Universal Brotherhood Path – June 1900





Maui often now visited his parents.Each time he did this he noticed that some of their people carried food away, and he inquired the cause.

"Who is that you give food to?" he asked.

And they told him:

"To your ancestress. Muri-ranga-whenua."

"Where does she live?"

"Yonder," they replied.

"That will do," he answers. "Leave the food here and I myseif will take it to her."

From that time he took the presents of food himself. But he hid them for many days instead of carrying them to Muri-ranga-whenua. At last she suspected something wrong, and she sniffed and sniffed until she thought she smelt something and she grew very hungry. She smelt to the southward — nothing there: to the north — nothing: to the east — nothing; but she could smell no human being, although he would have eaten even a man if one came, since she was so hungry. At last she turned her head to the west and she sniffed and sniffed until she smelt Maui coming.

"I know there is some one there, I can smell him," she cried, and Maui said:

"Yes, it is Maui."

And she knew it was a grandson of hers by the voice, so she controlled her hunger, although if he had come from any direction except the west she would probably have eaten him up.

And when he came to her she asked.

"Why have you served me this deceitful trick."

And he said:

"I wanted your jawbone, for it is a magical instrument."

She said: "Take it. It has been kept for you." And Maui took the jaw-bone of Muri-ranga-whenua and returned home.

Maui was always thinking of something new, and he had not been home long before he thought that the day was too short, and the sun sank too soon below the horizon, day after day, because the days then were much shorter than now and the sun was far hotter, and it burnt the earth.

So he said to his brothers:

"We will catch the sun in a noose and we will make him move more slowly so that men will have longer days to work in."

"Why," they said: "no man can go near the sun without being burnt, it is so hot."

But Maui replied:

"Have you not seen what wonderful things I have done already? Did I not change into every bird in the world, small and great, and then did I not become a man again? I will catch the sun by the same kind of magic."

So he showed them how to twist ropes to make a snare to catch the sun, and in doing so he taught them how to plait flax into square shaped ropes, which are called tuamaka, and into Hat ropes, which are called paharahara, and also round ropes.

Then they took provisions and ropes and Maui's enchanted weapon and set out on their journey. They travelled all night and hid by day among the rocks, so that the sun should not see them coming. At night they traveled again the same way and hid themselves once more at dawn. At last they came far, far to the eastward to the edge of the place out of which the sun rises.

And here they built a high, long wall of day, with huts of branches at each end to hide in, and they spread the noose over the place from where the sun rises, Maui being at one side and his brothers at the other.

Maui had the magic jawbone in his hands, and he told his brothers:

"Be careful to hide yourselves so that the sun cannot see you until he has got his head and forelegs into the noose. Then I will shout out and you must pull away as hard as you can while I rush out and attack him. But you must hold him a long time until I have nearly killed him, when we will let him go. Do not listen to his screams and cries."

At last the sun rises like a spreading fire over mountains and forests: he puts his head through the noose and then his forelegs. Then Maui shouted and his brothers pulled, and the sun was caught in the snare. Ah! that was a fine struggle!

Then Maui rushed out with his weapon. The sun screams aloud; he roars but Maui strikes him fiercely again and again. At last they let him go, and, weak from his wounds, the sun crept slowly, slowly on his way. That is why the sun now takes twenty-four hours to go round the earth.

And in his struggles the sun revealed to men his second name. "Why do you beat me?" he cried. "You do not know what you are doing. Why do you want to kill Tania-nui-te-Ra?"

Thus they learnt the sun's second name.

After this the brothers returned home and dwelt there and dwelt there and dwelt there. After a long time Maui's brothers went out fishing while Maui-tiki-tiki-o-taranga stayed at home doing nothing except listening to the grumbling of the wives and children at his laziness.

But he said: "Never mind. I have done great things already, but if I do go and fish I shall not bring home any ordinary little fish. That is easy enough. I shall catch such a large fish that you will not be able to eat it. So Maui prepared his enchanted fish hook, which was made of Muri-ranga-whenua's jawbone, and when he had it ready he made a strong line fast to it.

