A renowned chieftain of Hawaiki, and the first (Māori) discoverer of New Zealand. He went out fishing in the canoe Matahōrua, with a friend named Hotu-rapa, and the latter's wife. Kupe induced Hotu to dive into the sea to free a fishing-line, then sailed away with the woman, whose name was Kura-maro-tini, the daughter of Toto, and sister-in-law of Turi.

Kupe reached New Zealand, and encountered a monster in the shape of a sea-dragon, or giant octopus, off Castlepoint; the fish then fled across Cook's Straits, and was pursued by Kupe through Tory Channel. Here a fearful encounter took place, when the dragon turned to bay; but Kupe cut off its arms with his ax, and destroyed it. This octopus was called Wheke-o-muturangi. Kupe left marks in New Zealand, and then returned to Hawaiki, giving instructions to Turi how he might find the new country by observing certain sailing directions. Kupe received the ax, Tauira-a-pa, from Ngahue. He is said to have met, near Hokianga, the men of a previous migration — viz., that of Nuku-tawhiti, and the men of the Mamari canoe. Kupe had a daughter named Tai-tu-auro-o-te-marowhara. Hence the proverb for the big rolling waves of the West Coast, Tai-hau-auru i whakaturia e Kupe ki te Maro-whara.

Another legend takes the credit of New Zealand's discovery from Kupe, and states that Rakataura first reached this country in the canoe Pauiriraira. He went all over the North Island and part of the South Island; saw no man nor fire; then went back to Hawaiki and told Kupe, who started off. Kupe, having returned from his voyage, told the chief Takeretō, who, in his canoe Takere-aotea went to New Zealand, at the same time as the Arawa, Tokomaru and Kura-hau-pō canoes set out.



  • Best, Eldson. (1927). "Hau and Wairaka." Journal of the Polynesian Society 36:260-282.
  • Grey, Sir George. (1855). Polynesian Mythology. Auckland: Brett, p. 130.
  • Shortland, Edward. (1882). Maori Religion and Mythology. London: Longmans Green, p. 84.
  • Tregear, Edward. (1891). Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary. Wellington: Government Printer, pp. 184, 225.
  • White, John. (1887). Ancient History of the Maori. 6 vols. Wellington: G. Didsbury, Government Printer, pp. 1:73, 2:188.

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