A celebrated hero or demigod of antiquity. He was the son of Kaitangata by Whaitiri. He was slain by some evil and supernatural creatures dwelling by day in the water, and called in the North Island the Ponaturi, and in the South Island Paikea, Kewa, and Ihupuku — names referring to sea-monsters or whales. Hema's wife was named Urutonga; by her he had three children, a girl called Papumainono, and two sons, Karihi and Tāwhaki. Hema's wife is said in another legend to be Kare-nuku, the younger sister of Puku.

After Hema's murder, Tāwhaki revenged him by slaying the Ponaturi, and rescuing his father's bones, which they had hung inside their dwelling, the Mānawa-tāne.

There are several versions of the story, which is very ancient. In one legend the name of Hema's wife (and mother of Tāwhaki) is Arawheta-i-te-rangi. In another Hema is called a female, and has for husband Huarotu, begetting first the girl Papumainono, then Karihi, then Tāwhaki.



  • Grey, Sir George. (1855). Polynesian Mythology. Auckland: Brett, p. 36.
  • Tregear, Edward. (1891). Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary. Wellington: Government Printer, p. 61.
  • White, John. (1887). Ancient History of the Maori. 6 vols. Wellington: G. Didsbury, Government Printer, p. 1:45.
  • Wohlers, J. F. H. (1875). "Mythology and Tradition of the Maori." New Zealand Institute, Transactions 7:3-53, pp. 15, 41.

This article incorporates text from Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary (1891) by Edward Tregear, which is in the public domain.