Whale Rider changed me profoundly in the sense that I had similar experiences to Pai – certainly not the whale-sense, but of being lonely and isolated from one’s family and wanting to belong.
The story begins with twins – a boy and a girl – born to a modern day Maori chieftain’s son. The boy dies, along with the children’s mother, but the girl lives. The chief’s son gives the girl a sacred name, Paikea – the revered ancestor from which all Maori descended – against his father’s wishes, as they are patriarchal society. The chief’s son, the father of the girl, then leaves the island of New Zealand to wander the world. The girl is raised by her grandfather, who loves and yet can’t bring himself to approve of her. This story details how he comes to love and accept her, even if she is a girl, and accept that there are some things in life you can’t understand – they just ARE.
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