The magician who was enlisted by Tinirau to insure a bright future for his son Tū-huruhuru. After all necessary rites were performed, Kae returned to his native land on the back of Tinirau's pet whale Tu-tu-nui. Once home, instead of allowing the whale to return, he and his tribe, the Aitangi-a-Poporokewa, killed and ate it. When Tinirau learned of the death of his pet, he sent a contingent of women to capture the sorcerer. They used dances and a magic song to cause Kae to fall into an enchanted sleep. As they were carrying him off, Kae's pillow fell down from his bed; and hence the expression, "Ka taka te urunga o Kae" ("Kae's pillow falls," which became a proverb signifying that some misfortune has happened). The women carried him back Tinirau's house on Motu-tapu. On Kae's waking from his enchanted slumber, Tinirau taunted him with his treachery, and then slew him. In revenge, Kae's people invaded Tinirau's lands and killed Tū-huruhuru.

A Southern version differs much in detail. According to this account, Tinirau, mounted on Tu-tu-nui, met Kae (Ngae, in the southern dialect), who was in a canoe. Kae borrowed Tu-tu-nui, and Tinirau went on his way in search of Hine-i-te-iwaiwa, borrowing a large nautilus as his steed from his friend Tau-tini. It was by the smell of the south wind that Tinirau knew that his whale was being roasted. In this account the sleep incantation is given.

The Samoan version differs, inasmuch as 'Ae (Kae) was a Tongan, who attached himself to the Samoan chief, Tinilau, whose journeys were made on the backs of two turtles. Tinilau knew of the death of his pets by the coming of a bloody wave. He called a meeting of all the avenging gods, who, assembling, went to Ae's house, found him asleep, picked him up, and laid him in the house of Tinilau. Ae, not knowing that he was in Tinilau's house, began talking about "the pig, my master"; he was at once killed, cooked, and eaten.

In a legend from the Marquesas, Kae was shipwrecked on Vai-noki (Puamau), an island of women. There he met and married the chiefess Hina and they had a son, Kae-te-tama. After some time Kae became homesick and returned home on the back of the whale Tunua-nui, Hina's brother. When he arrived home, Kae's people killed and ate the whale. Kae-te-tama decided to visit his father and set out on the back of a large fish, Tunua-iti. Kae's people attempted to catch the fish and drag it ashore. Instead, the fish dragged them out to sea where they drowned.1

In a Tongan story he traveled with king Lo'au to the edge of the horizon. He survived by grasping the legs of a huge bird (kanivatu) which carried him to Samoa. There he was welcomed by Sinilau who offered further transportation to Tonga on the back of his pet whales Tonga and Samoa. Upon arriving home, Kae's people killed and ate the whale Tonga. Sinilau called upon the gods to collect the remains of his whale and bring Kae back to him. Kae was killed and the whale was restored to life.2

A point of interest in the New Zealand story is that Kae's house is said to be of a shape which is either Samoan or Melanesian. Kae was known to the women by the gap in his front teeth (hence the proverb, "Ka kata Kae"); so also Poporokewa was known; and the descendants of Poporokewa are said to have eaten the whale. Compare the Mangarevan verb, aka-kae, to have pain in the mouth from having eaten unwholesome fish.

Both Tinirau and Kae are mentioned in an old Mangaian song, called Karaponga's dirge in honor of Ruru:

Tena oa te toki pakaeka a Tinirau,
Taraiia i te rangi te upoko o Kae.
"This is the axe greatly coveted by Tinirau,
Now uplifted against the head of Kae."



  1. Handy, Edward. S. Craighill. (1930). Marquesan Legends. Honolulu: Bernice P. Bishop Museum Press, pp. 56-63; Steinen, Karl von den. (1933). "Marquesanische Mythen." Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 65:1-44, 326-373, pp. 353-365.
  2. Gifford, Edward T. (1924). Tongan Myths and Tales. Honolulu: Bernice P. Bishop Museum, pp. 139-152.


  • Best, Eldson. (1928). "Story of Ngae and Tutunui." Journal of the Polynesian Society 37:261-270.
  • Grey, Sir George. (1855). Polynesian Mythology. Auckland: Brett, pp. 39, 55, 61, 65.
  • Shortland, Edward. (1856). Traditions and Superstitions of the New Zealanders. London: Longmans Green, pp. 65 ff.
  • Tregear, Edward. (1891). Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary. Wellington: Government Printer, pp. 110-111.
  • White, John. (1887). Ancient History of the Maori. 6 vols. Wellington: G. Didsbury, Government Printer, pp. 2:129, 131, 133.

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