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Eight-year-old Kahu, a member of the Maori tribe of Whangara, New Zealand, fights to prove her love, her leadership, and her destiny. Her people claim descent from Kahutia Te Rangi, the legendary "whale rider." In every generation since Kahutia, a male heir has inherited the title of chief. But now there is no male heir, and the aging chief is desperate to find a successor. Kahu is his only great-grandchild—and Maori tradition has no use for a girl. But when hundreds of whales beach themselves and threaten the ...
Eight-year-old Kahu, a member of the Maori tribe of Whangara, New Zealand, fights to prove her love, her leadership, and her destiny. Her people claim descent from Kahutia Te Rangi, the legendary "whale rider." In every generation since Kahutia, a male heir has inherited the title of chief. But now there is no male heir, and the aging chief is desperate to find a successor. Kahu is his only great-grandchild—and Maori tradition has no use for a girl. But when hundreds of whales beach themselves and threaten the future of the Maori tribe, it is Kahu who saves the tribe when she reveals that she has the whale rider's ancient gift of communicating with whales.
Now available in simultaneous hardcover and paperback editions.
Feature film in theaters in June 2003!
As her beloved grandfather, chief of the Maori tribe of Whangara, New Zealand, struggles to lead in difficult times and to find a male successor, young Kahu is developing a mysterious relationship with whales, particularly the ancient bull whale whose legendary rider was their ancestor.
In the old days, in the years that have gone before us, the land and sea felt a great emptiness, a yearning. The mountains were like a stairway to heaven, and the lush green rainforest was a rippling cloak of many colors. The sky was iridescent, swirling with the patterns of wind and clouds; sometimes it reflected the prisms of rainbow or southern aurora. The sea was ever-changing, shimmering and seamless to the sky. This was the well at the bottom of the world, and when you looked into it you felt you could see to the end of forever.
This is not to say that the land and sea were without life, without vivacity. The tuatara, the ancient lizard with its third eye, was sentinel here, unblinking in the hot sun, watching and waiting to the east. The moa browsed in giant wingless herds across the southern island. Within the warm stomach of the rainforests, kiwi, weka, and the other birds foraged for huhu and similar succulent insects. The forests were loud with the clatter of tree bark, chatter of cicada, and murmur of fish-laden streams. Sometimes the forest grew suddenly quiet, and in wet bush could be heard the filigree of fairy laughter like a sparkling glissando.
The sea, too, teemed with fish, but they also seemed to be waiting. They swam in brilliant shoals, like rains of glittering dust, throughout the greenstone depths-hapuku, manga, kahawai, tamure, moki, and warehou-herded by shark or mango ururoa. Sometimes from far off a white shape would be seen flying through the sea, but it would only be the serene flight of the tarawhai, the stingray with the spike on its tail.
Waiting. Waiting for the seeding. Waiting for the gifting. Waiting for the blessing to come.
Suddenly, looking up at the surface, the fish began to see the dark bellies of the canoes from the east. The first of the Ancients were coming, journeying from their island kingdom beyond the horizon. Then, after a period, canoes were seen to be returning to the east, making long cracks on the surface sheen. The land and the sea sighed with gladness:
We have been found.
The news is being taken back to the place of the Ancients.
Our blessing will come soon.
In that waiting time, earth and sea began to feel the sharp pangs of need, for an end to the yearning. The forests sent sweet perfumes upon the eastern winds and garlands of pohutukawa upon the eastern tides. The sea flashed continuously with flying fish, leaping high to look beyond the horizon and to be the first to announce the coming; in the shallows, the chameleon sea horses pranced at attention. The only reluctant ones were the fairy people, who retreated with their silver laughter to caves in glistening waterfalls.
The sun rose and set, rose and set. Then one day, at its noon apex, the first sighting was made. A spume on the horizon. A dark shape rising from the greenstone depths of the ocean, awesome, leviathan, breaching through the surface and hurling itself skyward before falling seaward again. Underwater the muted thunder boomed like a great door opening far away, and both sea and land trembled from the impact of that downward plunging.
Suddenly the sea was filled with awesome singing, a song with eternity in it, a song to the land:
You have called and I have come,
bearing the gift of the Gods.
The dark shape rising, rising again. A whale, gigantic. A sea monster. Just as it burst through the sea, a flying fish leaping high in its ecstasy saw water and air streaming like thunderous foam from that noble beast and knew, ah yes, that the time had come. For the sacred sign was on the monster, a swirling tattoo imprinted on the forehead.
Then the flying fish saw that astride the head, as it broke skyward, was a man. He was wondrous to look upon, the whale rider. The water streamed away from him and he opened his mouth to gasp in the cold air. His eyes were shining with splendor. His body dazzled with diamond spray. Upon that beast he looked like a small tattooed figurine, dark brown, glistening, and erect. He seemed, with all his strength, to be pulling the whale into the sky.
Rising, rising. And the man felt the power of the whale as it propelled itself from the sea. He saw far off the land long sought and now found, and he began to fling small spears seaward and landward on his magnificent journey toward the land.
Some of the spears in midflight turned into pigeons, which flew into the forests. Others, on landing in the sea, changed into eels. And the song in the sea drenched the air with ageless music, and land and sea opened themselves to him, the gift long waited for: tangata, man. With great gladness and thanksgiving, the man cried out to the land,
Karanga mai, karanga mai, karanga mai.
Call me. But there was one spear, so it is told, the last, that, when the whale rider tried to throw it, refused to leave his hand. Try as he might, the spear would not fly.
So the whale rider uttered a prayer over the wooden spear, saying, "Let this spear be planted in the years to come, for there are sufficient spear already implanted. Let this be the one to flower when the people are troubled and it is most needed."
