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Legends of Maui, A Demi-God of Polynesia, by W. D. Westervelt, [1910], at



SEVERAL Maui legends have been located on the island of Oahu. They were given by Mr. Kaaia to Mr. T. G. Thrum, the publisher of what is well known in the Hawaiian Islands as "Thrum's Annual." He has kindly furnished them for added interest to the present volume. The legends have a distinctly local flavor confined entirely to Oahu. It has seemed best to reserve them for a chapter by themselves although they are chiefly variations of stories already told.


This history of Maui and his grandmother Hina begins with their arrival from foreign lands. They dwelt in Kane-ana (Kane's cave), Waianae, Oahu. This is an "ana," or cave, at Puu-o-hulu. Hina had wonderful skill in making all kinds of tapa according to the custom of the women of ancient Hawaii.

Maui went to the Koolau side and rested at Kaha-luu, a diving place in Koolaupoko. In that place there is a noted hill called Ma-eli-eli. This is the story of that hill. Maui threw up a pile of dirt and concealed rubbish under it. The two gods, Kane and Kanaloa, came along and asked Maui what he was doing. He said, "What you see. You two dig on that side to the foot of the pali, (precipice) and I will go down at Kaha-luu. If you two dig through first, you may kill me. If I get through first I will kill you," They agreed, and began to dig and throw up the dirt. Then Maui dug three times and tossed up some of the hills of that place. Kane and Kanaloa saw that Maui was digging very fast, so they put forth very great strength and threw the dirt into a hill. Meanwhile Maui ran away to the other side of the island. Thus by the aid of the gods the hill Ala-eli-eli was thrown up and received its name "eli," meaning "dig." "Ma-eli-eli" meant "the place of digging."


It was said that Maui and Hina had no fire. They where often cold and had no cooked food. Maui saw flames rising in a distant place and ran to see how they were made. When he came to that place the fire was out and some birds flew away. One of them was Ka-Alae-huapi, "the stingy Alae"--a small duck, the Hawaiian mud hen. Maui watched again and saw fire. When he went up the birds saw him coming and scattered the fire, carrying the ashes into the water; but he leaped and caught the little Alae. "Ali!" he said, "I will kill you, because you do not let me have fire." The bird replied, "If you kill me you cannot find fire." Maui said, "Where is fire?" The Alae said, "Go up on the high land where beautiful plants with large leaves are standing; rub their branches." Maui set the bird free and went inland from Halawa and found dry land taro. He began to rub the stalks, but only juice came out like water. He had no red fire. He was very angry and said, "If that lying Alae is caught again by me I will be its death."

After a while he saw the fire burning and ran swiftly. The birds saw him and cried, "The cooking is over. Here comes the swift grandchild of Hina." They scattered the fire; threw the ashes away and flew into the water. But again Maui caught the Alae and began to kill it, saying: "You gave me a plant full of water from which to get fire." The bird said, "If I die you can never find fire. I will give you the secret of fire. Take a branch of that dry tree and rub." Maui held the bird fast in one hand while he rubbed with the other until smoke and fire came out. Then he took the fire stick and rubbed the head of the bird, making a place where red and white feathers have grown ever since.

He returned to Hina and taught her how to make fire, using the two fire sticks and how to twist coconut fibre to catch the fire when it had been kindled in wood. But the Alae was not forgotten. It was called huapi, "stingy," because it selfishly kept the knowledge of fire making to itself.


Maui watched Hina making tapa. The wet tapa was spread on a long tapa board, and Hina began at one end to pound it into shape; pounding from one end to another. He noticed that sunset came by the time she had pounded to the middle of the board. The sun hurried so fast that she could only begin her work before the day was past.

He went to the hill Hele-a-ka-la, which means "journey of the sun." He thought he would catch the sun and make it miove slowly. He went up the hill and waited. When the sun began to rise, Maui made himself long, stretching up toward the sky. Soon the shining legs of the sun came up the hillside. He saw Maui and began to run swiftly, but Maui reached out and caught one of the legs, saying: "O sun, I will kill you. You are a mischief maker. You make trouble for Hina by going so fast." Then he broke the shining leg of the sun. The sufferer said, "I will change my way and go slowly-six months slow and six months faster." Thus arose the saying, "Long shall be the daily journey of the sun and he shall give light for all the people's toil." Hina learned that she could pound until she was tired while the farmers could plant and take care of their fields. Thus also this hill received its name Hele-a-ka-la. This is one of the hills of Waianae near the precipice of the hill Puu-o-hulu.


Maui suggested to Hina that he had better try to draw the islands together, uniting them in one land. Hina told Maui to go and see Alae-nui-a-Hina, who would tell him what to do. The Alae told him they must go to Ponaha-ke-one (a fishing place outside of Pearl Harbor) and find Ka-uniho-kahi, "the one toothed," who held the land under the sea.

