15 Incredible Facts About Maui – The Demigod Of Polynesia

If there is one word that best describes Maui, it would have to be powerful. Demigods represents awe and reverence, with the ability to accomplish great things and make a profound impact on the world. The story of Maui is as old as Hawaii itself. Legend has it that Maui was a mighty hunter and fisherman who possessed great strength and prowess. He was also an accomplished musician and dancer. His mythology is still being studied by modern scholars, and his story remains an enigma to us today. Here are the 15 interesting fact about Maui – The demigod of Polynesia

1 Maui Is The Demigod Of Polynesia

Maui - The demigod

Ancient civilizations often share ideas of the human’s relationship to nature. To understand these relationships, it is helpful to first understand the difference between myths and legends. Comparatively, both serve different purposes.

Legends are stories about real people who have historic adventures, while myths often tell stories of natural phenomena that were attributed to gods or goddesses. Interestingly enough, Ancient Polynesian people would combine ideas from both the myth and legend and attribute human flaws to demigods and goddesses.

One example is Maui, a well known and famous demigod in Polynesian Mythology from this culture.

2 His Myths Are Famous In 70 Million Square Miles In The Pacific Ocean

Maui - The demigod

Within the Polynesian Triangle, there are three regions with different Maui legend and myth. Maui is a legendary demigod, who has been shared amongst the Polynesian people, living in the Pacific Triangle. The stories about Maui and Hina, two demigods, show how the Polynesian people have spread out over 70 million square miles in the Pacific Ocean. There are three parts of their myths— Hawai’i on the north, New Zealand in the south, and The Tahitian Islands— that all have the same basic legend with some variations with names. The legends and myths about Maui help unite members of different genealogical races.

3 His Myths Are Often Represented By Mo’olelo

Maui - The demigod

An ancient Hawaiian term, ‘kaao’, refers to a fictional story in which the speaker is able to create meaningful imagery and other creative parts of the story through their voice. ‘Mo’olelo are the Stories of the gods that is distinguished by a manner of narrating. There are many different types of stories with specific guidelines. For instance, sacred stories are told only at day and the crowd must never move in front of the story teller or speaker. Moving in front of a sacred storyteller would be highly disrespectful to the gods. Local legends and family stories are one of the most popular forms of storytelling in Hawai’i today. Story seems interesting to listeners, but it aims to correspond with the Hawaiian view of human-nature relationship.

4 Spiritual Origins of Hawai’i Who Introduced Maui Demigod

Maui - The demigod

o learn about Maui in Ancient Hawaii, it’s convenient to know more about their religious beliefs. The Tahitian-originated Hawaiian religion is animist, with many deities and spirits that are believed to have originated in parts of the Pacific Islands. The Polynesians also colonized Hawaii over an estimated time-frame of approximately 450-1300 AD.

It is believed that the first wave of people migrating on the island of Hawaii moved there peacefully. They believed in what has been called the “Law of Aloha”. The Law of Aloha was based on kindness, cooperation and mutual respect.

Small independent communities evolved in isolation 600 years ago and Their belief system included the idea that objects, creatures, and places have a spiritual force known as mana. This is the oldest belief system in the world that came before paganism. It shares the opinion that everything – animals, plants, rocks, rivers, and even handiwork – has an energy that is alive and moving. Pa’ao, a priest from Tahiti, arrived in Hawaii around 1250 A.D. He found the Hawaiians to be weak and without religious convictions and then returned with an invading army who would later install the Kapu system of rule.

Related Reads: 38 Demigods From Greek Mythology

5‘Maui Island’ Got Its Name By Hawai’iola, The Explorer Of The Island Who Named It After His Son, Maui

Maui - The demigod

Legends and stories passed down by Hawai’ian people speak of how each Hawaiian island in the chain was named after Hawaiian explorer, Hawai’i-Loa’s children. Each island is said to have been named after this great Polynesian explorer’ son.

Hawaiian, the Ancient island of Maui will be named as Maui and inspired by the son of this Hawai’i-Loa (the discoverer of the archipelago) as Maui itself. Polynesian legends give credit to Hawai’i-Loa for discovering the archipelago. His children had named on behalf of each of the Islands from archipelago.

6 Maui Demigod Posses Powers Much Alike Today’s Pop Culture Hero Superman

Maui - The demigod

Maui is a shared deity that can be found in various Polynesian tales. Though there are some differences between these tales, they are surprisingly similar enough to believe that the character portrayed is actually the same person. This is supported by the fact that Maui can be found on islands that are thousands of miles away from one another.

Maui was not always a hero; his mischievous deeds helped mankind when they needed it most. He raised the sky to trap the sun and he created fire for the mortals. His legacy lasts over 1000 years, through tales of his antics that can be found across 4000 miles of Pacific Ocean.

Maui had a family of supernatural beings possessing superhuman abilities. The Mo’olelo tell of his connection to the ancestor’s jawbone in New Zealand and his powerful fish hook in Hawai’i. However, he was very human, caring for his mother Hina and cavorting with his brothers and sister.

