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Legends of the Maori

Maui in the South Seas

Maui in the South Seas.

Tena te taura a Maui!” (“Behold the ropes of Maui!”) say the natives of the Cook Islands when they see the broad rays of the sun at dawn and sunset; or, as English children say, “the sun drawing up water.”—Rev. Wyatt Gill, in “Myths and Songs from the South Pacific.”

A Manihiki Island story says that Maui plaited the rope with which he snared Ra, the sun, out of the long and beautiful hair of his sister, Inaika.

On the island of Raiatea, Society Islands, the legend is that Tu-papa (“Tu of the Lowest Depths”—the bottom of the world) is the wife of Ra the sun god, whose too frequent visits to her home are checked by Maui.

The people of Mangaia, in the Cook Group of Islands, have a chant about the origin of fire and the adventure of Maui and Mauike (Mahuika). The fire-god’s song, as given by the learned men to the Rev. Wyatt Gill seventy years ago, runs thus. Mauike was showing Maui how to kindle fire by wood-friction:—

“Grant, oh grant me thy hidden fire,
Thou banyan tree!
I utter my prayers to the banyan tree.
Kindle a fire for Mauike
From the dust of the banyan tree!”

The banyan tree is the aoa (ficus Indicus). The other fire-yielding trees of the Cook Islands are the au, or lemon hibiscus, the oronga (urtica argentea) and the tauinu.

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Maori carving

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