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Thursday, 3 November 2011

More on Taniwhas, New Zealand Dragons


Location of Taniwha Sightings
in deep pools in rivers, dark caves, or in the sea, especially in places with dangerous currents or deceptive breakers

Earliest - Latest Reported Taniwha Sighting

Ancient times to modern day

Description of the Taniwha

Taniwhas come in many different forms. If the Taniwha appears in the seas or oceans, it takes the form of either a very huge shark or a whale. When it is spotted in lakes or other inland waters, the Taniwha comes in the form of a gecko or a spined lizard. In some encounters it appears as a log or a “wheke” which means octopus”.

Interesting Sighting Details of the Taniwha

The waters of the earth offer many mysteries to men. Among these mysteries is the Taniwha. Based on legends of the Maori people, the Taniwha is a great water creature that acts as a protector or guardian of a certain tribe or place. Based on the legend, each tribe has its own Taniwha. Taniwhas come in many different forms of sea creatures. If the Taniwha appears in the seas or oceans, it takes often takes the form of either a very huge shark or a whale. When it is spotted in lakes or other inland waters, the Taniwha comes in the form of a gecko or a tuatara. In some stories, the mystic creature appears as a log or a “wheke” which means octopus”.
The name taniwha generally came from the word “tanifa” which refers to “a kind of shark”. For the Maori tribe, “Mango Taniwha” is used to refer to the great white shark. In the case of other tribes such as the Samoan, Tongan and Niuean, “tenifa” or “tanifa” refer to a sea monster in the form of a shark which feeds solely on human flesh. Based on the legends, the Taniwhas inhabit deep pools in rivers, or in the sea. They prefer areas with dangerous currents. However, some Taniwhas are said to live in dark caves.
Because of its size and strength, it is said that Taniwhas are capable of tunneling through the ground, uprooting trees and overturning houses in the process. Some Taniwhas have been credited as creators of certain harbors that form channels to the sea. Among these harbors is the Wellington harbor. According to the story, the said area was created by two Taniwhas. Aside from channels, natives point out that the bends in the river of Waikato were made by Taniwhas. Landslides in the area are often regarded as the works of Taniwhas as well.
Based on the local legends of New Zealand, Taniwhas are often regarded with an odd combination of respect and fear. As guardians of a tribe, offerings are often brought to the lairs of the Taniwhas. Whenever somebody passes through the known lairs of a Taniwha, a green twig and an incantation is offered as a sign of deference to the creature’s power. During harvests, the first “kumara” or sweet potato, or other forms of root crop is brought to the Taniwha as well.
However, a Taniwha is regarded as a very dangerous creature for the people who do not belong to the tribe that it guides. According to the local people of New Zealand, there are many stories of battles against Taniwhas.
Among the most popular Taniwhas in the area is Hotu-puku, the protector of Rotorua. Based on the legend, Hoto-puku waged many wars against people who dared to disturb the area and the tribe it protects.

CULTURAL ICON: Carvings depict the taniwha at AUT's Nga Wai o Horotiu marae

John Key: 'I don't believe in taniwhas'

MICHAEL FIELD Last updated 08:04 10/06/20

The Prime Minister says he is "not a great believer in taniwhas".
Horotiu the taniwha made news this week when Maori Statutory Board member Glenn Wilcox said the taniwha lived in the area of Auckland's proposed rail loop route. 
He said Ngati Whatua had not been consulted about the plans.
When asked this morning if he believed in the Maori mythical creature, Key replied: "I’ve got to say not overly, no. I respect people’s spiritual beliefs but I’m not a great believer in them."
Key was also dubious about Auckland Council’s plans to build a $2.4 billion rail tunnel in central Auckland.
"I think they’ve got a lot of factors to consider when it comes to the CBD rail tunnel. The reality is that the Government report shows there’s a lot more work to be done," he said.
Horotiu, the taniwha potentially blocking the tracks of Auckland's multi-billion dollar rail dream, is the latest celebrity to open a Twitter account.
The taniwha has also gone global, with London's Daily Telegraph headlining: "'Swamp monster' threatens Auckland railway project".
Drawing on a Stuff story, the Telegraph quotes Glenn Wilcox, a member of the Auckland City Council's Maori Statutory Board, demanding protection for Horotiu.
"As kaitiaki, or guardians, they protect people, but they also get up and bite you if they do not like what you are doing," Mr Wilcox said.
On Twitter the debate has sparked two new accounts - TaniwhaHorotiu and HorotiuTaniwha.
The first carries an early complaint that taniwha do not make an international list of mythical creatures.
The griffin and the phoenix topped the list, followed by unicorns and satyr, but no taniwha.
Politicians have climbed into the twitter taniwha with National's Tau Henare chimming in "another day, another taniwha. Build a viewing platform."
Labour MP David Shearer asked: "What about Transmission Gully - don't like Wellington though - too many politicians skunking up the sewers."
Veteran Auckland art writer Hamish Keith added some useful history: "Revealing a taniwha in the Ligar canal/Horotiu stream should be no surprise - its where the Plague arrived in Auckland in 1901."
In the blog-sphere the taniwha has been fair game, with Labour MP Phil Twyford saying the real threat to rail is not Horotiu: "It is a roads-mad Transport Minister determined to sink the plan for a modern rapid transit system in our biggest city. If there is a taniwha threatening the rail link its name is Steven Joyce. "
A proposed $2.4 billion tunnel which would increase rail capacity by turning Britomart into a through station rather than a dead-end, is already controversial with the Government saying it is much less economic than Auckland Council does.
But a new potential rail-block appeared when Glenn Wilcox, who sits on the council's Maori Advisory Board, said nobody had considered Horotiu the taniwha.
Mr Wilcox said Horotiu's area roughly covered the old Waihorotiu Stream, which ran roughly along what is now Queen St before it was sealed over.
Transit New Zealand in 2002 agreed to slightly reroute the Waikato Expressway near Meremere after a local hapu said the planned route cut through the domain of the taniwha Karu Tahi. A Northland iwi was later that year unsuccessful in stopping getting a prison built at Ngawha because of a taniwha.
- Stuff



