By now most people would have seen Disney’s Moana but for those of you that haven’t it’s essentially a coming of age story that follows the daughter of the chief and her quest to save her island, along the way she meets up with Maui, a down on his luck demigod who she coerces into helping her, together they set out on an epic journey.
Growing up in New Zealand I was told many of Maui’s stories at school, so it was surprising to see how many people didn’t know who he was. Different cultures have different myths surrounding himand the Maori are no different here he is known as Maui Tikitiki-O-Taranga, or simply Maui for short. To sum it up, Maui is basically the Polynesian Hercules mixed with the Norse god Loki. In celebration of Maori language week, we will be taking a long at one of his most famous stories.
Maui pulls land from the sea
Maui was the favoured son of Taranga, blessed with magical powers and a natural affinity for transformation magic, sometimes he’d use this magic to help people but often times he would use it to trick them instead, this earned him the moniker Maui Nukarau or Maui the deceitful. His brothers were born without powers or magic and so wherever he thrived, they struggled, when they went fishing or hunting together, he would use his magic to catch more than them. Over time the brothers grew tired of Mauis tricks and did their best to avoid taking him with them. One day Maui transformed into a tiwaiwaka, or fantail he flew over to his brothers canoe when they were leaving and perched on the prow, however, his brothers saw straight through this trick and immediately turned the canoe around. When they got back to shore Maui changed back into his human form
“How did you know it was me” asked Maui
The eldest brother looked Maui up and down “we have seen your tiwaiwaka form many times, you won’t fool us again; you’ll be nothing but trouble if you come with us. Stay home!”
This left Maui with no other choice but to stay home with his wives and listen to them complain about the lack of fish to eat. “Stop complaining women” said Maui when their grumbling had got on his nerves.
“what are you fussing about, was it not I who slowed down the sun? do you think catching fish is beyond me? Mark my words I will catch a fish so big not even you will be able to eat it all before it goes bad” In a rage Maui rushed down to his brothers canoe and hid under the floorboards, the next day his brothers loaded up the waka and set sail. When they arrived at the fishing grounds Maui crept out from beneath the floorboards.
“Curse you Maui Nukarau we forbade you from coming with us why are you here” shouted the eldest brother.
“Aue, forgive me, I must prove my wife wrong or she will never let me forget it” whimpered Maui
The brothers began to talk amongst themselves but before they could speak Maui quickly interjected “I won’t be any trouble, I’ll catch a fish big enough for all of us, besides you’ve come too far to turn back now”
His brothers looked to each other and let out a sigh, they knew in their hearts he was right if they turned back now, they would be returning home empty handed and hungry, the brothers agreed to let Maui stay if he promised to stop using tricks on them, Maui gladly accepted the deal. He guided his brothers further and further out to sea until all sight of land was lost
“Ahh this is the place, ko tenei te wa” said Maui
He reached into his maro (waist girdle) and pulled out the fishhook he had made from the jawbone of his grandmother, “ready yourselves it is time” he said to his brothers as he began to chant a karakia to his ancestor Tangaroa. When the karakia was finished Maui cast his line into the sea, his line went deeper and deeper until the glowing hook was barely visible.
A pull on his line was the signal, Aue cried his brothers he has a good catch of fish, Kau said Maui I have a great fish. Maui and the beast fought for many days each one refusing to give an inch, on the final day Maui mustered what remained of his strength and pulled with all his might. And so, it was that Maui did indeed catch a great fish, Te ika a Maui, the fish of Maui became the north island of New Zealand.