More About Maui

Edith Howes April 21, 2021
13 min read
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Maui had a grandmother, a strange old Magic woman, whose bones worked enchantments. He visited her and asked her to give him one of these bones. She slipped out her jawbone from its place and presented it to him. He returned home delighted, for now his magic powers would become greater than ever . It was summer time , and the days were burning hot. The people grumbled at the Sun. “He is too fiery,” they said. The women said, “He travels so fast through the sky that darkness comes before our work is finished.” “Ah,” thought Maui, “the magic jawbone shall help me now.” He said to his brothers, “Come! We shall force the Sun to move more slowly.” Everybody laughed at such a wild idea. The brothers were afraid to go; but Maui spoke of the magic bone and persuaded them to trust his powers and help him . For the next few weeks he and his brothers were busy men, twisting ropes stronger, longer and thicker than any seen on earth before. Maui sang a spell over them to make them proof against the power of the Sun. When the ropes were finished the men set out for the edge of the world. They travelled by night, resting in the shadow of the bush by day, so that the Sun should not see them and guess their intention. When they reached the edge of the world they lay down to wait for the dawn. Maui gave his orders. “When the Sun begins to rise above the edge, fling the ropes over him. Then hold him firmly while I beat him.” Presently morning broke and the Sun came rushing up to his day’s work. “Wait till we can see the middle of him,” whispered Maui. “Now!” as the round body came into full view. They threw the ropes and caught the Sun fast. He struggled, he panted, he roared, he threatened Maui with every penalty he could remember; but Maui only laughed, and the ropes held fast. Then Maui beat him with the magic jawbone till he was so flattened out, and his rays so scattered, that he has never since been able to scorch the world as he did before. When the beating was over, and the Sun was whining for mercy, Maui tied the ends of the ropes firmly to  the edge of the world. “You must move slowly in future,” he said. “for you are tied to the earth. The day will be longer now.” Maui and his brothers returned home, well pleased with their work. On a cloudy day the ropes may still be seen,  stretching from the earth upward to the Sun. Any one not knowing the story might mistake them for long beams of light, but in reality they are the magic ropes, the signs of Maui’s mastery over the Sun. Strange to say, the brothers began to fear Maui. They were afraid that some day he might turn his magic against  them. When they could, they made their excursions without him. One day, when going fishing, they refused to take him in the boat. He allowed them to start without him, then  changed himself into a bird and overtook them. “Row far out! ” he commanded as he seated himself in the boat. “Why should we? This is our usual fishing place.” The brothers were frightened and uneasy at finding that they  could not escape from Maui. Maui said: “One reason for going further out is that you will catch more fish if you do.” “How do you know that?” “Do I not know many things that you have never learned?” asked Maui impatiently. “That is true,” said one of the brothers. “Perhaps it is best to go.” They rowed farther out, till Maui said, “Stop. Let down your lines.” In a few minutes they caught so many fish that the boat was heavily laden. “We have enough,” said one. “Let us go home.” “I have my fishing to do yet,” said Maui. “For that you must row further out. ” “The boat is full already,” said his brothers. “Besides, it is not safe to go out of sight of land.” “You know it is safe while I am with you,” answered Maui. “Indeed, if you look you will see that we are already out of sight of land. ” The brothers looked. To their horror they saw that the land was gone. Maui, using his magic power, had stretched  out the sea until the other end could not be seen . He laughed at their terrified faces. “You need not be afraid,” he said. “No harm will come to you if you obey me.” The brothers realized that he had the power that must be obeyed. They rowed out to sea, further and further, until he gave the order to cease rowing. “Here I will do my fishing, ” he said. He had carved a fishhook from the magic jawbone. This he carefully fixed to his line. Dropping it into the water, he fished till the pull on the line told him that something was caught. It was no ordinary fish. The weight was tremendous. Human strength alone could not pull it up. Nothing but