Reference to weapons in ancient times

Monday October 23, 2017 Written by Published in Local
In a battle between Maru-mamao and Kuru, Maru-mamao is said to have struck his foe in the face with a toki (adze). The one depicted is a ceremonial Cook Islands adze. 17102022 In a battle between Maru-mamao and Kuru, Maru-mamao is said to have struck his foe in the face with a toki (adze). The one depicted is a ceremonial Cook Islands adze. 17102022

This is the second in a series of stories provided by the National Museum. It describes a legend relating to the creation of Cook Islands weapons.


The earliest reference in Rarotongan traditions to the variety of clubs used as weapons occurs in the story of Tu-tarangi, an ancestor who lived 33 generations before the ancestor Tangiia of Raiatea.

Tu-tarangi sent his son to fell a tree named Te Ii-matoa-iavaiki to make weapons and ordered the wood be taken to Tane.

Tane, upon receiving the wood, requested a ta’unga carver so Tu-tarangi sent Raurumaoa.

Tane directed Raurumaoa’s work, reciting an incantation to facilitate the splitting of the wood and to give the weapons power (mana).

The wood was made into eight weapons of different types and each was given a proper name.

They were Tokotoko (Ni’oni’o-roroa), Aro (Te Aroaro-rangi), Kounga (Te Pivai-rangi), Mata-Tupa (Te Mata-tua-vere), Rupo (Te Po’opo’o-rangi), Korare (Te Iti-rarerare), Tao (Rau-tiare) and ‘Akatara-kuri (Puapua-inano).

When the weapons were finally smoothed, they were placed in a house next to Tane’s dwelling, named Oro-kete, which contained an altar to the god Rongo-ma-Tane.

After the weapons had been placed in order on the platform, Raurumaoa returned to Tu-tarangi and advised the weapons were finished in particular Ni’oni’o-roroa (long teeth), which was named after the teeth of Tu-tavake. 

Tu-tarangi sent his leading warrior Kuru to take possession of the weapons.

When Kuru entered the house Oro-kete the structure shook.

Kuru examined all the weapons and chose Ni’oni’o-roroa in spite of Tane’s warning that it was a weapon of ill omen that would destroy the land. 

As Kuru left the house he poised the weapon Ni’oni’o-roroa in his hands and chanted “Whose is the weapon that will succeed in war? It belongs to Rongo, to Tane, to Rua-nuku, to Tu, to Tangaroa.”

Having dedicated his weapon to the major gods to give it power he struck and killed four children of Tu-tavake to remove the tapu of newness.

Kuru then fought with Tane-au-vaka the enemy of Tu-tarangi and slew him.

Maru-mamao challenged Kuru after his battle with Tane-au-vaka, and during the fight cleverly maneuvered so that the sun shone in Kuru’s eyes.

With this momentary advantage, Maru-mamao struck his foe in the face with a toki (adze).

This was how the weapon Ni’oni’o-roroa fell into the hands of Maru-mamao. 

By the early 1900s people were still able to enumerate the names of old weapons which occurred in their traditional history.

A manuscript of Ariki Kainuku refers to a tokotoko weapon of Maru-mamao in the Takurua festival.

Source: Arts and Crafts of the Cook Islands Te Rangi Hiroa Pg 278.

Research material sourced from the National Library, Ministry of Cultural Development.

The National Museum welcomes information on the history of Cook island artefacts through our Website,

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