Maui - The Demigod

The history and mythology of Maui, The Demigod.

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• General: Educational • General: History
• General: Legends / Mythology

Matt Anderson's Take
Guide Series: Hawaiian Mythology
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The story of Maui - The Demigod is a well-known legend among the Hawaiian people. Maui is a demi-god who was known to be an ancient chief according to the mythology. He is considered one of the more important demigods in Hawaiian lore.

Creating The Hawaiian Islands


Maui is commonly known to be the creator of the Hawaiian Islands, at least as far as Hawaiian mythology is concerned. According to the most common legend, he actually created the islands by tricking his brothers when they went for a fishing trip. With the famous fish-hook known as Manaiakalani, Maui tricked his brothers into hauling up the islands from the ocean floor through a simple trick.

He sank the fish-hook to the bottom of the sea and said that he was on the verge of catching a very big fish as the fishing pole and line tightened when he twitched and pulled it. He told his brothers to paddle away from the area in order for the fish to follow and as they did, an island was raised out of the sea.

The brothers were instructed to paddle as hard as they can and not look back. Maui reportedly repeated this same trick several times in a row, ultimately resulting in the creation of the Hawaiian Islands. If only creating more land was that simple today, maybe we wouldn't have such bad traffic here on the islands (see Hawaii Living: Pests & Traffic)!

Maui Snared The Sun


As the islands were created time passed and what seemed to be an eternity for mortal men, was only a fraction of a moment for the demigod Maui. Long ago, the sun raced across the sky leaving the days shorter, which displeased Maui's sister Hina. She complained that her kappa (a woven fabric similar to a tapa) was unable to dry because the daylight was too short.

So Maui climbed to the top of Haleakala (house of the sun and what today is Haleakala National Park), and threw a lasso around Kala (the sun) snaring and restraining it.

Maui demanded that the sun move more slowly across the sky to provide people with more daylight to grow food, catch fish, and dry their bananas. As Kala pleaded and begged for its life, Maui and the sun came to a mutual agreement. Kala would make the days in the summertime longer and shorter in the wintertime. Best of all, it was all done without Daylight Savings Time (see What Time Is It In Hawaii?). I bet the reason for longer summer days in your part of the world is nowhere near as cool as that one!

Maui And The Falling Sky


Legend has it that there was a time of extended darkness in Hawaii. The sky was thought to be so close to the ground that the leaves on plants had to grow wider to support the sky from falling on mankind. The plants grew slowly and allowed man to crawl beneath it.

Maui felt sorry for the humans on earth as the falling sky made it impossible for them to stand upright. So he searched for his father, Ru, and asked him for help in raising the sky. Together, Maui and his father used their great strength and power to lift the sky and make it possible for mortal people to stand upright to accomplish their daily tasks.

How Maui, Oahu, and Kauai Got Their Names


Hawai'iloa was a hero of ancient Hawaiian legend. He was a great Polynesian navigator who discovered the Hawaiian Islands. He sent his family and skilled navigators on an expedition to colonize the islands. Legend has it that the islands of Kaua'i, O'ahu, and Maui were named after Hawai'iloa's sons.
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