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Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture

Legend tells the same Story

Legend tells the same Story

(10) Over and above these marks of the subjugation of a large aboriginal population by the immigrants from Polynesia, there are clear traces of it in Maori legend, which turns the primitive tribes encountered into ogres and wizards or into fairies, according as they were formidable or feeble enemies. The wonder-working imagination of the fireside story-teller page 236never fails to add some supernatural or appalling trait to the character of the enemy that has to be met on the mountain or in the forest amid the shades of twilight or in the darkness of night. North Island legend names a dozen or more of such aboriginal peoples, more or less supernaturalised by twilight fancy. Colenso, in his account of the Maoris written in 1868, seems to point in the following to a large pre-Polynesian population, as well as a wider spread of the Maoris: "In repeated travelling in the North Island from Cook Strait to Cape Maria Van Diemen during more than a quarter of a century, and that by bypaths long disused, through forests and over mountains and hilly ranges, the writer has been often astonished at the signs frequently met with of a very numerous ancient population, who once dwelt in places long since desolate and uninhabitedsuch as the number and extent of hill-forts." The forest and mountain folks were feared by the Maoris long after they had been absorbed or had died out. Even yet natives are said to fear "wild men" in the interior.