Kiharoa

Many  reading this blog post are aware that Chris George Zuger and I are coauthoring a book titled Men of Renown in which we delve deep into the subject of a race of giants that once inhabited the earth. In the book, we will discuss explanations, actual encounters with giant-folk, and myths and legends.

The following account, from New Zealand, is representative of some of the things we will be discussing in the book:


In his book The Old Frontier, James Cowan recounted the legend of Kiharoa, a giant warrior chief of the Ngāti-Raukawa and Ngāti-Whakatere tribes. According to Cowan, there was a curious landmark near the village of Whenuahou known as the “Giant’s Grave.” The grave was 12–14 feet long and 4 feet wide. Enquiring about the the grave, Cowan learned the legend behind it from two warriors from the Ngāti-Maniapoto tribe. He wrote:

There certainly seems to have been a veritable giant, a man of enormous stature and length of reach with the hand-weapons of those days, six generations ago. This Kiharoa, or “The Long Gasping Breath,” was a chief of the Ngati-Raukawa and Ngati-Whakatere tribes, who in those times owned the Tokanui hills and the surrounding fruitful slopes.

Kirahoa was said to have stood at twice the height of an average-sized man. He wielded an enormous taiaha—a traditional Māori close-quarters staff. His weapon was named “The First rays of Morning Light,” or Rangihaeata in the native tongue.

Cowan described Kiharoa thusly:

Kiharoa was tattooed on body as well as face, and when he leaped into battle, whirling “Rangihaeata” from side to side in guard and feint and cut, his blue-carved skin glistening with oil and red ochre, his great glaring eyes darting flame, his moko-scrolled features distorted with fury, few there were brave enough to face him.

Though Kiharoa was a mighty man and struck fear into the hearts of those he faced, no one is invincible; Kiharoa would fall in battle at Whenuahou. A bad omen preceeded the giant’s death; as he was rushing down a hill, he slipped on some leaves and fell nearly breaking his taiaha.

Kiharoa may have become unsettled by his fall; he was outfought and killed by the Ngāti-Maniapoto warriors led by chief Wahani—also a man of gigantic stature. Kiharoa’s warriors panicked and fled once their leader had fallen; many of them were slaughtered.

The fallen warriors were butchered for meat. Kiharoa’s corpse was carved up and eaten on the spot. The giant’s head was smoke dried and kept as a souvenir from the battle. Before dismembering the body of Kiharoa for their feast, the Ngāti-Maniapoto warriors measured him—he was 2 fathoms, or 12 feet long.