Next day when his brothers went out fishing he jumped into the boat with them, but they said:

"Come, get out: we cannot let you come with us. Your magic will get us into difficulty."

So he had to go home again while they fished.

That night Maui went down to the beach and hid himself under the bottom boards of his brothers' canoe. So that the next morning they were well out to sea before they discovered Maui. When he popped his head up from the bottom of the boat, they said:

"We had better get back again to land if this fellow is on board."

But Maui made the land seem a long, long way off, a much longer distance than it really was, and by the time they had looked round it was almost out of sight.

Then Maui said: "You had much better let me stay, because I shall at least be useful to bail out the water for you." So they let him stay and presently they came to their fishing ground.

"Let us anchor and begin fishing," they said. And he said: "No, not here; let us go a long way farther out to sea."

So they paddled a long way out to the farthest fishing ground of all, and they say: "Let us fish here."

But Maui says: "Yes, the fish may be very fine here, but it will be much better to paddle right out to sea and fish there. If you go where I want you to go, a fish will take your hook before you can drop it to the bottom of the water. You will have your boat full of fish before you can wink your eye."

So they paddle a long, long way, and they say: "We are now far enough." And he replied: "No, no; let us go quite out of sight of land, and then we will anchor, but it must be very, very far off in the open sea."

At last they reach the open sea and his brothers begin to fish. Lo, lo, they had hardly let their hooks down before they each pull up a fish into the canoe. Twice only they let down their lines and the canoe was filled with fish they had caught. Then they said: "Let us return now, brother." But he answered: ''Stay a little; let me also throw a hook into the sea."

And they said: "Why, where did you get a hook?"

He said: "Never mind, I have a hook of my own."

"Make haste and throw it, then," they said.

And as he pulled it out from under his garments the light flashed on the beautiful mother-of-pearl shell at the hollow of the hook, and they saw that it was carved and ornamented with tufts of hair pulled from the tail of a dog, and it looked exceedingly beautiful.,

Maui then asked for a little bait, but they refused to give him any. So he doubled his fist and struck his nose violently until it bled. He smeared his hook with the blood and cast it into the sea. It sank down, down, down, until it touched the carved figure on the roof of a house at the bottom of the sea. Then it descended alongside the carved rafters of the roof and caught in the doorway of the house, finally catching in the sill of the doorway.

Then, feeling that he had caught something, he hauled. Up, up came the hook, then the house and the bubbles. It gurgled and swirled and foamed and made a stir as of an island rising from the water, and his brothers cried out aloud.

But Maui was meanwhile using incantations against their laments as they cried: "See, he has brought us out into the ocean to be devoured by this great fish." Then he raised aloud his voice and repeated the incantation Hiki, which makes heavy weights light.

"Wherefore, then, O Tonganui,
Dost hold so fast below?"

Then when he said this, up came the fish of Maui, a portion of Papa-tu-a-nuku, and, alas! the canoe was aground. Maui then left his brothers and returned to the village to offer the sacrifices and make the necessary prayers, etc. He said: "While I am gone on this errand, eat nothing and do not cut the fish or harm will ensue. After I have been purified we will divide the fish equally. And if I do this the fish will keep good."

But he had scarcely gone before they began to eat and cut up the fish. So the gods turned on them in wrath, and the fish began to toss his head from side to side and lash his tail and fins and lower jaw. Well done, Tangaroa! it springs about briskly on shore.

For this reason the island is rough and uneven. If they had not done this the island would have remained smooth and even, a model to this day for the whole earth.

Thus was dry land fished up by Maui after it had been hidden under the ocean by Rangi and Tawhiri-ma-tea. The enchanted fish hook became a cape, which is Heretaunga. (1) Next the hero thought he would extinguish the fires of Mahu-ika, his ancestress. He gets up at midnight and puts out all the fires. Then in the morning he calls: "I am hungry, hungry. Quick — cook me food!"

But they ran from house to house and found no fire.

