Monday, September 13, 2010

Fight for Love

In the novel Whale Rider, by Witi Ihimaera, Kahu is the heir to the leadership of the Maori tribe. Her grandfather, Koro Aprirana’s, traditional ways have made him resent this fact due to his beliefs that men are the only ones capable of being a leader. Throughout the novel, Kahu is constantly in a battle for her grandfather’s love and acceptance. His prejudices make him blind to the obvious signs that Kahu is the true whale rider. In the end, Kahu believes it is her duty to save the Maori tribe for her grandfather in the hopes of gaining his affection.
In the second half of the novel, Kahu has grown up to be educated and versed in Maori culture and language. She performs her talents at the school ceremony where she read her speech about her love and respect for her grandfather. Koro Apirana never came to the program and Kahu’s distress was visible. She says, "It's not Paka's fault, Nanny, that I'm a girl." (p87) Kahu has unconditional love for her grandfather when he wants nothing to do with her. He is so preoccupied with searching for an alternative male heir; he does not realize the evident signs that she is actually the one. When the ancient bull whale stranded itself on the shore, Koro realized that the whale’s death would mean the death of himself and the tribe. Kahu courageously lunged into the water, not afraid to die for her tribe. Even when Kahu was astride the whale, Koro did not realize she was the one until Nanny Flowers showed him the stone. Kahu was able to retrieve the rock that Koro had thrown into the ocean for the hopeful male heirs to recover. An important note is that she did not dive into the ocean to prove that she was the true heir. She simply did it because Koro wanted it back and she would do anything for Koro.
Ultimately, Koro sees that Kahu is the whale rider and repents his ignorant ways. She proved to be strong and brave, like a leader, defying all preconceptions he once had about girls. Koro says to her, “You’re the best great-grandchild in the whole wide world. Boy or girl, it doesn’t matter.” (p149) Finally, through her heroism, she gains what she has wanted the most in this world since her birth: the true love of her grandfather.

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