According to Maori legend, Taranaki belonged to a tribe of volcanoes in the middle of the North Island. However, he was forced to depart rather hurriedly when he was caught with Pihanga, the beautiful volcano near Lake Taupo and the lover of Mt Tongariro. As he fled south (some say in disgrace; others say to keep the peace), Taranaki gouged out a wide scar in the earth (now the Whanganui River) and finally settled in the west in his current position. He remains here in majestic isolation, hiding his face behind a cloud of tears.
It is said that Maori did not heavily settle the area between Taranaki and Pihanga because they feared the reunification of the lovers in a spectacular eruption. Instead, Maori settlements in this district lined the coast between Mokau and Patea, concentrated around Urenui and Waitara. The mountain itself was supremely sacred, both as a burial site for chiefs and as a hide-out in times of danger.
It was Captain Cook who named the mountain Egmont, after the Earl he sought to flatter at that particular moment. Egmont National Park was created in 1900, making it NZ’s second-oldest. Mt Taranaki eventually reclaimed its name, although the name Egmont has stuck like, well, egg. The mountain starred as Mt Fuji in The Last Samurai (2003), the production of which caused near-hysteria in the locals, especially when Tom Cruise came to town.