Oceania is made up of three distinct regions. Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia have a great diversity of cultures and language, yet several themes recur in the mythology of the entire region. One example is the belief that ancestral heroes remain alive and influence living descendants. Myths are often expressed through ritual and ceremony in some areas, while in others, myths are told for entertainment. One of the best known oceanic mythological beings is Maui, the trickster hero. He is an example of an ancestral hero whose actions affect present day situations.
Born prematurely, Maui was wrapped in a lock of his mother’s hair. She threw him into the surf, where he was rescued by the sun, Tama of the Sky. Maui was eventually reunited with his mother. To give her more daylight to make bark cloth, Maui beat the sun with an enchanted jawbone to slow Tama’s journey through the sky.
Another myth tells of Maui's sexual shaming in his effort to become immortal. As a result of Maui's fatal attempt to sleep with Hine-Nui-Te-Po, goddess of the underworld and death, humankind can never achieve mortality.
Maui is said to have created land. He joined his brothers for a deep-sea fishing trip. After fishing for a long time with no results, the brothers decide to sleep. Maui lets out his fishing line. His brothers wake up and find Maui's line has caught a fish so large, it breaks the line again and again. Maui finally grabs the fish's body which becomes the island Te-ika-a-Maui.
He also stole fire from its keeper in the underworld by tricking the ancestral heroine Mahui-ike to give him her burning fingernails, the source of fire, one by one. She throws her last flaming nail to the ground and starts a blaze. Maui calls down the rain but Mahui-ike saves a few sparks by throwing them onto the trees. As a result, people learned they could use wood to make fire.
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