In Polynesia, animals, plants, and inanimate objects such as stones which were colored red, were often associated with Tangaroa (Scheffrahn 1965:218-219;258-259). In New Zealand, Tangaroa was connected to certain red stones, for example, "at the mouth of the Motu River, in the Bay of Plenty, the local people, the Whanau-a-Apanui tribe still treasure as a sacred and most potent fishing talisman a very ancient stone called 'Te Whatu kura-a-Tangaroa' ('The Sacred Red Stone of Tangaroa'). It is a small carved red stone, described as about two inches in length and half an inch broad, with a piece of human bone attached to it for a hook" (Cowan 1930:178-179).
An Easter Island equivalent is possibly found in Maunga Tangaroa, a hill with the smooth curves of a whale or a seal, which is overlooking Puna Pau, the quarry of the red moai "hats" (fig. 3). A Mangaian myth attributes the color connection to a decision made by the primal parents Vatea and Papa to split the world between Tangaroa and his twin brother Rongo, god of cultivated plants: "The division was made on this principle: all the RED on earth or in the ocean became Tangaroa's; the rest, i.e. the great bulk, was Rongo's" (Gill 1876:12). A similar color distinction – but this time between Tangaroa and Tane – was made in Hawaii where it was said that "Kanaloa was a tall god with a fair skin who usually appeared in human form, while his companion, Kane, was dark, with curly hair and thick lips" (Thrum 1923:260).
In the Atu'a Mata Riri chant (text T1), the name of the paroko appears in three places. Verse 30 has ka pu te paroko, "Bring on the paroko-fish!", which verses 42-43 explain as the summoning of a certain phase in the neru's development: ka pu te heva pararoroko: "Bring on the state of delirium (so that) the paroko will come forth!" This suggests a ritual transformation process involving some form of intoxication – possibly induced by poporo berries. The third occurrence, in verse 36, apparently refers to the animal's slimy skin: he toto te hii mo kino no paroko mo ngaro rengo: "The sunrays are harmful because the paroko will be totally corrupted if (its) 'smoothness' disappears!" Apart from Atu'a Mata Riri, there are two other chants which refer to the neru as paroko (cf. texts R3; M3).
The word pararoroko of verse 43 can be compared to the terms paraparoko, paroparoko, parokoroko that are used in different versions of the Makemake creation myth. Although these have been interpreted as verbal forms, e.g., "many small paroko-fish came forth" (Englert 1980:12-15) and "the fish parokoroko came into being" (Fedorova 1965:397), there is a possibility that they are in fact garbled combinations of similar structured words. The last sentence of a version of the He timo te akoako chant, for example, reads he rere he pororeko te paroko ki te karu hihi, which can be translated as "The paroko-fish will leap up and slip and slide to (their) gathering on the ridge" (cf. text R3). The word pororeko, "to be slippery, slimy" is probably related to poreko, "to be born" and porekoreko, "fecund". These make an alternative interpretation of the sentence possible, one which conveys the notion of "to be born" or "to be born in large numbers". This would suggest that the small paroko was not only chosen as a metaphor for the neru because it is a shy fish which likes to hide in holes among the coastal rocks or because the children's crawling through the muddy tunnels to the supplies of fresh water resembled the paroko's sliding through the wet shore sand, but also because it was thought to represent some infant stage in the development of the neru during their stay at 'Ana O Keke. Its plentifulness near the seashore may have been responsible for the association with fertility whereas its slimy skin may have linked it to childbirth. These notions of "fertility" and "birth" also play an important role in another explanation.
It can be hypothesised that the paroko was not thought of as a "real" fish since it lacks scales and is able to operate outside the water. These two properties (which it, incidentally, has in common with humans) may have relegated it to the fringe of the domain of the "father of fish", Tangaroa, and may even have put it, at least temporarily, under the auspices of the sea god's brother and greatest adversary, Tane, who was associated, inter alia, with fertility and agriculture. There are some facts which point in this direction.
Firstly, in the two versions of the Makemake creation myth that were published by Englert (1980:12-14), Makemake – Tane's Easter Island incarnation according to Métraux (1940:314) – is credited with the creation of the paroko-fish by fecundating a gourd. Secondly, another member of the Blenniidae, the patuki, was apparently associated with agriculture as specimen of this fish were left on ahu to fertilize nearby fields (Seaver Kurze 1997:71). Horley & Lee (2012:17-18) have identified images of this patuki at 'Orongo which suggest a connection with the bird cult of Makemake. The fact that the paroko and patuki species look very similar – De Buen (1963:75), for example, lists them both as the Reef margin blenny – may have caused them to be endowed with the same ritual associations. Thirdly, there is an interesting parallel provided by a small freshwater fish known to the Māori under the names of panoko, papanoko, parikou, parakoi, and others: "Captain G. Mair has stated that natives of the upper Whanganui apply the term te ika huna a Tane-mahuta (the hidden fish of Tane-mahuta) to the panokonoko" (Best 1929:224-225). This fish has since been identified as the torrentfish (Cheimarrichthys fosteri), a species that is found in fast-flowing rivers throughout coastal New Zealand but of which until recently little was known as it is difficult to observe (McDowall 2000:119-131). The fact that it is able to penetrate deep into the inland and reach considerable heights traveling upstream may have been the origin of the association with the god. It is however possible that the identification is incorrect or that other fish went by the same name. Taylor, one of Best's sources, for example, describes the papanoko as a "scaleless fresh water fish" (1855:383), which means that he cannot be referring to the scaled torrent fish.