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The god Maui forms the Hawaiian islands

Posted By Marie McCoy-Thompson On May 14, 2013 @ 9:33 pm In Myths,Narrative | Comments Disabled

My informant was born and raised in Hawaii. He talked about one of the Hawaiian myths that he learned while growing up:

“So one of the stories of ancient Hawaiian folklore is the story of Maui—the God Maui, and how he pulled up the Hawaiian islands. So one day, Maui being a little bit mischievous in his own right, tricked his brothers to take him out fishing. But as he paddled, Maui was on the other side of the canoe, and so he tossed his line. But instead of letting it hook a fish, he dropped it all the way down to the sea floor. And so his brothers, surprised by the large ‘fish’ that Maui caught, asked Maui what was going on. But Maui, the trickster that he is, convinced his brothers that it was just a really big fish. And so his brothers pulled and pulled, and eventually, Maui brought up what we know today as the Hawaiian islands.”

This story is a myth because it takes place “before” the real world, and has a sacred truth value. It is an example of a creation story; it explains how something came to be. This story has been passed down since the times before there were any scientific explanations of volcanoes or how they worked. Because of its antiquity and its association with an important Hawaiian god, this story is still told to people like my informant. Knowing this story connects him to the ancient Hawaiians and reinforces his own identity as a local Hawaiian. Thus, the functions of this folklore evolved: it was originally explanatory, and now its significance lies more in its cultural relevance. People no longer refer to it to explain how the Hawaiian islands came to be, but it is still a valuable piece of folklore because it keeps old Hawaiian beliefs and customs alive.

**For a written recording of this story, see Maui Goes Fishing by Julie Steward Williams (1991). It is a published version of the same story; it was written and illustrated for children.


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URL to article: http://folklore.usc.edu/?p=19552