The Six Brothers
Maoriland Fairy Tales
*Audio file at the end
In the beginning, so the ancient stories say the land was dark. No light ever shone upon its surface, for Rangi, Master-of-the-Sky, hung low over Papa, the earth. In Papa’s garden, which was the land, no flowers grew, nor trees; nothing but strange half-grown plants whose leaves were flattened as they pressed against great Rangi’s arms.
For the sake of being together, Sky-father and Earth-mother forgot to care for the growth of flowers and trees, and even for the lives of their own children.
In the low dark garden lived six sons, knowing nothing of the light, but wondering much what lay outside, and longing, as they grew, to stretch themselves and stand upright.
Once Rangi lifted up his arms, and for a radiant moment the light streamed in.
“Oh, what is that?” the brothers asked. It is nothing but the light,” said Rangi. He dropped his arms again and darkness fell.
“But it was beautiful!” cried Tan6, the eldest of the brothers. “Lift your arms again, Rangi. Let us look at this wonderful thing you call light.”
“No, no,” cried Rangi;” be contented as you are.”
But the brothers were no longer contented. They began to make plans for letting in the light.
“Our home would grow beautiful,” said Tane; “and besides, we could see to move about.”
“If Rangi would but move and give us room we could stand upright,” said Tu, the next in age.
“Let us ask him!” said the rest. They begged Rangi to give them light and room, but he would not move. “No,” he said, “I am happy here. My place is near the Earth-mother.” Many times they asked, but each time he refused.
The brothers grew angry. ” Kill him,” said
Tu, who was the fiercest. ” Push him up,” said Tane. ” Leave him alone,” said Tawhiri.
For a long time they argued. At last they decided that each brother should try to push him up out of the way.
“I will try first,” said Rongo. He pushed with all his strength, but he could not move the great Rangi. Haumia tried, and Tangaroa, and Tu, but none of them could move him.
Now Tane put forth all his strength. Pushing with both hands against Rangi’ s mighty chest, he raised him slightly from his resting-place.
“Ah, the Light ! the Light!” cried the brothers.
“Push, Tane, push harder yet.”
Tane pushed, using his feet for greater strength. The light streamed in. Higher and higher rose the helpless Sky-giant.
The Earth-mother wept aloud as Rangi was torn from her. Tane, resting a moment from his labors, heard an answering cry from above.
“Cruel Tane! You have left me on the mountain peaks. They are tearing my sides.” Tane looked up. He had become a giant, had pushed Rangi to the mountain tops, and in his breathing space had left him there to rest upon their jagged peaks.
Quick as thought, he ran across the land and up the mountain sides. Lifting Rangi off, he bound up his wounds; for Tane was not really cruel. He was determined, however. When he returned to his brothers he said: “I shall send him so high that he can never come down again”
He stood on his head and hands. Bending his right knee, he kicked Rangi so far into the heavens that he has had to stay there ever since.
“Now let us make the garden beautiful” said Tane.
Tawhiri said, “I shall not help you. I shall go to Rangi.” For Tawhiri was always jealous of his brothers. He went to Rangi, and lived with him in the sky. The others stayed with the Earth-mother, making her garden beautiful.
Tane said, “I will make trees.” He made trees and bushes, flowers and moths and butterflies, and sweet singing birds. The sunshine fell warmly on the garden, and everything grew. Tane was well pleased.
Rongo made all the food-plants that grow in gardens; Haumia made wild food-plants ; Tan-garoa filled the rivers and lakes and sea with fishes.
“Earth-mother” said Tane,” weep no more for Rangi. Be happy in your garden.”
“I am pleased with your love for me, and all your kindness to me,” said the Earth-mother, “but I cannot cease weeping for Rangi. I think always how cold he must be in the sky, for he is not warmly clad.”
“I will clothe him better,” said Tane. He made a warm wide cloak of glowing red for Rangi. “I will fasten it with stars,” he said.” They are the most beautiful things I have ever seen.”
He went to the Star-goblin. “Give me stars for Rangi’s cloak,” he begged.
The Star-goblin said, “They lie on a mountain at the end of the sky. You must take a long and dangerous journey to reach them.”
“I will go,” said Tane.
It was indeed a long and dangerous journey, but Tan6 was not afraid. He strode gaily over the mountain tops and through the wild dark lands of night, coming at last to the mountain at the end of the sky. Here he found the gleaming stars piled above the precipices. He gathered a number of the largest and brightest, and took them back with him.
He stood on the mountain peaks and set the stars in the cloak. But he found that in the sunshine they did not show. So he made a dark cloak for night-time, and placed them in that. There they shone brilliantly.
The Earth-mother smiled, well pleased. Still, she was not quite happy about Rangi. She said, “I am afraid lest he should fall from that great height and be hurt.”
“I can prevent that,” said Tane. He made soft cloud pillars. With these he propped up Rangi that he should not fall.
So in his kindly way Tane did what he could for Rangi and the Earth-mother. But these two have never recovered from the sorrow of their parting. Often in the night Rangi’s tears fall upon the Earth-mother’s garden ; men, seeing these tears, call them dew. He looks fondly down upon her from the sun and moon, which are his eyes ; she sends up soft sighs of mist to tell him of her never-dying love. Yet they are not quite separated, for their hands, outstretched, touch each other on the low horizon.
The brothers were at last happy. Only Tawhiri, still jealous, would not be at peace. He made the winds, setting them at opposite corners of his sky-home. One day he called them, together with all the storms and hurricanes, all the rain, hail, and black clouds of the sky. Sweeping down through the air with these terrible helpers, he fell upon Tane’s beautiful trees, beating them to the ground.
Tane was too late to save his trees, but he called to his brothers to warn them that Tawhiri had come. Rongo and Haumia, in their fear, changed themselves into roots and hid in the garden. Tangaroa changed himself into a fish and jumped into the sea. These brothers have lived in those places ever since.
But Tu stood on high land, where Tawhiri’ s floods could not reach him. There he waited for his jealous brother. When Tawhiri came, he fought him and beat him, and made him promise to stay quietly in his sky-home, leaving his
brothers in peace. Tawhiri still sometimes sends his winds to tease his brothers, but he is too much afraid of Tu to work any serious mischief. Tan6 re-planted his trees, and they grew into mighty forests. The garden grows more beautiful every day, for never again can the light be shut out.
Listen to the audio from LibriVox here: