Witi Ihimaera’s The Wale Rider begins by introducing the Maori history to give the
reader a better understanding of the tribal traditions that have shaped living standards up to the
time of the novel. Ihimaera vividly depicts the story of a tribe who finds itself far from the
ancestral tradition established centuries ago. The tale, however told through the eyes of a young
male narrator named Rawiri, center’s itself around his adolescent niece, Kahu; who with her
unwavering persistence and love overcomes all odds to restore the Whangara tribe back to the
ways of it past.
Obsticles confronted Kahu from the day of her birth. Even her very name, taken from a
sacred ancient ancestor of her tribe, brought her much opposition from the very beginning of her
existence. The Patriarch of both here tribal society, as well as her family, did not show her even
the smallest bit of love or support along her journey. During one of the male education periods
Kahu was spotted eavesdropping, and Koro livid with anger, immediately stopped, shouting,
“‘Get away from here!’...Grimly, Koro Apirana walked up to her, took her by the arms, and
virtually hurled her out. ‘Go. Get away from here.’” (52) Still Kahu’s undying affection and love
shown brightly for the whole family, especially Koro who showed the least signs of attention.
For this reason she strived even harder to prove herself. When times of crisis set in, and
two hundred whales became beached on shore, Kahu knew her time to flourish was near. All it
took was an opportunity to finally be recognized and called forward to save the whale marked
with the spiritually sacred sign of their ancestors. Kahu seized her chance and was finally
accepted for mending the relationship between her people and the whales; and in doing so
through relentless persistence and love mended the relationship between her and her grandfather.