Mohi Ruatapu

Ngāti Porou

He was a tohunga from Tokomaru who wrote a number of manuscripts. The Alexander Turnbull Library houses two manuscript books numbering 160 pages each. These are entitled "Māori Manuscripts of Mohi Ruatapu and Henare Potae." They contain text of myths, legends, ritual chants and songs. Four texts of these manuscripts were published in the Journal of the Polynesian Society in 1928 and 1929 by Elsdon Best.

Biographical sources

  • “A Note on the Manuscripts of Mohi Ruatapu and Henare Potae.” Te Ao Hou 56 (1966): 22.


  • Māori Manuscripts of Mohi Ruatapu and Henare Potae. Unpublished manuscripts. 1876.
  • These two manuscript books are housed in the Alexander Turnbull Library and were written about 1876 by Mohi Ruatapu and Henare Potae of the East Coast.
  • "The Story of Rua and Tangaroa: An Origin Myth/Ko Rua raua Ko Tangaroa." Trans. Elsdon Best. Journal of the Polynesian Society 37 (1928): 257-260.
  • Co-authored with Henare Potae.
  • "The Story of Ngae and Tutununui: An East Coast version of the Kae-Tutunui Myth: The Slaying of Tutununui/Te Patunga o Tutununui: He Mea Kauwhau e Nga Koeke o Ngāti-Porou." Journal of the Polynesian Society 37 (1928): 261-270.
  • Best provides introductory notes to this version of the myth which he deems ‘an excellent illustration of the Māori habit of localising myths, tales, and incidents brought hither from the far isles of Polynesia.’ While other versions locate this myth in Hawaiki Best notes that Ruatapu and Potae state that Ngae resided in Reporua on the East Coast. Best discusses other versions of this story. This account states that while Ngae and his brothers were on a fishing excursion a strong wind blew them to Hawaiki. All perished except Ngae who was treated kindly by Tinirau and Tinirau lent Ngae his pet whale, Tutununui, on which to travel back to Reporua. Against Tinirau’s express wishes Ngae kills the whale and cooks it. Tinirau realising the fate of his whale sends his sisters to search for Ngae, who could be recognised by his broken tooth. They find him and using magical powers return Ngae and his house to Hawaiki where Ngae is killed by Tinirau. The text also includes a Takitimu version in which the story is located in Hawaiki with Tinirau inviting Kae to perform baptismal rites for Tinirau’s son Tuhuruhuru. Kae is transported back to his home by Tutunui, Tinirau’s whale, where he then eats the whale. Tinirau’s sisters go and find Kae and return him to Tinirau where he is killed.
  • "The Story of Tawhaki: As written by Henare Potae of Uawa/Ko nga kōrero o Tawhaki." Journal of the Polynesian Society 37 (1928): 359-366.
  • Best provides introductory notes in which he compares this version of Tawhaki with other versions. He also lists at the end of the article references to the Tawhaki myth published in the Journal of the Polynesian Society. In this story Tawhaki proceeds to search for his grandmother Whaitiri and in the process marries Hine-murutoka, and later Hine-te-kawa. Tawhaki and his brother Karihi climb the ladders to the Heavens but Karihi falls to his death and Tawhaki secures his brother’s eyes for his bind grandmother whom he meets in the heavens. He tricks his grandmother as she counts the taro and she realises he is the one to ascend further into the heavens. He marries again but forgoes his grandmother’s advice, losing his wife and eventually dying when Tamaiwaho strikes him with the adze named Rakuraku-a-te-rangi.
  • "Maui Myths." Journal of the Polynesian Society 38 (1929): 1-26B.
  • "Three Old Stories." Trans. and notes by Margaret Orbell. Te Ao Hou 56 (1966): 18-22. In Māori with English translation.
  • These stories were taken from the two manuscript books, Māori Manuscripts of Mohi Ruatapu and Henare Potae, which are housed in the Alexander Turnbull Library and were written about 1876 by Mohi Ruatapu and Henare Potae of the East Coast. The first story, taken from Volume 1 (pp. 91-93), describes the warring between Tuere and Tangihaere, and Te Awariki that erupted out of a kite flying dispute and resulted in Te Awariki’s death at the battle of the Flash of Lightning. The story concludes with a further battle carried out by Tuere’s children and the subsequent migration of Tuere’s descendants to Maketu. The next story, from Volume 2 (pp. 145-148), concerns a woman captured by a ngarara, or huge lizard while out walking amongst the tarata trees with another woman. The captured woman manages to inform her people of her forced marriage to the ngarara and they carry out a plan to kill the ngarara. The final story, from Volume 2 (pp. 154-158), deals with the consequences of Ngāti Pakura’s refusal to provide Taupengarangi with fish for her children. In retaliation, Taupengarangi’s warriors attacked Ngāti Pakura, destroying ten forts and almost completely decimating the strength of Ngāti Pakura. The remainder of the tribe eventually fled to Hawaiki.