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ureia, guardian taniwha of the Hauraki people. Carving from the meeting house Hotunui, 1878
In Māori mythology, taniwha (pronounced [ˈtanifa]) are beings that live in deep pools in rivers, dark caves, or in the sea, especially in places with dangerous currents or deceptive breakers. They may be considered highly respected kaitiaki (protective guardians) of people and places, or in some traditions as dangerous, predatory beings, which for example would kidnap women to have as wives

Etymology and Pacific analogues
Linguists have reconstructed the word taniwha to Proto-Oceanic *tanifa, with the meaning "shark species". In Tongan and Niuean, tenifa refers to a large dangerous shark, as does the Samoan tanifa; the Tokelauan tanifa is a sea-monster that eats people. In most other Polynesian languages, the cognate words refer to sharks or simply fish.[1] Anthropologists such as A. Asbjørn Jøn have recognised that the taniwha has "analogues that appear within other Polynesian cosmologies".[2]


At sea, a taniwha often appears as a whale or as a large shark; compare the Māori name for the Great white shark: mangō-taniwha. In inland waters, they may still be of whale-like dimensions, but look more like a gecko or a tuatara, having a row of spines along the back. Other taniwha appear as a floating log, which behaves in a disconcerting way (Orbell 1998:149-150, Reed 1963:297). Some can tunnel through the earth, uprooting trees in the process. Legends credit certain taniwha with creating harbours by carving out a channel to the ocean. Wellington's harbour, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, was reputedly carved out by two taniwha. The petrified remains of one of them turned into a hill overlooking the city. Other taniwha allegedly caused landslides beside lakes or rivers.
Taniwha can either be male or female. The taniwha Araiteuru is said to have arrived in New Zealand with the early voyaging canoes and her eleven sons are credited with creating the various branches of the Hokianga Harbour (Orbell 1995:184-185).[3]

As guardians

Most taniwha are associated with tribal groups; each may have a taniwha of its own. The taniwha Ureia, depicted on this page, was associated as a guardian with the Māori people of the Hauraki district. Many well-known taniwha arrived from Hawaiki, often as guardians of a particular ancestral canoe. Once arrived in New Zealand, they took on a protective role over the descendants of the crew of the canoe they had accompanied.[4] The origins of other taniwha are unknown.
When taniwha were accorded the appropriate respect, they usually acted well towards their people. Taniwha acted as guardians by warning of the approach of enemies, communicating the information via a priest who was a medium; sometimes the taniwha saved people from drowning. Because they lived in dangerous or dark and gloomy places, the people were careful to placate the taniwha with appropriate offerings if they needed to be in the vicinity or to pass by its lair. These offerings were often of a green twig, accompanied by a fitting incantation. In harvest time, the first kūmara (sweet potato) or the first taro was often presented to the taniwha (Orbell 1998:149-150).
Arising from the role of taniwha as tribal guardians, the word is also used to refer in a complimentary way to chiefs. The famous saying of the Tainui people of the Waikato district plays on this double meaning: Waikato taniwha rau 'Waikato of a thousand chiefs' (Mead & Groves 2001:421).[5]
Witi Ihimaera, author of "The Whale Rider" says that he has a female kaitiaki (guardian) taniwha named Hine Te Ariki who lives in the Waipāoa River.[6]

