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Māori Myths and Legends

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The richness and complexity of the Māori culture has been a source of fascination and intrigue for many generations.

Issue information

The Māori had no written language and thus their history and legends were passed on orally from generation to generation, and through carving and weaving. They give us a valuable insight into the way Māori people viewed and personified the earth, sea and sky. This issue looks at six fascinating Māori myths - some widely known, some tragic, some entertaining.

Product listing for Māori Myths and Legends

Click on image to enlarge.

Image Title Description Price
Single Stamp

Single 45c 'Māui pulls up Te Ika (the fish)' gummed stamp.

Using the jawbone of his grandmother as a fish hook, Māui is known as the mythical demigod who fished up many islands throughout Polynesia. On one fishing voyage with his older brothers Māui casts his magic hook, only to catch on the gable of the home of Tonganui. Calling for help, he and his brothers strained to haul up what we know today as the North Island of New Zealand. His canoe is said to rest on Mount Hikurangi on the East Coast. Later versions of the legend say the South Island is his canoe and the anchor stone is Stewart Island.

Single Stamp

Single 80c 'Rona is snatched up by Marama (Moon)' gummed stamp.

Today, if you look carefully, you will see the quick tempered Rona as a lonely figure in the moon - or so the sad legend goes. One night she took her calabashes to fill them with water. As cloud passed and darkened her moonlit path she tripped over the roots of a tree, and in her exasperation looked up and cursed the moon. Enraged, the moon descended to catch Rona and it drew her skywards. She desperately clutched the branch of a ngaio tree but the moon's might tore the tree and its roots up to the sky, along with Rona and her calabashes.

Single Stamp

Single $1.00 'Māui attacks Tuna (eel)' gummed stamp.

There was once an eel who lived high in the sky, near the sun. After a long hot dry spell without rain he decided to descend to earth and live in a river. One day Māui's wife, Hine-a-te-repo, was standing in the river with her children and the great eel knocked them over, splashing and swimming around, eventually eating both the children. This enraged Māui who set out to kill the eel. Using his magic he flooded the cunning eel out of the river and into a hole. Jumping into the hole, Māui chopped the eel's head off and threw it into the sea - hence we have eels in the sea today. The tail was thrown into the river to create river eels and the middle part of the eel twisted around a tree which we now see as vines in the forest.

Single Stamp

Single $1.20 'Tāne separates Rangi (Sky) and Papa (Earth)' gummed stamp.

It is said that Ranginui and Papatūānuku were once two halves of a single entity but the gods decided to separate them. Several of their many children tried and failed. Eventually Tāne, the Forest God parted heaven from the earth and today Rangi and Papa grieve ceaselessly for each other - hence the rain, the dew and soft mists that rise from the earth.

Single Stamp

Single $1.50 'Matakauri slays the Giant of Wakatipu' gummed stamp.

The beautiful Manata was tied by a special rope by a giant demon named Matua and the brave Matakauri was sent to rescue her. When his attempts failed, her tears softened the rope and she was freed. Hungry for revenge, Matakauri returned to light a fire near the sleeping Matua. By fanning the flames, Matua burned and the snow melted and poured over his ashes to form the lake we now know as Wakatipu.

Single Stamp

Single $1.80 'Panenehu shows Koura (Crayfish) to Tangaroa' gummed stamp.

Panenehu, a Māori chief, missed the foods of his homeland - especially kōura. After praying he was sent a kōura drawn on a rock. He dropped and smashed the rock but by using red clay he pieced it together. When the kōura finally arrived they looked just like the broken image Panenehu had patched together. Today these ugly but delicious creatures can be found all around the New Zealand coast.

First Day Cover First day cover with stamps affixed. Cancelled on the first day of issue. $7.00

Technical information

Date of issue: 8 June 1994
Designer: Manu Kōpere Society, Plimmerton, NZ
Printer: Leigh-Mardon, Australia
Stamp size: 35mm x 39.56mm
Sheet size: 100 stamps per sheet
Process: Lithography
Perforation gauge: 13.15
Paper type: Coated Papers, red phosphor coated, unwatermarked
Period of sale: These stamps remained on sale until 8 June 1995.
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