Story: Taniwha

Page 4. Ngārara – giant reptiles

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Ngārara Huarau

It was believed that many taniwha took the form of giant reptiles. They were known as ngārara, and less commonly as kumi. One that is known by tribes throughout New Zealand is Ngārara Huarau.

In one tradition, Ngārara Huarau wreaked havoc first at Waimārama in Hawke’s Bay before visiting his sister, Pari-ka-whiti, in the Wairarapa. When he left his cave in Waimārama, his scales remained and became tuatara (lizard-like reptiles). He began to eat passing travellers until eventually one escaped and returned home, alerting his people. The chief of the village came up with a strategy to capture and kill the taniwha.

Along the path used by Ngārara Huarau a number of trees were cut almost to the point of falling. A spell was cast on a dog, which was then sent to the taniwha’s cave. It barked, provoking the taniwha to give chase. Pursuing the dog, Ngārara Huarau reached the cut trees and struck them, making them fall. He tried to wriggle out, but all the trees fell and crushed him.


Takere-piripiri looked like a giant tuatara with a spiky tail. He acted as guardian at Ōtautahanga , a stronghold of the Ngāti Raukawa tribe. The people prospered under his protection, and would place a basket of the best food below the walls of his cave. One day, a gift of eels was mostly eaten by the people who brought it – all that was left were the eel heads. In his anger Takere-piripiri ate those who had taken his food. He then went to the Maungakawa Range, where he began to eat the travellers passing by. Eventually, warriors from the Ngāti Hauā tribe trapped him in a giant, cage-like eel pot, and speared him to death.

How to cite this page:

Basil Keane, 'Taniwha - Ngārara – giant reptiles', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 15 April 2024)

Story by Basil Keane, published 24 Sep 2007