7 Maui Can Lift The Sky With Immense Power

Maui - The demigod

In one of the stories, Maui seeks the help of his father to lift the sky. Maui lays in the ground and uses his great power to push up the sky with his father. Together, father and son push up the sky high enough for people, plants, and trees to be able to grow taller and stronger and live comfortably. Myths tell if father and son had not worked together, humans would have no longer been habitable. By working together the family protected humanity – a tale highlighting the importance of family teamwork.

Wielding immense supernatural powers and symbolizing contact with the gods, Maui is said to have visited a Hawaiian priest who tattooed him with a powerful symbol.

In addition to visiting the kahuna for help in his quest for the heavens, it has been said that Maui has been able to lift the sky with immense power. 

In another version of the story, Maui found an old woman who was a kapuna or elder. He drank from her gourd and obtained great strength, which helped him to lift the sky over the mountains where it is still present today. After Maui pushed the sky, he struggled for a long time and finally got it above the mountains. When storm clouds surround Haleakalá’s, they stay far away because they are so afraid that Maui will hurl them into space and they cannot get back.  

8 Demigod Restrained The Sun To Bask Most Of Its Light

Maui - The demigod

Maui’s next feat is again beneficial to mankind. Maui is next in action to aid mankind. The tales of Maui restraining the sun in order to solve light problems are told by Polynesian people. In Hawai’i tales, Maui’s mother, Hina, had moaned about her kapa cloth which has a hard time getting dry out because of the lack of daylight. Maui dives into the crater of Haleakala volcano before the sun rises, waiting at the mountain’s top for it to appear and eventually captured or held for giving lights throughout the daytime. 

A Hawaiian folktale about Maui, a demigod and trickster who lassoed the sun’s arms thereby slowing down the sun for his family to bask in more of its light. The story varies between Maui being helped by his grandmother and his brothers. It is a specific example representing the importance of a family in Hawaiian and Polynesian culture.

9 Hauling Up Islands

Maui - The demigod

In Polynesia, Maui is renowned as the demigod who created life by pulling up islands from the ocean bottom. One of the most common stories about his creation is how he pulled up islands fall under on their natural make-up. For example, in Hawai’i Maui would have his brothers paddle their canoe with all of their might to pull up each island which he had hooked using an enchanted fish hook called the Manaiakalani. He frequents this technique for each island.

A great manta ray is captured by Maui with his brother while fishing in New Zealand. Maui leaves his brothers to perform the ritual and get a priest, his brothers began to hack apart the great beast, thus creating the deep valleys and mountains of North Island. Maui’s canoe became the region known as South Island.

10 Defeating The Long Eel

Maui - The demigod

One Polynesian belief is that they would often attribute human qualities to brute life. Demigods are often portrayed as shapeshifting creatures that could change into a variety of animals. Maui is attributed with shifting into an insect for playing hide and seek with his brothers, changing into large birds, and subduing large menacing creatures.

The one another story of Maui and the long eel begins with Hina.

Hina, a young woman from Hawaii, had become a prized beauty. One day, as she walked down to the stream that flowed near her village, Hina was confronted by a large eel. The eel in Hawaiian lore is called Kuna Loa and he longed for Hina’s companionship and beauty.

He violently advances on her, but when his advances are rejected he becomes vengeful and uses brute force to divert the river swiftly flooding Hina’s family’s residence. Maui arrives and destroys the dam that diverted water and saves them.

The long Eel continues to hassle Hina, and when Maui comes, he decides that it must be killed. Traps are laid, and when the Eel is caught, Maui cuts him up with a stone ax. The pieces were thrown into the sea, where they became various sea creatures including saltwater Eels today. This blood morphs into freshwater Eels. The head of Kuna Loa was put back in its place near the shore. Soon a palm tree grew from the head and provided the first coconut.

11 Discovering Fire

Maui - The demigod

Maui had been eating raw food, when he finally desired cooked food. He was out fishing with his brothers when they saw a small plume of white smoke along the shore. When Maui rushed there to find out more, he discovered a Hawaiian Moorhen creating and hiding a small fire.

Maui was tired of eating raw fish and vegetables and longed for cooked food. He wanted his mother, who couldn’t cook with an open fire, to be able to cook with a stovetop and warm herself by a fireplace. On a fishing trip with his brothers, the demigod saw a small plume of white smoke on the shore. Excited to find out what the small fire was, he rushed over and quickly discovered a Hawaiian ‘Alae ‘ula hen’ stamping out and trying to hide the fire.

Maui decides to hide and watch the hen starting another fire. The next day, when the hen sees that Maui is absent from the canoe with his brothers and does not start another fire. Maui knew the hen was suspicious and so he put a log that looked like him in the canoe with his brothers. The next day, the hen began gathering sticks and leaves believing they were safe. When Maui watched her rubbing sticks together; he captured her by the neck to make her teach him how to make fire.

