The novel, “Whale Rider”, by Witi Ihimaera is about a girl named Kahu, who breaks the male lineage of a Maori tribe in New Zealand. Throughout her transition from infancy to childhood, she dedicates her life to please her chief tribal leader and great-grandfather, Koro Apirana. Koro Apirana refuses to reject the Maori tradition of allowing a woman to become the next head of the tribe. The power of this Maori tribe has always been handed down through the eldest son from generation to generation. It mainly becomes a conflict between Koro’s ancient customs and the modern realities of the world. Eventually, Kahu is given the opportunity to demonstrate her strength and ability to become the new leader of this tribe by attempting to ride whales in the ocean. Kahu’s extraordinary capability to become a strong whale rider forces Koro Apirana to come to the realization that she has the willingness and power to take his leadership role.
Throughout the second half of the story, Kahu was finally able to beat all of the odds that were set against her solely because of her gender. Koro had continuously been blinded by the fact that his great-granddaughter was a female, instead of giving her a chance to establish herself as a strong leader. He was even willing to find a man who was not part of the family bloodline to ensure that the next leader would be a male. In the end, Koro was able to see Kahu’s bravery and talents by giving her a chance to prove herself in the ocean. Koro states, “You’re the best great-grandchild in the whole wide world. Boy or girl, it doesn’t matter” (p. 149). Koro finally recognizes the capabilities of his great-granddaughter and understands that emphasis should not be put on whether the next heir to the tribe is a male or female. Through Kahu’s persistent and enthusiastic characteristics, she was able to battle against Koro’s beliefs and the Maori traditions to ultimately become the next tribal leader as a female.