In 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.
My 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.
Then, 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. 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.
Traditional 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)
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.
"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.
This 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.
Maui, a young boy with a magic fishing hook lived on a small island in the middle of the ocean surrounded by rolling waves. One day he looked across the ocean and saw only rolling waves, no other people. Maui felt sad and lonely. He believed that more islands lay sleeping on the bottom of the shiny sea, so he decided to wake the islands up. First, he grabbed his magic fishhook and cast it into the water. Next, he felt a tug on the line and pulled with all his strength. Then, he pulled even harder when he thought he would give up. After that, he saw the sharp cliffs rise from the sea. Finally, 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 beautiful islands dotting the ocean like stars in the sky, and he was happy at last.
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.
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
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
When the nights got cold
Who stole you fire from down below
You’re lookin’ at him, yo
Oh, also I lassoed the sun
To stretch the days and bring you fun
Also I harnessed the breeze
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
Ha, I guess it’s just my way of being me
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
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
’Cause Maui can do anything but float
And thank you!
Source: LyricFind / Songwriter: Lin-Manuel Miranda / You’re Welcome lyrics © Walt Disney Music Company
This is a fantastic lesson plan from HALEAKALĀ NATIONAL PARK’s website. It is called “Mo‘olelo O Maui”:
We enjoyed learning about the Mo‘olelo of Maui and look forward to our next Hawaiian adventure!
We love working with the wonderful group of educators in Hawai‘i!