Goodnight kiwi – haere rā

The kiwi is a remarkable bird. As Te Ara Encyclopedia explains, “The flightless, nocturnal kiwi is an oddity, and perhaps an unlikely choice for a national symbol. But the round body, long beak and short legs invite curiosity and affection – and it’s an easy bird to draw. It appears everywhere, on coins, stamps, shoe polish, T-shirts and websites”

When New Zealanders call themselves kiwis it is with reference to this bird and not the fruit. It is not surprising that the kiwi features as a character in numerous picture books. Here are the top five books as selected by the online magazine The Sapling.

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Screenshot from the Sapling article

The legend of how the kiwi lost its wings is a favourite story.  Tanemahuta the god of the forest noticed that his trees were looking very wilted and realised it was due to all the insects eating at their roots and leaves. He and his brother Tanehokahoka, god of the air, called together all the birds. Together they asked them for someone to leave the skies and dwell on the forest floor to help the trees by eating the bugs. Different birds had different excuses as to why they could not help, except for the kiwi. It is a lovely story I hope you get to read the full text.

Below is a much loved kiwi character that is known as the Goodnight Kiwi. It was shown at the end of programming each night on Television New Zealand from 1981 – 1994. Created by animator Sam Harvey, the kiwi, having turned out the light and put out a milk bottle, goes to sleep in a satellite dish. The music in the background is the Maori lullaby ‘Hine e hine’. I hope you can forgive this sentimental way to say farewell. I hope you have enjoyed this month, taking a glimpse at some New Zealand literature.

Haere rā (goodbye)

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Amanda Bond is a New Zealand ex-pat currently working as Teacher Librarian in an international school in Istanbul, Turkey. Her twitter handle is @kiwionthego


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