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The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera

The Whale Rider (original 1987; edition 2002)

by Witi Ihimaera

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,1113811,476 (3.85)1 / 125
As her beloved grandfather, chief of the Maori tribe of Whangara, New Zealand, struggles to lead in difficult times and to find a male successor, young Kahu is developing a mysterious relationship with whales, particularly the ancient bull whale whose legendary rider was their ancestor.
Title:The Whale Rider
Authors:Witi Ihimaera
Info:Reed New Zealand (2002), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:other cultures, young adult, fairy tale

Work details

The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera (1987)


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English (37)  French (1)  All languages (38)
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
This story takes place in New Zealand and describes Maori culture. It is about an 8-year-old girl named Kahu who descends from a long line of chiefs that go all the way back to the first chief Paikea. The legend is that Paikea led their people from a distant island to New Zealand on the back of a whale. Kahu's great-grandfather believes that only males can take the position of chief, so he doesn't accept Kahu. She has to prove that she can be the next leader. The story is narrated by Kahu's uncle Rawiri. It also weaves together the ancient legend of Paikea and the perspective of the whales who migrate along the coast and protect Kahu. ( )
  haworthkaren | Jul 2, 2018 |
An utterly wonderful book! It was a window into the Maori culture and their unique relationship with the ocean and the life within the ocean.

This summer I had the fortune to take a ferry from Bella Coola to Port Hardy and saw humpback whales along the way. They are so awesome. It is hard for me to believe that people can hunt and kill these magnificent creatures. I was reminded of Farley Mowat's book "A Whale for the Killing" which details the awful treatment a whale stranded in Newfoundland received. I really hope we have progressed from these horrendous acts but according to this article in Wikipedia whaling is still pursued in many countries, including Canada. ( )
  gypsysmom | Aug 9, 2017 |
I remember the sense of excitement when we went to see The Whale Rider at the movies in 2002. The only other New Zealand film I’d seen was The Piano (1993), which was a great film but not, apart from the scenery, distinctively New Zealand in character because the characters were 19th century pioneers from Britain. The Whale Rider was my first introduction to Māori mythology and customs.

And now, over a decade later, I’ve finally read the book. A novella of 148 pages, The Whale Rider is Witi Ihimaera’s fourth work of fiction, and probably the best known. Like his other books it explores Māori culture in contemporary New Zealand, in this case, the crisis that occurs when the first-born to whom traditions are entrusted turns out to be a girl. However there are significant differences between the book and film, not just in the naming of characters but also in the plot. (Kahu is called Pai in the film). Re-reading the summary at Wikipedia I can see that dramatic tension has been escalated by characterising the girl as more confrontational than she is in the book.

The narration is mostly by Kahu’s older cousin Rawiri, from the generation that sees the wider world beckoning. As a teenager he observes his grandfather Koro’s rejection of Kahu because of her gender, and he admires his feisty grandmother Nanny Flowers who stands up to him. But as a young man he takes off to the bright lights of Sydney and then to labouring work in Papua New Guinea, returning home seven years later only when it is made clear that his mate’s mother doesn’t find him acceptable because of his colour. Rawiri is like a bridge between the generations, recognising that the world is different and some ways in the coastal village of Whangara must change but he is also keen to learn about his traditions and he’s a willing protector of customs. He’s a ‘manly’ man, physically strong and powerful on his motorbike, but even when a teenager he is not afraid to show that he has a tender side and nurtures his much younger cousin. He isn’t torn between his two warring grandparents: he loves and respects them both.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2017/07/03/the-whale-rider-by-witi-ihimaera/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Jul 6, 2017 |
The Whale Rider has been marketed as a children's or young-adult book, and you can see why someone might think that at a cursory glance. There are sentient animals! The main character is a young girl! It has positive messages about environmentalism and gender equality! But there is a lot of depth here, and some very adult issues being grappled with (not to mention quite a bit of bloody death--both animal and human--that I think makes it pretty inappropriate for anyone under a mature 10).
The question of how to embrace tradition--how to preserve one's national and tribal identity--while moving forward with the changing world is at the heart of this story, and one that I think many indigenous peoples face in the modern world. How much do you integrate? How can you take advantage of the benefits of modernity without losing what makes you unique, and without adopting the negative aspects of a colonizing culture?

This review is an excerpt from a longer review which can be found on my blog, Around the World in 2000 Books. ( )
  Dunaganagain | Jun 27, 2017 |
From The Book:
Eight-year-old Kahu, a member of the Maori tribe of Whangara, New Zealand, fights to prove her love, her leadership, and her destiny. Her people claim descent from Kahutia Te Rangi, the legendary "whale rider." In every generation since Kahutia, a male heir has inherited the title of chief. But now there is no male heir, and the aging chief is desperate to find a successor. Kahu is his only great-grandchild--and Maori tradition has no use for a girl. But when hundreds of whales beach themselves and threaten the future of the Maori tribe, it is Kahu who saves the tribe when she reveals that she has the whale rider's ancient gift of communicating with whales.

My Views:
I was an okay book but not something that I would have read if it hadn't met the criteria for a challenge. ( )
  Carol420 | May 15, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Witi Ihimaeraprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kearns, SerenaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Potter, BruceIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Kia hora te marino
Kia whakapa pounamu te moana
Kia tere te karohirohi
I mua i tou huarahi

May the calm be widespread
May the ocean glisten as greenstone
May the shimmer of light
Ever dance across your pathway
For Jessica Kiri and Olivia Ata, the best girls in the whole wide world

He tohu aroha ki a Whangara me nga uri o Paikea.

Thanks also to Julia Keelan, Caroline Haapu and Hekia Parata for their advice and assistance
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In the old days, in the years that have gone before us, the land and sea felt a great emptiness, a yearning.
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Average: (3.85)
1 1
1.5 1
2 11
2.5 7
3 60
3.5 17
4 84
4.5 9
5 65

Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0143011391, 0143503278

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