Tanemahuta, guardian of the forest noticed that his children the trees were
starting to sicken, because they were being eaten by insects. He discussed this
with his brother, Tanehokahoka, the guardian of the birds of the air, and
Tanehokahoka called his children together so that Tanemahuta could speak to
Tanemahuta told the birds that he needed one of them to come down from their treetops and live on the forest floor, to eat the insects and protect his tree-children.
But not one bird
So Tanehokahoka asked
each bird in turn. He asked the Tui, but Tui was afraid of the dark.
Pukeko didn't want to get his feet damp, and Pipiwharauroa was too
busy building his nest.
saddened, because if no bird would agree to protect the children of
Tanemahuta, then the birds themselves, the children of Tanehokahoka,
would be homeless when the insects had eaten the trees.
At last Tanehokahoka
turned to the Kiwi.
"E Kiwi," he asked,
"Will you come down from the treetops and live on the forest floor
to protect the children of Tanemahuta?"
The kiwi looked at the
sun filtering through the leaves, and at the dark, damp forest
floor. He thought a while.
"I will," he said.
Tanemahuta were overjoyed, for the selfless kiwi was giving them
hope for the forests and the birds, but Tanemahuta was a fair
creature, and he felt he should warn Kiwi of the consequences of his
"E kiwi," he said, "I
must tell you that if you do this, you will need to grow thick,
strong legs to rip the logs on the forest floor apart. Your fine
coloured feathers and your wings will be lost to you, so that you
will never be able to return to the treetops again. If you do this,
you will always dwell in darkness away from the light of day. E
kiwi, knowing all this, will you still come down and protect my
Kiwi took a final look at the sun filtering through the leaves, at the other birds, their wings and their coloured feathers and to all these things he said a sad, silent goodbye. Then he turned to Tanehokahoka and Tanemahuta, and again said, "I will."
This agreed, Tanehokahoka dealt with the other birds. He told Tui that because he was afraid to come down into the dark he would wear the two white feathers of a coward at his throat forever. Pukeko, for his hatred of the damp, was doomed to walk in the swamps from that day forward, and Pipiwharauroa, who had been too concerned with his nest, Tanehokahoka decreed would ever after be a vagrant, laying his eggs in the nests of other birds.
But the noble Kiwi, he said, who sacrificed his way of living and his wings for the good of the forest, would be loved and revered for the rest of time.
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