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The tale is one of love — a tale so sweet and natural that it ought to be told in the liquid measure of Longfellow's 'Hiawatha ;' it is the story of the beauteous young Hinemoa, the faithful Maori maid who swam across the lake to keep an assignation with her lover. The legend has some resemblance to the old Grecian story of Hero and Leander, only it is the lady who does the swimming feat, and (as if to show the superiority of the fair sex) does it successfully, and thus ensures a life of peace and bliss for herself and lover. It has, in short, all the grace and none of the tragedy of the Grecian legend ; while the name of the heroine — ' Hinemoa ' — is one that lingers like a strain of music, as soft and mellifluous as the sound of the flute over the waters of the lake which was the signal for her to fly to the arms of her lover, Tutanekai. The youthful couple loved eacli other in secret, and at last they found means of communication, and arranged that the flute should be the signal for their meeting — it being understood that Hinemoa should go in a boat to the trysting-place, the little island in the lake. But, alas ! the stern parents of the amorous lady had secured the canoes so that she could not use them ; and in her extremity she resolved to swim across. Six hollow gourds fastened around her as a swimming belt, she plunges into the waters in the murky night, and, with nothing to guide her but the strains of her lover's flute, she swims all the weary way to the place where he awaited her coming. In beautifully idyllic passages, the legeni narrates the finding of her by Tutanekai ; how ' she rose from the water beautiful as a wilk hawk, and stepped on the ledge of the lake graceful as a shy white crane ;' how, she being unclothed, he took off his mat and spread it before her; how she put it on ; and how together they went to the house of Tutanekai, and, as was the custom of the olden time, passed the night in undisturbed repose. The closing touch of the legend is perfect, and is worth quoting at length. The foster-brothers of Tutanekai had des- . pised and mocked him, and had severally made unsuccessful suit to the lovely Hinemoa. On the morning after the union of the lovers, the fosterfather, Whakane, remarked, ' Tutanekai sleeps long ; perhaps the boy is sick ; go, rouse him.' So one went and pushed back the little sliding door of the house and looked in. * What *? what 1 Four feet ! Who can be his companion? So he ran quickly back to Whakane, crying, ' I saw four feet in the house— four feet !' Then said Whakane, 'Who can be his companion ? Go again.' So the man went, and looking perceived it was Hinemoa. Then he shouted, ' Hinemoa ! Hinemoa ! Tutanekai has got her ! Hinemoa ! Hinemoa !' So the foster-bro-thers of Tutanekai heard the shouting, and they said 'It is false ' ; but it was envy caused them to say this. Then out came Tutanekai from his house with Hineraoa by his side, and everyone saw it was really her. Then the foster-brothers said ' So, indeed, it is true.' Thus ends the tale in the most approved fashion, with Virtue triumphant and Envy discomfited. It only remains to add that the descendants of this blissful union are living- at Rotorua/to the present day, and their constant theme is the beauty of their an- ■ cestress, and her feat of swimming across Lake Rotorua.

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Bibliographic details

Clutha Leader, Clutha Leader, Volume IX, Issue 494, 30 March 1883

Word Count

THE LEGEND OF HINEMOA. Clutha Leader, Volume IX, Issue 494, 30 March 1883