Pūrākau: Māori Myths Retold By Māori Writers
Witi Ihimaera and Whiti Hereaka (eds)
Penguin Random House, $38.00,
In Pūrākau: Māori Myths Retold By Māori Writers, the retelling of mythic stories is a communal activity, with one storyteller picking up where another leaves off, but then transmogrifying the story and often taking it in a completely new direction. Pū rākau means “tree roots”, and so these stories are an affirmation of the polytheistic animism running through the cosmology of the Māori world – Te Ao Māori – with story branching from story, and all interconnected to the main trunk of the mythology as part of a holistic continuum. Here be gods, monsters and mortals in tales of star-crossed lovers, of defiance and derring-do, of transgressive behaviour and comeuppance. These myths retold bend and blend genres, from the supernatural and fantasy to science fiction, ghost stories and magical realism – all this, the reclaiming and the repurposing, a far cry from the bowdlerised, even infantalised, interpretations found in the versions of A W Reed, Antony Alpers and other 20th-century Pākehā anthologists.
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