And the spear then leaped from his hands with gladness and soared through the sky. It flew across a thousand years. When it hit the earth, it did not change but waited for another hundred and fifty years to pass until it was needed.
The flukes of the whale stroked majestically at the sky.
Hui e, haumi e, taiki e.
Let it be done.
© 1987 Witi Ihimaera
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.
First published in New Zealand in 1987 by Reed Books, a division of Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd, 39 Rawene Rd, Birkenhead, Auckland
First U.S. edition 2003
Posted January 21, 2012
Written in 1987, THE WHALE RIDER is a deceptively short book. Only 120 pages long, it’s a richly layered story dealing with several major social issues: family relationships, gender discrimination, generational differences, racial prejudice, loss of the cultural identity of indigenous tribes, ecological conservationism and modern man’s disconnection from his spiritual self.
Kahu is a young Maori girl who, from the moment of her birth, had a deep connection with her great-grandfather Koro Apirana, a powerful Maori Chieftan. Custodian of his people’s indigenous culture, Koro searches desperately for his successor: a boy who, for the good of all his people, will value and understand the ancient Maori traditions as much as Koro does. Kahu’s uncle Rawiri, who narrates most of the story, and her great-grandmother Nanni Flowers, see in Kahu’s spirit that which Koro seeks: the soul of the future Chieftan who will lead the Maoris of Whangara into the 21st century. But Kahu is a girl and, in Maori tradition, only men can perform the sacred traditions that keep the Maori people blessed of their gods and their ancestors.
From the delightfully subversive feminist Nanni Flowers to good guy Rawiri who, along with a diverse group of people tried desperately to save 200 beached whales (one of the several scenes in the book which had me sobbing out loud), to the serene, compassionate and otherworldly Kahu, the story is filled with remarkable characters. These include the Old Whale, an ancient sea-creature that has survived for centuries to ensure that Kahu meets her destiny of ensuring that the sacred Maori traditions shall live on into the new century.
The lyrical, almost magical, descriptions of the herd of whales’ journeys through the depths of the great oceans contrast beautifully with Rawiri’s simple, down-to-earth narrative. The boneless, weightless feel of the writing in the whale scenes recreate both a transcendent spiritual state and the sensation of swimming underwater. From the comical rendition of the constant bickering of Koro Apirana and his wife Nanni Flowers, to the well of emotion that has him spontaneously performing the haka to support Kahu at her school prize-giving, Rawiri’s gentle perceptions of his extended Maori family reveal the deep bonds of love and culture holding them together. “Family,” he says to his white friend Jeff, “is Family.”
Some of the Maori terms were, at times, confusing and the edition I read did not have a glossary of Maori terms, which would have been useful.
This lack, however, did not detract from the lush splendour of THE WHALE RIDER, a beautiful story of hope and promise.
Posted September 26, 2008
Witi Ihimaera¿s book, The Whale Rider takes the reader on an inspirational journey while addressing such issues as sexism, racism, love, and bitterness as well as unity with nature. The Maori chief Koro Apirana in Whangara, New Zealand wants a male heir to take on the traditions of his ancestors as well as his leadership responsibilities. Unfortunately for his great-granddaughter Kahu, she is born a girl and endures much scorn from her old fashioned great-grandfather. She loves him deeply and aches for his love. As Kahu taps in to her inherited gift of speaking to whales, she may be able to save the culture and future of her people. The Whale Rider is told from the perspective of Kahu¿s uncle and includes a small, yet charming cast of characters. Ihimaera¿s talented characterizations allow the reader to feel a part of the family. The emotional conflict between Kahu and Koro captures the empathy of the reader compelling him or her to resolve the disharmony. He could have made the characters a bit more complex, but, admittedly, the simplicity is kind of refreshing. The plot takes the reader on a journey as Kahu grows up and touches the lives of her family members. She softens hearts and puts life in perspective. The vulnerability of her age mixed with glimpses of her maturity allows the reader to identify with her but also realize her heroic destiny. Ihimaera¿s imagery lets the reader feel the wonders of the ocean and New Zealand life. I wish he had further described the setting in some places, but for the most part this book was descriptive and clear. The tone is almost mystical as some parts are told from the whales¿ perspective as well. In my opinion, The Whale Rider would appeal to ages 14-adult because it is easy to read and explores simple themes, yet includes some cultural insights and symbolism that may be better appreciated by an older audience. The content is hardly offensive but does touch on some issues of sexism and racism to teach the blindness of such attitudes. Overall, I would recommend The Whale Rider to others. It¿s a quick, enjoyable read and makes the reader feel edified and empowered at its conclusion. Out of ten I would give it a 7.5 because it was well-written and inspired goodness, but was not as profound or complex as I had hoped. I have not yet seen the movie, but now I am anxious to do so. I hope you read this book and enjoy it like I did.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 7, 2008
Whale Rider is a moving story giving insight into the Maori culture both in the past and as it works to fit into the present. It is designed for young readers, but is of interest to anyone wishing to learn about the Maori traditions. For avid 'tween and young teen readers, do the book before the film. For the less eager reader, the movie could come first, providing the visual images which might make the reading easier. The use of Maori terminology is easily handled, with a glossary in the back. Although some boys may first balk at reading a story with a female protagonist, this story has plenty of adventure, imagination, and family drama to hold interest.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 10, 2004
Posted April 17, 2004
this book has now been added to my favorite lists. 8yrold Kahu is amazing. she has such passion and such fearless way to think of the world. this book is told through the eyes of one that loves her most and through his eyes (her uncles) you will learn that the world...isnt always such a bad place...Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 19, 2003
Posted February 5, 2009
No text was provided for this review.
Posted June 30, 2009
No text was provided for this review.