Legend of the Mountain

In the ancient past, many magnificent mountain gods lived in the centre of the North Island Te Ika a Maui – the fish of Maui. The male mountains of  Ruapehu, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, Taranaki and Tauhara stood proudly on the Central Plateau, alongside a lone female mountain Pihanga.

A graceful mountain, Pihanga was robed in bush, and still stands between the other mountains and Lake Taupo. All the mountains wanted to win the heart of pretty Pihanga, but none more so than Taranaki and Tongariro.

The two fought so fiercely that the earth shook, lightening crashed, and lava flowed down the warring mountains. In the fighting Tongariro lost his head – some say he broke it off to throw at Taranaki, others that Taranaki sliced it off with a powerful blow. Either way, the top of Tongariro fell into Lake Taupo, where it forms Moututaiko Island to this day.

But Tongariro emerged victorious, and a defeated Taranaki was banished west, led to the coast by Toka a Rahotu, a small guide stone with great mana (importance). As he travelled Taranaki carved out the Whanganui River, before he settled beside the beautiful mountain range Pouakai.

The legend continues

These days, if you catch the mountain behind clouds it is said he is hiding the tears he still sheds for his lost love. The 2518m dormant volcanic peak of Mount Taranaki last erupted in 1755, though it's hard to imagine that the now peaceful mountain hides such a dramatic past.

To discover more legends of Taranaki, head to one of the many museums that tell the rich stories of the region’s landscape and people.

Please note: The summit of Mount Taranaki holds great cultural significance. Please respect this by not standing on the highest point, or camping, eating or toileting in the summit area.