Like me you may have grown up listening to stories read from storybooks by your parents. Before books there were storytellers. Many cultures had storytellers; amongst them the Maori. Stories, or myths and legends, played an important role in passing on knowledge from one generation to the next. They were also a form of entertainment which has survived through the ages and across cultures.
Libro International has published a new edition of Favourite Maori Legends, a much-loved edition of legends published in 1965 by that great collector of stories and language, A.W. Reed. Favourite Maori Legends has a RRP of $29.99 which represents exceptional value for a classic collection of over 30 of the most memorable Maori legends.
Favourite Maori Legends has been updated in this new edition of A.W Reed’s 1965 classic. It is almost 50 years on since the original edition and Ross Calman has revised the legends for the more discerning modern reader. Ross is a highly respected author and editor and is justifiably proud of this new edition of a New Zealand classic, “I worked hard to preserve the flow of the original narratives, while modernising the stories and reinstating some of the Maori language from the original sources.”
Favourite Maori Legends is a soft cover. I’ve never made my mind up as to my preference – hard cover versus soft cover. But this is a beautiful edition, a book that should grace every bookcase in New Zealand. It would also make a great gift for those countless thousands of kiwis who now live overseas. The illustrations by Roger Hart are stunning, simple black and white drawings that evoke the times the legends date from. But it is the stories themselves that will draw you into this book. Some of them will be familiar; some may be new to you. But they all take me back to nights spent in the lounge listening to my parents as they read from the well-worn pages of my favourite storybooks. Reading these legends I can well imagine family gatherings huddled around a fire as a storyteller retold the legends of their people.
The stories are grouped together in 5 sections – legends of the spirit world, ghosts, taniwha, supernatural creatures, and heroes and deeds of daring. A feature of the book is the glossary, not an extensive course in te reo but an explanation of many of the words that feature in the legends. Not that you will require a knowledge of te reo to enjoy the stories, the stories paint such vivid pictures that you will be carried along with them.
I enjoyed the foreword from the original 1965 edition. A.W. Reed concludes his foreword with the following paragraph.
The legends were famous in their day. Over the years they have to a large extent been forgotten, but they should not be lost to the present and future people of Aotearoa. As we become more conscious of the contribution that Maori culture should make to our common heritage, we believe that they will again become favourite legends.
Surely as relevant today as it was when it was written nearly 50 years ago.
Favourite Maori Legends by A.W. Reed is revised by Ross Calman in this edition published by Libro International. Favourite Maori Legends has a RRP of $29.99 and is available in all good bookstores now.
Gordon Crombie for the book show on Radio Southland 96.4FM leaving you with these words from Ross Calman.
Beyond entertainment, storytelling was an important means of transmitting history, whakapapa and other knowledge. Early missionaries were staggered at the ability of Maori to memorise and retain information, which was due to this oral tradition.
I hope you can accompany me in enjoying the stories within this volume and the window they give on to the traditional Maori world.