"Stand." One of the greatest and most widely worshiped of Polynesian deities. In New Zealand he was the war god; to him all war-parties were sacred, and his terrible name was held in the utmost awe and sanctity. The children of the chief and the slave-woman were the property of Tū, as a tribute to the other gods for a chief having broken the tapu.

Tū was known by several names, according to the special power attributed to him under a certain denomination; he is best known as Tū-mata-uenga. He advised his brothers to destroy their parents Rangi (Heaven) and Papa (Earth), but the gentler counsels of Tāne prevailed, and the primeval pair were only rent apart, letting in the sunshine which, until then, had never brightened the world. Tū was the only one of the divine brethren that could resist the fierce assaults of Tāwhiri-mā-tea, the Lord of Tempests, who was indignant with the way in which their parents had been treated. Tū turned fiercely upon Tangaroa, Rongo, Tāne, and the others who had deserted him in the combat with Tū, and wrought destruction on their progeny. After this he assumed his many names, viz.: Tū-kariri, Tū-ka-nguha, Tū-kai-taua, Tū-whakabeke-tangata, Tū-matawhaiti, and Tū-mata-uenga.1

Although the great parents Rangi and Papa were not of human form, Tū was in the likeness of man; so were his brothers. Tū-matau-enga and Rongo led the rebellious spirits to the war in heaven, and Tū was slain at the battle which took place at the celestial locality named Awarua. (The Māori narrator of the legend added, parenthetically, "as much as a spirit can be killed.") Rongo and his company were hurled down from heaven to the gulfs of darkness.2

Tū was born a twin with his brother Tū-pōtiki.3 Te-ura-no-Tū (the head of Tū), is used as an expression for anything very sacred.

See also (Hawaiian), (Samoan), (Tuamotuan).



  1. Grey, Sir George. (1855). Polynesian Mythology. London: John Murray, p. 1 fff.
  2. White, John. (1887). Ancient History of the Maori. 6 vols. Wellington: G, Disbury, p. 1:38.
  3. Shortland, Edward. (1882). Maori Religion and Mythology. London: Longmans Green, p. 18.


  • Tregear, Edward. (1891). Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary. Wellington: Government Printer, p. 540.

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