FOUR BROTHERS, each
bearing the name of Maui, belong to Hawaiian legend. They accomplished
little as a family, except on special occasions when the youngest of
the household awakened his brothers by some unexpected trick which drew
them into unwonted action. The legends of Hawaii, Tonga, Tahiti, New
Zealand and the Hervey group make this youngest Maui "the discoverer of
fire" or "the ensnarer of the sun" or "the fisherman who pulls up
islands" or "the man endowed with magic," or "Maui with spirit power."
The legends vary somewhat, of course, but not as much as might be
expected when the thousands of miles between various groups of islands
are taken into consideration.
Maui was one of the Polynesian demi-gods. His parents belonged to
the family of supernatural beings. He himself was possessed of
supernatural powers and was supposed to make use of all manner of
enchantments. In New Zealand antiquity a Maui was said to have assisted
other gods in the creation of man. Nevertheless Maui was very human. He
lived in thatched houses, had wives and children, and was scolded by
the women for not properly supporting his household.
The time of his sojourn among men is very indefinite. In Hawaiian
genealogies Maui and his brothers were placed among the descendants of
Ulu and "the sons of Kii," and Maui was one of the ancestors of
Kamehameha, the first king of the united Hawaiian Islands. This would
place him in the seventh or eighth century of the Christian Era. But it
is more probable that Maui belongs to the mist-land of time. His
mischievous pranks with the various gods would make him another Mercury
living in any age from the creation to the beginning of the Christian
The Hervey Island legends state that Maui’s father was "the
supporter of the heavens" and his mother "the guardian of the road to
the invisible world."
In the Hawaiian chant, Akalana was the name of his father. In other
groups this was the name by which his mother was known. Kanaloa, the
god, is sometimes known as the father of Maui. In Hawaii Hina was his
mother. Elsewhere Ina, or Hina, was the grandmother, from whom he
The Hervey Island legends say that four mighty ones lived in the old
world from which their ancestors came. This old world bore the name
Ava-iki, which is the same as Hawa-ii, or Hawaii. The four gods were
Mauike, Ra, Ru, and Bua-Taranga.
It is interesting to trace the connection of these four names with
Polynesian mythology. Mauike is the same as the demi-god of New
Zealand, Mafuike. On other islands the name is spelled Mauika, Mafuika,
Mafuia, Mafuie, and Mahuika. Ra, the sun god of Egypt, is the same as
Ra in New Zealand and La (sun) in Hawaii. Ru, the supporter of the
heavens, is probably the Ku of Hawaii, and the Tu of New Zealand and
other islands, one of the greatest of the gods worshiped by the ancient
Hawaiians. The fourth mighty one from Ava-ika was a woman, Bua-taranga,
who guarded the path to the underworld. Talanga in Samoa, and Akalana
in Hawaii were the same as Taranga. Pua-kalana (the Kalana flower)
would probably be the same in Hawaiian as Bua-taranga in the language
of the Society Islands.
Ru, the supporter of the Heavens, married Buataranga, the guardian
of the lower world. Their one child was Maui. The legends of Raro-Toaga
state that Maui’s father and mother were the children of Tangaroa
(Kanaloa in Hawaiian), the great god worshiped throughout Polynesia.
There were three Maui brothers and one sister, Ina-ika (Ina, the fish).
The New Zealand legends relate the incidents of the babyhood of Maui.
Maui was prematurely born, and his mother, not, caring to be
troubled with him, cut off a lock of her hair, tied it around him and
cast him into the sea. In this way the name came to him,
Maui-Tiki-Tiki, or "Maui formed in the topknot." The waters bore him
safely. The jelly fish enwrapped and mothered him. The god of the seas
cared for and protected him. He was carried to the god’s house and hung
up in the roof that he inight feel the warm air of the fire, and be
cherished into life. When he was old enough, he came to his relations
while they were all gathered in the great House of Assembly, dancing
and making merry. Little Maui crept in and sat down behind his
brothers. Soon his mother called the children and found a strange
child, who proved that he was her son, and was taken in as one of the
family. Some of the brothers were jealous, but the eldest addressed the
others as follows:
"Never mind; let him be our dear brother. In the days of peace
remember the proverb, ‘When you are on friendly terms, settle your
disputes in a friendly way; when you are at war, you must redress your
injuries by violence.’ It is better for us, brothers, to be kind to
other people. These are the ways by which men gain influence-by
laboring for abundance of food to feed others, by collecting property
to give to others, and by similar means by which you promote the good
Thus, according to the New Zealand story related by Sir George Grey, Maui was received in his home.
Maui’s home was placed by some of the Hawaiian myths at Kauiki, a
foothill of the great extinct crater Haleakala, on the Island of Maui.
It was here he lived when the sky was raised to its present position.
Here was located the famous fort around which many battles were fought
during the years immediately preceding the coming of Captain Cook. This
fort was held by warriors of the Island of Hawaii a number of years. It
was from this home that Maui was supposed to have journeyed when he
climbed Mt. Haleakala to ensnare the sun.
