Maui is a major Polynesian demigod, culture hero, and trickster. He is known as Maaui-tikitiki by the Maori people of New Zealand.
Maui and the Sun
When he was born, Maui was abandoned by his mother, Hina. She was certain that he was going to die, so she wrapped him in her hair and cast him into the sea. But Maui survived the ordeal and returned to his mother, proving to her that he would grow up to be a great hero.
One of Maui’s many important adventures was that of snaring the Sun. In the early days, it sped across the sky. Hina complained to her son that there was barely enough time for her to dry her clothing, and the people had no time to ﬁsh. Maui went to his blind grandmother for help. She lived on the slopes of what is now Mount Haleakala, or House of the Sun, where she cooked the bananas that the Sun ate every day.
Maui’s grandmother advised Maui to weave sixteen strong ropes and nooses out of his sister’s long hair. She said he should use these to lasso the Sun and persuade it to move more slowly across the sky.
Maui wove the ropes and hid. As each ray of the Sun reached Haleakala, Maui lassoed it until he had taken the Sun prisoner. Maui agreed to free the Sun if it promised to slow its pace. The Sun agreed, and from that day on, daylight lasted long enough for everybody to ﬁnish their work.
But the Sun still hung too low, so that people were unable to stand upright. A young woman asked Maui for help. He used his great strength to lift the sky and set the Sun in place.
Maui Creates Land
Maui also created new land. In the Hawaiian version of this tale, he descended into the land of the dead and received a hook made from the jawbone of an ancestor. This magical hook was called manai ikalanai. Maui then returned to the land of the living and caught a sacred bird, the alae.
Maui then told his brothers to paddle him out to sea. He lowered manai ikalanai, which was baited with the sacred bird, into the water. His sister, Hina of the Sea, helped him by placing the hook into the mouth of Old One Tooth, the great creature that held the land fast to the bottom of the sea.
Maui then told his brothers to row. Hewarned them to not look back. As they strained, a great mass of land slowly rose behind them. Unfortunately, one brother was overcome by curiosity and turned to see what was going on. The great mass of land shattered and became the islands of Polynesia. The Hawaiian island called Maui bears the hero’s name.
The version of this story told by the Maori is slightly different. Maui used the jawbone hook but with blood from his own nose as bait. He caught the porch of a house that was at the bottom of the ocean. He pulled up the whole north island of New Zealand, which the Maori call Te Ika-a-Maui, or the Fish of Maui.Many other tales of Maui and his deeds—both as hero and as trickster—are told throughout Polynesia.