“Maui” of Disney’s Moana: Using Story Grammar Marker® with Legends - MindWing Concepts, Inc.

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“Maui” of Disney’s Moana: Using Story Grammar Marker® with Legends

by Sheila Moreau September 27, 2019 7 min read

Hawaii sunset imageIn this blog post, we share with you a children's book called Maui Hooks the Islands with a narrative analysis, a legend written in 1700 AD, a Disney Moana song, and lesson ideas that we showed at our workshop participants in Hawai'i. The first couple of weeks of September marked the third time that Maryellen and I have traveled to Hawai’i to provide professional development for Speech-Language Pathologists, pre-K, Kindergarten, and First Grade teachers and special educators in the Hawai'i State Department of Education. Through these experiences, we have grown to love the rich culture, breathtaking landscapes, water and sunsets, and especially, the people of Hawai'i.

Casey and Moana picsMy 5-year-old daughter Casey has made each trip to Hawai’i with us, and the first time we came, she was enthralled with Disney’s Moana (hoping to meet her in person!). In order to kick off our workshops, we wanted to learn more about the Polynesian culture that this movie depicts. While researching the demi-god “Maui,” an historic icon—voiced by "The Rock" (Dwayne Johnson) in the Moana movie—we came across this article‚ “Your Cheat Sheet on the Legends Behind Disney’s Moana” which contained a lot
of great information about Polynesian islands history and culture.

Maui Hook the Islands coverThen, we discovered this picture book (left) that simplifies the story of Maui using his magic fish hook to pull the islands from the sea. The legend of the cherished demi-god Maui, a mischievous character who has a soft spot for humankind, is estimated to be over 1000 years old. Hawaii globe pic Maui is a well-known, lovable figure, and stories of his fantastical feats span the Pacific Ocean to the people of all Polynesian Islands (right), from Hawai’i to New Zealand (Maui Demi-god of The Wind And Sea).

Legends are often stories of real people and their historic adventures. Myths often relay the ideas of how natural phenomena happen and are mostly about gods and goddesses. The “mo‘olelos” about Maui are a combination of myth and legend. “Mo‘olelo is a word which encompasses history, legend, or tradition of the Hawaiian people. Originally passed on orally, a mo‘olelo can be a story, a tale, a myth, a history, a chronicle, legend, literature, journal, fable, essay, article‚” (Kamehameha Schools) that corresponds with the Hawaiian view of the relationship between humans and nature.

Mo‘olelo imageTraditional mo‘olelos are not told linearly with a “beginning middle and end” like Western-ized stories. Instead, there are many “side stories” with significant information. Settings (sense of place) are extremely important, as well as the genealogy of the characters; sometimes characters are not even named until far into the story. The Actions of the characters are considered much more significant than the name of the character. The reason for telling the mo‘olelo is also important, as it is related to the application of the ha’awina (lesson learned/moral of the story) or the Resolution in SGM® terms. The telling and re-telling of mo‘olelos is how “keiki” (children) learn the importance of their culture, history, and community. (http://kanaeokana.net/moolelo)

Hawaii islands map

The geology of Haleakalā explains the creation of the islands from a hot spot deep within the core of the Earth to a chain of over 132 volcanoes erupting from the ocean floor. The legends of Ancient Hawai’i tell of the formation of the islands from the sky father Wākea and the Earth mother Papa (Papahānaumoku). Other legends tell of the demi-god Maui pulling the islands out of the sea with his magic fish hook. Pele, the volcano goddess, according to ancient legends, also plays an important role in the formation of the volcanic landscape in Hawai’i. Below is a sacred text written about 1700 AD called “Maui The Fisherman.” It tells the "mo'olelo" of Maui pulling the islands from the sea - the text it is quite complex, with a lexile measure of 1000. The text is fully explained at this link: https://www.sacred-texts.com/pac/maui/maui05.htm.

Ancient Maui image

"Oh the great fish hook of Maui!
Manai-i-ka-lani 'Made fast to the heavens'—its name;
An earth-twisted cord ties the hook.
Engulfed from the lofty Kauiki.
Its bait the red billed Alae,
The bird made sacred to Hina.
It sinks far down to Hawaii,
Struggling and painfully dying.
Caught is the land under the water,
Floated up, up to the surface,
But Hina hid a wing of the bird
And broke the land under the water.
Below, was the bait snatched away
And eaten at once—by the fishes,
The Ulua of the deep muddy places."
—Chant of Kualii, about A. D. 1700.

A Narrative Analysis of Maui Hooks the Islands

Maui Hook the Islands coverThis children’s book, Maui Hooks The Islands, is a very simple version of this particular fantastical legend of Maui the demi-god. We used it in our workshops in Hawai'i to demonstrate Braidy the StoryBraid®. Below is the Complete Episode Narrative Analysis with Story Grammar Marker® icons as well as the re-telling of it in sentence form.

