There are quite a few legends about the kiwi. I love reading myths and legends from any country, but especially those from New Zealand. There is some truth in every one of them if you look deeply enough. Some moral we could well take note of. This is particularly true of our Maori legends. In a culture that was completely oral for thousands of years, handed down stories became their history. While these stories may appear fantasies today, they still contain sound advice for anyone willing to listen.
Here’s a couple of little stories of how the kiwi became the bird it is today. I’m unable to give anyone credit for this story as I have no idea where it originated from. I have not written it myself.
How the Kiwi lost its beautiful plumage and its ability to fly:
According to Maori myth, Tane-mahuta, god of the forest, was worried about his children, the trees, as bugs and birds were eating away at them. He consulted his brother Tane-hokahoka, god of the birds, who asked his children to come down from the forest roof and live on the floor. But the Tui was scared of the darkness on the forest floor, the Pukeko didn’t like its dampness, and every bird had another excuse. Only the Kiwi agreed to sacrifice his beautiful wings and feathers to live on the forest floor. And as a reward, Tane-hokahoka made him the most well-known and best-loved bird of all.
The kiwi is a national symbol of New Zealand.
The Maori traditionally believed that kiwi were under the protection of Tane Mahuta (the giant kauri tree Agathis australis) god of the forest. In fact all the birds and the trees of the forest were regarded as Tane’s children. In years gone by kiwis were used as food and their feathers were used for kahu kiwi – ceremonial cloaks. Today, while kiwi feathers are still used, they are gathered from birds that die naturally or through road accidents or predation. Kiwis are no longer hunted, and some Maori consider themselves their guardians. At the same time, for Maori, kiwi are, in effect, our elder siblings. And, like a good older brother or sister, they are very protective of us. That’s partly why they patrol the forests nightly.
How the Kiwi got its long beak:
There was a time when Tanemahuta’s (giant kauri tree, Agathis australis) tree leaves where falling and he had to clean them up. Tanemahuta needed help so he had to ask the birds of the forest. He went up the tree to ask the birds if the would help clean the leaves. First Tanemahuta asked Tui but Tui refused because Tui was nesting. Tanemahuta got so angry that he threw two white pebbles at Tui’s neck. Because of that Tui has two white marks on his neck. Tanemahuta said “I will ask Tieke tomorrow” and walked home unhappily. The next day he went up the tree again, but this time he asked Tieke if he would offer to help, but Tieke refused because he didn’t like the cold on the ground. When Tanemahuta heard that Tieke refused because he was cold he got so angry that he burnt his back bright red. This is why a Tieke has a bright red back. Tanemahuta said “I will ask Kiwi tomorrow” and walked back home angrily. There was only one bird left to ask, which was his most favourite bird, Kiwi. Her asked him “would you mind helping me clean the leaves of the forest” and Kiwi said “I would love to.” Tanemahuta was so happy that he said to Kiwi “what do you need the most?” Kiwi said “ I would love a longer beak so I can grab food more easily.” So Tanemahuta gave him a longer beak for agreeing to help Tanemahuta clean the leaves. That is why Kiwi’s have a long beak.
I hope you enjoyed reading a couple of very short legends from New Zealand