land. But Hinemoana was angry with Matakite, she remembered how he had used sea magic without her permission when he cast his spell on Tutira. Hinemoana refused Matakite's request for safe passage and instead sent a huge wave rolling in from the ocean. The wave overturned the waka and the visiting tribe were forced to cling to the overturned hull.

Tutira, who was guarding the coast, came to the rescue of those that were in danger. With his dorsal fin caught in the upturned waka, Tutira was able to pull the waka and the people out of danger and into shore. Kawariki's people stood in disbelief when they realised a shark had saved their visitors. Matakite the tohunga was silent, his magic had failed and he was overwhelmed with shame.

Kawariki ran into the water and embraced the shark to the amazement of her tribe. With her people gathered around, Kawariki explained that this was Tutira, that he had been changed into a shark by her father and that she loved him dearly.

Both tribes watched in silence, Tutira thrashed his tail and turned to leave, but Matakite suddenly raised his hands and pleaded for him to stay.

Matakite first acknowledged his great ancestress Hinemoana, thanking her for her wisdom and teachings. He had been blinded by his own ambitions, disregarding his daughter and her right to choose as a rangatira in her own right. Matakite reversed his spell and Tutira was instantly changed back into human form.

Tutira lay in the shallow water, his brown body tattooed with the dark red moko of a shark, a mark of his status as a rangatira of the sea, a gift from Hinemoana.

After having witnessed such a display, both tribes knew the gods favoured a union between Tutira and Kawariki. The wedding plans were changed, Tutira and Kawariki were married and the celebrations lasted for many days.

In the years that followed Kawariki and Tutira became trusted leaders, with a great respect for their people and a close relationship with Tāne Mahuta and Hinemoana.

They had many offspring, born with the distinctive red moko of a shark. To this day, the moko of a shark can be seen worn by people living close to the ocean, a sign that they have descended from the ancestors Kawariki and Tutira.

This is the story of Kawariki and the shark man.

(c) Wiremu Grace

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