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Tries to Join Kaua'i to O'ahu

See Also...

  Nihooleki
Maui:
 
 
Genealogy and Birth
 
Battles with Pe'ape'a
  Maui's Death
  Gets Fire From 'Alae

Maui-kupua (Maui the demi-god) and Hina his mother lived together at Kaneana in the district of Wai'anae. One day he asked her why the Hawaiian Islands were separated by water?

"What?" she exclaimed.

"Why are they separated instead of being one big land? I'm thinking that they should be joined together."

Hina replied, "Say, where are you? If you desire this, you must go to Ka'alae-nui-a-hina (The big mudhen of Hina) and ask for help.

So Maui-kupua went to Ka'alaenuiahina and sat with him. Ka'alaenuiahina asked him the reason for his visit.

"I've come to ask for your help in joining the islands of Hawai'i together."

Ka'alae replied, "You and I can't do this. Only Unihokahi (One tooth) has that power."

Maui: "Where is Unihokahi to be found?'

"At Ponahakeone [a fishing ground off of Ulehawa]."

Maui returned home and told Hina what Ka'alae said. The next day he came to his mother and said, "I'm going out fishing." She told him to ask his brothers to go with him, so he did. His brothers agreed and got their fishing gear ready. Maui also made ready his famous hook named Manaiakalani ("Come from heaven").

As soon as everything was ready they launched their canoe and paddled to the middle of the sea of Ulehawa. Maui was in command, holding the steersman's paddle at the stern of the canoe. He said to his brothers, "When a kaliu (bailer) appears at the bow of the canoe, reach over and grab it."

They paddled on. Maui looked back toward Hina's place for drying kapa (bark cloth). He couldn't see it at first; when it came into full view, it gave him his bearings. He then looked forward, and there floated the kaliu. He called to his oldest brother, Maui-mua ("Maui the first born"), to catch hold of it, but Maui-mua replied: "We don't need a bailer; we already have one."

Meanwhile, the bailer floated toward Maui-kupua at the stern of the canoe. He caught it and put it into the canoe. The name of this bailer was Hina-a-ke-ka ("Hina, the bailer").

Maui-kupua called to his brothers, "Paddle until we reach the ko'a (fishing ground)." They turned around and saw a beautiful woman in the canoe. They paddled on until they reached the fishing ground of Ponahakeone and, anchoring the canoe, the brothers looked back again, but the beautiful woman was gone; the bailer had dropped into the sea. Maui-kupua called out to his elder brother, "Let down your hook," and Maui-mua did so. When Maui-mua felt a bite, he boasted: "Say, I've caught an ulua (crevalle).

But Maui-kupua said, "No! it's a mano (shark)."

"That despicable fish caught by my hook?"

Maui-kupua said, "Haul it in and see for yourself." Maui-mua pulled in his line and saw he had indeed caught a shark, whereupon he cut the line and let the shark go. And the same thing occurred also with Maui-waena (Maui the middle born) and Maui-hope (Maui the last born).

Maui-kupua then said, "All of you keep quiet­it's my turn." He prepared and let down his famous hook Manaiakalani and called to his brothers, "Get your paddles ready."

shark hook

Manaiakalani went down until it reached the bottom of the sea, where it was caught by Hinaakeka, who went to Unihokahi. The fish said, "What brings you here?"

Hina replied: "I've come to settle a dispute I had with Maui-kupua. I said you had only one tooth, and he said no one has just one tooth, everyone has many teeth; and so I came to determine who was right. Will you open your mouth?"

Unihokahi opened his mouth, and Hinaakeka put the hook Manaiakalani in; at the same time she jerked the line, signaling to Maui that the hook was set. Securing his end of the line to the outrigger of the canoe, Maui told his brothers, "Paddle, the fish is caught. But keep looking forward; don't look back."

They started to paddle; their strength was so great that the canoe flew forward as swiftly as ashes blown from a fireplace. They paddled vigorously until they began to get tired. Maui-kupua urged them on: "Keep paddling, and we'll soon reach shore." They kept paddling, but were soon exhausted. Maui said, "We're almost ashore; don't look back."

They continued to paddle for a while and then said: "This is no fish--if it was, we would have reached shore long ago."

Maui said, "Be patient. Keep paddling."

"We can't, we're exhausted," they replied.

Maui-kupua grabbed his paddle to help his brothers. While he was paddling, his three brothers looked back and saw the islands of Hawai'i moving behind them, whereupon they exclaimed: "No wonder we're exhausted, we've been pulling islands!"

When Maui-kupua heard this he was very angry with them. His hook fell from the mouth of Unihokahi and the islands floated back to their original positions; thus Maui-kupua failed in his attempt to join the islands together.

NOTES
This story depicting Maui's failure to pull together the islands embodies a common mythological motif: an explanation of why things are as difficult as they are (i.e., why the islands of Hawai'i are far apart, so that one needs to paddle to get from one to the next.) The explanation given in this story is also widespread: human inadequacy to resist seemingly simple temptations results in failure to achieve one's purposes (cf. the Greek stories of Pandora's Box and Orpheus' failure to bring Eurydice back to life because he couldn't resist looking back at her before they returned from Hades). The strictness of Maui's command to his brothers to paddle and not look back is linked to Hawaiian belief in the importance of concentration for any ritual or activity to be effective. During rituals at the heiau (temples), absolute silence and rigid posture were required. Any sound or movement could result in failure of the ritual to achieve its purpose (See Kamakau The Works 141-142).

 

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