Legends of Maui, A Demi-God of Polynesia, by W. D. Westervelt, , at sacred-texts.com
HINA is not an uncommon name in Hawaiian genealogies. It is usually accompanied by some adjective which explains or identifies the person to whom the name is given. In Hawaii the name Hina is feminine. This is also true throughout all Polynesia except in a few cases where Hina is reckoned as a man with supernatural attributes. Even in these cases it is apparent that the legend has been changed from its original form as it has been carried to small islands by comparatively ignorant people when moving away from their former homes.
Hina is a Polynesian goddess whose story is very interesting-one worthy of study when comparing the legends of the island groups of the Pacific. The Hina of Hilo is the same as the goddess of that name most widely known throughout Polynesia-and yet her legends are located by the ancient Hawaiians in Hilo, as if that place were her only home. The legends are so old that the Hawaiians have forgotten their origin in other lands. The stories were brought with the immigrants who settled on the Hilo coast. Thus the stories found their final location with the families who brought them. There are three Hawaiian Hinas practically distinct from each other, although a supernatural element is connected with each one. Hina who was stolen from Hawaii by a chief of the Island of Molokai was an historical character, although surrounded by mythical stories. Another Hina, who was the wife of Kuula, the fish god, was pre-eminently a local deity, having no real connection with the legends of the other islands of the Pacific, although sometimes the stories told concerning her have not been kept entirely distinct from the legends of the Hina of Hilo.
The Hilo Hina was the true legendary character closely connected with all Polynesia. The stories about her are of value not simply as legends, but as traditions closely uniting the Hawaiian Islands with the island groups thousands of miles distant. The Wailuku river, which flows through the town of Hilo, has its own peculiar and weird beauty. For miles it is a series of waterfalls and rapids. It follows the course of an ancient lava flow, sometimes forcing its way under bridges of lava, thus forming what are called boiling pots, and sometimes pouring in massive sheets over the edges of precipices which never disintegrate. By the side of this river Hina's son,Maui had his lands. In the very bed of the river, in a cave under one of the largest falls, Hina made her own home, concealed from the world by the silver veil of falling water and lulled to sleep by the continual roar of the flood falling into the deep pool below. By the side of this river, the legends say, she pounded her tapa and prepared her food. Here were the small, graceful mamake and the coarser wauke trees, from which the bark was stripped with which she made tapa cloth. Branches were cut or broken from these and other trees whose bark was fit for the purpose. These branches were well soaked until the bark was removed easily. Then the outer bark was scraped off, leaving only the pliable inner bark. The days were very short and there was no time for rest while making tapa cloth. Therefore, as soon as the morning light reddened the clouds, Hina would take her calabash filled with water to pour upon the bark, and her little bundle of round clubs (the hohoa) and her four-sided mallets (the i-e-kuku) and hasten to the sacred spot where, with chants and incantations, the tapa was made.
The bark was well soaked in the water all the days of the process of tapa making. Hina took small bundles of the wet inner bark and laid them on the kua or heavy tapa board, pounding them together into a pulpy mass with her round clubs. Then using the four-sided mallets, she beat this pulp into thin sheets. Beautiful tapa, soft as silk, was made by adding pulpy mass to pulpy mass and beating it day after day until the fibres were lost and a sheet of close-woven bark cloth was formed. Although Hina was a goddess and had a family possessing miraculous power, it never entered the mind of the Hawaiian legend tellers to endow her with case in producing wonderful results. The legends of the Southern Pacific Islands show more imagination. They say that Ina (Hina) was such a wonderful artist in making beautiful tapas that she was placed in the skies, where she beat out glistening fine tapas, the white and glorious clouds. When she stretches these clouds sheets out to dry, she places stones along the edges, so that the fierce winds of the heavens shall not blow them away. When she throws these stones aside, the skies reverberate with thunder. When she rolls her cloud sheets of tapa together, the folds glisten with flashes of light and lightning leaps from sheet to sheet.
The Hina of Hilo was grieved as she toiled because after she had pounded the sheets out so thin that they were ready to be dried, she found it almost impossible to secure the necessary aid of the sun in the drying process. She would rise as soon as she could see and hasten to spread out the tapa made the day before. But the sun always hurried so fast that the sheets could not dry. He leaped from the ocean waters in the earth, rushed across the heavens and plunged into the dark waters again on the other side of the island before she could even turn her tapas so that they might dry evenly. This legend of very short days is strange because of its place not only among the myths of Hawaii but also because it belongs to practically all the tropical islands of the Pacific Ocean. In Tahiti the legends said that the sun rushed across the sky very rapidly. The days were too short for fruits to ripen or for work to be finished. In Samoa the "mats" made by Sina had no time to dry. The ancestors of the Polynesians sometime somewhere must have been in the region of short days and long nights. Hina found that her incantations had no influence with the sun. She could not prevail upon him to go slower and give her more time for the completion of her task. Then she called on her powerful son, Maui-ki-i-ki-i, for aid.
Some of the legends of the Island Maui say that Hina dwelt by the sea coast of that island near the high hill Kauwiki at the foot of the great mountain Haleakala, House of the Sun, and that there, facing the southern skies under the most favorable conditions for making tapa, she found the days too short for the tapa to dry. At the present time the Hawaiians point out a long, narrow stone not far from the surf and almost below the caves in which the great queen Kaahumanu spent the earliest days of her childhood.
This stone is said to be the kua or tapa board on which Hina pounded the bark for her cloth. Other legends of that same island locate Hina's home on the northeast coast near Pohakuloa.
The Hilo legends, however, do not deem it necessary that Hina and Maui should have their home across the wide channel which divides the Island Hawaii from the Island Maui in order to wage war successfully with the inconsiderate sun. Hina remained in her home by the Wailuku river, sometimes resting in her cave under Rainbow Falls, and sometimes working on the river bank, trusting her powerful son Maui to make the swiftly-passing lord of day go more slowly.
Maui possessed many supernatural powers. He could assume the form of birds or insects. He could call on the winds to do his will, or he could, if he wished, traverse miles with a single stride. It is interesting to note that the Hilo legends differ as to the way in which Ma-ui the man passed over to Mau-i the island. One legend says that he crossed the channel, miles wide, with a single step. Another says that he launched his canoe and with a breath the god of the winds placed him on the opposite coast, while another story says that Maui assumed the form of a white chicken, which flew over the waters to Haleakala. Here he took ropes made from the fibre of trees and vines and lassoed the sun while it climbed the side of the mountain and entered the great crater which hollows out the summit. The sun came through a large gap in the eastern side of the crater, rushing along as rapidly as possible. Then Maui threw his lassoes one after the other over the sun's legs (the rays of light), holding him fast and breaking off some of them. With a magic club Maui struck the face of the sun again and again. At last, wounded and weary, and also limping on its broken legs, the sun promised Maui to go slowly forevermore.
"La" among the Polynesians, like the word "Ra" among the Egyptians, means "sun" or "day" or "sun-god"--and the mountain where the son of Hina won his victory over the monster of the heavens has long borne the name Hale-a-ka-la, or House of the Sun.
Hina of Hilo soon realized the wonderful deed which Maui had done. She spread out her fine tapas with songs of joy and cheerily performed the task which filled the hours of the day. The comfort of sunshine and cooling winds came with great power into Hina's life, bringing to her renewed joy and beauty.