Rotorua is home to many attractions, much like the attraction of love between Hinemoa and Tutanekai.
This Maori Cultural love story has been told by many and is still to this day one of Rotorua’s most famous love stories.
Hinemoa was the daughter of a great chief who lived on the shores of Rotorua. Her beauty attracted many men that wanted her as a wife. Tutanekai, who lived in the middle of Lake Rotorua on Mokoia Island being one of these men fell madly in love with her. However, his rank in his tribe was not high enough for Hinemoa’s father to allow him to marry her. Tutanekai was determined to win her love so every night sat on a high hill on Mokoia Island and played his flute in hopes that she would hear his love song.
Across the water Hinemoa could hear her lovers flute play. However, so could her father who decided to pull all the canoes high up on the shore so she was unable to get to him. This saddened Hinemoa who was thinking of other ways to get to her love. She wondered if it would be possible to swim across the dark and wide lake to the island.
On a rock by the shore she stood silently. There she left her garments strapping three hollow gourds to either side of her body to keep her afloat as she entered the water and swam towards the sound of Tutanekai’s flute. Using all her strength she finally made it to the shores of Mokoia Island where she stumbled across a hot pool. Trembling with cold from the long swim, Hinemoa entered the hot pool to warm herself.
Out of the darkness a servant appeared to fill a gourd with water for Tutanekai. The startled Hinemoa decided to disguise her voice as a male asking the servant ‘for whom is this water?’ The servant answered, ‘It is for Tutanekai’. Hinemoa then said, ‘Give it to me’ and drunk from the gourd before breaking it into pieces. The servant returned to Tutanekai and explained what had happened to which Tutanekai replied ‘Go back and fetch me some water’. The servant returned once more explaining that a man in the hot pool had broken a second gourd of water. Tutanekai was furious and made his way to the hot pool to confront this man.
Hinemoa heard Tutanekai approaching and hid under the overhanging rocks by the pools edge so that he may not find her easily. After searching, Tutanekai went feeling around the edges of the lake and caught her hand. ‘It is I she said as she sat in the pool from shyness. ‘Who is I’? He proceeded to answer. ‘It is I, Hinemoa’. Tutanekai then said ‘Ah, can this really be’? She rose from the hot pool with all her beauty and answered ‘Yes’. He took her hand covering her with his cloak and led her back to his home.
As the sun rose and the people of the village came out of their homes to get their breakfast. Tutanekai’s father noticed that his son remained inside his home. His father sent a servant to check on Tutanekai to make sure he was not ill. Peeking inside the window the servant saw four feet and returned telling Tutanekai’s father. ‘Who is his companion? Go quickly and see’ his father said.
The servant peeked back through the window and shouted so loud that all of the village heard, ‘Oh! Here is Hinemoa, here is Hinemoa in the house of Tutanekai’!
The village people turned and said, ‘This cannot be true, Tutanekai could not have won the heart of the beautiful Hinemoa’?. But then Tutanekai came out of his home with Hinemoa behind him and the people could see it was true.
Tutanekai and his love song had won the heart of the beautiful Hinemoa.