Rata and the Tree/Rata me te Rākau

A plot summary of the legend of Rata and the Tree, as well as links to the full story and classroom activities.

Story summary

A young man named Rata decides to build a waka to help his people sail across the sea to the Fish of Māui, because their village is constantly battered by storms. He finds the tallest, straightest tree in the forest for the waka, but forgets to offer prayers to Tāne, the god of the forest, before cutting the tree down. The children of Tāne are outraged and decide to teach him a lesson.

When Rata returns for the tree the next day, it is standing upright. He is puzzled, but again chops down the tree – and again returns to find the tree is upright. So he cuts down the tree a third time. He then returns at night to watch what happens, and sees all the insects and birds putting the tree back together. Rata asks, "What do you think you are doing?" They tell him he has disrespected Tāne by not offering prayers.

Rata is ashamed of his actions and asks for forgiveness. The children of Tāne decide not to punish Rata, because he is trying to help his village, and the next day carry the gift of a hollowed-out waka to Rata's village. Rata then becomes a respected leader in the community.

Updated 28 Jun 2017