  • Setting: Small island in the middle of ocean surrounded by rolling waves
  • Feeling: Lonely
  • Initiating Event (Kick-Off): “...if only there were islands nearby.”
  • Mental States (Thinking Verbs): BELIEVED that more islands lay sleeping at the bottom of the shiny sea
  • Plan: WANTED to wake the islands up
  • Planned Attempts (Actions):
  • Grabbed his magic fishing hook and cast it into the water
  • Felt a tug on the line and pulled with all his strength
  • Pulled harder even when he thought he would give up
  • Saw the sharp cliffs rise from the sea
  • Mountains climbed into the sky until the fishing line snapped and the earth stood still
  • Direct Consequence (Tie Up): Saw beautiful islands dotting the ocean like stars in the sky
  • Resolution (feeling, moral, lesson): Maui was happy at last

A Written Retelling of Maui Hooks the Islands

Maui, a young boy Character head imagewith a magic fishing hook lived on a Setting star image small island in the middle of the ocean surrounded by rolling waves. One day he looked across the ocean and KickOff Shoe imagesaw only rolling waves, no other people. Maui felt Feelings Heart imagesad and lonely. He believed that more islands lay sleeping on the bottom of the shiny sea, so Plan Hand imagehe decided to wake the islands up. Attempt Bead imageFirst, he grabbed his magic fishhook and cast it into the water. Attempt Bead imageNext, he felt a tug on the line and pulled with all his strength. Attempt Bead imageThen, he pulled even harder when he thought he would give up. Attempt Bead imageAfter that, he saw the sharp cliffs rise from the sea. Attempt Bead imageFinally, the mountains climbed into the sky until the fishing line snapped and the earth stood still. As it turned out, he now looked out at the Direct Consequence imagebeautiful islands dotting the ocean like stars in the sky, and Resolution imagehe was happy at last.

“You’re Welcome” Lyrics from Disney’s Moana

Maui from Moana image
CLICK HERE to watch Disney’s adaptation of Maui, the Polynesian demi-god.

The song “You're Welcome,” sung by the character of Maui in the Disney movie Moana references actual mo‘olelos (legends) about the demi-god, Maui. It was very creatively written by famed playwright and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda who also wrote Broadway’s historical musical Hamilton. The character of “Maui” is voiced by “The Rock,” Dwayne Johnson. The bolded lyrics below and at right refer to some of the more well-known mo‘olelos about Maui.

“You’re Welcome”

Ok, ok, I see what’s happening here
You’re face to face with greatness, and it’s strange
You don’t even know how you feel
It’s adorable!
Well, it’s nice to see that humans never change

Open your eyes, let’s begin
Yes, it’s really me, it’s Maui:
breathe it in!

I know it's a lot: the hair, the bod!
When you're staring at a demi-god

What can I say except you’re welcome
For the tides, the sun, the sky
Hey, it’s okay, it’s okay
You’re welcome I’m just an ordinary demi-guy

Hey! What has two thumbs that pulled up the sky
When you were waddling yay high
This guy!

When the nights got cold
Who stole you fire from down below
You’re lookin’ at him, yo

Oh, also I lassoed the sun
You’re welcome!
To stretch the days and bring you fun

Also I harnessed the breeze
You’re welcome!
To fill your sails and shake your trees

So what can I say except you’re welcome
For the islands I pulled from the sea
There’s no need to pray, it’s okay
You’re welcome!
Ha, I guess it’s just my way of being me
You’re welcome!
You’re welcome!

Well, come to think of it
Kid, honestly I can go on and on
I can explain every natural phenomenon
The tide, the grass, the ground, oh
That was Maui just messing around

I killed an eel
I buried its guts
Sprouted a tree, now you got coconuts
What’s the lesson?
What is the take-away?
Don’t mess with Maui when he’s on the break-away

And the tapestry here on my skin
Is a map of the victories I win
Look where I’ve been
I make everything happen
Look at that mini-Maui just tippity-tappin’

Well, anyway let me say you’re welcome
For the wonderful world you know
Hey, it’s okay, it’s okay
You’re welcome!
Well, come to think of it, I gotta go

Hey, it’s your day to say you're welcome
’Cause I'm gonna need that boat
I’m sailing away, away
You’re welcome!
’Cause Maui can do anything but float

You’re welcome!
You’re welcome!
And thank you!

Source: LyricFind / Songwriter: Lin-Manuel Miranda / You’re Welcome lyrics © Walt Disney Music Company

Mo’olelo statue imageThis is a fantastic lesson plan from HALEAKALĀ NATIONAL PARK’s website. It is called “Mo‘olelo O Maui”:

ThemeMaker® and Story Grammar Marker® Maps can be used for this great lesson to link narrative and expository text tied to the State Standards. The lesson asks students to:

  • Explain in geologic terms the creation of the Hawaiian Islands. Be sure to use geologic terms: shield volcano, hot spot, magma, mantle, and crust. (ThemeMaker® Sequence and Cause/Effect Maps can be used to organize this information.)
  • Are there any similarities to the geology of Hawai ªi and the legend of Maui and his magic fish hook? (ThemeMaker® Compare/Contrast Map can be used to organize this information.)
  • If I had a magic fish hook I would pull ______________from the ocean. Write a short story about your magic fishhook. (Story Grammar Marker® Writing Helper Form can be used to organize this story.)

We enjoyed learning about the Mo‘olelo of Maui and look forward to our next Hawaiian adventure!

Hawaiian Educators

We love working with the wonderful group of educators in Hawai‘i!

Sheila Moreau
Sheila Moreau

Sheila M. Moreau, M.Ed. is vice president at MindWing Concepts. Her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology is from St. Anselm College and Master’s of Education degree from Cambridge College. Sheila has twenty years of experience in marketing and sales in the telecommunications, commercial real estate, fundraising and educational publishing industries. Sheila co-authored The Essential SGM® with Maryellen Moreau, drawing upon her experience in her graduate studies. Sheila was on the Early Literacy Advisory Board of Cherish Every Child (Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation),; she sits on the Board of Directors for the International VolleyBall Hall of Fame and serves as Co-Chair of Marketing and Sponsorship for the St. Patrick’s Committee of Holyoke, Inc.

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