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Traditions of Oahu

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Maui's Death

See Also...

Genealogy and Birth
Tries to Join Kaua'i and O'ahu
Battles with Pe'ape'a
Gets Fire From 'Alae

Maui, son of Hina, was famed for his many exploits throughout the islands. Because of some escapades during his residence at Hilo, Maui is said to have lost all his friends and was obliged to live alone. For a while he lived in Waipi'o valley, finding food with little labor; the stream furnished fish, and wild bananas grew in abundance. So long as he behaved himself all went well; the gods did not molest him. But with his passion for mischief, he soon tired of finding his own food and thought to steal from the gods. For this theft he paid with his life.

In Waipi'o valley, Alakahi was the chosen abode of the two primary god of Hawai'i, Kane and Kanaloa, who were accompanied by a company of lesser gods such as Maliu, Kaekae, Ouli and others. Kanaloa was a tall god with fair skin, while his companion, Kane, was dark, with curly hair and thick lips. They always went together and were of very simple habits, usually gathering and cooking their own food.

One day Kane and Kanaloa were roasting bananas on the east bank of the stream. Maui came along on the opposite bank and thrust a long sharp pole into one of the roasting bananas and drew it out of the fire and across the stream. Then he ate it. As he attempted to get a second banana, the gods sprang on him and dragged him over rocks and through bushes till they reached their heiau. There they dashed out Maui's brains with a stone, spilling his blood, which stained the side of Alakahi peak red, as it is to this day.(a) The water of the stream was tinged with his blood as well, so the shrimp therein since that fatal day have always appeared red. A portion of Maui's blood was also transformed into the rainbow that spans the heavens where he had many years before won his great victory over the sun to lengthen the days, so that his mother could dry her kapa.(b)

(a) The Kumulipo contains several references to Maui's strife with Kane and Kanaloa (136):

He fetched the bunch of black 'awa of Kane and Kanaloa
That was the second strife of Maui
The third strife was the quarrel over the 'awa strainer
The fourth strife was for the bamboo of Kane and Kanaloa

The chant claims Maui as a hero of Ko'olaupoko on the Windward side of O'ahu, and places his birth and death in that district (136):

He drank the yellow water to the dregs [?]
Of Kane and Kanaloa
He strove with trickery
Around Hawai'i, around Maui
Around Kaua'i, around O'ahu
At Kahulu'u was the afterbirth [deposited], at Waiakane the navel cord
He died at Hakipu'u in Kualoa
Maui of the loincloth
The lawless shape-shifter of the island
A chief indeed!

(b) The famous story of Maui slowing down the passage of the sun so his mother could dry her kapa is told in Thrum's Hawaiian Folk Tales (31-33) and in the Kumulipo (Beckwith 136), from which the following lines are quoted. The episode is set on the island of Maui. The sun doesn't stay up in the sky long enough for Maui's mother Hina to dry her kapa (bark cloth), so the demigod uses a rope of coconut fiber to loop the sun and slow it down during the summer month (Kau, see "Seasons and Months of Hawai'i"); during the winter months, marked by the appearance of the Pleiades (Makali'i) at the eastern horizon in the evening sky, just after sunset, the sun still moves quickly:

Everyone knows about the battle of Maui with the sun
With the loop of Maui's snaring-rope
The winter months (Makali'i) belonged to the sun
The summer months (Kau) to Maui.


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