When Taranga heard this she said: "Some of you go to Mahu-ika and tell her that fire has been lost from the earth and ask her to give us some again."

But the slaves were alarmed and refused to obey the commands of the old people.

So Maui said: "I will get it. But which way must I go?" His parents said: "Follow the broad path yonder. You will come to the house of an ancestress of yours; if she asks who you are, tell her your name and she will know you art her descendant; but be careful to play no tricks with her, for we have heard you are fond of deceit and injury, so be cautious."

But Maui said: "No, I only want to get fire for men, and after that I will come back."

So he went to the house of fire, but it was so grand he could scarcely speak. At last he said: "Oh, lady, rise up! Where is your fire kept? I have come to beg some from you."

Then the old lady rose up and said: "Au-e! who can this mortal be?" and he said: "It is I."

"She said: "Whence do you come?" and he said: "I belong to this country." She said: "No, that cannot be; you are not like the people of this country. Do you come from the North East?" He replied: "No." "Do you come from the South East?" "No." "From the South?" "No." "From the West." "No." "Come you from the wind which blows straight toward me?" And he said: "I do." "Oh, then you are my grandchild. What do you want here?" "I am come to beg fire from you."

Then the aged woman pulled out one of her finger nails, and fire flowed from it, and she gave it to him. Then he took the nail a little distance off and put the fire quite out. He came back. "The light you gave me has gone out," he said; "give me another." She did so, and this also he put out as if by accident. This went on until she had pulled out the nails of both hands and of all but the big toe of one foot. Then she suspected his trickery. So she pulled out that, the last one, and dashed it on the ground. The whole place caught fire. "There! you have it all now," she said, and Maui ran off and ran as fast as he could to escape, but the fire followed after him close behind him, so he changed himself into an eagle, but the fire burnt so fiercely that it nearly caught him as he flew.

Then the eagle, which was Maui, dashed down into a pool of water; but it was almost boiling. Forests were on fire and the earth and the sea, and Maui could not rest anywhere because of the fire. He called on Tawhiri-ma-tea and Whititiri-matakatakata to send down an abundant supply of water. Squalls and gales came, and heavy rain, and the fire was quenched, and before Mahu-ika could reach her place of safety she almost perished in the flames, but before the fire was all lost she saved a few sparks, which she threw into the Kaiko-mako tree and a few other trees, where they are still cherished. Hence these trees are used for fire sticks.

When he returned, Maui's father and mother said: "You heard what we told you. It serves you right," and he said "I don't care. I shall go on like that for ever, ever." His father, "Yes, you may please yourself about living or dying. Attend to me and you will save your life. Otherwise you will die."

Maui seeks other mischief. His beautiful young sister, Hinauri, married Irawaru. One day both Maui and Irawaru went to fish in the sea. Maui caught no fish, but Irawaru caught many. Their lines became entangled. Maui claims the fish and Irawaru does the same. The latter proves it to be his because it is on his hook, which is barbed, while the hook of Maui is plain. Thus Maui finds out the secret of making his hooks barbed. After this they proceed to land.

As they reach the shore, Maui says, ''Get under the outrigger and lift the canoe on to dry land." Irawaru does so. Maui jumps on the canoe and almost kills him with his weight. Then Maui lengthens his backbone into a tail and turns him into a dog. After that he goes home alone. His sister asks him, "Where is your brother-in-law?" Maui replies, "I left him in the canoe." "Why did you not come home together?" she asks. "Because he says he wants you to help him to carry up fish. So go to him, and if you do not see him, call out, 'Mo-i! mo-i!' "

She does so, and the dog in the bushes answer, "Ao! ao! ao-ao-o-o-o!" howling like a dog. He follows her to the village, frisking and wagging his tail. He is the father of dogs, and the Maories always hail "Mo-i" when they call their dogs to them. Hinauri weeps and weeps, and taking her enchanted girdle from the house, she ran to the sea, and after repeating an incantation, throws herself in.

Maui now leaves the village and goes to his parents' country. His father says, "I have heard from your mother and others that you are very valiant, and have succeeded in all feats, small or great, in your own country, but now in your father's land you may be overcome."