magic power could move it . Maui grasped the line with both strong hands, leaned over the edge of the boat, and sąng a spell to help the magic fishhook . Slowly, inch by inch, he gathered in the line, chanting more and more loudly to make the great weight rise. The line came in now more quickly, the water began to hiss and bubble and boil, the boat heeled over to one side. “Be careful, Maui. Be careful,” his brothers cried. “You will drown us all.” Maui did not hear them. The great fish was rising, rising; it came to the top; the boat rose on its back. It was an island from the bottom of the sea that Maui had fished up! The brothers sat in stupefied amazement, gazing at the land on which their boat now lay. Maui said: “This great fish is ours. By and by we shall divide it and each brother shall have his share. But first I must go to the Sea-king to take him a peace offering, that he may not be angry with us for bringing his fish to the surface of the sea. While I am away, be patient. Do not touch the island with your axes until the Sea-king is appeased and I return.” He left them. Almost as soon as he had gone those foolish brothers forgot his words. They scored upon the surface of the island with their axes, each one saying, “I will have this portion,” “I will have that.” Now the island was still half fish. At the touch of the axes it tossed its head, lashed its tail, writhed from side to side, until its surface was raised and dented in a hundred places. When Maui returned he found mountains and valleys where all the island had been flat . “Foolish ones! You have spoilt my beautiful smooth island,” was all he said. He was a good-natured brother. He dragged the boat down to the water and they all went home. Later, they took seeds and plants to the island and some of the brothers went to live on it. Maui was troubled over the death of friends. “ Is there no way of finding out whether men may not live for ever?” he asked his father. His father replied: “Where the horizon meets the sky lies Hiné, the giant Goddess of Death. If any man safely enter her and touch her heart, she would die and men would live for ever. But she is so terrible that no man dare go near her.” “What is she like?” asked Maui . “Her body is that of a giant, her hair is like tangled sea-weed, her mouth like that of a shark; from her red eyes come swift lightning flashes. She is fierce and cruel beyond all telling.” “I will go to her to win eternal life for the world, ” said Maui. “No,” said his father. His mother said: “Death waits for you there. Something tells me that if you go I shall never see you again. Do not go.” Maui would not be dissuaded. “Have I not beaten the Sun?” he asked. “Have I not fished up a great island to be a home for men? My magic shall protect me. I will go.” He tried to find companions for his journey, but everybody was afraid. Even his brothers, though they knew his powers, would not face the dreadful Goddess . At last he set forth alone. Then the birds, who loved him, gathered round to keep him company. They hopped and flitted beside him on the track, cheering him with their merry talk and sweet bush songs . At the end of their long journey they came on Hiné, fast asleep. “Silence now!” Maui whispered to his little friends.“ “I shall jump down her throat as she lies there with her mouth so widely open. If you wish to preserve my life, utter no sound to waken her till I return.” The birds promised in whispers to be silent as the grave. Maui threw off his cloak and ran back for his spring. He ran swiftly forward, leapt, and alighted in Hiné’s throat. He did not slip through quite so easily as he expected; for a moment his legs dangled outside in the most comical manner. The birds tried to stifle their laughter, but the little wagtail could not keep it in. She laughed out merrily, and so set the others laughing. In an instant Hiné woke, shut her great teeth together, and killed poor Maui . “Oh, dear! oh, dear! oh, dear!” screamed the terrified birds. They flew off to take the sad tidings to Maui’s mother and father . The remorseful wagtail hid herself in misery, but the North-west Wind found her out and learned from her what she had done. He flew to Rangi with the news of Maui’s death. “Tell Hiné to give up his spirit to me, ” said Rangi. “She has his body, but his soul must come to Sky-land. ” The Wind delivered the message, and Hiné had to give up Maui’s soul.  So Maui went to live again in the sky, and there he has lived ever since. When the nights are dark the earth-men say: “Maui is doing that. He has put his hand over the moon to tease us here below.”

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