The hen attempts to trick Maui by instructing him to rub water plants together, then wet twigs. All of these ineffective actions fail. Finally Maui grabs the bird’s neck, forcing her to reveal her secret. The ‘alae ‘ula finally concedes, and informs him to rub a dry stick across some bark of the hau tree and piece of sandalwood, until it catches fire. Maui made fire and Maui eventually found out that the hen tricked him, so he punished her by burning the crest on top of her head. So that is why adult alae ‘ula (black noddy tern) have red crests on top of their heads.

12 Maui’s Death

Maui - The demigod

There are assorted stories of Maui’s death. One story of Maui’s demise is that a priest struck him down. Other stories go so far as to say a mountain collapsed on the trickster while he was digging. A popular story of his death is from New Zealand.

Maui overcame many obstacles in life and, like no one else before him, wanted to live forever. The goal of his ambitions was immortality, which he thought should be for humanity. Maui’s father warned him that his time of death and failure was coming, but Maui asked “what shall I be overcome by?” And his father answered: “There is one so powerful no tricks can save you.”

Maui’s father warned him of the goddess who would be able to see his death, Hine Nui Te Po, the goddess of life and death. She had two large eyes (like green eyes), volcanic glass for teeth, a fish-like mouth and hair that floated like seaweed in the air.

Maui’s father admitted to forgetting a part of a ceremony when he was scared out of fear that Maui would be vulnerable and die. Hine nui te po guarded “the place of life,” and Maui persuaded his brothers to go with him to keep watch for danger.

Maui planned to enter Hine Nui Te Po’s stomach, cut out her heart, and exit through her mouth, in order to kill the goddess. He had a lot of trouble initially because he was unsure how to get inside the goddess and thought she would be easier to kill while she was sleeping. Maui managed to nick the heart and withdrew through her mouth but when one of his brothers laughed out loud as he emerged from her mouth, Hine Nui Te Po woke up and cut him in half with her obsidian teeth. This represented death for mankind.

13 Different Molelo Tells Hina As His Mother, Wife Or Sister

Maui - The demigod

Depending on the Mythology, goddess Hina is often associated with the moon and mostly described as a smart and attractive woman pursued by many men. In Hawaiian mo’olelo (stories) and chants, there are variations on her name including Hina-puki-i’a who’s connected with fishermen and Hina-’opu-hala-ko’a who gave birth to all reef life.

One of the most well-traveled stories is about this woman who wants to flee to the moon. This goddess refused to return and became known as the goddess of the moon. Her presence was also varied in her relationship with the demigod Maui.

Maui and Hina have been closely tied throughout Hawaiian history. She plays a major role in Maui’s life and is often called Maui’s mother, often in need of help or protection. She can control lightning, just like Pele (Hawaii’s volcano goddess). They’re both major figures on the island of Maui. Hawaiians from a variety of stories attribute the powers Hina to another figure; Haumea, mother of Pele. Other stories say that Pele’s human name was Hina-ai-malama, sense “Hina feeding on the moon”.

Hina, in New Zealand mythology, is most often Maui’s elder sister. Though some versions say she is his wife. One legend suggests that Hina, who was Maui’s sister, instructs her brother to braid a rope from her hair, which creates a magic rope used to capture the sun.

These two goddesses are an interesting example of how Polynesian stories were told in different parts of the Pacific.

14 Maui’s Storytellers Have Been Once Suffered From The Kapu System of Rule

Maui - The demigod

Kapu means a system of taboos with warlike rules that separate the spiritually pure from the potentially unclean. This system was brutal with almost daily sacrifices to the gods. The ruling class came to power and were considered divine beings, children of the gods. When people broke kapu, they could receive punishments as severe as death. However, if a person was able to escape to a puʻuhonua, or city of refuge, then they would be spared death. Many legends say that the “alii embraced the idea of aloha”. Most stories consider them kind, but some tales mention that they also felt protecting their people.

The migrations to the Hawaiian islands were stopped around 1300 A.D. For unknown reasons. Some speculate that there may have been a kapu on traveling to Hawaii and others believe that there were only so many islands along the way that made it impossible to migrate anymore, but no one knows for sure. Regardless, Hawaiian society continued to expand for the next 400+ years, once Hawaii was discovered by Captain Cook in 1778, it is estimated that the Hawaiian population then was around 1 million people.

15 Polynesian Mythology In Popculture

Maui - The demigod

Disney’s Moana is a critically acclaimed movie with $500 million in box office sales since its release in 2016. The story of a Polynesian princess journeying across the Pacific with the demigod Maui to return a magic stone has surprisingly accurate historical content, but is not solely about Hawaii.

A movie that showcases the stories of Maui, hero of Polynesian mythology. The animated movie is well known world-wide and has increased awareness of Polynesian mythology. The animated movie takes elements from Polynesian mythology and puts them in a more universal context. This way, people are able to understand the story on their own terms, even if they don’t know much about Polynesian culture. Dwayne Johnson ”The Rock” plays the main character, Maui, and he grew up in Hawai’i.

Maui is a demigod from Polynesian who’s story stretches across the Pacific. He’s an icon to the people of Polynesia, always on a quest to empower mankind.