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Utu is a Maori word. If asked, I would have defined utu as revenge for wrong doings. I’m sort of right, but when I double-checked the definition, I discovered it means much more.

According the the NZ History site, utu is maintaining the balance and harmony within society. Each wrong needs to be put right, but the method of correcting the balance to obtain harmony again varies. And this is where revenge steps right up to the plate!

An example – If the balance within a tribe or between tribes was upset, one form of utu was muru. Muru is where personal property is seized in lieu or compensation for the offence. The matter was then considered resolved.

However, if this didn’t work, then a tribe might carry out a taua, which was a hostile expedition or a straight out war. There were different levels of taua.

Taua muru – a bloodless plundering

Taua ngaki mate/taua roto – violent action

So there you have it – the ins and outs of utu.

In the fictional sense, I think revenge makes for an exciting plot full of twists and turns. One of my favorite types of plot to write.

Do you like revenge plots?


  1. Alice Audrey

    I can see Utu getting out of hand very easily, which does indeed make for a good plot twist.

    • Shelley Munro

      Yes, I can imagine that a lot of the time the situation escalated rapidly and went to custard.

  2. Heather

    Revenge plots can make for good reading, when well-crafted. The book I am finishing has turned out to be a revenge plot, though the reader is unaware of this until the very end. It has definitely been a page-turner! My T13

    • Shelley Munro

      I like a good revenge plot, especially if the reader doesn’t “get it” until the end of the book. That makes for a gripping read.

  3. Sandra Cox

    UTU: I like this word!

    • Shelley Munro

      I think it’s a cool word too. I must use it in one of my books. *thinking cap on*

  4. Jennifer Fischetto

    Oooh, I love revenge plots. I tried writing one once, but likable vengeful people don’t come easy to me. I’ll have to work on it. :)

  5. Mary Kirkland

    That’s very interesting. I do like revenge plots too.

  6. T.F. Walsh

    New word I just learnt today… nice:)

  7. anna@herding cats & burning soup

    I’d not heard that before I don’t think. Interesting. And yes revenge as a plot is always a good time. I love seeing how things change along the way :)

  8. Heather

    Interesting word!

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