The Seven Great Deeds of Ma-ui: How Ma-ui Won a Place for Himself in the House

Padraic Colum August 10, 2020
4 min read
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There is no hero who is more famous than Ma-uí. In all the Islands of the Great Ocean, from Kahiki mo-e to Hawaii nei , his name and his deeds are spoken of. His deeds were many, but seven of them were very great, and it is about those seven great deeds that I shall tell you.

How Ma – ui won a place for himself in the House.

When Ma-ui, the last of her five sons, was born, his mother thought she would have no food for him. So she took him down to the shore of the sea, she cut off her hair and tied it around him, and she gave him to the waves . But Ma-ui was not drowned in the sea: first of all the jelly-fish came; it folded him in its softness, and it kept him warm while he floated on. And then the God of the Sea found the child and took charge of him: he brought him to his house and warmed and cherished him, and little Ma-ui grew up in the land where lived the God of the Sea.

But while he was still a boy he went back to his mother’s country. He saw his mother and his four brothers, and he followed them into a house; it was a house that all the people of the country were going into. He sat there with his brothers. And when his mother called her children to take them home, she found this strange child with them. She did not know him, and she would not take him with the rest of the children. But Ma-ui followed them. And when his four brothers came out of their own house they found him there, and he played with them. At first they played hide – and – seek, but then they made themselves spears from canes and began throwing the spears at the house.

The slight spears did not go through the thatch of grass that was at the outside of the house. And then Ma-ui made a charm over the cane that was his spear — a charm that toughened it and made it heavy. He flung it again, and a great hole was made in the grass – thatch of the house. His mother came out to chastise the boy and drive him away. But when she stood at the door and saw him standing there so angry, and saw how he was able to break down the house with the throws of his spear, she knew in him the great power that his father had, and she called to him to come into the house. He would not come in until she had laid her hands upon him. When she did this his brothers were jealous that their mother made so much of this strange boy, and they did not want to have him with them. It was then that the elder brother spoke and said, “Never mind; let him be with us and be our dear brother.” And then they all asked him to come into the house.

The door-posts, Short Post and Tall Post, that had been put there to guard the house, would not let him come in. Then Ma-ui lifted up his spear, and he threw it at Tall Post and overthrew him. He threw his spear again and overthrew Short Post. And after that he went into his mother’s house and was with his brothers. The overthrowing of the two posts that guarded the house was the first of the great deeds of Ma-ui.

In those days, say the people who know the stories of the old times, the birds were not seen by the men and women of the Islands. They flew around the houses, and the flutter of their wings was heard, and the stirring of the branches and the leaves as they were lit upon. Then there would be music. But the people who had never seen the birds thought that this was music made by gods who wanted to remain unseen by the people. Ma-ui could see the birds; he rejoiced in their brilliant colors, and when he called to them they would come and rest upon the branches around the place where he was; there they would sing their happiest songs to him.

There was a visitor who came from another land to the country that Ma-ui lived in. He boasted of all the wonderful things that were in his country, and it seemed to the people of Ma-ui’s land that they had nothing that was fine or that could be spoken about. Then Ma-ui called to the birds. They came and they made music on every side. The visitor who had boasted so much was made to wonder, and he said that there was nothing in his country that was so marvellous as the music made by Ma-ui’s friends, the birds. Then, that they might be honored by all, Ma-ui said a charm by which the birds came to be seen by men—the red birds, the i-i-wi and the aha-hani, and the yellow birds, the o-o and the mamo, and all the other bright birds. The delight of seeing them was equal to the delight of hearing the music that they made. Ever afterwards the birds were seen and heard, and the people all rejoiced in them. This Ma-ui did when he was still a boy growing up with his brothers and with his sister in his mother’s house. But this is not counted amongst the great deeds of Ma-ui the hero.

The legends of Ma-ui continue in How Ma-ui Lifted Up the Sky.

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