The old expression “I’ll believe it when I see it” is one that Koro Apirana trusted very little of in Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider. I say this because while reading the first half of the novel, I thought it was prominent that Koro clearly ran away in a literal and figurative sense from the signs exhibited by his great-granddaughter Kahu. Instead of engulfing her in his own denial, he could have embraced her, modernizing himself like the rest of his people already started to. Instead, Koro Apirana did not realize his faulty thought-process until after Kahu’s storm passed and it seemed all but too late.
The second half of the book started with our narrator, Uncle Rawiri returning home from his trip. He came home to quickly realize Koro still distancing himself from Kahu in his quest to find the next leader, even though it has been quite some time in the process. Koro’s stubbornness and denial became evident to me after his group of boys failed to retrieve the stone from the ocean. “Koro Apirana’s face sagged, “Okay, boys, you’ve done well. Let’s get you all home.” When he got back home, Koro Apirana shut himself in the bedroom. Slowly, he began to weep” (88). This proved to me that Koro started to become vulnerable to his situation. There was no more time to fight what was meant to happen. His traditional views needed to take a backseat for the betterment of his tribe.
If the earlier signs from Kahu were not enough, Koro would have to have a serious problem if he avoided the events played out in the last few chapters of the novel. Kahu risked the safety of her life in order to fulfill her great-grandfather’s wishes and was dragged beyond the ocean’s depths on a symbolic tattooed whale. She had to experience near death for Koro to finally comfort her with the love and acceptance she so dearly yearned for throughout the reading. “Nanny Flowers was pointing out to sea. Her face was filled with emotion as she cried out to Kahu. The old man understood. He raised his arms as if to claw down the sky upon him” (133). Koro finally arrived to the sense that what he was so desperately seeking was so easy to find, and that only his stubbornness caused the drama he endured.