Story: Taniwha

Page 7. Taniwha slayers

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Although many taniwha were kaitiaki, or protectors of iwi and hapū (tribes and sub-tribes), others were killers, sparking the need for heroic slayers. They often used ingenious methods to capture the dangerous creatures.


Hotupuku, a taniwha on the Kāingaroa Plains, was lured out by some fast runners acting as decoys. He raced into a large noose woven from cabbage tree leaves. Led by Pitaka, these slayers used a different method for a taniwha named Pekehaua in Rotorua. They wove a large basket from supplejack and bush lawyer, and decorated it with pigeon feathers. Some of the men climbed into the basket and were lowered into the depths of a spring, where they said karakia (charms) to weaken the taniwha. Pitaka placed a noose around the taniwha, tugged on the rope, and the rope was pulled up, killing the creature.

Let the monster sleep

Here is a translation of a karakia (charm) to slay a taniwha.

The monster there!
Vast as a rock he lies!
How angrily his eyeballs glare!
How flash his fiery eyes!
Come Sleep, come Sleep;
Let the slumberous spells be laid
In depths below, in depths below;
Let Sleep be as of night,
Like the Great Night,
The Long Night,
The Sleep-bringing Night,
Sleep on – sleep on! 1


Kaiwhare was a taniwha who lived near Manukau Harbour in an underwater cave and blowhole, named the Gap, south of Piha. After being lured out, he was killed by a man named Tāmure with a special mere (club) that had the power to destroy taniwha.


Te Kaiwhakaruaki was a fearsome taniwha who lived near Collingwood, in Golden Bay. A seal hunter tried to slay him by punching him in the snout. The first blow hurt the taniwha, but on the second blow the hunter’s hand went into the taniwha’s gaping mouth, along with the rest of him. Pōtoru, a chief from Arahura, had a more successful strategy. His party divided into three, the first to lure the taniwha into a trap, and the other two groups to flank him – one would attack and as he swung to them they would retreat and the other group would attack. This plan succeeded and the beast was slain. In many cases, like the dragon slayers of old, these heroes also rescued young women in distress from the clutches of the taniwha, and were rewarded with their love.

  1. Provided by Tūpara Tokoaitua in 1895. In A. W. Reed, Reed book of Māori mythology, revised by Ross Calman. Auckland: Reed, 2004, p. 491. › Back
How to cite this page:

Basil Keane, 'Taniwha - Taniwha slayers', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 24 July 2024)

Story by Basil Keane, published 24 Sep 2007