Māori myths and legends

Where can I find information about Māori myths and legends?

Image: Celebrating Matariki by Archives New Zealand on Flickr.

Entry last updated: 15/01/21


Māori myths and legends run through all aspects of life in Aotearoa, from the creation of people to elements of the natural world such as the sea, sky, weather and the land itself. There are many stories about ngā atua (the gods) and creatures of mythology such as the taniwha and the patupaiarehe.

General websites

Māori myths and legends run through all areas of the history, culture, science and society of Aotearoa New Zealand. These websites are great places to find out more about them.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we scroll down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

There are many different places to look for information on this site.

  1. Scroll down to the Sections area and choose Māori New Zealanders.
  2. Now choose Origins and Arrivals.
  3. There is some great info here about First people in Māori tradition, Māori creation traditions, and Hawaiki.

There are many Māori myths and legends about the natural world too, like the legends of Ranginui and Papatūānuku.

  1. Have a look at the Section on Earth, Sea and Sky.
  2. Now, choose Astronomy.
  3. On this page you’ll find a story about Ranginui – the sky.

Because Papatūānuku is the earth, information about her is in a different area.

  1. Find the Section called The Bush.
  2. Now choose Landscapes.
  3. On this page you’ll find the link to Papatūānuku – the land.

There’s a lot more under the heading The Bush too!

  1. Go to Understanding the Natural World.
  2. There is different information here about our natural world, including topics like the Taniwha, Patupaiarehe, Te Waonui a Tāne – forest mythology, and Te Ao Mārama – the natural world.

To find out about Māori myths and legends about Tāwhirimātea - the weather:

  1. Go back to the Section Earth, Sea and Sky.
  2. Now choose Climate and Atmosphere.
  3. Then click on Tāwhirimātea - the weather.

If you are interested in myths about the ocean you can try a different section.

  1. Find the Section called Earth, Sea and Sky.
  2. Now go to Ocean Study and Conservation.
  3. Then choose Tangaroa - the sea.

And for myths about the land, a slightly different place again.

  1. This is still in the Section called Earth, Sea and Sky.
  2. Select Geology.
  3. Now choose Whenua - how the land was shaped.

If you use the search feature at the top of the page and type in the keyword 'myth' you might find even more! Try the keyword 'legend' as well to see if you find different results.

Topic Explorer (National Library of New Zealand)

Topic Explorer is an online tool from the National Library of New Zealand. It contains a wide range of quality resources for students in a range of formats, (like articles, books, images, videos, primary sources and websites) on a variety of topics. These resources have been selected from reliable national and international sources.

  1. Scroll down to find the link to Māori Myths and Legends.
  2. Also check out the link to Matariki, which has specific info about the myths and legends surrounding Matariki.

Mātauranga Māori

This site is from Te Tāhuhu O Te Mātauranga - the Ministry of Education, and has heaps of great information about Māori culture.

  1. Go to the link called Support Materials on the side of the page, and then select Te Reo Māori.
  2. This will open up more options down the side of the page under the Te Reo Māori heading, including a link to Māori Myths, Legends and Contemporary Stories (these stories have either been written or retold by Wiremu Grace and you can view them in either Māori or English).
  3. Explore the different headings down the side of the page, under Māori Myths, Legends and Contemporary Stories. There’s heaps to discover!
Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are.


Many public libraries around New Zealand have made booklists about Māori myths and legends. Some focus on mythology local to their area, so ask at your local library to see what resources the librarians there have already made.

Two great examples are:

South Island Māori Myths and Legends

This page from Christchurch City Libraries lists lots of different books. This links back to Christchurch City Libraries catalogue only, but you can ask for these books at your local library and see what they have.

Ngā Atua - the gods

This Auckland City Libraries page has books and other resources about Ranginui and Papatūānuku, ngā atua, and ngā kete e toru - the three baskets of knowledge.

SCIS no: 1832453

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