Te Arawa iwi (tribal) mythology tells of the ogress Kurangaituku who has the body of a woman with the head and wings of a bird. A fleet-footed, strong, flying giant, she inhabited the forest depths where she survived by catching birds with her beak-like lips. Most of these she ate but some were kept as pets.

The story of Kurangaituku begins when the Te Arawa legendary dwarf hero, Hatupatu, after falling out with his older brothers during a hunting expedition disappears into the forest and becomes disorientated. He surprises the bird woman hunting and flees. Kurangaituku with her superior size and speed easily captures him and he becomes her slave. Hatupatu, intent on escape bides his time. To detain Hatupatu, Kurangaituku always blocks her cave entrance when she leaves. Hatupatu however is able to recite a karakia (incantation) to open the entrance. This he eventually does when the bird woman is out hunting and makes his escape, but only after killing, in spite, all the pet birds except one, a Riroriro (Grey Warbler), who flies to Kurangaituku and tells her of his treachery.

Even though Hatupatu has a big start, Kurangaituku, wanting revenge, recites an incantation, which enables her to step over mountains and she quickly draws close crying, “I’ll catch you, I’ll catch you”, After much maneuvering and trick playing, Hatupatu, heading towards his home at Mokoio Island leads the bird woman into the hot springs of Whakarewarewa. He is able to leap over the hot pools but Kurangaituku with her great bulk cannot and is scalded to death after accidentally falling into a boiling pool.


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