Ruarangi’s wife was so beautiful that the Fairy King fell in love with her and carried her off to his fairy city. There he said a charm that caused her to forget her former life, her husband and her home. When Ruarangi came home at night to find his house empty, his beloved wife gone, his grief was terrible. After a fruitless search he went to a Magician. “Find out where my wife is,” he begged.
“What will you give me for my services?” asked the Magician.
“Half my crop of sweet potatoes.”
“Good. I will find her.”
He made his magic ring and looked through his magic eyes. “Your wife is in the city of the Fairy King,” he said at last. “The Fairy King has said a charm to make her forget you and her home. You must go to the fairy city for her. I will say a spell that will cause her to re member everything when you appear.”
He said the spell. When he had finished he said, “Take red ochre with you to rub on your wife’s skin. The fairies will then be powerless to touch her.”
Ruarangi set off, taking red ochre with him. After many days of travelling, he reached the fairy city, a quaint cluster of peaked houses built on a flat-topped hill. He climbed the hill and walked through the city, but houses and streets were empty. Not a fairy was to be seen.
Ruarangi’s beautiful wife walked on the sports ground with the Fairy King, watching with idle eyes the racing, jumping and throwing of the fairy people. Suddenly, as Ruarangi’s foot touched the empty fairy city on the neighbour hill, the Magician’s spell did its work. In a flash her memory came back.
“My husband! My Ruarangi!” she thought. “What magic has bound me? I must escape.”
Two fairies wrestled on the course. The King and all his people watched with eager interest. “I wish to speak to your brothers behind us, ” she said to the King. He nodded permission, his eyes on the performers. She turned and walked downhill, stopping but a moment to speak to the King’s brothers. Once out of sight, she hurried on, meaning to escape. Passing through the fairy city , she met her husband looking for her. “Ruarangi! My husband! Take me home,” she cried.
Ruarangi’s heart sang for joy. He rubbed red ochre on her face and neck, that no fairy spell should overtake her. Then he took her home. When they reached their country, a great feast of welcome was given by their friends, for joy at their safe return.
On the sports-ground the Fairy King waited for Ruarangi’s wife. When she did not return, he sent a messenger for her. The messenger brought word that she had gone on to the city.
“It is well,” said the King. “She rests. She has but mortal strength.”
When the sports were over the fairies all went home, but she was not in the city. No clue was left but the prints of footsteps down the hill. The King examined the footprints.
“They are those of Ruarangi and his wife,” he cried. “He has dared to enter my city and take her from me. He shall be punished. She shall return. Bring the army together with all speed. In three days we march of Ruarangi’s city.”
For two days the fairy army prepared their weapons and exercised themselves; on the third day they marched for Ruarangi’s home, the Fairy King at their head.
Through the land the alarm was spread by swift-footed messengers: “The Fairy King draws near with his army.”
“Prepare for war,” Ruarangi commanded.
“There is no need,” said the Magician. “There is a better way.”
“Tell us,” said Ruarangi. “What shall I receive for helping you?”
“The other half of my crop of sweet potatoes.”
“Good. Then listen to my words. You can not fight the fairies. Their magic power would render you defenseless. But there are two things against which they have no power: red ochre and the steam of cooked food. Smear yourselves, your fences, and your houses with red ochre; cook food and set it steaming on your posts and roofs. Thus the fairy army will possess no power to harm you or your homes.”
The people listened, and obeyed the words of the Magician. While the men rubbed red ochre over everything, the women cooked great quantities of food and set it steaming on the posts and roofs. With a loud battle-cry, the fairy army drew up in front of the waiting city. A gust of hot steam answered them; the crimson glow of red ochre flashed on their dismayed eyes. “Magic!” they cried in consternation. They turned to fly.
The Fairy King stood forth and called them to endure it. “I will overpower their magic!” he said. Standing in front of his army, he began to chant an incantation that should remove the paint and food. His fairies, listening, took courage to endure the horrid glow and stifling steam. But the Magician, hearing the King’s words, sprang to the gateway of the city and chanted a spell to make the paint and food remain.
More and more loudly they sang, each trying to out-chant the other. Meanwhile, the paint and the food did not move, a sign that the Magician’s power was stronger than the King’s.
At last the Fairy King realized that he was beaten. Turning, he gave orders for retreat. The fairy army marched away, never to return. Ruarangi and his beautiful wife were saved by the Magician’s magic.