I love the old Hawaiian legends and enjoy weaving them into my books. My friend Kay Hadashi lives on O‘ahu and loves them, too. About a month ago, I told Kay I was interested in sharing more of the legends and she volunteered to write up this one about Maui. Forget what you thought you knew about the islands, here’s the real story on this beautiful island.
About Maui by Kay Hadashi
We all have heard of this tropical island, and many of us have been lucky enough to visit. This is more than just a small island out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It is a place full of legends, history, and folklore. The most important legend is how the Valley Isle got its name.
Maui is a demigod, half god and half human, in Hawaiian mythology. These kupua are often tricksters and shapeshifters, able to change from human form to that of animals. Sharks, sea turtles, and birds have legends attached to them that include these demigods. Even clouds, wind, and plants and trees can be demigods hiding, ready to play tricks on unwary humans. Many of the tricks Maui played were on his own family.
Maui was not a talented fisherman. In fact, on one occasion his skills were so poor that he caught an island! He and his brothers went out in their canoe on a fishing trip. Since his brothers were the paddlers, that left the fishing to Maui, who was using his magic hook that day. He let the hook sink too deep, far below the depth of any fish. When his line went tight, he shouted to his brothers to paddle harder. Soon he discovered that a fish hadn’t been caught but the ocean floor was snagged. His brothers were so strong at paddling, they had pulled the island of Maui to the ocean surface! The other gods and demigods were so impressed that the island was named for Maui.
His power did not stop in the ocean, but went far into the sky all the way to the sun. One day, his mother Hina complained that the days were too short, that their kapa clothes made from the bark of the mulberry took too long to dry for lack of sunshine. Hearing her plight, Maui went to the summit of Haleakala, the massive volcano of the island of Maui, and lassoed the sun with a net made from his sister’s hair. Tugging and pulling with all his might, the powerful Maui was able to slow the advance of the sun across the sky just enough to make the days longer, and Hina’s clothes drier.
Whenever Maui takes time off from fishing with his magic hook, catching the sun with a net of hair, or flying through the heavens as a bird, he rests on a small tropical island of which he is the namesake. Anyone lucky enough to visit Maui’s island might have the chance to catch a glimpse of him with a visit to Haleakala.
To learn more about one family’s life and times on Maui, take a look at Kay Hadashi’s novel, “Away.”
The beauty of Maui in pictures