Eastern Island - Myth
STORY OF HOTU MATUA
- Alfred Metraux's
Ethnology of Eastern Island -1971
The ancestors of the natives of Te Pito O Te Kainga ("A Little Piece of
Land", later called Rapa Nui by other Polynesians and Eastern Island by
Europeans) came from two places known as Marae Renga and Marae Tohio in a land
called Maori ("Land of the Native People"), or Hiva ("Black"; perhaps a
reference to the basalt of volcanic islands, perhaps Mangareva; Hiva was a
Polynesian name for the Marquesas Islands).]
In Hiva, Hau Maka had a dream in which his spirit traveled to a far country,
looking for a new residence for his king Hotu.1 His spirit arrived at three
small islands (Motu Nui, Motu Iti, Motu Kao-kao) and a big hole (the volcanic
crater of Rano Kau) on the southwest corner of Te Pito O Te Kainga.
The spirit traveled counter-clockwise around the island, naming twenty-eight
places including Anakena (an anchorage on the north coast of the island and
future residence of the king); Papa o Pea (where young princes would be raised),
and Ahu Akapu (where the abdicated king would live). When Hau Maka awoke he told
his brother Hua Tava about the dream.
The island was the eighth, or last, island in the dim twilight of the rising
sun. He named the island "Te Pito O Te Kainga A Hau Maka" ("The Little Piece of
Land of Hau Maka"). Hua Tava told his brother to tell king Hotu Matua of the new
fter hearing about the dream, Hotu Matua ordered Hau Maka to send some young
men to explore the island. Hotu Matua told his two sons Ira (the first born) and
Raparenga, and Hua Tava's five sons-Kuukuu, Ringiringi, Nonoma, Uure, and
Makoi-to build a canoe and search for the island of Hau Maka's dream. He gave
them the directions to the island:
i lunga (upwind; i.e., southeastly, into the southeast tradewinds)
e tau (it juts out)
e revareva ro a (as a permanent contour)
i roto i te raa (in the midst of the [rising] sun)
He told them that there were three islets and a big hole, also a long and
beautiful road. So the seven men left in a canoe stocked with yams, sweet
potatoes, bananas, and other foods.
The canoe was named Oraora-ngaru ("Saved from the waves"), or Te Oraora-miro
("The pieces of milo wood lashed together").
They left on the 25th day of Vaitu Nui (April) and arrived on the 1st day of
Maro (June), a voyage of five weeks.2 The explorers found the three islets and
the big hole.
They sailed on to Hanga Te Pau, where they landed. Makoi was placed in charge
of marking and naming the land. Kuukuu was placed in charge of farming.
On the tenth day of Maro (June), they climbed the slopes of Rano Kau. Kuukuu
planted the yams. On the fifth day of Anakena (July), the explorers began to go
around the island counterclock-wise, starting with the south coast.
They followed the footsteps of Hau Maka's dream soul and named the places as
Hau Maka had named them. When fish swarmed near shore at Hanga-o-honu (Bay of
Turtles, on the north coast), they caught the fish with their hands and tossed
them ashore. They cooked and ate the fish there.
When they were near Anakena, Ira saw a turtle and tried to lift it, but it
was too heavy for him; Raparenga tried and failed. Kuukuu tried and lifted the
turtle off the ground, but it struck him and broke his spine. The turtle, which
was a spirit (kuhane), swam back to Hiva.
Kuukuu was taken to a nearby cave on the plain of Oromanga. He begged the
others not to leave him, but his companions departed after piling six stones
outside the cave to take their places and to keep Kuukuu company. Kuukuu died in
The explorers went to the west side of the island and discovered a surfing
spot. They rode a wave to the right and called the place where they landed Hanga
Roa; they rode a wave to the left and landed at Apina Iti.
They rode a third wave in and landed by Hanga O Rio. They caught more waves,
then went ashore and rested in a cave at Pu Pakakina.
Ira sent the other explorers surfing so he and his brother Raparenga could
secretly place some stone figures Ira had brought from Hiva. While the others
were surfing, Ira set up three stone figures with necklaces of mother-of-pearl
The shining necklaces could be seen from the ocean: the shells of Ruhi Hepii
when a surfer rode a wave to the right, the shells of Pu when a surfer rode the
wave to the left, and the shells of Hinariru when the surfer went straight
Ira sent Makoi around the island to name places with names from the homeland
of Hiva. [Sixty place names are given.] After this was done, Ira taught Makoi
string figures and the secret content of the figures.
A man named Nga Tavake, who had preceded the explorers onto the island, then
appeared, and the six explorers told him, "This is a bad land, for when we
planted yams, grass grew up instead." Then they all went to the yam plantation
planted by Kuukuu and weeded it.
Ira taught the secret of the shells necklaces and directions to his brother
Raparenga; Uure overheard their conversation and tricked Ira into giving the
secret to his brother Makoi.
Ira, Raparenga, Uure, Nonoma, and Ringiringi left Te Pito O Te Kainga on the
twenty-fifth day of Tangaora Uri (October) to return to Hiva. Makoi remained on
Te Pito O Te Kainga. As the canoe left, Makoi chanted the directions back to the
island: "There are eight islands.
Te Pito O Te Kainga is the eighth. Once it has been lost, it cannot be found
again! Ruhi to the right, Pu to the left, necklace around the figure of Hinariru
at Papa O Rae straight ahead!"3
King Hotu Matua ruled Hiva after his father Matua. During Matua's reign, a
group of people called the Hanau Eepe came and took one side of the island from
the Hanau Momoko, the people whom Matua ruled.
Then the Hanau Eepe tried to move the border to gain more territory. They
were captured and imprisoned. In the meantime, Matua told his son Hotu Matua to
launch a canoe and immigrate to Te Pito O Te Kainga because a rising tide was
destroying their land.
Hotu ordered his assistants Teke and Oti to get plants and animals to take
with them on their voyage. The two men gathered banana shoots, taro seedlings,
sugarcane, yam, sweet potatoes, hau trees, paper mulberry trees, sandalwood
trees, toromiro trees, ferns, rushes, yellow roots, tavari plants, moss, and
ngaoho plants, along with birds, pigs, and chickens.
Matua reminded Hotu to take along flies as well, since the number of human
beings depended on the number of flies. He told Hotu to take the Hanau Eepe
prisoners as well to farm the land.
Hotu then ordered his master canoe builder Nuku Kehu to launch the
double-hulled canoe that had been built for the voyage.