Maui and Fire

Maui Takes Fire From Mahuike’s Head

There was a man named Maui and he was the great grandson of Mahuike. In those days people were disgusted with eating their food because it was raw. But they heard that the food in Mahuike’s country was good. They wondered, “Why is the food there so good? They eat the same things that we do.” But one of the people there knew a lot of things and he told the people, “The food in Mahuike’s country is good because it is cooked with fire.” At this time, the people did not have fire. But they knew that Maui was the great grandson of Mahuike and they asked Maui to go and get fire from Mahuike. So Maui went. When Maui reached Mahuike’s home, Maui told Mahuike that he had come to get fire. Mahuike asked Maui for his fire holder and then Mahuike took fire from his foot and he put that into the fire holder. A fire holder was a little wrapping of cloth, bark and tinder in which sparks to kindle a fire were kept. Maui put the fire holder in the tail of his loincloth and then he went home. As Maui was going along he stepped on the tail of his loincloth and that put out the fire, so he returned to his greatgrandfather and asked for some more fire. This time, Mahuike gave Maui fire from his knee which Maui put into the fire holder in the tail of his loincloth. Then Maui returned home. On the way home, Maui again stepped on the tail of his loincloth and put out the fire. But when Maui returned the third time his greatgrandfather, Mahuike, was sleeping. In his sleep the gods of Mahuike told Mahuike, “Wake up, some one is coming to get fire from your head.” So Mahuike woke up and there was Maui asking for more fire. Mahuike told Maui, “There is no more fire left.” But Maui persisted. So these two they wrestled. Mahuike was as strong as Maui. The gods of Maui told Maui, “Fight hard so thay you get the fire so that you can cook your food.” So Maui kept on fighting. Finally the strength of Mahuike departed and he was weak. Mahuike fell down and he hit his head and out of his head came fire that went into the stones and into the wood. To this day, in the land of men, fire can be kindled by striking two stones together or by rubbing sticks together because that is where the fire went when it came out of Mahuike’s head.

The head is the source of a person’s tapu, sacredness. Fire from the foot or from the knee is less powerful as the fire that comes from the head. In this story I see a parallel between education and fire. When I sit in a class I think of Maui who fought for the fire and I fight in a way to get an education. In this story Maui was not seeking fire just for himself. He was representing some people who had sent him there. When we represent other people we need to be like Maui and to fight and not give up.

Marquesan Legends by E.S. Craighill Handy Revised: June 13, 1996 Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff