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Māui (Hawaiian mythology)

In Hawaiian mythology, Māui is an ancient chief famous for his exploits and trickery. Maui is just one of several siblings of ʻAkalana and his wife Hina-a-ke-ahi (Hina). Māui is one of the Kupua, a Demigod, a culture hero possessing several forms of supernatural strength, powers and magic. It is believed that Māui discovered the secret of fire, invented the spear, and taught Polynesians how to cook. The Island of Maui was named after Demigod Māui.

Fishing Up The Hawaiian Islands

Māui would go fishing in the broken coral reefs below Haleakala with his brothers. Māui was not a very talented fisherman, even though he had a magical fishhook that could catch anything, he did not use it for ordinary tasks. Māui’s brothers would sometimes tease him for the small amount of fish that he would bring in, but Māui would get them back by playing tricks on them.

The great fish-hook of Māui is called Manaiakalani, a giant fishhook made of his dead grandmother’s jawbone. It is baited with the wing of Hina’s pet ʻalae bird. Māui is said to have created the Hawaiian Islands by tricking his brothers. He convinces them to take him out fishing, but catches his hook upon the ocean floor. He tells his brothers that he has caught a big fish, and tells them to paddle as hard as they can. His brothers paddle with all their might, and being intent with their effort, did not notice the island(s) rising behind them. Māui repeats this trick several times, creating the Hawaiian Islands.

Restraining The Sun

Māui’s next feat is to stop the sun from moving so fast. His mother Hina complains that her kapa cloth is unable to dry because the days are so short. Māui weaves a rope made from his sister’s hair then climbs to the top of Haleakalā mountain and lassoes the sun’s rays as the sun comes up. The sun pleads for life and agrees that the days shall be long in summer and short in winter enabling Hina to dry her kapa.

Lifting The Sky

Māui realized the sky was too low, Hawaiian people were constrained by the sky and not able to stand upright, suffering not being able to complete daily tasks. The low sky also made it very hot. With the help of his father, Māui went to Lahaina town where he laid parallel to the sky bracing himself pushing the sky up with his great power. The strength of father and son together was able to push the sky up high enough for the Hawaiian people to continue doing daily tasks with tolerable temperatures. Thus, they saved mankind.


Maui Hawaiian Sup’pa Man – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Polynesian Triangle Mythology

The mythology of culture hero Demigod Māui is studied throughout the Polynesian Triangle. In Tahiti, Maui was a wise man, a prophet. In Tonga, Maui bears the earth on his shoulders, if he nods in sleep it causes earthquakes, therefore the people have to stamp on the ground to waken him. In Aotearoa, Māori mythology, Māui is a culture hero famous for his exploits and his trickery. In Samoa, they too believe Māui (Ti’iti’i) is a culture hero, famous for his exploits, his trickery and was also the creator of fire. In Hawai’i, Māui is a culture hero, an ancient chief who appears in several different genealogies.