AMONG the really ancient ancestors of the Hawaiian chiefs, Maui is one of the most interesting. His name is found in different places in the high chief genealogy. He belonged to the mist land of time. He was one of the Polynesian demi-gods. He was possessed of supernatural power and made use of all manner of enchantments. In New Zealand antiquity he was said to have aided other gods in the creation of man.
Nevertheless he was very human. He lived in thatched houses, had wives and children, and was scolded by the women for not properly supporting his family. Yet he continually worked for the good of men. His mischievous pranks would make him another Mercury living in any age be-fore the beginning of the Christian era.
When Maui was born his mother, not caring for 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, "Maui formed in the topknot."
The waters bore him safely. Jellyfish en-wrapped him and mothered him. The god of the
seas protected him. He was carried to the god's house and hung up in the roof that he might 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 at home, dancing and making merry. Little Maui crept in and sat down behind his brothers. His mother called the children and found a strange child, who soon proved that he was her son. 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 labouring for abundance of food to feed others, by collecting property to give to others, and by similar means by which you promote the good of others."
Thus, according to the New Zealand story related by Sir George Grey, Maui was received in his home.
Maui's home in Hawaii was for a long time enveloped in darkness. According to some legends the skies pressed so closely and so heavily upon the earth that when the plants began to grow all the leaves were necessarily flat. According to other legends the plants had to push up the clouds a little, and thus the leaves flattened out into larger
surface, so that they could better drive the skies back. Thus the leaves became flat and have so remained through all the days of mankind. The plants lifted the sky inch by inch until men were able to crawl about between the heavens and the earth, thus passing from place to place and visiting one another. After a long time Maui came to a woman and said: "Give me a drink from your gourd calabash and I will push the heavens higher." The woman handed the gourd to him. When he had taken a deep draught he braced himself against the clouds and lifted them to the height of the trees. Again he hoisted the sky and carried it to the tops of the mountains; then, with great exertion, he thrust it up to the place it now occupies. Nevertheless, dark clouds many times hang low along the great mountains and descend in heavy rains, but they dare not stay, lest Maui, the strong, come and hurl them so far away that they cannot come back again.
The Manahiki Islanders say that Maui desired to separate the sky from the earth. His father, Ru, was the supporter of the heavens. Maui persuaded him to assist in lifting the burden. They crowded it and bent it upward. They were able to stand with the sky resting on their shoulders. They heaved against the bending mass and it re-ceded rapidly. They quickly put the palms of their hands under it, then the tips of their fingers, and it retreated farther and farther. At last, drawing
themselves out to gigantic proportions, they pushed the entire heavens up to the very lofty position which they have ever since occupied.
On the island Hawaii, in a cave under a water-fall, dwelt Hina-of-the-fire, the mother of Maui.
From this home Maui crossed to the island Maui, climbed a great mountain, threw ropes made from fibres of plants around the sun's legs, pulled off many and then compelled the swift traveller of the heavens to go slowly on its way that men might have longer and better days.
Maui's home, at the best, was only a sorry affair. Gods and demi-gods 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. 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.
By and by Maui learned to make fire by rubbing sticks together.
A family of mud hens, worshipped by some of the Hawaiians in later years, understood the art of fire-making.
From the sea Maui and his brothers saw fire burning on a mountain side but it was always put entirely out when they hastened to the spot.
Maui proposed to his brothers that they go fishing, leaving him to watch the birds. But the Alae counted the fishermen and refused to build a fire for the hidden one who was watching them. They said among themselves, "There are three in the boat and we know not where the other one is, we will make no fire to-day."
So the experiment failed again and again. If one or two remained or if all waited on the land there would be no fire--but the dawn which saw the four brothers in the boat, saw also the fire on the land.
Finally Maui rolled some kapa cloth together and stuck it up in one end of the canoe so that it would look like a man. He then concealed himself near the haunt of the mud-hens, while his brothers went out fishing. The birds counted the figures in the boat and then started to build a heap of wood for the fire.
Maui was impatient--and just as an old bird began to select sticks with which to make the flames he leaped swiftly out and caught her and held her prisoner. He forgot for a moment that he wanted the secret of fire-making. In his anger against the wise bird his first impulse was to taunt her and then kill her for hiding the secret of fire.
But the bird cried out: "If you are the death of me--my secret will perish also--and you cannot have fire."
Maui then promised to spare her life if she would tell him what to do.
Then came a contest of wits. The bird told the demi-god to rub the stalks of water plants together. He guarded the bird and tried the plants. Then she told him to rub reeds together--but they bent and broke and he could make no fire. He twisted her neck until she was half dead--then she cried out: "I have hidden the fire in a green stick."
Maui worked hard but not a spark of fire appeared. Again he caught his prisoner by the head and wrung her neck, and she named a kind of dry wood. Maui rubbed the sticks together but they only became warm. The twisting process was resumed--and repeated until the mud-hen was almost dead--and Maui had tried tree after tree. At last Maui found fire. Then as the flames rose he said: "There is one more thing to rub." He took a fire stick and rubbed the top of the head of his prisoner until the feathers fell off and the raw flesh appeared. Thus the Hawaiian mud-hen and her descendants have ever since had bald heads, and the Hawaiians have had the secret of fire-making.
Maui was a great discoverer of islands. Among other groups he "fished up from the ocean" New Zealand and the Hawaiian Islands with a magic hook. One by one he pulled them to himself out of the deep waters. He discovered them.
Thus Maui raised the sky, lassoed the sun, found fire and made the earth habitable for man.