The second half of The Whale Rider demonstrates a religious aspect not heavily stressed in the beginning. Specifically, the books protagonist, Kahu, can be compared to Christianity’s savior, Jesus Christ.
Several times characters in Whale Rider allude to Old Testament Biblical passages. When Rawiri returns from Papua New Guinea, Kahu says, “See how we love you Uncle, We killed the fatted calf for you, just like the Bible says.” Later, when Kahu is swimming towards the whales, Rawiri fears Kahu will be eaten by a whale, but he is momentarily comforted by the story of Jonah’s survival in a whale’s stomach.
These Old Testament allusions point to Kahu being her people’s savior much like the Old Testament prepares the way for Jesus’, the Savior’s, birth. In addition, Kahu is willing to sacrifice her life to save her tribe. The people Kahu and Jesus offer their lives up for reject them. When Kahu learns that the old whale’s survival is the key to life and death for the Maori, she runs to complete the mission she knows she was born to do. She wants to allow her people to live forever. This is similar to Jesus’ sacrifice in which he opened the Gates of Heaven, granting eternal life.
A final parallel between Jesus and Kahu is seen when she becomes the Whale Rider. She is brought down into the depths of the ocean. All of her family presumes she has died because she was gone for three days. After three days, however, she is returned to the surface and begins to breathe. The whales brought her back so that she could help the Maori people. Christians believe that Jesus died and descended into hell. After three days, he resurrected from the dead. After his resurrection, Jesus returned to help the people who were troubled when they needed him most.