The theme of unconditional love is prevalent, and plays a large role in the second half of the book Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera. While the chief, Koro, strives to find a male heir to lead the tribe, his great-granddaughter, Kahu who performs all the tasks necessary to become the next leader, is ignored by him because she is a girl. This is important because even though Koro tells Kahu that he does not love her and that she cannot be the leader because of her sex, Kahu is still determined to prove to him that she will meet her fate and become the whale rider, and finally gain his love regardless of his beliefs about her. Ultimately, this unconditional love allows Kahu to test her abilities, and reach her destiny as the whale rider.
In the second half of Whale Rider, Koro continuously denies his love for his great-granddaughter. Main examples of this are when he refuses to show up to Kahu’s program, when he does not allow her to come on the boat and search with for the stone, and when Kahu saves the ancient whale. Even though Koro does these things to her, she shows her love for him by singing and dancing for him at the program. She also writes a speech about how much she loves him and how she desires to be a great leader of her tribe. Even though Koro did not attend, she still states, “It’s not Paka’s fault, Nanny, that I’m a girl. (p. 87).” She also shows her love for him by going out to see with Nanny Flowers and her uncle to find the stone, because she believed that Koro wanted it very badly. She ultimately finds the stone, and brings him back up a crayfish for his tea, showering her deep love for her great-grandfather. Later in the novel, due to the Koro’s great sadness over the situation with the whales, Kahu dives into the ocean, and saves the ancient whale, along with Koro and her tribe, from certain death. Although Kahu is doing these things to make Koro love her, her abilities to perform these tasks make her stand out as the true whale rider, which Koro finally sees at the end. Ultimately, Kahu’s unconditional love saves the tribe and provides her with the only thing she has ever wanted, which was to be truly loved and accepted by her great-grandfather.