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Custom and Myth

Page: 18

THE MYTH OF CRONUS.

In a Maori pah, when a little boy behaves rudely to his parents, he is sometimes warned that he is ‘as bad as cruel Tutenganahau.’ If he asks who Tutenganahau was, he is told the following story:—

‘In the beginning, the Heaven, Rangi, and the Earth, Papa, were the father and mother of all things. “In these days the Heaven lay upon the Earth, and all was darkness. They had never been separated.” Heaven and Earth had children, who grew up and lived in this thick night, and they were unhappy because they could not see. Between the bodies of their parents they were imprisoned, and there was no light. The names of the children were Tumatuenga, Tane Mahuta, Tutenganahau, and some others. So they all consulted as to what should be done with their parents, Rangi and Papa. “Shall we slay them, or shall we separate them?” “Go to,” said Tumatuenga, “let us slay them.” “No,” cried Tane Mahuta, “let us rather separate them. Let one go upwards, and become a stranger to us; let the other remain below, and be a parent to us.” Only Tawhiri Matea (the wind) had pity on his own father and mother. Then the fruit-gods, and the war-god, and the sea-god (for all the children of Papa and Rangi were gods) tried to rend their parents asunder. Last rose the forest-god, cruel Tutenganahau. He severed the sinews which united Heaven and Earth, Rangi and Papa. Then he pushed hard with his head and feet. Then wailed Heaven and exclaimed Earth, “Wherefore this murder? Why this great sin? Why destroy us? Why separate us?” But Tane pushed and pushed: Rangi was driven far away into the air. “They became visible, who had hitherto been concealed between the hollows of their parents’ breasts.” Only the storm-god differed from his brethren: he arose and followed his father, Rangi, and abode with him in the open spaces of the sky.’

This is the Maori story of the severing of the wedded Heaven and Earth. The cutting of them asunder was the work of Tutenganahau and his brethren, and the conduct of Tutenganahau is still held up as an example of filial impiety. {46a} The story is preserved in sacred hymns of very great antiquity, and many of the


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