A mighty chief of olden days, who is supposed to have brought about the Deluge (known as Te Tai-a-Ruatapu). He was a son of Ue-nuku and Paimahunga,1 and annoyed his father by using the comb which was sacred to his elder brother Kahu-tia-te-rangi as ariki, this brother having been begotten on the royal mat.

Ue-nuku told Rua-tapu that he was a nobody, a son of no consequence; and the heart of Rua-tapu filled with hatred and revenge. He enticed the elder sons of the principal families into a canoe, the Tū-te-pae-rangi; and when they had got out into mid-ocean, he pulled out the stopping of a hole he had previously made in the bottom of the canoe, and the whole of the young men perished by drowning, except Paikea, who carried the news of the calamity to the shore. Shortly after this the waters rose, through the incantations of Rua-tapu, and all the lands were covered. Only those people who escaped to the hill of Hikurangi were left alive. It is said that Hine-makura (or Moa-kura), a sister of Rua-tapu, drank up the flood, and saved the remnant of the people.2

One legend states that Rua-tapu burst asunder at the time that he killed his companions, and that this caused the mighty wave which desolated the shores of Hawaiki and Aotearoa. The jelly-fishes (maremaretai) are portions of the entrails of Rua-tapu.3

It may be doubted if this flood is the great Deluge spoken of in another tradition, such as that arising from the rejection of the doctrines preached by Paruwhenuamea,4 or the Deluge known as Hurianga-i-Mataaho.5

Rua-tapu is also said to be a son of Tahatiti, and he was father of Rakeora, and grandfather of Tamakitera.6

A smaller deluge, apparently local, is mentioned as having taken place at Taumaharua, near Ohinemuri. Whare, the chief of Ngāti-ako, was urged to stay the flood by his incantations, but he replied, in a very wise way, in words which have become proverbial: Whare will not charm, for the rain comes from the direction of Keteriki (E kore a Whare e tara, he ua haeremai i roto i Keteriki); Keteriki being the name of a mountain, and the winds from that quarter generally bringing rain.



  1. White 1887, p. 2:38.
  2. ibid., p. 3:49.
  3. ibid., p. 3:56.
  4. ibid., p. 1:172.
  5. ibid., p. 1:69; Grey, Sir George. (1855). Polynesian Mythology. London: John Murray, p. 37.
  6. Shortland, Edward. (1882). Maori Religion and Mythology. London: Longmans Green, p. 14.


  • Tregear, Edward. (1891). Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary. Wellington: Government Printer, p. 432.
  • White, John. (1887). Ancient History of the Maori. 6 vols. Wellington: G. Didsbury, Government Printer, pp. 3:9 ff.

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