Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
In Polynesian mythology, and especially in New Zealand and Hawai'i, Maui is an extremely powerful god, for whom the island of Maui was named. At one point, he was married to Rohe, but she left him and became Queen of Uranga-o-Te-Ra, the fifth level of the underworld. Maui was one of the Kupua.
In Aotearoa (New Zealand), he was an excellent fisherman. Using a hook made from an ancestor's jawbone and his blood from his nose as a bait, he caught a massive fish on the ocean floor. He managed to pull it up, and henceforth it was called Te Ika-a-Maaui (The fish of Maui in Māori), today forming New Zealand's North Island which roughly has a fish shape. The canoe that he stood in became the South Island, the Banks Peninsula marking the place supporting his foot as he pulled up the extremely heavy and strong fish. Therefore, besides Te Wai Pounamu, another Māori name for the South Island is Te Waka a Maui (The ship of Maui).
In Hawai'i, Maui was a son of Hina, who once complained that the sun moved too fast. Maui lassoed the sun (Mahu-ike or Tama Nui-Te-Ra) with a rope (made from flax or his sister's hair) and made it promise to go slower. On the island of Maui, the mountain that he caught the sun on is called Haleakala ("house of the sun"). He was personified by a hawk and stole fire, burning the hawk's tail feathers their dark brown.
Maui is thought to have created the Hawaiian Islands by tricking his brothers. He convinced them to take him out fishing, but caught his hook upon the ocean floor. He told his brothers that he had caught a big fish, and bid them paddle as hard as they could. His brothers paddled with all their might, and being intent with their effort, did not notice the Island rising behind them. Maui repeated this trick several times, creating the Hawaiian Islands. The Island of Maui and the constellation Maui's fishhook were named after this legend.
In an alternate version of his parentage, Maui was a son of Makea-Tutara and Taranga. He was born prematurely, so she wrapped his body in her hair laid him by the waves. Some sea-creatures cared for him, hiding him in kelp until a storm sent him back to the beach. His ancestor, Tama-Rangi , found him and brought him back to life, and educated him.
Maui wandered into a meeting house one day and recognized his brothers, who stood behind their mother. Taranga did know who she was until he reminded him. The next morning, Taranga disappeared and he found her in the underworld. Taking the shape of a wood pigeon, Maui descended after her and found her with his father, Makea-Tutara, the king of the underworld. Taranga introduced them and he prophesied that Maui would be a great hero, then tried and failed at making him immortal.
In a story of the Māori, Maui attempted to achieve immortality for himself and all of mankind by crawling through the Hine-nui-te-Po's (the goddess of death) body while she slept. He was to crawl through her vagina (reversing the birth process) and crush her heart from the inside. She awoke because a songbird laughed at the sight of a grown man trying to unbirth himself, and Maui was crushed to death by her vagina; he was the first man to die. Had he succeeded, however, the Māori believe there would have been little or no aroha (love) in the world, because life would have no longer been fleeting, and therefore no longer precious.
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