The Maori people had no form of written language, so they expressed their stories in song and dance. Maoris passed their tradition and knowledge to the next generation through the art of storytelling.
Stories were told in a traditional gathering called marae, and the narration took the form of haka (dance), waiata (song) and karakia (prayer). The legends and myths in the folklore created imagery of different places like mountains, lakes and rivers. Some stories were told about the ancient tribes called iwi, and explained their customs and traditions.
The most important legends of the Maori clan are about the demi-god Maui, the tales of Kupe’s travels and the story of Creation. Everybody loves a good story, so let’s hear a few from the Maori culture.
Maui – The Demi-God
Maui lived in Hawaiiki. He had magic powers that no one knew about except some members of his family. When he was young, he hid in his brothers’ boat to catch some fish. When his brothers discovered him, they were very angry. Since they couldn’t take him back to store, he let him stay on. Maui threw a fishhook in the sea, and felt a strong tug on the fish line.
The Travels of Kupe
Kupe was a famous Polynesian navigator and lived in Hawaiiki. There also lived a canoe maker called Toto. Toto made two magnificent canoes, and gave one to his daughter Rongorongo and the other to his daughter, Kura. It so happens that Kupe was in love with Kura but she was married to his cousin, Hoturapa.
One day, Kupe and Hoturapa were out fishing when Kupe told Hoturapa to dive into the sea and disentangle the fishing line.When Hoturapa went into the water, Kupe cut the anchor rope and quickly returned to shore leaving Hoturapa to drown at sea. Hoturapa’s family sensed murder, and Kupe escaped their vengeance and left Hawaiiki in Kura’s canoe.
After travelling for some days, Kupe’s wife Hine Te Aparangi discovered the islands of New Zealand. They named them Aotearoa because they looked like land hanging beneath white clouds. He continued his voyage to other places and named many coasts and islands. He returned to Hawaiiki after several years narrating his tales, and became a famous navigator.
The story of Creation
In the beginning, there was no earth or sky. There was only darkness and nothingness which the Maoris called Te Kore. Then from nothing, the primal parents came called Papatuanuku who was the mother Earth, and Ranginui who was the Sky father. Papatuanuku and Ranginui held each other together in darkness and produced 70 male offspring.
Gods of Maori
These children later became the Gods of Maori. The wanted to see the light outside the darkness that surrounded them, so they decided to break up their parents. After several attempts, they finally succeeded, and the creation of Earth and Sky was complete. However, there was no female, so one of the children Tane decided to create a female from clay and called her Hine-ahu-one which means earth formed maiden.
Tane married this woman and had a wonderful daughter called Hinetitama. When Hinetitama discovered that Tane had separated Papatuanuku and Ranginui, she felt ashamed and hid in the night. She later came to be known as Hine-nui-te-po which means the goddess of the night.