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In Māori mythology, or Tūmatauenga (Māori: 'Tū of the angry face') is the god of war, hunting, food cultivation, fishing and cooking. As the god of war, all war-parties were dedicated to him, and he was treated with the greatest respect and awe. He is usually a son of the primordial parents, Ranginui and Papatūanuku.

God of war, hunting, cooking, fishing, and food cultivation
Other namesTū, Tūkariri, Tūkanguha, Tūkaitaua, Tūmatawhāiti, Tūwhakaheketangata
RegionNew Zealand
Ethnic groupMāori
Personal information
ParentsRangi and Papa
SiblingsHaumia (Arawa), Rongo, Tangaroa, Tāwhirimātea, , Rūaumoko, Whiro

The New Zealand thrash metal band, Alien Weaponry and their song Kai Tangata ('eat people') refer to him, as the god of war; cannibalism was a part of warfare for the Māori.

Creation storiesEdit

A traditional creation story of tells that all the children of Ranginui and Papatūanuku, the sky father and earth mother, lay in a tight embrace together, their children forced to crawl in the darkness between the two. One day, their children become so sick of this that they discuss a plan to separate them and allow light into the world. Tūmatauenga advises his brothers to kill their parents, but the kinder proposal of Tāne is accepted and he instead forces the primordial pair apart.

In a Te Arawa version, Tūmatauenga thinks about the actions of Tāne in separating their parents, and makes snares to catch the birds, the children of Tāne, who can no longer fly free. He then makes nets, and traps the children of Tangaroa. He makes holes to dig the ground, capturing his brothers Rongo and Haumia-tiketike, heaping them into baskets to be eaten. Of all the children of Rangi and Papa, Tūmatauenga alone fought Tāwhirimātea to a standstill and forced him to withdraw - the only brother that he cannot subdue completely - whose storms and hurricanes attack humankind to this day because of his indignation at the actions of his brothers (Grey 1971:7-10).

A human face depicted in a house carving. Tūmatauenga, god of war, is the ancestor of humankind.

Although Rangi and Papa were not human in form, Tūmatauenga and his brothers were. Humankind - the descendants of Tū - increased upon the earth, until the generation of Māui and his brothers (Grey 1956:8-11, Tregear 1891:540).

Tūmatauenga's actions against his brothers provide a pattern for human activities. Because Tūmatauenga defeated his brothers, people can now, if they perform the appropriate rituals, kill and eat birds (the children of Tāne), fish (the children of Tangaroa), cultivate and harvest plants for food (the children of Rongo and Haumia-tiketike), and generally harness the resources of the natural world. Tūmatauenga is also the originator of warfare, and people make war now because Tūmatauenga provided the example. When rituals were performed over warriors before a battle, or when an infant was dedicated to a future role as a fighter, Tūmatauenga was invoked as the source of their duty. The body of the first warrior to fall in a battle was often offered up to Tūmatauenga. While Tūmatauenga is the origin of war, powerful local deities such as Kahukura, Maru or Uenuku were also called upon in time of war (Orbell 1998:185-186).

Names and epithetsEdit

After his victories over his brothers, Tūmatauenga or Tū assumed many names, one name for each of the characteristics he displayed in his victories over his brothers (Grey 1956:9), including:

  • Tū-ka-riri (Tū the angry)
  • Tū-ka-nguha (Tū the fierce fighter)
  • Tū-kai-taua (Tū the destroyer of armies)
  • Tū-whakaheke-tangata (Tū the demoter of personages)
  • Tū-mata-whāiti (Tū the cunning)
  • Tū-mata-uenga (Tū of the angry face)

See alsoEdit

  • , Hawaiian war deity.
  • Maru, South Island war deity (little known)
  • New Zealand Army, known in Māori as Ngāti Tūmatauenga ("tribe of Tūmatauenga")


  • G. Grey, Polynesian Mythology, Illustrated edition, reprinted 1976. (Whitcombe and Tombs: Christchurch), 1956.
  • M. Orbell, The Concise Encyclopedia of Māori Myth and Legend (Canterbury University Press: Christchurch), 1998.
  • E.R. Tregear, Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary (Lyon and Blair: Lambton Quay), 1891.