Kahu the Whale Rider
The second half of Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider follows suit with the first half in the idea that no one but Rawiri, Kahu’s uncle, realizes her gift. After the continuation and evidence of new skills and “gifts” Koro still cannot see that she is the one, the Whale Rider. Kahu has an extensive amount of knowledge when it comes to the Maori culture, she is able to complete important Whale Rider tasks that she boys cannot, and she shares a deep connection with the sea that ultimately gets her in the water riding the whale.
Kahu was a very gifted child who was especially talented when it came to the Maori culture. She had made remarkable strides in her learning especially for a girl of only seven years of age. She was in the front row of her Maori culture group at school and could do the poi dance. Later she says to Nanny Flowers “Did you know I was top of my (Maori) class this year? And I’m the leader of the culture group too. I love singing the Maori songs” (79) She even won the East Coast primary schools speech contest with a speech written in the Maori language. These accomplishments are remarkable, especially for a seven-year-old girl, and it is rather astonishing that she was head of the culture group at such a young age. One would think an older student would have this position. Only someone destined for great things could attain all the accomplishments.
When Koro takes his young male candidates, whom he thinks can be “the one”, out into the ocean for a practical test they fail miserably. Koro throws a stone that he carved into one of the deepest parts of the ocean and asks the boys to go retrieve it. Some are afraid of the dark water; others couldn’t handle the dive, and those that could fail anyways. When Kahu finds out about what happened she simply says, “I’ll get it.” (89) She is actually able to go out into the water and retrieve the rock with such ease.
It seems to be that Rawiri is the only one to realize Kahu’s gifts. On page one hundred he says, “ Knowing Kahu’s kinship with the see, I was glad that she had still been asleep when the news was broadcast.” At this point in the novel the people are experiencing great tragedy because the whales are beaching themselves in mass amounts and suffering as well as dying. He knows that she shares deep connections with the creatures of the sea and that this event would devastate her. It takes Kahu getting in the ocean with the whale and actually riding it for Koro to realize that she is the Whale Rider.
As one can see there were many signs that Kahu was destined to be the great Whale Rider, but she had gone so unnoticed in the process. Her grandfather can’t get past his own prejudices against women to realize she is destined for greatness. She exhibits all the traits: great Maori intelligence, whale riding skills, and a deep bond with the sea.