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Maui the Usurper

THE name song of Maui at the close of the fifteenth section of the Kumulipo chant tells the story of the struggle for power of a younger son born into the family through an alien alliance, one entitling him to a higher-ranking status than the natural heir. Maui is born to a god, as the phrase goes. His mother is Hina-of-the-fire, his grand parent Mahui'e is known throughout Polynesia as keeper of underground fire. His mother sends him back to her own (or his father's) family for a wife, and his posterity replace the old stock on the line of ruling chiefs who carry on the family descent.

Stories of the Maui brothers are by no means local to Hawaii alone, but the name Maui-of-the-loincloth for the trickster hero is used, so far as I know, only here and in New Zealand; Maui-tikitiki, -ti'iti'i, or -ki'iki'i he is commonly called. A story to justify the sobriquet is told in both areas. In the Hawaiian version told at the east end of the island of Maui, Hina, walking on the beach, picks up a man's loincloth and, girding herself with it, lies down to sleep. She conceives a child, and her husband, far from taking the affair badly as in the Wakea chant, recognizes the offspring of a god and rejoices to have "found our lord."' One recognizes here a euphemized variant of the subterfuge used by Tiki to gain access to his daughter by the sand woman as told in the Stimson manuscript from the Tuamotus. In the New Zealand account from Nga-i-tahu

[1. Beckwith, Hawaiian Mythology, p. 229.]

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sources Hine bears an abortion and wrapping it in her bloody "apron" (maro) casts it into the sea, or among brambles in one version, whence it is rescued by ancestral deities and shaped into a human being.[2] So in the Hawaiian chant of the "Birth of Islands"--

The afterbirth of the child was thrown away
Into the rolling sea,
The froth of the heaving sea
Was found as a loincloth for the child,
Molokini the island,
This was an afterbirth.[3]

In New Zealand Maui makes himself known to his family in human form. In the Kumulipo he is born in feathered form as a moa, generally translated "cock." He makes a cry not like a human being but "like an animal" as the word Alala is defined. In the South Pacific the trickster Maui shifts to the form of a pigeon, a rupe. It is in this form that in New Zealand he visits his ancestors in the underworld. Rupe in pigeon shape flies to the rescue of his sister in the Hine-Tinirau tale. In Mangareva, Toa Rupe, daughter of Te Rupe, is mother of the Maui brothers. Obviously the Hawaiian moa should be a pigeon, but, since the pigeon was not known to Hawaiians, the composer uses the fighting cock as feathered symbol of the part the newborn infant is to play in the world.[4] He is to be an aiwaiwa child, a word denoting excellence as an expert but also used in a derogatory sense as we use the word "notorious." Such double intention in an epithet seems to us like a contradiction of terms, but to the Polynesian it agrees with the opposition he observes inherent in human judgments. The character Maui plays in story cycles throughout the South Seas shifts like his shape. Some make him a bungler, vainglorious and revengeful;

[2. White, II, 63, 65, 71, 79.

3. Fornander, Collection ("Memoirs," No. 4), pp. 4, 5; cf. Henry, p. 408.

4. White, II, 66-67, 72-73, 96-98; Buck, Ethnology of Mangareva, p. 310.]

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others, a benevolent culture bringer, using his gifts of magic for the good of man.

Maui's exploits or ua in his struggle for power are listed by number. So White enumerates the "acts" of Maui under the term patunga.[5] The first contest is against his own kindred, those who seem to be guarding Hina's virginity. The word ana probably refers to the cave dwelling of Hina familiar to Maui stories; one such is still pointed out on the mountainside back of Waianae village on Oahu. The next five contests are directed toward the establishment of his claim to the privileges of high chief rank. Kava drink made of the black-stemmed variety is sacred to the "gods." The "bamboo" may be the knife used for the rite of incision, perhaps similarly limited to the chief class. The paehumu, if the corrected text is accepted, is the inclosure within the heiau set apart for images, to the right of which stood the prayer scaffold or anu'u. From both places all were excluded save those of high rank.

The struggle for the privileges of rank turns Maui's attention to the question of his parentage. His mother is evasive and puts him off with the story of the loincloth. Immediately after, she sends him to his "father" after "line and hook." Perhaps this is a parent on his mother's side. At all events the land-fishing expedition upon which she sends him is to be interpreted, not as so literally exploited in folk tale but as symbolizing a wooing expedition to win a wife by whom he may unite in their child the blood of close kin born in lands distant geographically but drawn together by this bond of family union. A fairy wife who sends her favorite son to seek a wife among her own kin in a land of deities is a popular theme in Hawaiian as well as South Sea family story cycles.

The seventh adventure in seizing the sister of Hina in the shape of a mudhen is the first step in this wooing. The folk

[5. White, I, 72-73 (text), 79-80.]

