How Tahaki Lost His red SkinIn Mangareva more is told of great Tahaki, the grandfather of Rata. His journey to below is made again. There are women who desire him, when he shines; but Tahaki resplendent leaves Nua weeping on the shore, and ascends to the heavens. There he remains.
Tahaki was of this land Mangareva. His father Hema lived at Ngaheata. Punga the father of Karihi lived at Rikitea, on the far side of the land. Tahaki and Karihi were of natures unalike because of something which their fathers did when young. It was this:
One day the mother of Punga and Hema asked them to pick her head for lice. They did so, and Punga caught a black louse of the common sort, but Hema caught a red louse. When their mother said, ‘Now eat your lice,’ Hema obeyed his mother, but Punga would not. Because of his obedience Hema’s son was born with a ruddy skin, which gave him beauty in the land; but Karihi his elder cousin had only a common, dark-hued skin.
Nua naheo was Punga’s daughter, and Tahaki desired her. It was his custom to go to her in secret in the night, and go home before the sun came up.
Now all the land had heard about Tahaki’s ruddy skin, and when word got out that he went to Nua naheo at night, those Rikitea people made a plot to catch him in her house; for they very much desired to see that kirikura.
They said to Nua, ‘We would like to see your lover’s red skin.’ And Nua, greatly pleased, agreed to do what they suggested. They therefore stopped up all the chinks and crevices in Nua’s house so that Tahaki should not know when daylight came.
Tahaki came that night, and was with Nua. Toward the day he heard the first cry of the karako, the bird that wakes us in the mornings in this land. ‘Hear that,’ he said. ‘The herald of the dawn. Night’s candles are burned out.’ He roused himself; but Nua said, ‘Must you be gone? It is not yet near day. Believe me, love, here at Rikitea those birds call out in the middle of the night.’ Tahaki therefore stayed; he rested yet in Nua’s arms.
The karako cried again, and great Tahaki stirred, but Nua said, ‘It cannot be dawn, for see how dark the house remains.’
But the birds cried more. Tahaki rose; and when the chief slid back the door he found the sun was shining on the sea, and all the Rikitea people lined up by the path from Nua’s house. Thus Tahaki naked left that house before their eyes. With pride but not with boasting did Tahaki walk between them. He had indeed a skin of gorgeous hue, with auburn hair as well; and great was the stature, great the glory, of that red chief.
After this there was jealousy in Punga’s village, that a man of Ngaheata should so surpass them all in handsomeness. They therefore resolved to get Tahaki’s skin, they made a plot to take it from that chief and make him common. And low Karihi, out of envy of his cousin, joined that plot, he schemed with Punga and the Rikitea people.
At the edge of the lagoon-shelf, where the water becomes blue, they built a diving-platform, high and strong, and they sent out word to all the land that there would be a diving festival.
‘I would like to be in that,’ said great Tahaki to his mother Huauri when he heard this news, and Huauri did her best to put him off.
‘It is a plot against you because of your beauty, O my son, ’ that mother said. ‘They will steal your handsome skin, those Rikitea people.’