One of the most popular Hawaiian legends is about the demi-god Maui, who was strong enough to capture the sun. This story tells also of his love for his mother, his grandmother’s wisdom and how the days became longer.
According to most Hawaiian legends, Maui’s mother was upset by how quickly the days passed. She worked diligently to craft clothing for her family and this process took many hours. It required the gathering of bark from certain trees, bark that she pounded with wooden mallets into a pulp. The pulp was then formed into very thin sheets, called tapa or kapa, before she reworked them into mats or clothing, such as skirts.
Not only was this a long process, but the clothing required a long time to dry. By the time she finished making the clothing, it was already nightfall. This left her little time to cook meals for her family. There just did not seem to be enough hours in the day.
Maui, seeing her distress, set out to slow down the sun. He climbed the highest mountain on one side of O’ahu to observe the sun’s path. He noticed that the sun came up behind the eastern side of a particular mountain slope. Seeing this, he crossed to that mountain to watch the sun rise from the underworld and observe its path.
At the top of this mountain he noticed a huge crater, a dormant volcano. The crater was twenty miles around, not too big, as mountains go. In one side of the crater wall, though, Maui noticed two very big chasms.
Maui planned to snare the sun within the Eastern chasm, known as Ko’olau. He told his mother of his plan and she gave him fifteen strands of the fiber she had been working on for so long. She told him that if he descended into the crater he had seen, he would find his grandmother. She also explained that he should bring bananas for her to prepare.
When Maui went to the crater, he met his tutu, grandmother, and explained the task before him. She gave him with a magic stone to make an axe, and another rope, for snaring the legs of the sun, which had sixteen legs in all.
She explained that he should hide by the large wiliwili tree and catch the sun with his first rope, continuing to snare his legs and fasten them to the tree until he had captured all of the sun’s legs. With the magic stone axe, he could then beat the sun into submission.
Maui hid in a hole that he dug near the tree. As instructed by his grandmother, he snared the legs of the sun and began beating it with the axe, so it retracted down its path. The sun begged for freedom and Maui negotiated with the sun for longer days. Out of fairness, they agreed the sun could move in regular patterns, crossing the sky more slowly in the summer and more quickly in the winter.
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