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tale telling how Maui learned from the red-headed mudhens the secret of fire-making by the use of fire sticks is conspicuously absent from the enumeration here of Maui's exploits. The reason is obvious; it is not fire-making but the secret of sex that Maui learns in preparation for "drawing the islands together" by a propitious marriage. The fishhook Manai-a-ka-lani is equally a sex symbol. The word manai is used for a sharp needle-like instrument used in stringing flowers for wreath-making, and in wooing stories the maiden courted is traditionally given a flower name.

The obscure treatment of the courting story is a good illustration of poetic courtly style. Seeking a wife among his close kin, he probably comes incognito and meets opposition in the form of the parent, who probably does not recognize him, and only after defeating this obstacle does he win the girl already destined to become his wife by arrangement among their common parents. The struggle with the sea monster here represents the obstructions put in his way, sometimes by the girl herself as the theme is developed in popular romance. The whole courting episode is here treated with lively humor. The phrase "to live through the tail" (Ola ... ma ka pewa or ma ka hi'u) is used when a slim chance of escape offers itself in a dangerous predicament. Every Hawaiian knows the story of how, during the great shark war, when the shark Mikololou was dragged ashore and eaten "all but his tail," or his "tongue" in some versions, a dog seized the remnant and leaped with it into the sea, whereupon the shark, feeling itself in its native element, resumed its full form. "Mikololou died but lived again through his tongue" is similarly said of one who talks himself out of a dangerous situation.[6]

Maui eventually wins the lady Mahana-ulu-'ehu for whom "love grew." Her name is paired with his on the

[6. Pukui, Ke Awa Lau o Pu'uloa, pp. 58-59; Beckwith, Hawaiian Mythology p. 139.]

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genealogy of the Kamokuiki book equivalent to that of the sixteenth section of the Kumulipo chant, where Hina-ke-aloha-ila is named as wife of Maui. The two names must hence be pseudonyms for the same lady. Maui has now concluded his ninth adventure, and from this point the numbering becomes confused. The scratching-out of the eyes of the eight-eyed Pe'ape'a who has abducted his mother is declared to be his "last exploit." But there follows the sun-snaring, introduced by the line "With Moemoe the strife ended." The story is probably merely another version of the abduction incident, so well known through popular retelling as to be scarcely worth repeating. "Everybody knows" is Ho'olapa's happy rendering of the Hawaiian phrasing. As I heard it many years ago on the island of Maui, the fight with Moemoe came as the final episode of the sun-snaring. We were riding from Lahaina toward Kahakaloa Point, where one strikes the trades across East Maui, and came upon a huge pillar-like block of stone fallen toward the sea. This was the "great black rock of Kaanapali" marking the prostrate form of the overthrown shape shifter who had taunted Maui, some say attempted to stay him, when he set out from Lahaina to do battle with the Sun. Maui promised to deal with him on his return, and, with the silencing of the reviler, Maui's labors ceased.

The whole treatment of this name chant is an excellent example of the song-master's art; whether it was in its present form originally a part of the prayer chant it would be difficult to say. The lovemaking is developed as a comic relief to the drama of strife against the gods, which is the main theme of Maui's lawless career. Four times their names occur as a refrain, first when Maui seizes the "bunch of black-stemmed kava," again with the strife over the "bamboo" of Kane and Kanaloa. With the hooking of the great fish the two gods are "shaken from their foundation." Finally, Maui drinks the "yellow water" of Kane and Kanaloa,
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an adventure sometimes referred to as a quarrel over the right of participation in a kava-drinking ritual. The closing lines reciting the parentage, place of birth, and places of burial sacred to the memory of a family hero are in the true laconic style of the name song or inoa. At the close is summed up the essential character of the Maui figure in the terms ho'upu'upu and ho'okala, the last word more precisely rendered by "lawless" than by the more generally used "mischievous." In the final play upon the word moku there seems to be, as pointed out by Ho'olapa, a double application, on the one hand to the land itself, on the other to the lawless chief who overran it, "a chief indeed."

The Maui cycle as judged from its comparative uniformity of detail, in spite of individual variations over a wide geographical spread, must have developed in approximately its present essential form before or during the migration period. The various forms the story took throughout the Pacific are fully treated in Dr. Katherine Luomala's recent study of "Maui-of-a-thousand-tricks." I may be pardoned a digression here to bring out some of the modern folk tale variants told in the Hawaiian group that may cast light upon the Kumulipo rendering.

