Maui the Fisherman

Our next legend in the series comes to us from Samoa and is about the demigod, Maui. Maui is a well-known legend among the people of the Pacific Islands especially those from the Polynesian islands, and is considered one of the more important demigods in Hawaiian lore. Queen Liliuokalani had a family chant about the demigod:

“Maui became restless and fought the sun
With a noose that he laid.
And winter won the sun,
And summer was won by Maui.”

Maui is commonly known to be the creator of the Hawaiian Islands, but in this legend he is seen hauling up the islands of Samoa and Tonga.

Maui the Fisherman, and How He Found Samoa and Tonga

Long ago the god Maui became tired of the spirit land, and decided to sail over the unknown seas in search of adventure. Taking with him his two sons and an enchanted fish-hook attached to a very long line, he sailed his canoe through the Pacific. Wherever he thought there was land waiting to be brought up to the light of day, he cast his enchanted hook.

“Now be ready to haul,” Maui cried to his sons. So, pulling with all their might they hauled in the line, surprised at the great weight of the fish that they supposed must be on their hook. Now the sea became churned up, and the canoe rocked so violently that the two sons would have let go the line had not Maui put new courage into them and bade them pull still harder.

In a little while there suddenly appeared above the surface of the waves an island; and so it was with each cast of the magical hook: either a bare rock or a beautiful coral island came to surface, to the great surprise of Maui’s sons.

In this way were Samoa and Tonga and many other islands both large and small brought up from the bottom of the sea.


“Maui the Fisherman,” illustration by Tara Bonvillain, copyright 2017.

At this time the heavens hung low so that they touched the land, and Maui saw that it would be well to separate them so that there might be light and life in the world. So he propped up the sky and forced it away from the earth.

Now Tangaloa, another spirit god, looked down from the sky, and seeing the low-lying islands that Maui had fished up from the sea, threw down among them some mountainous ones. Finding that there was no life on the islands, Tangaloa planted a creeper, and soon every island was covered with vegetation. Then he plucked a piece of creeper and left it to dry in the sun.

By and by in the drying creeper a worm appeared, and this was the first form of animal life. Maui then changed himself into a bird, and flying down from the sky, whither he had returned after his fishing, he divided the worm into two pieces with his beak, and from those two pieces grew the first two men.

Later, the gods sent a canoe with wives for the men, and their children became the first great chiefs among the islands.

About islandculturearchivalsupport

Island Culture Archival Support (ICAS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of records pertaining to the cultural identity of island peoples in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia whose national and public archives, libraries, cultural centers, and business organizations are underprivileged, underfunded, and understaffed. The specific purpose for which this nonprofit corporation was formed is to support the needs of these South Pacific cultural heritage institutions by helping to preserve and make accessible records created for business, accountability or cultural purposes. The organization will endeavor to add value by providing resources or volunteers to advise, train, and work among island residents to support their efforts in building their future and preserving their collective memory through the use of modern archival techniques.
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