Folk­lore are trea­sure a trove of knowl­edge. They not only tell a lot about the think­ing of  ear­lier gen­er­a­tions but also about their bond­ing with the ele­ments of earth. Some­times they carry a mes­sage which would have tran­scended sev­eral gen­er­a­tions. Here is one of those sto­ries from the land of Kiwis.

The kiwi’s ances­tor helped Tane-mahuta save his chil­dren, the trees, which were being eaten by bugs and begin­ning to sicken. All the birds were called together and asked if one would come down from the for­est canopy to live on the for­est floor and help save the trees.

Not a bird spoke, so each one was asked in turn.

Tui refused.  He was afraid of the dark­ness down on the ground, away from the sun.

Pukeko refused.  He found the for­est floor too cold and the earth too damp.

Pipi­wha­rau­roa, the shin­ing cuckoo, also refused. He was too busy build­ing his nest.

But kiwi agreed.  He looked at the sun fil­ter­ing through the high leaves and the damp cold earth, and he looked around and saw his fam­ily.  And still he agreed.

Tane-mahuta was filled with joy, for this lit­tle bird gave him hope, but he felt he should warn kiwi of what lay ahead.

E kiwi, do you realise you will have to grow thick, strong legs so that you can rip apart logs on the ground.  That you will loose your beau­ti­ful coloured feath­ers and wings so that you will never be able to return to the for­est roof. You will never see the light of day again.’

Still kiwi agreed.

Since then, tui has worn two white feath­ers at his throat, the mark of a cow­ard. Pukeko has lived for­ever in a swamp, with wet feet. And Pipi­wha­rau­roa has never built another nest – instead the cuckoo always lays her eggs in other birds’ nests.

But because of kiwi’s great sac­ri­fice, he has become the most well-known and most loved bird of all.

Kiwi’s efforts in help­ing Tane-mahuta pro­tect his for­est from insect dam­age dis­play the char­ac­ter traits New Zealan­ders still admire today – integrity, humil­ity, loy­alty, com­mit­ment and courage.

Source: Tane’s eldest child

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