Maui (Edith Howes version)

Edith Howes April 21, 2021
Maori
Easy
5 min read
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When he was a baby Maui was lost on the sea shore. But though lost, he was not harmed, for the sea creatures took care of him. Little waves rocked him to and fro, jelly-fish made a soft bed for him, sea-weeds floated above his limbs to shelter him, beach winds crooned light cradle songs to lull him off to sleep.

He slept happily, till hungry seabirds spied him. With their cruel eyes and strong hooked beaks they gathered round him, eager for a feast. The sea-weeds tossed themselves above him as protection, but the birds would certainly have devoured him had not Rangi looked down from the sky and observed his danger.

He called to the mountains, “Lift that child from the sea and hand him up to me.”

The mountains stooped, lifted Maui from hisdangerous bed, and held him high as they could reach. Rangi stretched down his arms, took the little baby, and lifted him into the sky. The disappointed seabirds flew away, and the kindly jellyfish and seaweeds were at liberty once more to float about on their own important businesses.

In the Sky-land Maui lived with Rangi till he was twelve years old. The life was very different from that which he would have lived amongst his brothers on the earth. Sky foods and cloud beds, sky games and sky work, made a most unusual boy of him. Best of all, Rangi taught him magic.

Through his magic lessons Maui learned how to lift with ease a thing a hundred times as big as himself ; how to stretch a few feet of any substance so far that the further end became invisible; how to make himself invisible; how to change himself into any bird or animal he wished. Rangi taught him also many new ways of making ropes and fish hooks, spears and axes — better ways than any earth-man knew .

Maui looked down on the earth and saw his brothers at play. “May I not go to them?” he asked Rangi. “With them is my real home. ”

“Go down if you wish, ” replied Rangi. “I would not keep you here if you prefer a life on earth. But promise first to teach your brothers the useful lessons I have taught you.”

Maui gladly promised. He said goodbye to Rangi and was gently lowered to the beach by his mother’s house.

There his brothers were playing. He joined in their game, but they all stopped to stare at the strange boy. “Who are you? ” one of them asked .

“I am your brother,” he answered. They would not believe him. “We have no brother,” they said. They ran to the house and told their mother that a strange boy calling himself their brother had come to play with them. She hurried out to question him.

“I am your little boy,” he said. “I was lost on the sea shore and have lived with Rangi ever since.”  His mother believed him and took him into the house. She kissed him and told his brothers to be kind to him. So Maui lived at home.

He taught his brothers the useful arts that Rangi had taught him, and he kept them amused by his marvellous tricks. At first they were jealous of their mother’s love for her recovered son; they were inclined to quarrel and be spiteful. But he showed them his magic powers and so won their admiration. He pulled a whale on to the beach, using only one hand in the effort; he changed himself into all the different birds, one after another; he made himself invisible. Awed by his strange powers, his brothers ceased their persecution.

When he was grown up he wandered round the village one night and put out all the fires. This was a serious matter, for the secret of making fire had long been lost. For many years the fires had never been allowed to die out. Now they were gone, and nobody knew how to start another.

In the morning the people cried out in dismay. ‘Some enemy has entered the pah and served us this ill turn,” they lamented. “How shall we warm ourselves and cook our food?”

This was the opportunity Maui had been seeking. “See how helpless we are when our fires go out,” he said. What we need is the secret of making fire. “I will go to the Fire-Goddess for this secret.”

The people exclaimed in horror at his daring. His mother begged him not to expose himself to such danger. But Maui would go.

He went gaily through the dreary dark passages that led below the earth to the cave of the Fire-Goddess.

“Our fires on the earth are out,” he said to her.  “I have come to you for help.”

The Fire-Goddess pulled fire from one of her fingertips, lit a stick with it, and gave the stick to Maui. 

He set off for home, but he was not satisfied. “This will start our fires,” he thought, “but it will not teach us how to kindle fire. It is not what we need. “

Coming to a pool of water, he purposely dropped the flaming stick in it. The fire went out, and he carried the stick back to the Fire-Goddess. “See,” he said, “I dropped the stick in the water. Please give me another.”

The Fire-Goddess drew fire from her next fingertip, lit another stick, and handed it to Maui.

Still disappointed, Maui treated this second stick as he had treated the first. Nine times he came back, and nine times the Fire-Goddess, unusually patient, drew fresh fire from a fingertip. But at the tenth request she woke up to the fact that Maui was tricking her, that he was, in fact, trying to take all her fire from her in order to discover how she set to work to make new flame.

Angry at his presumption, she dashed the tenth fire on the ground. From where it fell a burst of fierce flame sprang. In a moment the whole place was ablaze. Maui fled, the raging Goddess after him.

Faster than the Goddess came the fire. It roared through the passage, coming out to the earth close behind him. The surrounding forest caught, and Maui was soon wreathed in flames. Speed could not save him, for the fire was ahead; he must use his magic. He changed himself into a hawk and flew high above the flames.

But the air above the fire was unbearably hot. Looking down, he saw a pool of water. “I will cool myself there,” he thought. He dived into the pool, but to his horror he found the water boiling with the heat of the fire. He rose hurriedly again into the air.

As far as he could see on every side the land was on fire. Even the sea was boiling with the heat. What to do he could not think, nor how to save his mother’s house and all the houses of the pah. His own life, too, was in danger. He felt he could not bear the heat much longer. Suddenly he remembered Rangi. He cried to him for help. “Send rain,” he begged.

Rangi heard the cry, saw Maui’s danger, and sent rain at once. But the fire was so great that the rain could not quench it, so he gathered all the rain clouds and storms of the sky and sent down a deluge that made a flood. That put the fire out.

Higher and higher rose the flood, till the Fire Goddess was thoroughly soaked and almost drowned. She fled in terror to her cave. All her fire was lost except some sparks which she threw into the tops of the tallest trees .

Maui was saved. He went home and related his adventures. His people had been terror stricken at sight of the great fire and the flood, and were rejoiced to welcome him. “But where is the fire you went to find?” asked his mother.

“It is in the tops of some trees,” said Maui.

He climbed the trees and broke off small dried branches. He rubbed the branches upon one another till sparks flew out. He caught the sparks in twigs and blew them into flame. He had found the secret of making fire. Ever since his people have made their fires from the branches of these trees.

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