October 15

Whale Rider

Whale riderThe Aquinas Library has a copy of Whale Rider (the novel) by Witi Ihimaera, as well as a picture book based on the novel –  F IHI, and several copies of the DVD (DVD0049).

Whale Rider, directed by Niki Caro, premiered in 2002. The film has won many international awards. Read a review of the film here. There is more background to the film here.

Where did Maori people come from?

There is no simple answer to this question.  Hawaiki, the legendary home of Maori peoples, is thought to be located in Polynesia. Maoris came to New Zealand (Aotearoa) at separate times, mostly about 1,000 years ago, in sea-going canoes called waka. The stories of their migration vary from tribe to tribe. The tribes followed migratory birds and whales on their journey to a new land. Read more about this fascinating story here.

One tradition tells that Paikea came to New Zealand on the back of a whale. This legend is woven through Witi Ihimaera’s novel, Whale Rider. The story follows Pai, a young Māori girl, who challenges her tradition to claim her birthright and become the leader of her tribe.

Where is the story set?

Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 10.45.44 AMThe movie is located at Whāngārā (pronounced Fa-ng-ara) on the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand.

(Image from Google Maps)

“The legendary voyager Paikea reached Whāngārā after journeying from Hawaiki on the back of a whale. The whale became the rock, Whāngārā Island, at middle right in this image, with its distinctive ‘whale’ shape. A whale also features on the gable of the furthermost red-roofed building, the wharenui (meeting house) Whitirēia.”


(Monty Soutar. ‘East Coast places – Whāngārā to Kaiti’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, 4-Dec-12, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/photograph/33507/whangara)

Read the film maker’s notes about the location here.

Study Guides

There are several study guides which have lots of useful information for students and teachers:

Film Education (plot summary, film’s location, glossary of words, themes)

Media Education (themes, analysis of first and last scene of the film)

South Pacific Pictures resource Kit (synopsis, main scenes, themes, motifs, scene summary)

Pearson Education (background information, culture, analysis of text)

SEE ALSO the page Attitudes, Values and Beliefs within texts to help you answer your exam question.


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