Fornander's version of Kaulu, who sacks the land of Kane and Kanaloa by means of superior magic and trickery, is an obvious retelling of the Maui story. Kaulu is "son of Kalana," youngest born of the family and "born in the shape of a rope," obviously an umbilical cord and probably that of the favorite brother, to rescue whom he seeks the land of Kane and Kanaloa, where his brother has been carried away to serve the gods. There he upsets the order of the gods, sharing their kava cup by a ruse, wrecking their vegetable garden, turning the land upside down, even carrying away "the rays of the sun" in his search for his brother, and finally tearing apart the jaws of the great shark in whose body the brother has been hidden. This "shark" must be the same

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as Maui's "fish" whose drawing ashore shook Kane and Kanaloa from their foundation. It appears in Tahiti as "the handsome blue shark of Ta'aroa" snatched up by the gods from those who would have destroyed it and placed in the Milky Way, the stream of the water of life (vai ola) in which the gods bathe to renew their youth, where it may be seen today as a dark patch against the bright belt of light whose diurnal pivoting as the earth revolves is spoken of in Hawaii as the "turning of the fish.[7]

Maui's fishing feat has its modern version in a tale of Red-Ku-of-the-sea told me not many years ago by the sheriff of Hana district, who pointed out on the beach an eel's head turned to stone with jaws apart, together with other material evidence of the factual character of the story.[8] The hero used, of course, the fishhook Manai-a-ka-lani, and the device my informant described for drawing the monster to land by means of ropes attached to the hook and pulling at an angle from two points on the beach must have been also Maui's procedure. Such a device was used in handling one of the huge kites of ancient days and I am told is employed today by fishermen off Lahaina to get a squid to shore too big to handle otherwise. The point of meeting at which the ropes are attached is called hanai, a word Ho'olapa seemed to connect with the manai of Maui's hook. Rays of the afternoon sun glancing to the sea in the phenomenon we call "the sun drinking water" are known as "Maui's lassos" or "snaring ropes," with reference to the sun-snaring adventure. I think it likely that the fishing-up of islands, the hooking and drawing to shore of a sea monster, and the modern version of the sun-snaring myth are all variants from an older legend. Perhaps the myth of drawing the sun from its underworld hole in order to lighten a darkened world, told in Hawaii of the famous demigod Kana, was

[7. Beckwith, Hawaiian Mythology, pp. 436-41; Henry, pp. 369, 403, 404.

8. Beckwith, Hawaiian Mythology, pp. 20-22.]

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the original and more elemental adventure upon which have been imposed such embellishments as the search after fire, the freeing of abducted ladies, the fishing after troublesome sea monsters; or perhaps, on the other hand, the cosmic ad ventures have developed with a growing taste for symbolism out of a particular incident of human abduction.



Waolena was the man, Mahui'e the wife
Akalana was the man, Hina-of-the-fire the wife
1985. Born was Maui the first, born was Maui the middle one
Born was Maui-ki'iki'i, born was Maui of the loincloth
The loincloth with which Akalana girded his loins
Hina-of-the-fire conceived, a fowl was born
The child of Hina was delivered in the shape of an egg
1990. She had not slept with a fowl
But a fowl was born
The child chirped, Hina was puzzled
Not from sleeping with a man did this child come
It was a strange child for Hina-of-the-fire
1995. The two guards [?] were angry, the tall and the short one
The brothers of Hina
The two guards within the cave
Maui fought, those guards fell
Red blood flowed from the brow [?] of Maui
2000. That was Maui's first strife
He fetched the bunch of black kava of Kane and Kanaloa
That was the second strife of Maui
The third strife was the quarrel over the kava strainer
The fourth strife was for the bamboo of Kane and Kanaloa
2005. The fifth strife was over the temple inclosure for images [?]
The sixth strife was over the prayer tower in the heiau [?]
Maui reflected, asked who was his father
Hina denied: "You have no father
The loincloth of Kalana, that was your father"
2010. Hina-of-the-fire longed for fish
He learned to fish, Hina sent him
"Go get [it] of your parent

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There is the line, the hook
Manai-a-ka-lani, that is the hook
2015. For drawing together the lands of old ocean"
He seized the great mudhen of Hina
The sister bird
That was the seventh strife of Maui
He hooked the mischievous shape-shifter
2020. The jaw of Pimoe as it snapped open
The lordly fish that shouts over the ocean
Pimoe crouched in the presence of Maui
Love grew for Mahana-ulu-'ehu
Child of Pimoe
2025. Maui drew them [?] ashore and ate all but the tailfin
Kane and Kanaloa were shaken from their foundation
By the ninth strife of Maui
Pimoe "lived through the tailfin"
Mahana-ulu-'ehu "lived through the tail"
2030. Hina-ke-ka was abducted by Pe'ape'a
Pe'ape'a, god of the octopus family
That was Maui's last strife
He scratched out the eyes of the eight-eyed Pe'ape'a
The strife ended with Moemoe
2035. Everyone knows about the battle of Maui with the sun
With the loop of Maui's snaring-rope
Winter [?] became the sun's
Summer became Maui's
He drank the yellow water to the dregs [?][9]
2040. Of Kane and Kanaloa
He strove with trickery
Around Hawaii, around Maui
Around Kauai, around Oahu
At Kahulu'u was the afterbirth [deposited], at Waikane the navel cord
2045. He died at Hakipu'u in Kualoa
The lawless shape-shifter of the island
    A chief indeed

[9. Titcomb, p. 156.]

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