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How New Zealand was Discovered and Named by Kupe from Polynesia

How Kupe came to Aotearoa

Legends tell of the great Polynesian navigator, Kupe, who discovered the North and South Islands of New Zealand. Kupe lived in Hawaiiki, mythical ancestral homeland of the Maori.

In Hawaiiki lived a canoe maker by the name of Toto.

He designed and built two huge ocean going canoes from a large tree. One canoe he named Aotea and gave it to his daughter Rongorongo, and the second he named Matahorua and gave to his other daughter, Kura.

It happened that Kupe desired Kura very much even though she was already the wife of his cousin Hoturapa

One fateful day when Hoturapa and Kupe were out fishing, Kupe ordered Hoturapa to dive down and free a tangled fishing line.. When Hoturapa dived into the sea, Kupe sliced through the anchor rope of the canoe and began to row furiously back to shore. Hoturapa drowned, but his family were suspicious of the circumstances surrounding his death. It was, in fact, a plan on Kupe's part to take Hoturapa's wife Kura.

To avoid vengeance from Hoturapa's family, Kupe left Hawaiiki in Kura's canoe Matahorua. After many days Kupe's wife Hine te Aparangi sighted the islands of New Zealand, which appeared as land lying beneath a cloud. Because of this, they named the islands Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud.

As Kupe and his crew were sailing along the coast of this new land, they disturbed a giant octopus hiding in a coastal cave. Terrified at the sight of a strange canoe filled with human beings, the huge octopus swam rapidly in front of the Matahorua and fled through the strait between the North and South Islands. Kupe followed the octopus, and discovered modern Cook Strait.

Kupe and the Matahorua eventually caught up with the giant octopus.and, in defence, the octopus whipped its enormous tentacles around the canoe. During the furious battle which followed with the sea monster, it became obvious that the Matahorua was in great danger of breaking up. However, Kupe suddenly had an idea, and threw a large water gourd overboard. The octopus, thinking that a man had fallen over, released it's tentacles from the Matahorua and turned to attack the gourd. Kupe seized this opportunity, and waited until the octopus was entwined around the gourd when he attacked and killed it with his adze.

Still using his adze, Kupe then cut several islands away from the South Island, and away from the North Island.

Kupe remained for a short time in what is now Wellington, before continuing northwards up the coast of the North Island, naming various islands, rivers and harbours on the way.

Kupe then returned to Hawaiiki, telling everybody of this distant cloud capped and high rising land which he had discovered. He gave instructions on how to return to this new land, but he himself did not return.

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