Legends of Maui, A Demi-God of Polynesia, by W. D. Westervelt, , at sacred-texts.com
THE "Stories of Maui's Brother-in-Law," and of "Maui seeking Immortality," are not found in Hawaiian mythology. We depend upon Sir George Grey and John White for the New Zealand myths in which both of these legends occur.
Maui's sister Hina-uri married Ira-waru, who was willing to work with his skillful brother-in-law. They hunted in the forests and speared birds. They fished and farmed together. They passed through many experiences similar to those Maui's own brothers had suffered before the brother-in-law took their place as Maui's companion. They made spears together-but Maui made notched barbs for his spear ends-and slipped them off when Ira-waru came near. So for a long time the proceeds of bird hunting fell to Maui. But after a time the brother-in-law learned the secret as the brothers had before, and Maui was looked up to by his fellow hunter as the skillful one. Sometimes Ira-waru was able to see at once Maui's plan and adopt it. He discovered Maui's method of making the punga or eel baskets for catching eels.
The two hunters went to the forest to find a certain creeping vine with which to weave their eel snares. Ira-waru made a basket with a hole, by which the eels could enter, but they could turn around and go out the same way. So he very seldom caught an eel. But Maui made his basket with a long funnelshaped door, by which the eels could easily slide into the snare but could scarcely escape. He made a door in the side which he fastened tight until he wished to pour the eels out.
Ira-waru immediately made a basket like Maui. Then Maui became angry and uttered incantations over Ira-waru. The man dropped on the ground and became a dog. Maui returned home and met his sister, who charged him with sorcery concerning her husband.
Maui did not deny the exercise of his power, but taught his sister a chant and sent her out to the level country. There she uttered her chant and a strange dog with long hair came to her, barking and leaping around her. Then she knew what Maui had done. "Thus Ira-waru became the first of the long-haired dogs whose flesh has been tabooed to women."
The Tahu and Han tribes of New Zealand tell a different story. They say that Maui went to visit Ira-waru. Together they set out on a journey. After a time they rested by the wayside and became sleepy. Maui asked Ira-waru to cleanse his head. This gave him the restful, soothing touch which aided sleep. Then Maui proposed that Ira-waru sleep. Taking the head in his hands, Maui put his brother-in-law to sleep. Then by incantations he made the sleep very deep and prolonged. Meanwhile he pulled the ears and arms and limbs until they were properly lengthened. He drew out the under jaw until it had the form of a dog's mouth. He stretched the end of the backbone into a tail, and then wakened Ira-waru and drove him back when he tried to follow the path to the settlement.
Hina-uri went out and called her husband. He came to her, leaping and barking. She decided that this was her husband, and in her agony reproached Maui and wandered away.
The Rua-nui story-tellers of New Zealand say that Maui's anger was aroused against Ira-waru because he ate all the bait when they went fishing, and they could catch no fish after paddling out to the fishing grounds. When they carne to land, Maui told Irawarn to lie down in the sand as a roller over which to drag the canoe up the beach. When he was lying helpless under the canoe, Maui changed him into a dog.
The Arawa legends make the cause of Maui's anger the success of Ira-waru while fishing. Ira-waru had many fish while Maui had captured but few. The story is told thus: "Ira-waru hooked a fish and in pulling it in his line became entangled with that of Maui. Maui felt the jerking and began to pull in his line. Soon they pulled their lines close up to the canoe, one to the bow, the other to the stern, where each was sitting. Maui said: 'Let me pull the lines to me, as the fish is on my hook.' His brother-in-law said: 'Not so; the fish is on mine.' But Maui said: 'Let me pull my line in.' Ira-waru did so and saw that the fish was on his hook. Then he said: 'Untwist your lines and let mine go, that I may pull the fish in.' Maui said: I will do so, but let me have time.' He took the fish off Ira-waru's hook and saw that there was a barb on the hook. He said to Ira-waru: 'Perhaps we ought to return to land! When they were dragging the canoe on shore, Maui said to Ira-waru: 'Get between the canoe and outrigger and drag.' Irawaru did so and Maui leaped on the outrigger and weighed it heavily down and crushed Ira-waru prostrate on the beach. Maui trod on him and pulled his backbone long like a tail and changed him into a dog."
Maui is said to have tattooed the muzzle of the dog with a beautiful pattern which the birds (kahui-zara, a flock of tern) used in marking the sky. From this also came the red glow which sometimes flushes the face of man.
Another Arawa version of the legend was that Mau and Ira-waru were journeying together. Ira-waru wa gluttonous and ate the best food. At last Maui determined to punish his companion. By incantation lengthened the way until Ira-waru became faint an weary. Maui had provided himself with a little food and therefore was enabled to endure the long way. While Ira-waru slept Maui trod on his backbone and lengthened it and changed the arms and limbs into the legs of a dog. When Hina-uri saw the state of her husband she went into the thatched house by which Ira-waru had so often stood watching the hollow log in which she dried the fish and preserved the birds speared in the mountains. She bound her girdle and hala-leaf apron around her and went down to the sea to drown herself, that her body might be eaten by the monsters of the sea. When she came to the shell-covered beach, she sat down and sang her death song--
"I weep, I call to the steep billows of the sea
And to him, the great, the ocean god;
To monsters, all now hidden,
To come and bury me,
Who now am wrapped in mourning.
Let the waves wear their mourning, too,
And sleep as sleeps the dead."
-Ancient Maui Chant of New Zealand.
Then Hina-uri threw herself into the sea and was borne on the waves many moons, at last drifting to shore, to be found by two fishermen. They carried the body off to the fire and warmed it back to life. They brushed off the sea moss and sea weeds and rubbed her until she awoke.
