Pūrākau (Māori myths and legends)
Where can I find information about Māori myths and legends?
Entry last updated: 14/04/21
Māori myths and legends run through all aspects of life in Aotearoa, from the creation of people to elements of the natural world such as the sea, sky, weather and the land itself. There are many stories about ngā atua (the gods) and creatures of mythology such as the taniwha and the patupaiarehe.
Māori myths and legends formed part of an oral history that was passed down through generations. They touched on areas of history, culture , science and society of Aotearoa New Zealand. These websites are great places to find out more about them.
Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we scroll down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.
There are many different places to look for information on this site.
- Look for the Sections area and choose Māori New Zealanders .
- Now choose Origins and Arrivals.
- There is some great info here about First people in Māori tradition, Māori creation traditions , and Hawaiki .
There are many Māori myths and legends about the natural world too, like the legends of Ranginui and Papatūānuku .
- Have a look at the Section on Earth, Sea and Sky .
- Now, choose Astronomy.
- Find the story about Ranginui – the sky.
Because Papatūānuku is the earth, information about her is in a different area.
- Find the Section called The Bush .
- Now choose Landscapes.
- Look for the link to Papatūānuku – the land.
There’s a lot more under the heading The Bush too!
- Go to Understanding the Natural World .
- There is different information here about our natural world, including topics like the Taniwha, Patupaiarehe , Te Waonui a Tāne – forest mythology , and Te Ao Mārama – the natural world .
To find Māori myths and legends about Tāwhirimātea - the weather:
- Go back to the Section Earth, Sea and Sky .
- Now choose Climate and Atmosphere.
- Then click on Tāwhirimātea - the weather.
If you are interested in myths about the ocean you can try a different section.
- Find the Section called Earth, Sea and Sky .
- Now go to Ocean Study and Conservation.
- Then choose Tangaroa - the sea.
And for myths about the land, a slightly different place again.
- This is still in the Section called Earth, Sea and Sky .
- Select Geology.
- Now choose Whenua - how the land was shaped.
Tips: Many web pages have links to further information or to other recommended sites. Following these links is a great way to find out more. This searching method is called “pearl growing” because you are picking up pieces of sand to make a beautiful pearl!
Topic Explorer (National Library of New Zealand)
Topic Explorer is an online tool from the National Library of New Zealand. It contains a wide range of quality resources for students in a range of formats, (like articles, books, images, videos, primary sources and websites) on a variety of topics. These resources have been selected from reliable national and international sources.
- Scroll down to find the link to Pūrākau (Māori Myths and Legends) .
- Also check out the link to Matariki, which has specific information about the myths and legends surrounding Matariki .
Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.
This site is from Te Tāhuhu O Te Mātauranga - the Ministry of Education. It has heaps of great information about Māori culture.
- Go to the link called Support Materials on the side of the page, and then select Te Reo Māori .
- This will open up more options down the side of the page under the Te Reo Māori heading, including a link to Māori Myths, Legends and Contemporary Stories (these stories have either been written or retold by Wiremu Grace and you can view them in either Māori or English).
- Explore the different headings down the side of the page, under Māori Myths, Legends and Contemporary Stories. There’s heaps to discover!
Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are.
Sound & video
These sites have videos and sound recordings of Māori myths, legends, and stories.
Māori Television connects New Zealanders with Māori language and culture by showing a range of programmes. It has a couple of programmes in te reo Māori about pūrākau.
- Select Tamariki.
- Look for Animated shows.
- Pūrākau is a show that tells stories from Māori myth and legend.
- He Paki Taonga i a Māui takes a taonga (treasure) from Te Papa Museum and tells the story about it and why it is special.
Funded by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision's collection has film and television, radio and sound recordings, and more from over 120 years of New Zealand’s history.
- Search the Catalogue + Website for 'Tales from Māori myth and legend'.
- This will bring up results from a children's radio show that tells Māori legends.
- Select Episode 3 to hear the Māori legend of the underworld.
- Choose Episodes 5 and 6 to hear the legend of the Pleiades constellation and Matariki.
Many public libraries around New Zealand have made book lists about Māori myths and legends. Some focus on mythology local to their area, so ask at your local library to see what resources the librarians there have already made.
Here are some titles on Pūrākau in general and some that have connections to local areas:
- The green fish of Ngahue by Ron Bacon and Mary Taylor
- The taniwha of Wellington Harbour by Moira Wairama and Bruce Potter
- Myths and legends of Aotearoa: 15 timeless tales of New Zealand retold by Annie Rae Te Ake Ake
- Māui and other Māori legends: 8 classic tales of Aotearoa by Peter Gossage
- The battle of Kupe and Te Wheke: a Māori tale by Leonie Agnew.
SCIS no: 1832453