The Whale Rider

The Whale Rider Summary and Analysis of Epilogue


The epilogue begins focusing again on the whale herd, this time though in present times. The bull whale is leading his herd downward into the depths of the sea, and seven females closely flank him, singing for him out of happiness that he has rejoined them. The oldest of these mothers would come now and again to nuzzle against the bull whale to let him know that they had been missing him. When she did so she noticed the little white shape on the bull whale’s back. She asks him what is on his back and he replies that it is his lord Paikea.

As the herd descends lower, the warrior whales draw closer around the herd to better protect it. Meanwhile, the old mother remains deep in thought over his husband. As the narrator explains, she loves her husband very much but that does not blind her to his faults. On fault in particular has been that he has become increasingly depressed. She thinks of the reasons for this depression: his nostalgia for his time with Paikea. As she reflects on this, she stops in sudden realization: something is off here. She calls the whole herd to a halt, and expresses her wish to talk with her husband.

The old mother begins her conversation with her husband using a tone consciously charged with love. She then tells him that the rider on his back is not Paikea. The other female whales edge away, cautious of the sudden burst of anger that potentially will come from the bull whale, but the old mother continues slyly and warily. He insists that this is indeed Paikea, but she pushes him more using sweet tones: No, no it is not. The warrior riders begin to close in behind her, to bite at her tail in frustration but she continues on. She suggests that perhaps this is a descendent of her husband’s lord, and as she does so the other female whales nod their heads in admiration—they realize that she is leading the old bull whale to back a conclusion which she has long before realized. He thinks back to his time with the rider, and how the rider flung spears of bounty and how one spear cut through time and landed in the future and then he understands—this girl is that last spear. This is the seed of Paikea and therefore they must return it to shore so that it can fulfill its task.

As the bull whale realizes this, he puts away his nostalgia for the past and begins thinking of the present and future. He must make a responsible decision in how to treat this new rider. He must overcome his desire for his rider and weigh the future benefit that this girl would bring to her people. So the bull whale deliberated for a while and then made up his mind: they must return the rider back to Whangara and so slowly they all turned upwards, back towards the shore.

The story returns to Rawiri’s narration. He notes that Nanny fainted after Kahu left and so they took Nanny to the hospital. There she remained for five days until she reawakened to find Koro sitting right next to her. When she sees him and Rawiri, she sarcastically notes that she apparently had not ended up in heaven because this lot was still here. Then she remembers what happened with Kahu and she asks with fear about her. Koro quietly responds that she is all right, and then he tells her what had happened with Kahu.

For three days Kahu was gone and presumed dead, but then they found her unconscious floating in the ocean, with dolphins as her guards and kelp as her bed. They rushed her to the hospital and there her breathing had stopped and started and up until this point she remained in a coma. When Nanny asks where she is now, they respond she is right here, pointing to another bed in the same room. Koro and Rawiri have been looking after both of them these past couple of days. Tears start to flow down Nanny’s cheeks and she asks that they push her bed closer to Kahu’s, as she wants to hold her and talk to her. So Nanny is brought next to Kahu, and Koro stands over the two of them and minutes pass thus. Then Koro begins by saying this is entirely his fault. Nanny heartily agrees as her tears continue to flow. Koro admits that he should have known she was the one ever since she was a baby and she bit his toe. He also admits that he should not have been sending her away from the meetinghouse, and Nanny responds by saying he was stubborn, deaf, dumb and blind. He stands up and sighs and says she should divorce him and go marry his old rival. Nanny agrees, saying that that man would know how to treat women properly. As their conversation continues like this, Kahu sighs and says in a weak voice that Nanny and Koro are always arguing. With this happy news from Kahu, the narrative briefly shifts back to the whales where the bull whale and the old mother whale take counsel with each other, noting that Kahu will live and will grow up and find the place for her people in this changing world.

The narrative shifts back to the hospital, where everyone is breathing sighs of relief now that Kahu has woken up again. Kahu then tells them that the whales told her not to wake up until Nanny and Koro were together with her. She goes on to say that their bickering was just like the bickering of the old bull whale and the mother whale. She explains that she fell off the whales, and she apologizes to Koro, saying if she were a boy she could have held on. Upon hearing this, Koro weeps out of guilt and sorrow and hugs his little great-granddaughter. He tells her she is the best great-grandchild he could have, and it does not matter if she is a girl or a boy. Kahu becomes ecstatic and they all express their great love for each other. The focus shifts to an earlier scene with the whales, when the whales are returning Kahu. At that moment a voice had called out to her through time, calling her “child” and telling her to fulfill her destiny and help her people. The concluding passage returns to Kahu in the present moment as she tells her great-grandfather that she has been hearing the whales singing for ages.


This section provides the capstone for the theory of connecting the Whangara Maori to the whale herd, which is the anthropomorphism of the whales. That the whales can speak and seem to think and behave in terms of human through and action emphasizes their connection to the human experience. They are meant to exemplify and relate to the experience of the people of Whangara. That they can speak and thus express concerns, worries and complex thought enables a deeper parallel to be drawn between them and the Maori people. Without this anthropomorphism the whales would have been categorized as dumb animals and little weight would like have been given to a comparison between them and the Whangara people.

To delve into this comparison at its various levels, it is easiest t begin with once again firmly establishing the comparison between Koro and the whale. As mentioned before, this relationship has clear evidence from past sections of the book and even receives explicit mention from Rawiri. Both are attempting to lead their people. Both of the whales are struggling under the pressure of leading their people in troubled times. These are similarities discussed earlier, but the anthropomorphism introduced in this section enables that similarity to take on higher proportions. Furthermore, the author illustrates in this section that both have wives that are also much alike.

The mother whale and Nanny share much in common. Both are brave and aware. Both are willing to stand up to their husbands when the need arises. Both are principled and wise and nurture a great love for those around them. Just as Nanny alone verbally challenges Koro’s decisions and ways, only the old mother whale verbally challenges the bull whale’s conclusions. In terms of the comparison between these two pairs, Kahu herself says that the two pairs bicker with each other just like their parallels.

As for Kahu, it is revealed in this section that she indeed is the spear cast through time so many centuries ago. This means that her story has been in the making for many centuries. An important insight from this idea is that her ancestor, Paikea, knew who she would be and what role she would play; not only did he know these things but he actively attempted to bring them about by throwing the spear. Thus this suggests that Paikea had no problem with females leading his Maori people. This is important because Paikea is the most revered figure of the Whangara Maori, and he is seen as the upholder of Maori culture and value. So he is an authority figure in the realm of their local culture and thus his decisions and opinions should hold great weight. His support of Kahu gives her position huge legitimacy in their paradigm, and it also suggests that the local culture initially had no problem with women taking leadership roles, it was only much later that this stigma immerged. The reader is left to ask: what happened between Paikea’s time and Koro’s that meant women were not allowed to lead?

Finally, the story concludes with a message of hope. Koro for the first time expresses his love for his great-granddaughter Kahu. This gives him his redemption. The whole story has been about bringing Koro to this point, and while it does take him the whole length of the book, he does eventually make it. Thus the book ends on a hopeful note, suggesting that positive change can be made with patience and perseverance and a sense of justice.