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A Folk Tale from New Zealand
The Birth of Daylight (a Maori myth)

Ranginui, the Sky, dwelt with Papatuanuku, the Earth, and was joined to her, and land was made. But the children of Ranginui and Papatuanuku, who were very numerous, were not of the shape of men, and they lived in the darkness between their parents. The darkness of deep water, of moonless night, and of deep earth were all that they knew.

Soon the children of Ranginui and Papatuanuku, worn out with continual darkness, met together to decide what should be done about their parents, that people might arise from this darkness. "Will we destroy our parents, our father and our mother, if we separate them?" they asked. And long did they consider this question in the darkness.

At last Tumatauenga, the fiercest of the offspring and the guardian of war, spoke out. "It is well. Whatever happens, will happen." But Tanemahuta, guardian of the forest, answered, "No, not so. It is better to separate them gently, and to let the sky stand far above us and the earth lie below here. Let the sky be a stranger to us, but let earth remain close to us as our nursing mother."

Some of the other children saw wisdom in this and agreed with Tanemahuta. Others did not agree, including one who had always disagreed with his brothers, Tawhirimatea, the guardian of winds and storms. For Tawhirimatea, fearing that his kingdom would be overthrown, did not wish his parents to be torn apart. So while some agreed, Tawhirimatea would not and said no more. And long did they consider further. At the end of a time no person can measure, they decided that Ranginui and Papatuanuku must be forced apart in one way or another, and they began by turns to attempt this deed.

First Rongomatane, guardian of the garden, rose up and strove to gently pry the heavens from the earth. When Rongomatane failed, next Tangaroa, guardian of all things that live in the sea, rose up. He struggled mightily using his aqueous talent, but had no luck. And next Haumiatiketike, guardian of the wild things, rose up and tried with his skills, but without success.

So then Tumatauenga, guardian of war, leapt up. Tumatauenga hacked forcefully at the sinews that bound the Earth and Sky, and made them bleed, and this gave rise to ochre, or red clay of the earth. Yet even Tumatauenga, the fiercest of the children, could not with all his strength sever Ranginui from Papatuanuku. So then it became the turn of Tanemahuta.

Slowly, slowly as the kauri tree grows, did Tanemahuta rise between the Earth and Sky. At first he strove with his arms to gently move them, but with no success. And so he paused, and the pause was an immense period of time in the universe. Then he placed his shoulders against his mother Earth, and his feet against his father Sky. Soon, and yet not soon, for the time was vast, the Sky and Earth began to slowly yield to his strength. The parents of these children cried out "Why are you doing this, none of us will survive." However, as soon as Tanemahuta's strength was successful, a multitude of creatures were uncovered in the new daylight between Earth and Sky.

Submitted by Alisha Crow, au pair in Massachusetts, 2004

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