How the Kiwi Lost It’s Wings


How the Kiwi Lost It’s Wings

One day Tanemahuta, the god of the forest, rounds up all of the birds and says that there are too many bugs on the floor of the forest eating the trees. If one of the birds doesn’t go down to eat all of the bugs, the trees will all be killed and the birds will have nowhere to build their nests. First he asks the Tui, but the Tui says that he’s too afraid of the dark on the forest floor. So Tanemahuta brands him as a coward with a white scarf (white tuft) around his neck. Then he asks Pukeko “will you come down to the forest floor.” And Pukeko says “no the mud is too rough and it will hurt my feet.” So Tanemahuta curses Pukeko so that he now lives in swamps. Then he asks Pipiwharauroa, who says, “no I can’t, I’m building a nest.” And then he curses Pipiwharauroa so that he can never build a nest again. Then he asks the kiwi. And Kiwi knows that somebody has to do it, so he will. So then he grows thick legs, and a long beak to put in the mud and to get rid of his beautiful feathers for ugly brown ones. And then Tanemahuta rewards the kiwi by making him the most beloved bird in the world.


Informant & Context:

My informant for this piece is a USC student from New Zealand who lived in Auckland for 18 years. The story she is telling is a Maui origin story about how the Kiwi lost its wings and became the bird of New Zealand. A more complete version of the story can be found here:



This is a very interesting story about an act of selflessness. It is interesting to me, not only because I do not have anything similar to say about the bald eagle and how it became the symbol of America, but also because the story originates from the aboriginal Maui people of New Zealand. My informant is a white New Zealander, who is not part of that group, however she called this a traditional New Zealand story—implying that all of New Zealand culture is shared.