Maui asks, "Why, what can vanquish me?" "Your ancestress, Hine-nui-te-po, who you may see flashing, and, as, it were, opening and shutting where the horizon meets the sky."

Maui said, "Nonsense. Let us fearlessly seek whether men may live or die." "My child, there has been a bad omen for us. When I initiated you I omitted a portion of the fitting prayers, and that, I know, will be the cause of your perishing."

Then Maui says, "What is Hine-nui-te-po my ancestress like?" and he answered, "What you see yonder shining so brightly red are her eyes and her teeth are sharp and hard as pieces of volcanic glass; her body is like that of a man, and the pupils of her eyes are of jasper; her hair is like long tangles of seaweed and her mouth like that of a barracouta." Maui answered, "Do you think her strength is like that of Tama-nui-te-Ra, who consumes man and the earth and the very waters by the fierceness of his heat? Was not the world formerly saved alive by the speed with which he traveled? If he had then in the days of his full strength and power gone as slowly as he does now, not a remnant of mankind would have been left upon earth, nor, indeed, would anything else have survived. But I laid hold of Tama-nui-te-Ra and now he goes slowly, for I smote him again and again so that he is now feeble and long in traveling his course, and he now gives but very little heat, having been weakened by the blows of my enchanted weapon. I then, too, split him open in many places, and from the wounds so made many rays now issue forth and spread in all directions. So also I found the sea much larger than the earth, but by the power of the last born of your children part of the earth was drawn up again and dry land came forth."

His father answered, "Very true, last born and strength of my old age; so be bold; go and visit your great ancestress, who flashes so fiercely there, where the edge of the horizon meets the sky."

Maui goes and looks for companions; there came to him the small robin and the large robin, the thrush, the yellow-hammer and every kind of little bird, and the water wagtail, and they started in the evening. When they arrived at the dwelling of Hine-nni-te-po they found her fast asleep. Maui said:

"My little friends, if you see me creep into the old chieftainess, do not laugh at what you see. When I have got altogether inside and am coming out of her mouth again you can laugh as much as you please."

They said, "Oh, sir, you will surely be killed." He said, "If you burst out laughing at me as soon as I get inside her you will wake her up and she will certainly kill me at once, but if you do not laugh until I am quite inside her and am on the point of coming out of her mouth again, I shall live and Hine-nui-te-po will die."

"Go, then, brave sir, but pray take good care of yourself."

So he twisted the strings of his weapon tight round his wrist, went into the house, stripped off his clothes, and the skin on his hips looked mottled and beautiful, like that of a mackerel, from the tattoo marks cut on it with the chisel of Uetonga, and he entered the chieftainess.

The little birds screwed up their cheeks, trying not to laugh, but the little Tiwakawaka could no longer restrain itself and laughed out loud, with its merry, cheerful note; this woke the old woman up; she opened her eyes, started up and killed Maui.

Thus died Maui, but he leaves descendants in Hawaiki, Aotearoa, in these islands. The greater part remained in Hawaiki, but a few came to Aotearoa. This is the cause of the introduction of death into the world. If Maui had passed safely through there would have been no more death.

As they say, "The water wagtail laughing at Maui-tiki-tiki-o-taranga made Hine-nui-te-po squeeze him to death."

Thus end the deeds of the son of Makea-tu-tara and of Taranga, and the deeds of the sons of Rangi-nui and of Papa-tu-a-nuku; this is the narrative of the generations of the ancestors of the inhabitants of New Zealand, and therefore we, the people of that country, preserve closely the tradition of those old times, as a thing to be taught to the generations that come after us, so we repeat them in our prayers, or whenever we relate the deeds of the ancestors from whom each family is descended, and upon other similar occasions.


1. Abridged from "Polynesian Mythology." by Sir George Grey (London, 1885) by permission of Messrs. Murray & Sons. Albemarle street, London, England. (return to text)

2. The Southern extremity of Hawke's Bay? (return to text)

Theosophical University Press Online Edition