Chapter 13. Polynesia

Trickster hero (Māui)

Māui was the curious one who always got in trouble. He wanted to find out how to start a fire. Everyone in his village has a fire but wouldn’t tell him where it came from. So Māui went around at night and put out everyones’ fires. This angered them all because they didn’t know how to start their own fires. So his Māui’s grandmother told him where to find Mahuika, the goddess of fire, who was an old woman who lived in a cave at the end of the earth. She was the sister of the goddess of death. So Māui went and found Mahuika in a cave on a scorching mountain. She gave him one of her burning fingernails, but it didn’t please Māui because it didn’t help him how to start his own fire. Mahuika just wanted people to depend on and worship her. So Māui quenched Mahuika’s burning fingernail in a stream and asked her how to start his own fire. This angered Mahuika, who threw more burning fingernails and burning toenails at him, all which Māui quenched. Each time Māui lied to her. He told her that he tripped so the burning nail fell in the water, or that a fish splashed it when he was crossing the river. So now Mahuika was really angry. She threw her last toenail at him, but Māui ducked so it flew into some trees and the trees began to burn. Now the trees were burning and Māui couldn’t stop them, so Māui called on Tāwhirimātea, the god of weather, to quench the fire with rain. After the rain quenched the fire from the burning trees, the branches of the trees were still hot, and this gave Māui an idea. Māui went back home with several dry sticks, and he showed people how to use a bow to twirl one stick against another until the sticks got hot and started a fire.


A person has two souls. One is his life, which stays with him until he dies, and then it’s gone. The other abandons him if he goes crazy, turns against him if he’s bewitched, and leaves him when he dies. This second soul is supposed to go to to the sky world or to the underworld, but, like some people, some don’t behave and wander the earth. Some wandering ghosts are protective, but some hang around waiting for a chance to harm others as they were harmed.