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The Eyes of Stone

14 August 2014

The stone people on Kaiwhakapiripiri ridge are mute testament to the power wielded by the sorcerer Taewha in ancient times. The story has been told before of how with a wave of his hand living flesh was turned to stone and of how that unfortunate family still stand there today, cold and resolute against the elements.

Here is a story about Taewha and the ‘Eyes of Stone’ that like the people of Kaiwhakapiripiri ridge remain with us today.

Kaikōpu was an eel and a favoured pet of the sorcerer Taewha. Kaikōpu lived in the river that flows around the base of the fortress Hakikino and that is still known today as Kaikōpu. Taewha would often come down from the sorcery school at Paewhenua to feed his pet by hand but over time his visits became less and less.

Knowing that this particular eel was favoured by Taewha, the people were careful to avoid setting their nets and traps in that part of the river where Kaikōpu lived.

Kaikōpu continued to grow as did his appetite and he would range up and down the river. This was of great concern to the people: he would take food from their traps and they now had to go further afield to set their nets. Soon he was longer than the largest of the people’s canoes; of huge and frightening aspect with enormous, golden, full moon eyes.

With food becoming scarce it did not take Kaikōpu long to turn his attention to a much more available source. Children, swimming and playing or women fetching water and when they no longer came, the canoes were easily overturned. The people were terrified but did not raise a finger against Kaikōpu as they feared the wrath of the sorcerer Taewha more.

Finally, it was decided that one of them would travel to the school of sorcery at Paewhenua to petition Taewha to return and deal to Kaikōpu. Taewha advised the messenger that they should not touch his pet and that he would return as soon as possible to fix the problem.

For these great sorcerers time passes differently and it would be two years before Taewha came down from Paewhenua. In the meantime, Kaikōpu continued to terrorize the people and had taken to leaving the water and ranging across the land. The people withdrew to Hakikino relying upon the steep sides of the fortress to keep Kaikōpu at bay. From here they would rain down boulders and stones upon the ravenous golden eyed monster.

Eventually Taewha came down from Paewhenua and noted the devastation of the land. Large trees lay splintered and broken and the villages along the river were scattered and in ruin. Taewha went to that part of the river where he used to feed his pet and called to him. Kaikōpu had long since forgotten his master and viewed Taewha as nothing more than another morsel to feed his never ending hunger.

Taewha was stunned as this colossal mammoth reared up out of the water with mouth open wide and came crushing down upon him, but Taewha’s reputation as a formidable sorcerer was not without justification and he reacted quickly and the most fearsome battle ensued.

The people atop Hakikino witnessed the power of Taewha as he grew to be as large as Kaikopu. He seized Kaikōpu by the by the throat. The thrashing about of Kaikōpu caused the land to shake and it is said that Kaikōpu’s tail lashed the Kaiwhakapiripiri ridge opening the divide that emptied the huge lake on the western side.

Kaikōpu lay spent and beaten at Taewha’s feet. He would soon join the stone people but Taewha looked upon his pet with sadness and could not bring himself to kill him. Instead, he reached out and touched each of Kaikōpu’s huge golden eyes. The golden brightness began to fade replaced by hardening grey stone and they fell from the body of Kaikōpu.

Kaikopu slithered away back in to the river, no longer able to see but he would live on through his children, the blind eels that are now sought after and eaten with much relish by the people.

What of the eyes of Kaikōpu?

One was washed down the river and may be seen close to the native plant nursery and the other was discovered recently at the site where the battle took place and has been moved to look upon visitors as they approach the Tumapuhia Platform.

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