Connections With Jesus in ‘The Whale Rider’ By Niki Caro

Categories: DramaJesus Christ

Christ figures are everywhere in films. There can be connections made between characters in films and the character of Jesus in the things spoken, actions taken, and the effect it has on the people around them. ‘The Whale Rider’ by Niki Caro has some very clear connections between a young girl named Paikea, and Jesus. From the very beginning of both their stores, the people around them are crying out for a new leader to rise up, but those people get one that they weren’t expecting.

One way that Jesus and Paikea are alike, is the way that the people who were expecting them, didn’t get what they expected. In ‘The Whale Rider’, Paikeas family were hoping for a boy who would continue the family line of strong male chiefs, but what was brought to them, was a girl. Her Father Porourangi chose to accept her identity as the descendant of her ancestor Paikea, by naming her ‘Paikea’ even though she wasn’t a boy.

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“Not that name” was the response her grandfather Koro gave because He didn’t want to accept Paikea as the true descendant and wanted a boy to carry the name. A similar thing happened to Jesus, the religious leaders did not expect their saviour to come as a man so they, therefore, rejected Jesus as He claimed to be the Messiah. “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.

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” Just as Paikeas true identity was rejected, Jesus’ true identity as the Messiah was rejected by the religious leaders because they thought their saviour would come as a figure above them, not a humble human to live among them. A moment in ‘The Whale Rider’ when there may be some insight into how Jesus might have felt, was when both Porourangi and Paikea were feeling rejected by Koro, they shared a connection in not being able to please Koro. “I can’t be what he wants’… ‘me neither.” This is important because you can imagine Jesus feeling this way too. He came to save humans and to give them an opportunity to spend eternity with God. While he was on earth, though He had many people who loved him, He must’ve had double the amount who disliked him very strongly. It’s a good reminder that Jesus had feelings too and not only did his time on earth physically hurt at times but emotionally as well. It is also a great reminder because Paikea chose not to be who Koro wanted her to be, but who she was called to be. Jesus chose to come as a human and step into who he was called to be, a saviour for all humans.

Another moment of crossover between Paikea and Jesus was their ‘baptisms’. Koro didn’t know between the boys he was training, who the true chief was going to be. By retrieving the whale tooth necklace that Koro threw into the ocean, Koro would then know who the true chief of the people would be. When Paikea was the one that dove into the water and found the necklace, and not the boys that were trained, it was revealed to her family that Paikea was the true leader that they were looking for. The same thing happened with Jesus. John the Baptist was down by the river baptising people and questions were asked whether John could be the Messiah. When Jesus was baptised and came out of the water, “the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you, I am well pleased.” After Jesus’ baptism was it then realised by the people who witnessed this, that Jesus was the Son of God. That Jesus was the true leader and saviour of humans. Both Jesus and Paikea had people around them doubting their identity but it was when they were immersed in water and rose from it that people knew who they truly were. Though proving their identity, they still had people around them who didn’t believe who they truly were. The ‘finale’ for both Paikea and Jesus’ stories was the self-sacrifice they both took. Their actions lead a group from death into life. Paikea sacrificed herself to lead the pod of whales back out to the ocean. Her sacrifice was important because leaving the pod of whales there would cause the whales to die - a big loss for their people and for her. Jesus sacrificed Himself to suffer and die on the cross for our sins, for us to have the opportunity to be reunited with God. His sacrifice was important because leaving mankind separated from God, would cause a great loss for us, and for God.

It was the people around Paikea and Jesus that were impacted most by their sacrifice. It was until their self-sacrifices that the people around them understood their authority given to them. As Paikea lay unconscious in the hospital that Koro says to her “Wise leader, forgive me. I am but a fledgling new to flight”. This is a powerful realisation for Koro, because not only is he admitting that Paikea is the true chief of the people, but also that Koro is not perfect and needs to learn from Paikeas leadership. A similar thing was said to Jesus when He was killed on the cross in Matthew 27:54 “Surely he was the Son of God” This is the realisation of the Centurion when after Jesus died, the earth shook. They admit to their mistake of killing the man, who was who He said He was and that they killed an innocent man. It was the realisation of the people around both Paikea and Jesus, that they really were who they claimed they were – leaders of the people.

The amazing thing about both Paikea’s and Jesus’ lives, is that despite the fact that so many people around them rejected them, and didn’t believe their true identity, even though they proved it many times, they still chose to sacrifice themselves for their people. They had such a deep love for their people that dieing for them was the only way to really show it to us. The film ‘The Whale Rider’ provides us with insights into Jesus’ life that people may not have realised but also reiterates the importance of his sacrifice for us.

Updated: Feb 24, 2024
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Connections With Jesus in ‘The Whale Rider’ By Niki Caro. (2024, Feb 24). Retrieved from

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