As notorious monsters

In their role as guardians, taniwha were vigilant to ensure that the people respected the restrictions imposed by tapu. They made certain that any violations of tapu were punished. Taniwha were especially dangerous to people from other tribes. There are many legends of battles with taniwha, both on land and at sea. Often these conflicts took place soon after the settlement of New Zealand, generally after a taniwha had attacked and eaten a person from a tribe that it had no connection with. Always, the humans manage to outwit and defeat the taniwha. Many of these taniwha are described as beings of lizard-like form, and the some of the stories say the huge beasts were cut up and eaten by the slayers.[7] When Hotu-puku, a taniwha of the Rotorua district, was killed, his stomach was cut open to reveal a number of bodies of men, women, and children, whole and still undigested, as well as various body parts. The taniwha had swallowed all that his victims had been carrying, and his stomach also contained weapons of various kinds, darts, greenstone ornaments, shark's teeth, flax clothing, and an assortment of fur and feather cloaks of the highest quality.[8]
Many taniwha were killers but in this particular instance the taniwha Kaiwhare was eventually tamed by Tamure. Tamure lived at Hauraki and was understood to have a magical mere/pounamu with powers to defeat taniwha. The Manukau people then called for Tamure to help kill the taniwha. Tamure and Kaiwhare wrestled and Tamure clubbed the taniwha over the head. Although he was unable to kill it, his actions tamed the taniwha. Kaiwhare still lives in the waters but now lives on kōura (crayfish) and wheke (octopus).[9]

Relationships with people

Sometimes, a person who had dealings with taniwha during their lifetime might turn into a taniwha after they died. This happened to Te Tahi-o-te-rangi, who had been a medium for the taniwha, and had been rescued at one time by one of the creatures. Tūheita, an early ancestor who drowned, became a taniwha despite the fact that he had no prior dealings with the mythical beasts. Sometimes relationships are formed between humans and taniwha. Hine-kōrako was a female taniwha who married a human man, and Pānia was a woman from the sea who married a human and gave birth to a taniwha (Orbell 1998:150).
In the legend "The Taniwha of Kaipara" three sisters went out to pick berries. One of the sisters was particularly beautiful. The taniwha caused havoc on their walk back and the sisters fled. The taniwha caught the sisters one by one, trying to capture the beautiful one. On succeeding, he then took her back to his cave. Many years passed and the woman bore the taniwha six sons, with three like their father and three fully human. She educated all her sons and in particular taught her human sons the art of war, helping them to fashion and use weapons. The human sons then killed their three taniwha brothers, and eventually their father. They all went back to their homes.[10]

Modern controversy

Beliefs in the existence of taniwha have a potential for controversy where they have been used to block or modify development and infrastructure schemes.
In 2002, Ngāti Naho, a Māori tribe from the Meremere district, successfully ensured that part of the country's major highway, State Highway 1, be rerouted in order to protect the abode of their legendary protector. This taniwha was said to have the appearance of large white eel, and Ngāti Naho argued that it must not be removed but rather move on of its own accord; to remove the taniwha would be to invite trouble. Television New Zealand reported in November 2002 that Transit New Zealand had negotiated a deal with Ngāti Naho under which "concessions have been put in place to ensure that the taniwha are respected".[11] Some like controversial journalist Brian Rudman have criticised such deals in respect of 'secretive taniwha which rise up from swamps and river beds every now and again, demanding a tithe from Transit New Zealand'.[12]
In 2001 "another notable instance of taniwha featuring heavily within the public eye was that of a proposed Northland prison site at Ngawha which was eventually granted approval through the courts."[13]
Māori academic Dr Ranginui Walker, in a detailed letter to the Waikato Times, said that in the modern age a taniwha was the manifestation of a coping mechanism for some Māori. It did not mean there actually was a creature lurking in the water, it was just their way of indicating they were troubled by some incident or event.[citation needed]
In 2010 there was an episode of Destination Truth where Josh Gates and his team went looking for the taniwha, but turned up no good evidence.


