To the ancient Hawaiians, legends were a way to pass history, knowledge and beliefs from one generation to another. These richly portrayed folklores are stories of how life came to be, depicting each island's own particular timeline.
Among the most famous Hawaiian Legends, and possibly the most significant, is that of the God Maui and the creation of the Hawaiian islands. Maui's father was the holder of the Heavens and his mother was the guardian to the path of the netherworld. Of his siblings, Maui was the only child who possessed the power of magic. He was also the smallest, and known for his rascally and mischievous nature.
Maui was not a good fisherman, and his brothers laughed and taunted him for his uselessness. In retaliation, Maui would steal their fish by first distracting them and then pulling his line over theirs, hooking the fish and hauling it into the boat. Once the brothers discovered this ploy, they refused to take him fishing. To help her son, Maui's mother helped him obtain a magical hook, called the Manaiakalani, said to be fastened to the Heavens and able to raise old seas together.
Maui reluctantly went out fishing again with his brothers. This time they teased him for catching only sharks while claiming that he could hook the greatest fish of the sea. With determination, Maui chanted a spell and threw out his magical hook. The sea began to move and enormous waves surrounded their canoe. Maui commanded that his brothers not look back and paddle profusely to keep the line taught, or risk breaking the spell. Slowly rising, a series of peaks began to break the surface of the ocean. One brother, curious, looked back, causing the line to slack and snap. The magical hook sank, forever lost in the depths of the sea. Maui, furious, yelled at his brother, "I had endeavored to raise a great continent, but because of your weakness I have only these islands to show for my efforts." And thus, the Hawaiian Islands were raised.
Maui is also responsible for the Legend of Haleakala and the Snaring of the Sun. Maui's mother, Hina, worked hard to make kappa-cloth by pounding bark into sheets of wooden pulp. During this time in history, the sun moved quickly across the sky creating short days. Due to lack of sunlight, the cloths could not dry properly and risked being ruined. His mother and the other Hawaiians cursed the sun for its thoughtlessness. Maui decided he would capture the sun and demand that it slow its path across the sky to rid his mother of her suffering.
Maui twisted a fine cord, using coconut fiber to make a lasso. While the sun was sleeping in its hale (house), Maui climbed the crater and hid beneath a Wiliwili tree. When the sun awoke and began its journey across the sky, Maui swung the lasso, snaring one of the sun's largest rays and breaking it off. He did this again and again until the sun had no more strong rays in which to carry it across the sky. Terrified, the sun convinced Maui that with only weak rays it would have to move more slowly, promising more sunlight in each day. Triumphantly, Maui returned to tell his mother of his successful mission.
Today visitors enjoy the wonders of Maui's impressive peaks and sun-laden days, thanks to the ever-conniving, demi-god, Maui.