The Golden Kōwhai – A Folk Tale of the Maori People
An Māori Folktale
This story comes from the Ualarai culture, an indigenous people (otherwise known as Aborigines) who originated from the New South Wales area of Australia. The elders would use this story to explain why the birds traveled and fed in flocks, rather than singly. Tales like this are often told to explain why things are the way they are.
Adapted from the children’s international cookbook, The Cultured Chef by Nicholas Beatty. Read by Pamela Atherton
Sophora microphylla, known as Kōwhai (meaning “yellow” in Māori) is a small tree with bright yellow flowers that is commonly found in most parts of New Zealand. This story explains how the tree came to be.
Many years ago, before the Europeans came to New Zealand, a young couple sat beneath a tree bare of leaves or flowers. It was clear the two were in love – they had spent every moment together for weeks. And, now it was time for the young man to ask the young lady for her hand in marriage. But, her answer surprised him.
“I can only marry a man who can perform great and unexplained miracles,” she said. The young man was stunned for a moment. “You shall see what I can do,” he said simply.
With no motion at all, he spoke ancient and mysterious words aloud. For a second the two starred at one another, saying nothing. Then with a wink of his eye, he stood to his feet and commanded, “Great dormant tree, I command you to flower before our eyes!” With that, the tree erupted into a great, wild mass of golden flowers. The young girl had no choice but to say yes.