Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: May 1, 2013
Primary Language: English
My informant was born and raised in Hawaii. He talked about one of the Hawaiian myths that he learned while growing up:
“There’s a story about Maui. One day, Maui’s mother was complaining that the days were too long, so the things she was trying to dry—cloth or something like that, I’m not too sure—were being damaged by the sun. So Maui went and got a rope made out of his sister’s hair. He climbed up to the tallest mountain. There, the stories differ in variation a bit, but the one that I learned when I was growing up said that as the sun was rising, he managed to lasso one of the sun’s rays and pull the sun into a shorter orbit. This made the days shorter. In another variation, which I don’t remember too well, apparently Maui’s blind grandmother was at the top of the mountain and he had to convince her that he was his grandson.”
The literal meaning of this story may seem rather nonsensical. It is hard to picture someone actually lassoing the sun with a rope made of human hair. Yet with myths, the literal truth is not the important part. Myths have a sacred truth; they are thought to have happened in a time and place beyond the “real” world. This particular myth explains why the days are not as long during some parts of the year. My informant remembers this myth because his parents told it to him growing up, and it was repeated at Hawaiian cultural events held at his school. It is told time and time again because it is rooted in the Hawaiian oral tradition and it connects older times to the modern day. One reason people retell this myth is to try to understand the culture of their ancestors and to remember their beliefs. In that way, they pay their respects to ancient Hawaiian culture as they respect the myth and tell it to future generations.
**For a written recording of this folklore, see the book How Maui Slowed the Sun by Suelyn Ching Tune. It is a published version of this same story; it was written and illustrated for children.