This story of a mythical hero who sought celestial knowledge from his gods is particularly relevant to a university setting. Tāwhaki’s ability to navigate the journey, seek and build strong relationships and his sheer tenacity to keep going until he reached his goal are themes that sit well with the purpose of a university.
Tāwhaki and his brother Karihi set out to find their father. On the way, they meet their sister Pūpūmainono and tell her that this is where they are going. She bids them farewell as they continue on their journey.
Luck, and a lack of knowledge of the right karakia prevent them from crossing the ocean, and after much splashing about but no progress, they return to Pūpūmainono to ask for help.
Next morning they go back to the water’s edge with their sister and Tāwhaki begins to recite karakia.
Pūpūmainono tells her brothers to go now, but not to stand in the hollows of the waves, only above their crests so they can cross the water. She begins to recite her karakia to ensure they have a safe journey.
The brothers cross the oceans and when they arrive on land they find their ancestress Te Ruahinematamorari sitting on her porch and counting “one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine….”.
Te Ruahinematamorari is blind, and the brothers decide to play a trick on her. They begin to remove objects one by one until she realises there is someone there. She scolds whoever is playing tricks on her and demands that they identify themselves.
Tāwhaki places his hands over Te Ruahinematamorari’s eyes and miraculously her sight is returned. She is so grateful that she pulls the spiderwebs down from the heavens and ties them to her throat.
Te Ruahinematamorari tells the brothers to climb the threads to the heavens where they will be taught the karakia of their ancestors and find their father. She warns them to stay true to their purpose and not to climb any threads that are not anchored to the land.
As the brothers start to ascend, Karihi does not heed the warning and falls to his death, so Tāwhaki continues alone, climbing through the heavens, reciting his karakia.
As he climbs, he comes across Tuna the eel who is coming down to earth from the heavens to the pool Muriwai.Tuna teaches Tāwhaki some karakia pertaining to the ceremonial rituals for tohunga.
Tāwhaki continues his climb, spending some time with Te Kāhui Whatu, a group of elders who teach him ancient knowledge and rituals.
Soon he comes to a house that seems to call to him and when he asks about it, he is told it is the house where his father’s bones hang.
Using his newfound knowledge he proceeds to recite karakia and to lead the inhabitants of the house to their demise. Once he has taken revenge for his father’s death, Tāwhaki enters the house and removes the bones.
Tāwhaki’s deeds, his thirst for knowledge and ability to retain and breathe life into the new knowledge impresses Tamaiwaho, an atua who decides to pass his karakia and ancient knowledge to Tāwhaki.
Having achieved the mission of finding his father, Tāwhaki leaves the heavens, bringing with him a wealth of new and ancient knowledge.