According to Maori legend, there once lived a young couple named Manata and Matakauri who were madly in love. Manata was a great chief’s daughter, but the chief denied Matakauri’s request for Manata’s hand because Matakauri was not of sufficiently high rank for his daughter.
Some time soon after this, a giant named Matau kidnapped Manata, who was very beautiful. The giant tied her up in magical vines so she could not escape. The chief, distraught by his daughter’s disappearance, called on all the warriors of the tribe to rescue his daughter, promising her hand in marriage as the reward for her safe return. Matakauri took up the challenge and cleverly waited for the giant to sleep before he crept in to rescue Manata. Unfortunately Matakauri was unable to cut the magic vines that bound Manata to the giant. But Manata, seeing his efforts and grief-stricken at the idea of never escaping, wept tears that dissolved the vines enough for her to escape with Matakauri. Aside: I love how in many Maori legends, the women save themselves. /aside
Matakauri took Manata to a place of safety, but realizing that the giant would always be a threat, Matakauri returned to the giant’s lair. The young warrior used what remained of the very magic vines that had bound Manata to the giant and tied the creature up. Then Matakauri set fire to the giant, who was unable to put himself out because of the vines. Maori legend holds that Lake Wakatipu is the final resting place of the giant – his great mass and the fire that killed him created a crevice in the earth that filled with water over time. Some say you can still feel the giant’s heartbeat in the tides along the lake. Matakauri and Manata married and lived happily ever… well, you know the rest.
If you look at an aerial view of Lake Wakatipu, it does look like a prostrate giant, curled on his side in pain. Queenstown sits at the giant’s knee, if the legend is true.
Title quote: the lake’s full name in Maori, meaning literally “trough,” “goblin” and “fresh water.” So the goblin trough full of fresh water.