Throughout the entire novel, there is a constant sense of the past and present; whether it is the narrative alternating from the present tense to the past or Nanny Flower’s modern thinking and Koro Apirana’s traditional thinking. Towards the end of the novel, the past and present is joined together when Kahu is finally recognized by Koro as the new leader of the Maori tribe.
Koro’s close mindedness prevents him to see all of the signs pointing to the real leader, Kahu. In order for Koro to accept that Kahu is the whale rider, he must stop resisting against changes in the traditions. Right before Koro comprehends what is happening to the chief whale and his herd, he asks his wife, “Which of the boys?” (Ihimaera 133) as in which of the boys has saved the herd. This shows his inability to understand that girls and women have power until the end of the novel. While Nanny Flowers has certainly pressured him and tried to enlighten him on more modern views, ultimately Koro needed to see Kahu ride for him to believe she is the one.
In the hospital, Koro’s sincere apologizes spill out to Nanny Flowers saying he is to blame and he should have known, displaying the acceptance of change. It seems like Koro had a revelation in which he understands why women are of importance to society and why Nanny Flowers is always threatening to divorce. Koro admits his blindness to Kahu’s actions including the memory of when she bit his toe and when she kept sneaking into the school. In addition to accepting the change in the traditional gender roles, Koro’s tough exterior is set aside and his soft interior is exhibited when affectionately calls Nanny Flowers “dear” multiple times and cries while hugging Kahu. Koro acknowledges Kahu’s everlasting love and expresses his acceptance of Kahu being the new leader by stating his feelings for her, “You’re the best great-grandchild in the whole wide world. Boy or girl, it doesn’t matter…. I love you” (Ihimaera 149). Koro’s acceptance means a lot to Kahu and lets her know she has the blessings of the one person who really matters.