Bibliographic Information: How the Kiwi Lost His Wings, Maori Organization WWW Site
Ethnic Origin: Maori of Aotearoa (New Zealand)
Running time: 10 – 12 minutes
1. The fear of being called on, singled out by Tanehokahoka to make a life-changing decision in front of all the others
Reason: No one likes to be called on to make such a momentous life-changing
decision in front of others and without time for reflection
2. Concern that all of the birds would refuse to honor the request of the gods
Reason: If one will not answer the call, then the leader is forced to choose one who is not willing and may not participate fully
3. Shouldering of the burden by Kiwi to honor the gods and sacrifice his place as one
of the birds of the air
Reason: He felt that this request was his choice to make and , as in Star Trek, “sacrifice the one for the good of the many”.
4. Penalties imposed by Tanehokahoka upon those who refused
Reason: Tanehokahoka was appalled by the responses of his children, and imposed penalties for their inadequate responses; the gods’ requests must be honored.
Tanemahuta discovering his children are sick and need help;
His request for help;
Birds being asked individually to help and refusing;
Kiwi and his decision;
Penalties imposed by Tanehokahoka
Synopsis: Tanemahuta discovers his children are being attacked and overwhelmed by insects; his
brother, Tanehokahoka, calls together his children, the birds of the air; Tanemahuta asks
for one of them to make their home on the forest floor to help save his children and the
homes of all the other birds; Tui, Pukeko and Pipiwharauroa refuse; Kiwi accepts the
request; the other three birds are penalized
This tale should appeal to the early adolescent as they begin to define themselves independently of their families. They are looking to find their place in society and understand that they will have to make some choices and sacrifices as they go through the process of “becoming”.
Stover, L.T. and E. Tway: Defining oneself outside the family, thinking about future
options, forging their niche in society
Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development: find a valued place in a constructive
group, a sense of personal self-worth, being useful to others
Fenwick, Elizabeth and Tony Smith: making own decisions, self image, morals and
Special flavor: Since this story comes from the Maori, I will open with a traditional Maori welcome “Haere mai, te manuhiri tuarangi, haere mai, haere mai” (1), followed by the translation “Welcome strangers from afar, come forth, welcome, welcome”. Use of the Maori names for their gods and the native birds is key to the power of this tale. In closing the story I will use a traditional Maori proverb, in English first “Though my present is small, my love goes with it” then in Maori “E iti noa ana, na te aroha” (2).
(1) from Barlow, Cleve. Tikanga Whakaaro: Key Concepts in Maori Culture. Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1991, p. 69
(2) from Maori Organization WWW Site, http://www.maori.org.nz/quote.htm
Bibliographic information on other versions:
Despite extensive searching no other comparable variants were found, except for a videotape version of “How the Kiwi Lost His Wings”, which I did not view since it was not accessible.
An Australian tale, “Dinewan, the Emu, and Goomblegubbon, the Bustard” (Parker, K. Langloh. Australian Legendary Tales. London: David Nutt, 1897, p. 1 – 5) tells the story of why the emus have no wings and the bustard lays only two eggs. The bustard tricked the emus into cutting off their wings, and the emus tricked the bustards into killing all but two of their chicks.
There are three tales from the South Pacific about why birds are certain colors or are flightless, but which were not accessible to me. They are listed in A Motif-Index of Traditional Polynesian Narratives, Bacil F. Kirtley, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1971. The motif numbers are A2411.2.2 (origin of colors and markings on birds; White, John. The Ancient History of the Maori: His Mythology and Traditions. 6 vols. Wellington, G. Disbury, 1887 – 90, vol. II, p. 120); A2411.2.6 (color of other birds; Loeb, Edwin M. History and Traditions of Niue. BPBM Bulletin 32, Honolulu, 1932, p. 110); and *A2422.214.171.124 (why some birds are flightless; Burrows, Edwin G. Ethnology of Uvea (Wallis Island). BPBM Bulletin 145, Honolulu, 1937, p. 168f).
Comparison of versions/variants:
There are no other variants; an e-mail correspondence with the Maori Organization indicated they knew of no other versions and this is a tale learned by the writer at the grandmother’s knee as she herself learned it from her grandmother.