And yet most of the Hawaiian legends place Maui’s home by the rugged
black lava beds of the Wailuku river near Hilo on the island Hawaii.
Here he lived when he found the way to make fire by rubbing sticks
together, and when he killed Kuna, the great eel, and performed other
feats of valor. He was supposed to cultivate the land on the north side
of the river. His mother, usually known as Hina, had her home in a lava
cave under the beautiful Rainbow Falls, one of the fine scenic
attractions of Hilo. An ancient demigod, wishing to destroy this home,
threw a great mass of lava across the stream below the falls. The
rising water was fast filling the cave.
Hina called loudly to her powerful son Maui. He came quickly and
found that a large and strong ridge of lava lay across the stream. One
end rested against a small hill. Maui struck the rock on the other side
of the hill and thus broke a new pathway for the river. The water
swiftly flowed away and the cave remained as the home of the Maui
According to the King Kalakaua family legend, translated by Queen
Liliuokalani, Maui and his brothers also made this place their home.
Here he aroused the anger of two uncles, his mother’s brothers, who
were called "Tall Post" and "Short Post," because they guarded the
entrance to a cave in which the Maui family probably had its home.
"They fought hard with Maui, and were thrown, and red water flowed
freely from Maui’s forehead. This was the first shower by Maui."
Perhaps some family discipline followed this knocking down of door
posts, for it is said:
"They fetched the sacred Awa bush,
Then came the second shower by Maui;
The third shower was when the elbow of Awa was broken;
The fourth shower came with the sacred bamboo."
Maui’s mother, so says a New Zealand legend, had her home in the
under-world as well as with her children. Maui determined to find the
hidden dwelling place. His mother would meet the children in the
evening and lie down to sleep with them and then disappear with the
first appearance of dawn. Maui remained awake one night, and when all
were asleep, arose quietly and stopped up every crevice by which a ray
of light could enter. The morning came and the sun mounted up-far up in
the sky. At last his mother leaped up and tore away the things which
shut out the light.
"Oh, dear; oh, dear! She saw the sun high in the heavens; so she
hurried away, crying at the thought of having been so badly treated by
her own children."
Maui watched her as she pulled up a tuft of grass and disappeared in the earth, pulling the grass back to its place.
Thus Maui found the path to the under-world. Soon he transformed
himself into a pigeon and flew down, through the cave, until he saw a
party of people under a sacred tree, like those growing in the ancient
first Hawaii. He flew to the tree and threw down berries upon the
people. They threw back stones. At last he permitted a stone from his
father to strike him, and he fell to the ground. "They ran to catch him
but lo! the pigeon had turned into a man."
Then his father "took him to the water to be baptized" (possibly a
modern addition to the legend). Prayers were offered and ceremonies
passed through. But the prayers were incomplete and Maui’s father knew
that the gods would be angry and cause Maui’s death, and all because in
the hurried baptism a part of the prayers had been left unsaid. Then
Maui returned to the upper world and lived again with his brothers.
Maui commenced his mischievous life early, for Hervey Islanders say
that one day the children were playing a game dearly loved by
Polynesians- hide-and-seek. Here a sister enters into the game and
hides little Maui under a pile of dry sticks. His brothers could not
find him, and the sister told them where to look. The sticks were
carefully handled, but the child could not be found. He had shrunk
himself so small that he was like an insect under some sticks and
leaves. Thus early he began to use enchantments.
Maui’s home, at the best, was only a sorry affair. Gods and demigods
lived in caves and small grass houses. The thatch rapidly rotted and
required continual renewal. In a very short time the heavy rains beat
through the decaying roof. The home was without windows or doors, save
as low openings in the ends or sides allowed entrance to those willing
to crawl through. Off on one side would be the rude shelter, in the
shadow of which Hina pounded the bark of certain trees into wood pulp
and then into strips of thin, soft wood-paper, which bore the name of
"Tapa cloth." This cloth Hina prepared for the clothing of Maui and his
brothers. Tapa cloth was often treated to a coat of cocoa-nut, or
candle-nut oil, making it somewhat waterproof and also more durable.
Here Maui lived on edible roots and fruits and raw fish, knowing
little about cooked food, for the art of fire making was not yet known.
In later years Maui was supposed to live on the eastern end of the
island Maui, and also in another home on the large island Hawaii, on
which he discovered how to make fire by rubbing dry sticks together.
Maui was the Polynesian Mercury. As a little fellow he was endowed with
peculiar powers, permitting him to become invisible or to change his
human form into that of an animal. He was ready to take anything from
any one by craft or force. Nevertheless, like the thefts of Mercury,
his pranks usually benefited mankind.
It is a little curious that around the different homes of Maui,
there is so little record of temples and priests and altars. He lived
too far back for priestly customs. His story is the rude, mythical
survival of the days when of church and civil government there was none
and worship of the gods was practically unknown, but every man was a
law unto himself, and also to the other man, and quick retaliation
followed any injury received. From writings of Westervelt