Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Mahuika's Tales No. 8. Maui and the Sun

It was a hot day and Mahuika had taken the waiting children down into the cool of the forest to tell them a story. They could hear the hum of the insects and the chirping of birds as she sat them down and started her story.

                                           Maui's friend the Tieke bird

Maui who had been cared for by the god Rangi, had not long returned home to his brothers when he began to think that it was too soon after the rising of the sun that it became dark again as the sun sank down below the horizon each day.
So one day he said to his brothers: ”The days are too short. Let us catch the sun in a noose, so that we may compel him to move more slowly, so that we have longer days to labour in order to gather enough food for our families”
They answered him: “There is no way man could approach the sun on account of its great heat. It would surely burn us”.
Maui said to them: “All the time I have been away from you since our mother abandoned me as a baby to be looked after by the gods I have learned many things. There is a way.”
When his brothers heard this, they agreed with his plea to aid him in the conquest of the sun.
So at his instruction they began to spin and twist ropes to form a noose to catch the sun in, and by doing this they discovered the mode of plaiting flax into stout square-shaped ropes, (tuamaka); and the manner of plaiting flat ropes, (paharahara); and of spinning round ropes; at last they finished making all the ropes which they required. Then Maui took up his enchanted weapon, and he took his brothers with him, and they carried their provisions, ropes, and other things with them, in their hands.
They travelled all night, and as soon as day broke, they halted in the desert, and hid themselves so that they might not be seen by the sun; and at night they renewed their journey, and before dawn they halted, and hid themselves again; at length they got as far as they could to the east and came to the very spot from which the sun rises.
They set to work and built on each side of this place a long high wall of clay, with huts from the boughs of trees at each end to hide themselves in; when these were finished, they made the loops of the noose, and the brothers of Maui then lay in wait on one side of the place out of which the sun rises, and Maui himself lay in wait upon the other side.
Maui held in his hand his enchanted weapon, the jaw-bone of his ancestress of Muri-ranga-whenua, and said to his brothers: “Mind now, keep yourselves hidden and do not go showing yourselves foolishly to the sun; if you do, you will frighten him; but wait patiently until his head and fore-legs have got well into the snare, then I will shout out; haul away as hard as you can on the ropes on both sides, and then I’ll rush out and attack him, but do keep your ropes tight for a good long time until he is overcome then we will let him go; but mind now, my brothers, do not listen to him when he shrieks and cries out for pity or he will escape.
At last the sun came rising up out of his place like a fire spreading far and wide over the mountains and forests; he rose up, his head passed through the noose, and it took in more and more of his body, then they pulled tight on the ropes, and the monstrous sun began to struggle and roll himself about, whilst the snare jerked backwards and forwards he tried to escape. Then Maui rushed at the sun with his enchanted weapon. The sun screamed and roared aloud as Maui struck him fiercely with many blows; the brothers held him for a long time, at last they let him go, and then weak from his wounds the sun promised to travel much slower along its course as he does today.

“But Mahuika, what about Tieke?” asked a little girl.                             

Mahuika laughed, “Well little ones" she said to them all, "perhaps I should have told you this;"

Maui had a pet bird, a Tieke that went with him everywhere. Some say it even went with the brothers on this quest too but Maui gave it strict instructions to it to keep out of the way. But Tieke got very excited during the struggle with the sun and was hopping about at their feet getting in everyone’s way. Eventually Maui in the middle of the fight with the sun had to take hold of Tieke and throw him back into a safe place. However Maui’s hands were so hot by this time he burned Tieke and some feathers on his back were scorched red by Maui’s fingers. Even now all of Tieke’s children have that mark on their back.

So the little girl nodded with satisfaction that little bird had not been left out of the story after all. Mahuika glanced and nodded at Hekeheke the teenager as if to say, the little girl has heard the story before.

Authors note: There are many stories about Maui harnessing the sun. Sometimes Tieke is included and sometimes not. There are even stories of the Sun being caught at sea. Sadly Tieke birds cannot be found on the mainland anymore.


  1. My family has a strong tradition in story telling. The same stories were told over and over when I was a kid, each time a little differently. Piping up to demand a favorite part like this was a common occurrence. You take me back to a good time.