An evil fire god, a descendant of Tarangata, who conceived the idea that he was destined to become the conqueror of the world. He attempted to lick up Water, thinking he could consume it all, but then came forth the great Wave, to do battle with him. The name of this battle was Kaukau-a-wai. Then Water invoked all the winds and at length Fire was defeated. After the conquest of Water, the few remains of Fire fled into the rocks, and also into the trees, especially into the kaikōmako tree.

The hiding-place of the fire within the trees was discovered by two humans, Toitipu and Manatu. So they sought for means by which fire could be obtained for the use of man, and experimented with wood, one holding the board (or piece held flat on the ground), whilst the other rubbed a stick on the surface. After a long time, forth burst the smoke; hence the saying, "By energetic rubbing with the hand, the son of Upoko-roa1 shall appear."

They then set out to catch Matuku. They made a snare, fastened it to a tree, and lit a fire. As soon as Matuku saw the smoke, he rushed out of the cave but was caught in the snare. He struggled in vain but was unable to escape.

1. Or, Long-head; it refers to the smoke which precedes the flame. This describes the Polynesian method of fire producing, called hika-ahi, or fire generating.



  • Hare Hongi. (1894). "Contest between Fire and Water." Journal of the Polynesian Society 3:155-158.