The Seven Great Deeds of Ma-ui: How Ma-ui Lifted Up the Sky

Padraic Colum August 10, 2020
Hawaiian
Intermediate
5 min read
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Then he lifted up the sky to where it is now. This was the second of Ma-ui’s great deeds. When he was growing up in his mother’s house the sky was so low that the trees touched it and had their leaves flattened out. Men and women burned with the heat because the sky was so near to them. The clouds were so close that there was much dark- ness on the earth. Something had to be done about it, and Ma-ui made up his mind that he would lift up the sky. Somewhere he got a mark tattooed on his arm that was a magic mark and that gave him great strength. Then he went to lift up the sky. And from some woman he got a drink that made his strength greater. “Give me to drink out of your gourd,” he said, “and I will push up the sky.”

The woman gave him her gourd to drink from. Then Ma-ui pushed at the sky. He lifted it high, to where the trees have their tops now. He pushed at it again, and he put it where the mountains have their tops now. And then he pushed it to where it rests, on the tops of the highest mountains. Then the men and women were able to walk about all over the earth, and they had light now and clear air. The trees grew higher and higher, and they grew more and more fruit. But even to this day their leaves are flattened out: it is from the time when their leaves were flattened against the sky.

When the sky was lifted up Ma-ui went and made a kite for himself. From his mother he got the largest and strongest piece of tapa-cloth she had ever made, and he formed it into a kite with a frame. and cross-sticks of hau wood. The tail of the kite was fifteen fathoms long, and he got a line of olona vine for it that was twenty times forty fathoms in length. He started the kite. But it rose very slowly; the wind barely held it up. Then the people said: “Look at Ma-ui! He lifted the sky up, and now he can’t fly a kite.”

Ma-ui was made angry when he heard them say this: he drew the kite this way and that way, but still he was not able to make it rise up. He cried out his incantation- “Strong wind, come; Soft wind, come”- but still the kite would not rise. Then he remembered that in the Valley of Wai- pio there was a wizard who had control of the winds. Over the mountains and down into the valley Ma-ui went. He saw the calabash that the wizard kept the winds in, and he asked him to loose them and direct them to blow along the river to the place where he was going to fly his kite. Then Ma-ui went back. He stood with his feet upon the rocks along the bank of the Wai-lu-ku River; he stood there braced to hold his kite, and where he stood are the marks of his feet to this day. He called out: “O winds, winds of Wai-pio, Come from the calabash—the Calabash of perpetual winds.’ O wind, O wind of Hilo, Come quickly; come with power.” The call that Ma-ui gave went across the mountains and down into the valley of Wai-pio. No sooner did he hear it than the wizard opened his calabash. The winds rushed out. They went into the bay of Hilo, and they dashed themselves against the water. The call of Ma-ui came to them: “O winds, winds of Hilo, Hurry, hurry and come to me.”

The winds turned from the sea. They rushed along the river. They came to where Ma-ui stood, and then they saw the great, strange bird that he held. They wanted to fall upon that bird and dash it up against the sky. But the great kite was strong. The winds flung it up and flung it this way and that way. But they could not carry it off or dash it against the sky as they wanted to. Ma-ui rejoiced. How grand it was to hold a kite that the winds strove to tear away! He called out again: “O winds, O winds of Hilo, Come to the mountains, come.” Then came the west wind that had been dashing up waves in the bay of Hilo. It joined itself with the north wind and the east wind, the two winds that had been tearing and pushing at Ma-ui’s kite. Now, although the kite was made of the strongest tapa, and although it had been strengthened in every cun- ning way that Ma-ui knew, it was flung here and flung there. Ma-ui let his line out; the kite was borne up and up and above the mountains. And now he cried out to the kite that he had made:

“Climb up, climb up To the highest level of the heavens, To all the sides of the heavens. Climb thou to thy ancestor, To the sacred bird in the heavens.”

The three winds joined together, and now they made a fiercer attack upon Ma-ui’s kite. The winds tore and tossed it. Then the line broke in Ma-ui’s hands. The winds flung the kite across the mountains. And then, to punish it for having dared to face the heavens, they rammed it down into the volcano, and stirred up the fires against it. Then Ma-ui made for himself another kite. He flew it, and rejoiced in the flying of it, and all who saw him wondered at how high his kite went and how gracefully it bore itself in the heavens. But never again did he call upon the great winds to help him in his sport. Sometimes he would fasten his line to the black stones in the bed of the Wai-lu-ku River, and he would let the kite soar upward and range here and there. He knew by watching his soaring kite whether it would be dry and pleasant weather, and he showed his neighbors how they might know it. “Eh, neighbor,” one would say to another, “it is going to be dry weather; look how Ma-ui’s kite keeps in the sky.”

They knew that they could go to the fields to work and spread out their tapa to dry, for as long as the kite soared the rain would not fall. Ma-ui learned what a strong pull the fierce winds had. He used to bring his kite with him when he went out on the ocean in his canoe. He would let it free; then, fastening his line to the canoe, he would let the wind that pulled the kite pull him along. By flying his kite he learned how to go more swiftly over the ocean in his canoe, and how to make further voyages than ever a man made before.

The legend of Ma-ui continues in How Ma-Ui Fished Up the Great Island.

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