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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Maui the Hero

Legend has it that the hero, result of a miscarriage, was tied in his mother Taranga's hair and cast into the sea but was preserved and cared for by supernatural aid. Eventually he found his way to the House of Assembly where were his mother and four elder brothers. Taranga was astounded to find a fifth boy when she counted her children – there was Maui the eldest, Maui the second, Maui the third, and Maui the fourth, and then this fifth revealed himself as Maui the baby, Maui-tiki-tiki-a-Taranga (Maui formed in the topknot of Taranga). Overjoyed at the discovery, Taranga invited her youngest to sleep next to her, but the little fellow's curiosity was soon aroused by his mother's disappearance at dawn each day. Determined to find out where she went and where his parents lived, Maui one night hid his mother's clothing and blocked up the chinks in the walls of their room so that no light could get in and awaken her. Next morning, when Taranga fled in great agitation well after dawn, Maui espied her pull up a clump of reeds and disappear into a hidden cave. Later, changing himself into the form of a pigeon, the hero followed that route and located his parents in their underworld village. Perching in a tree above them, the pigeon started to drop down berries and this set people throwing stones at him. He eventually contrived to be hit by none other than his own father, Makea-tu-tara, upon which he revealed himself as a man, as Maui himself. In the baptismal ceremonies following this reunion, Makea-tu-tara inadvertently omitted a portion of the prayers and thus Maui was accursed. He nevertheless wrought great deeds with the aid of the enchanted jawbone of his great ancestress, Muri-ranga-whenua, before fate caught up with him.

Next Part: Snaring the Sun