Story: Whanganui tribes

Mt Ruapehu

Mt Ruapehu

There are different tribal accounts of the origins of the Whanganui River, but they all begin with the mountains of the central North Island. One story is that Ruapehu, pictured here, suffered from loneliness. Ranginui, the sky-father, laid two tear drops at his feet, one of which became the Whanganui River. But Ruapehu’s loneliness remained, so Ranginui sent four mountain companions: Tongariro (to guard the tear drops), Ngāuruhoe, Taranaki, and Pīhanga, the mountain maiden. Pīhanga was promised as Tongariro’s wife, but she was tempted by the charms of Taranaki. On Ruapehu’s advice, Taranaki sadly left the mountain enclave. He followed the route of the Whanganui River to the coast before heading west, from where he gazes back towards his former companions.

Using this item

GNS Science
Reference: 39635
Photograph by Lloyd Homer

Permission of GNS Science must be obtained before any use of this image.

All images & media in this story

How to cite this page:

David Young, 'Whanganui tribes - Ancestors', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 4 March 2024)

Story by David Young, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 22 Mar 2017