  1. ^ Polynesian Lexicon Project Online, entry tanifa
  2. ^ A. Asbjørn Jøn, 'The Road and the Taniwha' in Australian Folklore 22 (2007), pp.85-94 (p.85). ISBN 1-86389-831-X
  3. ^ "A white dolphin that regularly met ships in the French Pass region became known to Pakeha as Pelorus Jack, but was recognised by Maori people Tuhirangi".Orbell,M.`The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Maori Myth and Legend`(1995),p225
  4. ^ One Maori legend mentions taniwha, in the form of wheke (octopuses), escorting two canoes in the Ngāti Toa migrations of the 19th century. Another story concerns three taniwha that escorted (Ngāti) Ruanui and Ngā Puhi on the journey from Hawaiki after the people called out to the atua (spiritual overlords) seeking a means of safe passage. Two taniwha oversaw the safety of Ngā Puhi and the other guarded Ruanui.[citation needed]
  5. ^ A fuller version of the saying, "Waikato taniwha rau, he piko he taniwha, he piko he taniwha" (Waikato of a hundred taniwha, a taniwha on each bend) implies that there is a taniwha, that is, a powerful chief, on each bend of the Waikato River.
  6. ^ Keane, Basil (1 March 2009). "Taniwha Today: Taniwha and identity". Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  7. ^ The Maori As He Was : A Brief Account of Maori Life as it was in Pre-European Days Folk-lore P.49
  8. ^ Orbell 1998:149-150, Reed 1963:299. Reed makes the comment that Hotu-puku's stomach contents constituted a fairly standard list that was repeated in many other taniwha stories.
  9. ^ Reed A,W.,`Reed book of Māori mythology`(2004), pp.288-289
  10. ^ Reed A,W.,`Reed book of Māori mythology`(2004), pp.285-286
  11. ^ Taniwha roading concerns eased, TVNZ, 12 November 2002.
  12. ^ Brian Rudman: Suffer, little children - and watch out for the spaceship - New Zealand Herald, Wednesday 06 June 2007
  13. ^ A. Asbjørn Jøn, 'The Road and the Taniwha' in Australian Folklore 22 (2007), pp.85-94 (p.86). ISBN 1-86389-831-X


  • H.M. Mead, N. Grove, Ngā Pēpeha a ngā Tīpuna, The Sayings of the Ancestors (Victoria University Press: Wellington) , 2001.
  • M. Orbell, The Concise Encyclopedia of Māori Myth and Legend (Canterbury University Press: Christchurch), 1998.
  • M. Orbell, "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Maori Myth and Legens" (Canterbury University Press: Christchurch), 1995.
  • M. Orbell, "Traditional Maori Stories (Reed Publishing: Auckland), 1992.
  • A.W. Reed, "Reed book of Maori Mythology" (Reed Publishing: Auckland), 2004.
  • A.W. Reed, Treasury of Maori Folklore (A.H. & A.W. Reed:Wellington), 1963.

 External links

In many cases, The Taniwhas are described as being lizardlike and in some specific instances the term can be understood to mean the Indopacific or "Saltie" crocodile, which occasionally wanders down as far as the North Island. On the other hand, many accounts insist the animal is as big as a whale and it seems that Giant Great White sharks are included in this category, as well as what must be some truly enormous crocodiles (see illustration below). One specific meaning is also pretty well identified: the name applies to the local version of the "Whale-Eater" or "Dr Shucker's Leviathan" pictured at left.

Other reports seem to refer to something pretty definitely much like the Komodo dragon in size and shape, and it is noted for the habit of sticking out its tongue (The Komodo dragon uses this for tracking things by scent in the same way as snakes do, by carrying dust particles to the Jacobson's organs in the roof of its mouth)

Tattoo Version

I had mentioned before that some of the rock-art Taniwhas appear to be Plesiosaurs. Here are a couple of others. The long neck is exaggerated into doing corkscrew turns as above, and the oddly enlarged "Head" on the version shown on the stamp seems to be showing the same loops" The eye is not the big circle but one of the smaller circles nearer to the mouth-the big circle appears to mean a loop of the neck on the stamp version, much the same as the more elaborate one above. This is probably meant to show typical seaserpent "Humps" and the effect is oddly like the Spicer's description of the Loch Ness Monster.

It also seems true that using Taniwha to mean generally reptillian monsters, usually sea monsters, but also great sharks, is the same usage you get in the Philippines and possibly throughout all of the Malayo-Polynesian languages generally if sporadically. I gather the usage for the Malagassy "Tompandrano" is also the same.

Some commentators have noted that some of the representations of lizardlike Taniwhas (Mananias) seem to be upright walking humanoid creatures, hence Reptoids. And an additional Maori legendary creature is the Marakai-Hau, described as a gigantic merman with two extra-lathe tusks or fangs, or "Tubes" coming out of its mouth. It has been postulated that this myth commemorates a past knowledge of the Walrus whren the Maori had contact with more Northerly waters and Thor Heyerdahl quotes the legend in that sense when he makes mention of it in the book American Indians in the Pacific.It could however mean a sort of native walrus, or even possibly a tusked whale.

Best Wishes, Dale D.


  1. Taniwhas are spirtual and resemble eels they live on the bends of rivers, (just some info for you)

  2. Not Only that according to the information given above. You may have told the truth of the matter, but according to other sources that is not the whole truth


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