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In Maori mythology, the progenitor of humanity was Tāne, a child of Father Sky and Mother Earth. In the more popular version of the tale, Tāne - desiring a mate - created the first woman using the soil of Kurawaka. Her name is Hineahuone, and together they had a daughter, Hinetītama.

However, Tāne married Hinetītama without the latter knowing his identity. When she finally found out, she fled in disgust to the underworld, becoming the goddess of death, Hinenuitepō. There she waits for her children to join her in after life. This is said to be the start of death for humans.

But why would Tāne marry his own daughter? How is it that Hinetītama did not know she was marrying her own father? Was her mother Hineahuone not around to tell her?


Excerpt from Hinetītama's origin story:

Tanematua took her as a wife and in the Aonui month of the Orongonui season (Pipiri) she gave birth to Hinerauwharangi. After a while Hinetitama, watching her child with her husband, became curious as to who her father was, for she had no recollection of her father. She pondered on this for a few months and then asked Tanematua. He evasively referred her to the posts of her mother's house.

A great dread came over Hinetitama as she began to suspect the truth and asked a second time. Tanematua did not reply, but made an unmistakable gesture. Hinetitama, so shocked, told Tanematua that she could not continue in the world of light but would seek the protection of her grandmother, Papatuanuku and would retire to the lower world.

Her reply epitomised her grief and abandonment, "The path of Tahekeroa to the lower world shall be layed down for all time. From the Muriwaihou I will look up to you and our offspring moving in the world."

-- Korero o Nehera

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I think it's just who he was. Here is an excerpt of his description in A Concise Encyclopedia of Maori Myth and Legend:

Since the word tāne ordinarily means 'male, husband, lover,' Tāne's name is a personification, Male. In the myths relating to him, male energy is presented as having shaped the world and created the life forms that belong to the land. Every human man - every tāne - who fathered a child was re-enacting the occasion on which Tāne, having obtained a wife, fathered the first of his children.

He married women because that was the essence of who he was. This is probably also the legend that taught the Maori not to commit incest - in order to teach a lesson, you need to have a story that says why it's a bad idea; marry your daughter, and she will become the Goddess of the Underworld!

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1. Why did Tane Mahuta marry his own daughter?

He did not intend to marry her in the first place. His concerns for his daughter made him choose a path, which according to him, was ideal. He accepted a suggestion from a fellow god and utilized it.

(emphasis mine)

One day he (Tane Mahuta) called his brothers and said, "When my daughter, Hinetitama grows up, who will she marry?"

The gods looked at each other.

"Why don’t you make her a husband out of earth?" said Tu Matauenga, the god of war.

"Choose one of us," sighed Tawhiri Matea, the god of the wind.

"Marry her yourself," thundered Tangaroa, god of the Sea.

"It’s your problem," they shouted,"Leave us out of it," and they departed.

So Tane Mahuta changed his form and became a simple man. When Hinetitama saw him she fell in love with him and became his wife. She was very happy. Children were born. Hinetitama was very busy.

source: Maori Myths Examples

From a realistic perspective, (I think) Tane wanted the best for his daughter. He loved her very much and was proud of her. So, having the idea planted in his mind (courtesy of Tangaroa), he thought that would work out well. Because, he could keep a close eye on her and remain proud of her.


2. How is it that Hinetītama did not know she was marrying her own father?

From the above extract (emphasis mine),

So Tane Mahuta changed his form and became a simple man. When Hinetitama saw him she fell in love with him and became his wife.

Since Tane Mahuta changed his entire form, it made him unrecognizable to his daughter. Hence, she purely didn't know that her husband was also her father.


3. Was her mother Hineahuone not around to tell her?

I'm not sure about this part. While speaking of the relationship between Tane and Hinetitama, there is no mention of Hineahuone. So if I were to answer this question, it would be just pure speculation.

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  • Thanks, that's an informative quote, and explains (2). But I don't think it answers (1), since it just says it's a suggestion from Tangaroa without explaining why Tane chose to follow it. – Semaphore May 1 '15 at 14:42
  • @Semaphore check chat :) – Ero Sɘnnin May 1 '15 at 14:52
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He was the only male form about until.... Tumatauenga married Hine-ahu-one creating Tiki as Tane's off spring, as they were all female. Short version Tiki was created to kill the off spring of Tane....but Tiki got other ideas...

Hine Titama becoming Hine Nui-I-Te-Po the lady of the night is not a goddess and neither are any children of Rangi and Papa.... Hine Nui-I-Te-Po is like the ferry man in the Greek mythology...carrying her children from Te Ao too Te Po and she was never evil.

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  • Hello and welcome to Mythology and Folklore! Interesting start, but is it possible to elaborate a little further? – Tom Sol Mar 28 at 12:21
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    In particular can you elaborate on this part? "Tiki was created to kill the off spring of Tane....but Tiki got other ideas... " I'm very intersted to find out more! – Semaphore Mar 28 at 16:09

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