The Mauriora or Little Gods, Whom Joe Must Guard

Added by George P.Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

"Maybe I can't put it in the proper words," he says finally.

He bows his head.

"I was told about it, taught about it, for a long time before I met it. I was prepared, and aue! there isn't time to prepare you. I think it best to say it bluntly. I guard a stone that was brought on one the great canoes. I guard the canoe itself. I guard the little god that came with the canoe. The god broods over the mauriora, for it is what the stone is home to, but the mauri is distinct and great beyond the little god... the canoe rots under them both... aie, he is a little god, no-one worships him any longer. But he hasn't died yet. He has his hunger and his memories and his care to keep him tenuously alive. If you decide to go, he will be all there is left as a watcher, as a guardian."

The old voice limps and stutters. The kaumatua does not look. There is a shudder running constantly through him now.

Sweet Jesus Christ alive! You'd better humour him Ngakau, but he's mad! Watching for sixty years over a canoe. A mauriora! a little god! Doesn't he know the museums are full of them.

But like an unseen current, there's a darker thought -- Maybe a priestly canoe? A live god? A live mauriora?

"What can I say? What do I do? I've seen them in museums, Tiaki. Pierced stones and old wooden sticks where the gods were supposed to live. Where the vital part of a thing was supposed to rest. But aren't they temporary? And can't they look after themselves?"

The old man mumbles, "Not this one... it is the heart of this country. The heart of this land" (Keri Hulme, The Bone People, NY, Penguin, 1986, pp.363-64).

Main Overview New Zealand Once Were Warriors

Last Modified: 15 March, 2002