This tradition is evidently a localised version of the Polynesian legend of Tura, who journeyed to a far country where he found a people who had no fire, ate their food raw, and were much affected by smoke. This story is known as far west as the Polynesian colony in New Guinea. Strangely similar is the account given by those early Phoenician voyagers of the people whom they encountered on the African coast and who appear to have been monkeys.
And it fell on a certain fine day that all the people of the kainga went to fish for hapuku on the rock called Te Pananui-a-Puta. There went Manini-pounamu and Te Hiki-paroa, together with their people, fifty twice told. There also went Hine Popo and her father. On arriving at the hapuku grounds, they proceeded to fish, and after some time had passed, Hine Popo again repeated an incantation to the monsters of the deep. Then there arose a dreadful storm and the canoes of these people were driven far out to sea by its violence. The canoe which contained Hine Popo and her father reached Rangitoto in safety, but all the hundred warriors of Manini-pounamu were drowned, engulfed by the great waves of the dark ocean. The canoe which held Manini-pounamu and Hiki-paroa was not destroyed by the storm, but was driven far across the dark ocean. Far, far away, those men were carried in that canoe, beyond the isles of the great sea, beyond the place where the sky hangs down.
At last they were cast ashore in a strange land of which no man had ever heard. And there were many things in that strange land, and strange people lived there. It may be that that land was Hawaiki, of which our learned men have told us, and from whence our ancestors came in past ages. But who can say? Friend, there are some things what even the ancestors of the Maori did not know.
So these two brothers were cast ashore in that strange land. Close to where they landed they found a cave, and in that cave lived an old woman. This old woman then told them of a fierce man-eating taniwha which lived in that land, and which had destroyed many of the people. And she said "Possibly you two, who have come from far lands, may be able to kill that taniwha?" Te Hiki-paroa replied, "It is possible that we may kill it." But that old woman would not believe that these two men could accomplish such a great task, for she had seen so many brave men lose their lives attempting to deliver the people from the dreadful scourge. She said "Alas! You will never destroy the monster. It will surely kill you."
Now these two brothers being hungry, they proceeded to kindle a fire and to cook the food, whereby they might regain their strength. But when the fire burnt up the old woman was terribly alarmed and was very ill, being affected by the smoke. Behold! that people were unacquainted with fire and ate their food raw. If they touch cooked food or go near the fire, they become quite ill.
So these people consulted together as to how the fierce taniwha might be overcome. Said the old woman, "If you are able to kill it I will give you my daughter in marriage." "The girl shall be mine", cried Hiki-paroa. "Wait", said the old woman, "The younger brother is the swiftest, he shall be sent to entice the monster to where he may be killed." Then the people dug a great pit, into which Hiki-paroa went, and Manini-pounamu was sent to lure the dragon towards it. The old woman gave him directions how to act. "You must go over those far hills, and when you arrive at the last ridge call out, and the taniwha will pursue you." Manini-pounamu did as he was told, and the fierce monster gave chase to him, and very nearly caught him in its long claws, but he escaped and descended into the pit were Hiki-paroa was hidden. Then the great taniwha rushed up to the pit and tried to kill those two brave men, and the very earth shook beneath its huge bulk. The creature thrust its claws down into the pit, but they were cut off by the warriors, who were beyond its reach. And when they had severed its long claws they attacked the monster and killed it. The people of the land then opened this great dragon, and in its huge stomach they found the bodies of their friends whom it had devoured. There they lay, old people and young, and women with their children on their backs, all heaped together. So the taniwha was killed.
Then all those people were overjoyed at the death of the monster which had destroyed so many of their friends, and they took the two brothers in triumph to their village, crying: "The taniwha is dead."
And all the people of the land assembled, and there was a great feast with much
rejoicing, and great honour was paid to the hero chiefs. After the feast was over, the old woman said: "Perform the dance, so that my daughter's accomplishments may not be lost sight of." So they all commenced to dance, wearing balls of red feathers in their ears as ornaments. Both Hiki-paroa and Manini-pounamu contended for the girl, but the old woman said: "The younger brother shall have her, for it was he who lured the dragon to its doom." And so Manini-pounamu married the young girl, and they lived for many years and were very happy. But Hiki-paroa went away to a far-off land and there remained. "
Source: Journal of the Polynesian Society v 39 (3)