Tūtānekai lived on Mokoia Island in Lake Rotorua. Although of high rank, he was an illegitimate child. He was conceived when Tūwharetoa, a chief from Kawerau, visited the island. His mother Rangiuru was forgiven by her husband, Whakaue, who reared the boy as his own. Tūtānekai grew into a handsome young man, a fine dancer and athlete, which aroused the jealousies of his three elder half-brothers. All four had fallen in love with the beautiful Hinemoa of Ōwhata, on the lake’s eastern shore. However, it was Tūtānekai’s seductive flute-playing that won Hinemoa’s heart.
Hinemoa was a beautiful and high-ranking young maiden, the daughter of an influential chief. Her family lived at Owhata, on the eastern shores of Lake Rotorua. Because of her rank, Hinemoa was declared sacred; her family and the elders of her tribe would choose a husband for her when she was old enough. Many men wanted to marry her, but none gained the tribe’s approval.
Tutanekai, who lived on Mokoia Island in Lake Rotorua, was the product of an affair between his married mother and a chief from another tribe.
At one of many meetings between their two tribes, Hinemoa and Tutanekai met and eventually fell in love. But due to Tutanekai’s background they knew her family would never approve. Tutanekai would often sit on the shores of Mokoia Island and play his flute. The music wafted across the lake to where Hinemoa sat, sad because she knew she could never marry anyone but Tutanekai.
Her people suspected this, and pulled all the canoes on to the shore, to stop her sneaking away. One night Hinemoa could take no more and swam to Mokoia Island, guided by Tutanekai’s flute. She headed for Waikimihia, a hot pool near Tutanekai’s house, to warm up when she got to the island. She then remembered she was naked and was too shy to approach Tutanekai.
Just then Tutanekai’s slave arrived to fetch water. The slave had to pass near where Hinemoa sat. As he passed the pool, a gruff voice called out to him ‘Mo wai te wai?’ (For whom is the water?) When the slave said it was for Tutanekai Hinemoa smashed the calabash on the side of the pool.
When this happened again Tutanekai became angry and went to the pool himself.
He challenged Hinemoa to show herself, but she stayed hidden beneath a rock. Tutanekai grabbed her by her hair and pulled her out.
“Who are you? Who dares annoy me?” he cried.
“It is I, Hinemoa, who has come to you,” Hinemoa answered.
Tutanekai couldn’t believe his ears. He wrapped her in his cloak and took her home with him. The next morning Tutanekai’s people noticed he was sleeping in. When his father sent a slave to wake Tutanekai up, the slave recognised Hinemoa.
“It is Hinemoa. It is Hinemoa who lies with Tutanekai,” he cried.
No one believed him till Tutanekai stepped from his house with Hinemoa on his arm, and then people noticed canoes heading toward the island. Knowing it would be Hinemoa’s family, they feared war. But instead there was rejoicing between the tribes, and peace was forged. Hinemoa and Tutanekai were married and their descendants keep their story alive today, through the song Pokarekare Ana.