The Whale Rider

The Whale Rider Quotes and Analysis

"'Never mind girl,' she said to baby Kahu. 'Your birth cord is here. No matter where you may go, you will always return. You will never be lost to us.'"

Nanny, 29

This quote articulates the idea of Kahu's physical and spiritual connection to Whangara. Not only is this the land of her father's family, but it is also her own land. She is intimately tied to it because her birth cord remains there. Furthermore, one can extract from this quote an insight into Nanny's own belief system: she trusts that, whatever happens, Kahu will eventually return here because of the supernatural power of the birth cord's burial.

"Rules are meant to be broken"

Nanny, 41

This quote gives voice to a central tension in the story: Koro's inability to be flexible in certain rules for the greater good of his people. In his search for a successor, he consistently rejects Kahu's candidacy because his interpretation of their culture values is that women cannot lead. However, Kahu demonstrates a host of leadership characteristics, all of which Koro is searching for. His refusal to break the little rules and choose her as a successor exacerbates his problem of lacking a capable successor.

"Man might carve his mark on the earth, but unless he's vigilant, Nature will take it all back."

Rawiri, 69

This quote describes Rawiri's experience after attempting to cultivate the plantation in Papua New Guinea. It is important because it expresses the dynamic between man and nature as one of struggle and conquest. This is in stark contrast to the dynamic of the past, according to the story, where nature and man worked together to thrive.

"just as I was maturing in my own understanding, she, too, was moving closer and closer to that point where she was in the right place at the right time, with the right understanding to accomplish the task that had been assigned to her. In this respect there is no doubt in my mind that she had always been the right person"

Rawiri, 70

This quote expresses Rawiri's view of Kahu. He is demonstrating the sense of foreshadowing which surrounded Kahu's life. There is something special about her, he suggests, and she is fated to accomplish great things.

“Our Koro was like an old whale stranded in an alien present, but that was how it was supposed to be, because he also had his role in the pattern of things, in the tides of the future”

Rawiri, 72

This quote explicity establishes the comparison between Koro and the old whale. This comparison is an important motif of the book, and it is the stepping stone for drawing the symbolic connection between the wandering whale herd and the Maori people of Whangara. Their stories run along parallel lines, and each side sheds some light on the other.

"Kahu put her face against Nancy Flowers's cheeks. Her voice was drained and defeated. 'It's not Paka's fault, Nanny,' she said, 'that I'm a girl.'"

Kahu, 87

Here, Kahu is giving voice to one of her deepest fears, an expression which develops her characterization. She is expressing two things: first, a recognition that her great-grandfather disdains her because she is a girl and not a boy, and second, a mental tendency to not blame her great-grandfather or be resentful towards him.

"'This is a sign to us,' Koro Apirana said again."

Koro, 110

This quote expresses the idea of a deep symbolic connection between nature and man. In Koro's worldview, man's state is reflected in nature, and so the corruption on land and sea is just reflecting the increasing corruption and arrogance of man.

"She was going with the whales into the sea and the rain. She was a small figure in a white dress, kicking at the whale as if it were a horse, her braids swinging in the rain."

Rawiri, 130

This quote demonstrates the vulnerability of Kahu as she goes out to lead the whale herd away from the shore. The imagery of the quote emphasizes her little, innocent, vulnerable position. Despite all of that vulnerability, Kahu still has enough bravery to attempt such a task.

"And the whale herd sang their gladness that the tribe would also live, because they knew that the girl would need to be carefully taught before she could claim the place for her people in the world"


The whales believe that Kahu's destiny is to claim the place for her people in the world. Such a belief assumes that the Whangara people are currently out of place, and need someone to act on their behalf. This idea connects back to the motif of the world changing, and of tradition losing ground to modernity.

"'I love you,' Koro Apirana said."

Koro, 149

This quote is from Koro, addressed to Kahu. It is important because it represents the redemption of Koro and the great shift in his heart. Never before has he acknowledged or expressed any love for his great-granddaughter, which is what makes this expression momentous.