The Story of Manata

Manata and the Legend of Lake Wakatipu

Lake Wakatipu Maori legend has it that the beautiful Manata was the daughter of a local chief. Her love for the young warrior Matakouri was in vain as she was promised in marriage to another chief.

One night a terrible giant, Matau, stole Manata away. Her father the chief offered Manata’s hand in marriage to any brave enough to rescue her, only one warrior was daring enough, Matakouri.

His search led to a valley where Matau lived, here he found Manata bound. Manata begged Matakouri to free her while the wind was blowing from the east and the giant was sleeping.

Try as he could, Matakouri’s greenstone mere (club) could not cut through Manata’s magical bonds. Manata sobbed bitterly and miraculously her tears dissolved the cords binding her; the lovers fled.

The old chief Manata’s father kept his word and two were married. Matakouri knew that while Matau lived no maiden would ever be safe, so he decided to deal with the giant once and for all.

On a day when the easterly wind blew steadily, Matakouri returned to the valley of the sleeping giant and set fire to the dried bracken Matau slept on. The giant was drowned in flames, which fed by fat became so hot that they burned a huge hole in the ground and melted the snow from the surrounding mountains.

This became Lake Wakatipu, which even today is shaped like a sleeping giant. Beneath the water of the lake, Matau’s heart is still said to beat causing the lake level to rise and fall hourly.

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