Maui figures as a powerful god in the legends of many Polynesians. But the Maoris and the Hawaiians probably make the biggest claim to him.
Maaui-tikitiki, as he was known in AoTeAroa, the land of the long white cloud, was a superb fisherman. Using a hook made from the jawbone of an ancestor, and blood from his own nose as bait, he caught the porch of a carved house on the ocean floor. Drawing in the line with superhuman strength, he pulled up not only the porch and the house, but an entire body of land. Today, Maoris call that land, the North Island of New Zealand, Te Ika-a-Maaui, the fish of Maaui. Look at a map and you will see its head facing south, its tail stretching north.
Another time, in Hawaii, Maui's mother Hina complained that the sun traveled too fast across the sky. She barely had time each short day, to attend to the myriad of chores required by island living. So Maui hid behind a rock on the highest peak of the island, and when the sun sped by, Maui lassooed it with a rope and only let it go when the sun promised to change its habits. And so, on the island that now bears Maui's name, the mountain is called Haleakala, House Of The Sun, and the days on that island are always long and bright.
In Hawaii, the hawk is personified as Maui, who, in taking fire from the Earth-Mother, was singed by the flames. This is why the hawk's feathers are brown.
by Hugh D. Mailly
(c) Encyclopedia Mythica, http://www.pantheon.org/