Maori Miths

Papatūānuku and Ranginui in the Māori creation story

The Māori creation story begins in darkness. In the traditional story, Papatūānuku (Mother Earth) and Ranginui (Father Sky) came into being in darkness (Te Pō) and embraced each other tightly. They had many children who were kept among them without light. The children grew up and wondered about life beyond the darkness. Soon, the boys were men. They wondered what it would be like to live in the light.

Tūmatauenga, the god of war and human activity, was the fiercest of all the sons. "Let's kill them!" he said. But the other children didn't want to kill their parents. Tāne Mahuta, the god of forests and birds, had an idea.

“We can separate them,” he said. "Ranginui will be in the sky above us, and Papatūānuku will be below us. She will be close."

One by one, the children tried to separate their parents. Rongomātāne, the god of cultivated food, tried to separate his parents. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't. Tangaroa, the god of the sea, and Haumiatiketike, the god of wild food, joined him. They all pushed hard, but their parents just didn't give up.

Eventually, Tāne Mahuta (Tāne) tried. He placed his shoulders on his mother and his feet on his father. He pushed.

Rangi and Papa shouted. "Why are you doing this?" they asked. "Please don't separate us!" But Tāne kept pushing and eventually they were separated. Her children were excited to have light to see and space to move around. All of his children were excited except one.

Tāwhirimātea, the wind god, was angry at the separation. He hated seeing his parents in pain and swore that his siblings would forever have to deal with his anger. He flew to heaven to be with his father. From then on, he fought his brothers with wind, storms, clouds, rain, fog and mist. He destroyed the trees and plants of Tāne. He made the waters of Tangaroa rise and filled them with enormous waves and whirlpools. The fish were frightened and the reptiles fled into the forest.

He didn't stop there. He pursued Rongomātāne and Haumiatiketike. They were so scared that they ran to Dad. She pulled them underground so that Tāwhirimātea could not find them. The plants and grasses that grow have hairs sticking out of the ground as they hide.

Finally, Tūmatauenga, the god of war and human activity, confronted Tāwhirimātea. They fought, but neither could defeat the other. Still, to this day, humans cannot defeat the climate. Tūmatauenga forgave his brothers for not standing up to Tāwhirimātea. Rangi and Papa still miss each other.

The rain is said to be Ranginui's tears as he mourns his lost love and the mist that sometimes rises from the earth are Papa's mournful sighs as she too mourns his loss.

Māori have strong links with Papatūānuku, Ranginui and their children who became atua, or guardians. Many tikanga practices are related to respect and care for your kingdom in the world.

We have a selection of teaching resources that you can use with your primary school students to help them learn all about Rangi and Papa and the Māori Creation Story. We have a range of lovely resources, from PowerPoints to story sequence cards and writing frames, to get children lost in the traditional story.

Children of Papatūānuku and Ranginui

The children of Papatūānuku and Ranginui are:

      Tāne-mahuta - God of forests and birds

      Tāwhirimatea - God of weather

      Haumia-tiketike - God of uncultivated food

      Rongomātane - God of cultivated plants

      Tangaroa - God of the sea

      Tūmatauenga - God of war and hunting

      Rūaumoko – God of earthquakes and underground forces

      Rehua - Star God with the power to heal