In the Whale Rider, by Witi Ihimaera, Koro Apirana refuses to modernize the customs of his people; however, this alteration of tradition is necessary for the salvation of his tribe. Throughout the book, his great-granddaughter’s diligence in pursuing her destiny of being the savior of the tribe shows the inevitability of this modernization.
Koro’s denying of Kahu’s fate is driven by the origin story of his tribe. The tribe has a kinship with whales and when Koro is telling the story of the first man of the tribe to have this relationship he says, “His golden master had met a woman and had married her,” (Ihimaera 96). It is clear that he interprets this story in a way where he blames the woman in the story for destroying this connection. In another instance, when Koro is telling another story of the history of his tribe, in which is reflects his subconscious. “But then, man assumed a cloak of arrogance,” (Ihimaera 116). In this way, he is inadvertently describing himself and saying that he is too voluntarily ignorant of the signs of Kahu’s abilities to acknowledge her.
Regardless of how much Koro would push Kahu away, the signs of her destiny would not go away. This is shown when Rawiri is talking about the stranding of the whales, and he says, “the earlier stranding of whales was merely a prelude to the awesome event that followed, an event that had all the cataclysmic power and grandeur of a Second Coming,” (Ihimaera 108). This second coming is referring to Kahu being the second coming of Paikea, the first whale rider.
This fight for identity between Kahu and Koro is a relationship similar to that between Koro Apirana and Nanny Flowers. Their love-hate relationship parallels the constant struggle of tradition versus modernization. However, this struggle is a necessary one. Regardless of how much Nanny and Koro argue, or how much Nanny Flowers threatens to divorce Koro, they will always be together. No matter how much modern ideas conflict with traditions, a combination of the two will always be stronger than either of them alone.