Soon they told their chief, Tini-rau, what a beautiful woman they had found in the sea. He came and took her away to make her one of his wives. But the other wives were jealous and drove Hina-uri away from the chief's houses.
Another New Zealand legend says that Hina came to the sea and called for a little fish to aid her in going away from the island. It tried to carry her, but was too weak. Hina struck it with her open hand. It had striped sides forever after. She tried a larger fish, but fell off before they had gone far from shore. Her blow gave this fish its beautiful blue spots. Another received black spots. Another she stamped her foot upon, making it flat. At last a shark carried her far away. She was very thirsty, and broke a cocoanut on the shark's head, making a bump, which has been handed down for generations. The shark carried her to the home of the two who rescued her and gave her new strength.
Meanwhile Rupe or Maui-mua, a brother of Hinauri and Maui, grieved for his sister. He sought for her throughout the land and then launched his canoe upon the blue waters surrounding Ao-tea-roa (The Great White Land; the ancient native New Zealand) and searched the coasts. He only learned that his sister had, as the natives said, "leaped into the waters and been carried away into the heavens."
Rupe's heart filled with the desire to find and protect the frenzied sister who had probably taken a canoe and floated away, out of the horizon, seen from New Zealand coasts, into new horizons. During the Viking age of the Pacific, when many chiefs sailed long distances, visiting the most remote islands of Polynesia, they frequently spoke of breaking through from the home land into new heavens-or of climbing up the path of the sun on the waters into a new heaven. This was their poetical way of passing from horizon to horizon. The horizon around their particular island surrounded their complete world. Outside, somewhere, were other worlds and other heavens. Rupe's voyage was an idyll of the Pacific. It was one more story to be added to the prose poems of consecrated travel. It was a brother feeling through the mysteries of unknown lands for a sister, as dear to him as an Evangeline has been to other men.
From the mist-land of the Polynesian race comes this story of the trickery of Maui the learned, and the faithfulness of his older brother Maui-mua or Rupe-one of the "five forgetful Mauis." Rupe hoisted mat-sails over his canoe and thus made the winds serve him. He paddled the canoe onward through the hotlis when calms rested on glassy waves.
Thus he passed out of sight of Ao-tea-roa, away from his brothers, and out of the reach of all tricks and incantations of Maui, the mischievous. He sailed until a new island rose out of the sea to greet him. Here in a "new heaven" he found friends to care for him and prepare him for his longer journey. His restless anxiety for his sister urged him onward until days lengthened into months and months into years. He passed from the horizons of newly-discovered islands, into the horizons of circling skies around islands of which he had never heard before. Sometimes he found relatives, but more frequently his welcome came from those who could trace no historical touch in their genealogies.
Here and there, apparently, he found traces of a woman whose description answered that of his sister Hina-uri. At last he looked through the heavens upon a new world, and saw his sister in great trouble.
According to some legends the jealous wives of the great chief, Tini-rau, attack Hina, who was known among them as Hina-te-ngaru-moana, "Hina, the daughter of the ocean." Tini-rau and Hina lived away from the village of the chief until their little boy was born. When they needed food, the chief said, "Let us go to my settlement and we shall have food provided."
But Hina chanted:
"Let it down, let it down,
Descend, oh! descend-"
and sufficient food fell before them. After a time their frail clothing wore out, and the cold chilled them, then Hina again uttered the incantation and clothing was provided for their need.
But the jealous wives, two in number, finally heard where Hina and the chief were living, and started to see them.
Tini-rau said to Hina, "Here come my other wives--be careful how you act before them."
She replied, "If they come in anger it will be evil."
She armed herself with an obsidian or volcanic-glass knife, and waited their coming.
They tried to throw enchantments around her to, kill her. Then one of them made a blow at her with a weapon, but she turned it aside and killed her enemy with the obsidian knife.
Then the other wife made an attack, and again the obsidian knife brought death. She ripped open the stomachs of the jealous ones and showed the chief fish lines and sinkers and other property which they had eaten in the past and which Tini-rau had never been able to trace.
Another legend says that the two women came to kill Hina when they heard of the birth of her boy. For a time she was greatly terrified. Then she saw that they were coming from different directions. She attacked the nearest one with a stone and killed her. The body burst open, and was seen to be full of green stone. Then she killed the second wife in the same way, and found more green stones. "Thus, according to the legends, originated the greenstone" from which the choicest and most valuable stone tools have since been made. For a time the chief and Hina lived happily together. Then he began to neglect her and abuse her, until she cried aloud for her brother--
"O Rupe! come down.
Take me and my child."
Rupe assumed the form of a bird and flew down to this world in which he had found his sister. He chanted as he came down-
"It is Rupe, yes Rupe,
The elder brother;
And I am here."
He folded the mother and her boy under his wings and flew away with them. Sir George Gray relates a legend in which Maui-mua or Rupe is recorded as having carried his sister and her child to one of the new lands, found in his long voyage, where dwelt an aged relative, of chief rank, with his retainers.
Some legends say that Tini-rau tried to catch Rupe, who was compelled to drop the child in order to escape with the mother. Tini-rau caught the child and carefully cared for him until he grew to be a strong young lad.
Then he wanted to find his mother and bring her back to his father. How this was done, how Rupe took his sister back to the old chief, and how civil wars arose are not all these told in the legends of the Maoris. Thus the tricks of Maui the mischievous brought trouble for a time, but were finally overshadowed by happy homes in neighboring lands for his suffering sister and her descendants.