Maori Legend: How the Kiwi Lost his Wings

New Zealand

One day, Tanemahuta (Lord of the Forest) was walking through the forest. He looked up at the trees reaching for the sky and he noticed that they were starting to sicken, as bugs were eating them. He talked to his brother, Tanehokahoka (King of the Sky), who called all of his children, the birds of the air together.

Tanemahuta spoke to them.

“Something is eating my children, the trees. I need one of you to come down from the forest roof and live on the floor so that my children can be saved, and your home can be saved. Who will come?”

All was quiet, and not a bird spoke.

Tanehokahoka turned to Tui.

“E Tui, will you come down from the forest roof?”

Tui looked up at the trees and saw the sun filtering through the leaves. Tui looked down at the forest floor and saw the cold, dark earth and shuddered.

“Kao, Tanehokahoka, for it is too dark and I am afraid of the dark.”

Tui

Tanehokahoka turned to Pukeko.

“Pukeko, will you come down from the forest roof?”

Pukeko looked down at the forest floor and saw the cold, damp earth and shuddered.

“Kao, Tanehokahoka, for it is too damp and I do not want to get my feet wet.”

Pukeko

All was quiet, and not a bird spoke.

Tanehokahoka turned to Pipiwharauroa.

“Pipiwharauroa, will you come down from the forest roof?”

Pipiwharauroa looked up at the trees and saw the sun filtering through the leaves. Pipiwharauroa looked around and saw his family.

“Kao, Tanehokahoka, for I am busy at the moment building my nest.”

Pipiwharauroa

All was quiet, and not a bird spoke. And great was the sadness in the heart of Tanehokahoka, for he knew, that if one of his children did not come down from the forest roof, not only would his brother lose his children, but the birds would have no home.

Tanehokahoka turned to Kiwi.

“E kiwi, will you come down from the forest roof?”

Kiwi looked up at the trees and saw the sun filtering through the leaves. Kiwi looked around and saw his family. Kiwi looked at the cold damp earth. Looking around once more, he turned to Tanehokahoka and said,

“I will.”

Kiwi the brave bird – “I will”

Great was the joy in the hearts of Tanehokahoka and Tanemahuta, for this little bird was giving them hope. But Tanemahuta felt that he should warn kiwi of what would happen.

“E Kiwi, do you realize that if you do this, you will have to grow thick, strong legs so that you can rip apart the logs on the ground and you will lose your beautiful colored feathers and wings so that you will never be able to return to the forest roof. You will never see the light on the day again.”

All was quiet, and not a bird spoke.

“E kiwi, will you come down from the forest roof?”

Kiwi took one last look at the sun filtering through the trees and said a silent goodbye. Kiwi took one last look at the other birds, their wings and their colored feathers and said a silent goodbye. Looking around once more, he turned to Tanehokahoka and said,

“I will.”

Then Tanehokahoka turned to the other birds and said,

“E Tui, because you were too scared to come down from the forest roof, from now on you will wear the two white feathers at your throat as the mark of a coward.

Pukeko, because you did not want to get your feet wet, you will live forever in the swamp.

Pipiwharauroa, because you were too busy building your nest, from now on you will never build another nest again, but lay your eggs in other birds’ nests.

But you Kiwi, because of your great sacrifice, you will become the most well-known and most loved bird of them all.”

By: hoopermuseum.earthsci.carleton.ca

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