The Origin of Fire

Maui and Hina dwelt together, and to them were born four sons, whose names were Maui-mua, Maui-hope, Maui-kiikii, and Maui-o-ka-lana. These four were fishermen. One morning, just as the edge of the Sun lifted itself up, Maui-mua roused his brethren to go fishing. So they launched their canoe from the beach at Kaupo, on the island of Maui, where they were dwelling, and proceeded to the fishing ground. Having arrived there, they were beginning to fish, when Maui-o-ka-lana saw the light of a fire on the shore they had left, and said to his brethren: “Behold, there is a fire burning. Whose can this fire be?”

And they answered: “Whose, indeed? Let us return to the shore, that we may get our food cooked; but first let us get some fish.”

So, after they had obtained some fish, they turned toward the shore; and when the canoe touched the beach Maui-mua leaped ashore and ran toward the spot where the fire had been burning. Now, the curly-tailed alae (mud-hens) were the keepers of the fire; and when they saw him coming they scratched the fire out and flew away. Maui-mua was defeated, and returned to the house to his brethren.

Then said they to him: “How about the fire?”

“How, indeed?” he answered. “When I got there, behold, there was no fire; it was out. I supposed some man had the fire, and behold, it was not so; the alae are the proprietors of the fire, and our bananas are all stolen.”

When they heard that, they were filled with anger, and decided not to go fishing again, but to wait for the next appearance of the fire. But after many days had passed without their seeing the fire, they went fishing again, and behold, there was the fire! And so they were continually tantalized. Only when they were out fishing would the fire appear, and when they returned they could not find it.

This was the way of it. The curly-tailed alae knew that Maui and Hina had only these four sons, and if any of them stayed on shore to watch the fire while the others were out in the canoe the alae knew it by counting those in the canoe, and would not light the fire. Only when they could count four men in the canoe would they light the fire. So Maui-mua thought it over, and said to his brethren: “To-morrow morning do you go fishing, and I will stay ashore. But do you take the calabash and dress it in kapa, and put it in my place in the canoe, and then go out to fish.”

They did so, and when they went out to fish the next morning, the alae counted and saw four figures in the canoe, and then they lit the fire and put the bananas on to roast. Before they were fully baked one of the alae cried out: “Our dish is cooked! Behold, Hina has a smart son.”

And with that, Maui-mua, who had stolen close to them unperceived, leaped forward, seized the curly-tailed alae and exclaimed: “Now I will kill you, you scamp of an alae! Behold, it is you who are keeping the fire from us. I will be the death of you for this.”

Then answered the alae: “If you kill me the secret dies with me, and you won’t get the fire.” As Maui-mua began to wring its neck, the alae again spoke, and said: “Let me live, and you shall have the fire.”

So Maui-mua said: “Tell me, where is the fire?”

The alae replied: “It is in the leaf of the a-pe plant” (Alocasia macrorrhiza).

So, by the direction of the alae, Maui-mua began to rub the leaf-stalk of the a-pe plant with a piece of stick, but the fire would not come. Again he asked: “Where is this fire that you are hiding from me?”

The alae answered: “In a green stick.”

And he rubbed a green stick, but got no fire. So it went on, until finally the alae told him he would find it in a dry stick; and so, indeed, he did. But Maui-mua, in revenge for the conduct of the alae, after he had got the fire from the dry stick, said: “Now, there is one thing more to try.” And he rubbed the top of the alae’s head till it was red with blood, and the red spot remains there to this day.


Topics:
Folklore, Legends,

Collection:
Thrum, Thomas G. Hawaiian Folk Tales A Collection of Native Legends. Chicago: R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company. 1907.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top