Chapter 11: The Navel Cord

Finding no fault in you, I have been tempted

To stay your child.  But that which broke

(Nature) the navel cord, has not exempted

Even your light and sympathetic yoke.

James K Baxter, “To My Father”

There’s not a lot of father imagery in the novel, other than Conrad’s father whom you don’t see much, and the priests who are bit players really; until you consider Francis and Conrad as fathers, which is especially important in the final scene with his daughter. Conrad’s attachment is to his mother and the mother imagery is much stronger (the dying mother, the river, mother nature, Mary – mother of Jesus, Marists, several allusions to the name of Mary – Mere Tuwhangai buried at the cemetery in Taupiri, Marietta the woman Francis moves in with, two churches named St Mary’s). The sentiment in this quote is applicable to parents, not just fathers, and especially to the theme of Conrad needing to let go of his mother and move forward with his wife and daughter. (A fact from outside the novel: Mary is the patron saint of New Zealand).

Chapter 12: Murua Rā Ngā Hara

 Murua rā ngā hara 

 Wetekina mai 

 Ēnei here kino 

 Wakararu nei.

(Wipe away our sins, and unshackle these evil ties that are so troublesome), 

“Tama Ngakau”

“Tama Ngakau” is a Maori Christian hymn. The title refers to “wipe away our sins”, a prevelant theme for Francis’ work and the redemption that occurs for the brothers. 

Chapter 13: Faces And Names 

God gives us faces.  We give one another names.

James K Baxter, “Jerusalem Daybook”

Baxter again. The Jerusalem Daybook is a prized possession of mine now – I bought it on TradeMe, New Zealand’s version of e-bay and the seller included a clipping from the New Zealand Listener magaine written just after his death in the seventies. The Daybook was written like a journal while he was living there and includes some poetry. This quote touches on identity – akin to Romeo and Juliet’s “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. It fits with the idea of names and multiple expressions of ourselves. I also had in mind the dilemma for the people of Hiruharama (Jerusalem, Pati Arero – see the multiple names again?) who were debating the issue of having a pakeha (non-Maori) prophet. He appears to have the gifts from God, even including the ability to speak Te Reo Maori (the Maori language) but some struggle to see past other things (namely Cobbler’s grandfather and whoever else is at the meeting involving Cobbler). 

Chapter 14: Adoption 

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.  So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves.  Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.

Romans 8:14-15

This scripture links to the theme of adoption – similar to that idea that once you are welcomed, you are part of the family, part of the land. But also – this quote was to emphasise the nature of what’s been apparently given to Francis by God in terms of spiritual gifts. (One little thing – in Maori, to adopt is “to whangai” and it is a common practice for extended family to raise children if there is a break-down in family; grandparents often raise their grandchildren if things aren’t going well; the woman buried at the Taupiri cemetery is Mere Tuwhangai which sounds the same as “Mary to whangai”). 

Chapter 15: Voids And Beginnings

Therefore, great angel, bless us, bring us to Te Whaea, to the Mother of all men, to the Void and the Beginning, – only the very poor have eyes to see you.

 James K. Baxter, “In Praise of the Taniwha”

“Te Whaea” is the title given to Mary, mother of Jesus; it means “The mother” and is important in two parts of the novel. In the river narrative, the river realises that “te wahine” (the woman) has a child, so she then starts to refer to her as “te whaea”, the mother. In his argument with Cobbler, Rawiri hisses, “Te Whaea is his mother!” meaning Mary. This hints at the Catholic nature of the spirituality surrounding Francis. It also shows that he is seen as theirs now, not his families – that he is of God, above earthly ties. There’s a lot intended with this . . . more than I can articulate in this blog. “Voids and Beginning” are spiritual concepts related to Kurtz’s proclamation of “the horror” he sees in Heart of Darkness and they are good river words; “only the very poor have eyes” links with Francis late in the novel.

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