Maui went back to Hina. She told him to ask his brothers to go fishing with him. They consented and pushed out into the sea. Soon Maui saw a bailing dish floating by the canoe and picked it up. It was named Hina-a-ke-ka, "Hina who fell off." They paddled to Ponaha-ke-one. When they stopped they saw, a beautiful young wornan in the boat. Then they anchored and again looked in the boat, but the young woman was gone. They saw the bailing dish and, threw it into the sea.

Maui-mua threw his hook and caught a large fish, which was seen to be a shark as they drew it to the surface. At once they cut the line. So also Mauihope and Maui-waena. At last Maui threw his hook Manai-i-ka-lani into the sea. It went down, down into the depths. Maui cried, "Hina-a-ke-ka has my hook in her hand. By her it will be made fast." Hina went down with the hook until she met Ka-uniho-kahi. She asked him to open his mouth, then threw the hook far inside and made it fast. Then she pulled the line so that Maui should know that the fish was caught. Maui fastened the line to the outrigger of the canoe and asked his brothers to paddle with all diligence, and not look back. Long, long, they paddled and were very tired. Then Maui took a paddle and dipped deep in the sea. The boat moved more swiftly through the sea. The brothers looked back and cried, "There is plenty of land behind us." The charm was broken. The hook came out of "the one toothed," and the raised islands sank back into their place. The native say, "The islands are now united to America. Perhaps Maui has been at work."


Maui had been fishing and had caught a great fish upon which he was feasting. He looked inland and saw his wife, Kumu-lama, seized and carried away by Pea-pea-maka-walu, "Pea-pea the eight-eyed." This is a legend derived from the myths of many islands in which Lupe or Rupe (pigeon) changed himself into a bird and flew after his sister Hina who had been carried on the back of a shark to distant islands. Sometimes as a man and sometimes as a bird he prosecuted his search until Hina was found.

Maui pursued Pea-pea, but could not catch him. He carried Maui's wife over the sea to a far away island. Maui was greatly troubled but his grandmother sent him inland to find an old man who would tell him what to do. Maui went inland and looking down toward Waipahu saw this man Ku-olo-kele. He was hump-backed. Maui threw a large stone and hit the "hill on the back" knocked it off and made the back straight. The old man lifted up the stone and threw it to Waipahu, where it lies to this day. Then he and Maui talked together. He told Maui to go and catch birds and gather ti leaves and fibers of the ie-ie vine, and fill his house. These things Maui secured and brought to him. He told Maui to go home and return after three days.

Ku-olo-kele took the ti leaves and the ie-ie threads and made the body of a great bird which he covered with bird feathers. He fastened all together with the ie-ie. This was done in the first day. The second day he placed food inside and tried his bird and it flew all right. "Thus," as the Hawaiians say, "the first flying ship was made in the time of Maui." This is a modern version of Rupe changing himself into a bird.

On the third day Maui came and saw the wonderful bird body thoroughly prepared for his journey. Maui went inside. Ku-olo-kele said, "When you reach that land, look for a village. If the people are not there look to the beach. If there are many people, your wife and Pea-pea the eight-eyed will be there. Do not go near, but fly out over the sea. The people will say, 'O, the strange bird;' but Pea-pea will say, 'This is my bird. It is tabu.' You can then come to the people."

Maui pulled the ie-ie ropes fastened to the wings and made them move. Thus he flew away into the sky. Two days was his journey before he came to that strange island, Moana-liha-i-ka-wao-kele. It was a beautiful land. He flew inland to a village, but there were no people; according to the ancient chant:

"The houses of Lima-loa stand,
But there are no people;
They are at Mana."

The people were by the sea. Maui flew over them. He saw his wife, but he passed on flying out over the sea, skimming like a sea bird down to the water and rising gracefully up to the sky. Pea-pea called out, "This is my bird. It is tabu." Maui heard and came to the beach. He was caught and placed in a tabu box. The servants carried him, up to the village and put him in the chief's sleeping house, when Pea-pea and his people returned to their homes.

In the night Pea-pea and Maui's wife lay down to sleep. Maui watched Pea-pea, hoping that he would soon sleep. Then he would kill him. Maui waited. One eye was closed, seven eyes were opened. Then four eyes closed, leaving three. The night was almost past and dawn was near. Then Maui called to Hina with his spirit voice, "O Hina, keep it dark." Hina made the gray dawn dark in the three eyes and two closed in sleep. The last eye was weary, and it also slept. Then Maui went out of the bird body and cut off the head of Pea-pea and put it inside the bird. He broke the roof of the house until a large opening was made. He took his wife, Kumu-lama, and flew away to the island of Oahu. The winds blew hard against the flying bird. Rain fell in torrents around it, but those inside had no trouble.

"Thus Maui returned with his wife to his home in Oahu. The story is pau (finished)."

Next: XI. Maui Seeking Immortality