Lee Murray talks with us about her Clamour and Mischief story "Kūpara and Tekoteko," while also offering a reading of "Kūpara and Tekoteko on our YouTube channel – have a listen!
What is the most unexpected tidbit you learned while researching your story?
One interesting thing I learned was that here in Aotearoa New Zealand, our raven has no name of its own. The reason for this is because the large black songbird (of which there were three subspecies concentrated mainly in the lower South Island and Chatham Islands) has been extinct for several centuries, and its name lost to oral history, as noted in this article in The Conversation*. This left me with a bit of a conundrum, since I wanted to conjure a story from that long-ago period before the birds were lost to memory. Aware that, in general, the Māori people took a very practical approach to nomenclature, naming species according to their appearance or their behaviour, I called the raven ‘Kūpara’ which means ‘almost entirely black’, in the hope that perhaps there is some small chance that the name might once have been used.
* Wehi, P., Whaanga, H., & Cox, M. (2018). Dead as the moa: oral traditions show that early Māori recognised extinction. The Conversation. September 6. Retrieved 7 July 2022. https://theconversation.com/dead-as-the-moa-oral-traditions-show-that-early-maori-recognised-extinction-101738
What was your favourite thing about writing a story for Clamour and Mischief?
“Kūpara and Tekoteko” is essentially a re-imagining of Oscar Wilde’s very popular fairy tale, “The Happy Prince”, with my version employing a New Zealand context and storytelling style. I wrote the story during the pandemic, which was a desolate and lonely time for many of us, and I’d hoped to show how when you’re feeling alone, even when you’re the very last of your kind, there is solace and connection to be found in art and music and story. I loved playing with the fable approach and the rule of three that is so often found in fairy tales, but mostly I loved how in writing a story about wellbeing and hope, I found a little for myself.
Which is your favourite corvid and why?
For a favourite, it is hard to go past possibly the most quoted and ominous raven of all, the one whose “eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming” from Poe’s best-loved poem “The Raven.” If you’ve never had a chance to read the poem, you can read it here at the Poetry Foundation.
My website is https://www.leemurray.info. I'm also on Twitter and Facebook.
Read all the Q&As with our Clamour and Mischief contributors.