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Polynesian narrative

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tiki Makiʻi Tauʻa Pepe (foreground) and Tiki Manuiotaa (background) from the meʻae Iʻipona on Hiva Oa
Tiki Makiʻi Tauʻa Pepe (foreground) and Tiki Manuiotaa (background) from the meʻae Iʻipona on Hiva Oa

The Polynesian narrative or Polynesian mythology encompasses the oral traditions of the people of Polynesia, a grouping of Central and South Pacific Ocean island archipelagos in the Polynesian Triangle together with the scattered cultures known as the Polynesian outliers. Polynesians speak languages that descend from a language reconstructed as Proto-Polynesian that was probably spoken in the Tonga - Samoa area around 1000 BC.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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    7 472
  • ✪ 5 Gods in Polynesian Mythology
  • ✪ Polynesian Mythology - The Father of Gods and Men
  • ✪ Maui Polynesian Mythology
  • ✪ Adaro: Polynesian Water Spirit | Adaro Explained | Polynesian (Melanesian) Mythology Explained
  • ✪ Abaia Eel Of Melanesian & Polynesian Mythology | Melanesian & Polynesian Mythology Explained


Number 5 Ranginui and Papatuanuku Or Rangi and Papa for short. They were the primordial parents from the Maori mythology where Rangi was the Sky Father and Papa, the Earth mother . They were so in love with each other, they were always in a tight embrace. This embrace was the reason why there was only darkness at the time as the Sky and Earth was technically mashed with each other causing no light to pass through. Papa and Rangi had many children. Most of them became the main gods in the Polynesian mythology. To name a few there's Tawhiri, Tane, Tumatauenga, Rongo, Tangaroa and Haumia. So, after some time, their children, sick of the darkness, sick of feeling cramped with nothing to do and probably sick with how their parents were always clinging to each other, decided to do something about it. Well, except for Tawhiri, who just wanted their parents to be happy. Now, the rest of the children were discussing on how to get out of the darkness. At first Tumatauenga proposes that they should just kill the parents which of course was too drastic, so Tane who was the most against the killing suggested to just separate them instead. One by one, they tried to separate their parents but failed as their embrace was crazy tight. Then Tane tried last and with all his might, he had to crawl in between them and pried them apart with his whole body. Of course Papa and Rangi were very angry and sad because of this as who knows how hard it was for them to even be together in the first place that just by being forcefully separated like this, they couldn't get back together. Anyways, with them apart, light came into the world and everyone lived exactly how they wanted. Except for Papa and Rangi being separated and Tawhiri who was very mad that their parents were not happy. Number 4 Lono Lono is one of those cool gods that surf, uses the rainbow as a means of travel, married a mortal and brought all the goods for agriculture, fertilised soil and rain for the people. Lono is also the god of peace but there is one story tainted or even marked as the beginning of this title. It was all because of an incident with his mortal wife called Kaikilani. Kaikilani was the most beautiful woman of her time especially for Lono that he gets jealous, very jealous, like he could kill jealous and he actually did. One day, his jealousy was overwhelming he accidentally used his godly power and struck his wife down. Mourning her and wandering the island, he made the Makahiki celebration where during those times, a lot of things are prohibited which includes the decree of no wars, no fighting and no killing especially during it. Though, to some, the Makahiki is a festival in honor of Lono and a time to show appreciation to the gods for their abundance in harvest. Number 3 Pele She is one of the best known deity from Hawaii and she is said to live in the crater of the volcano, Kilauea. She is the goddess of the volcano or the goddess of fire. She can create and she can destroy seeing as how she has power over lava and fire. Something like, lava in its molten state destroy things in its path and when it cools down it makes new land. She is said to have a temper but she still has a certain kindness to her. So getting on her good side is always a good thing. Throughout her presence, she never wanted any living sacrifices, just respect and some food is apparently enough. Originally, she didn't come from Hawaii but instead came from Kahiki which means out of sight which people think is Tahiti but it could practically mean anywhere else. The reason as to why she moved, varies from story to story. But one of her story as to why she's in Hawaii goes like this: Pele was a goddess that was supposed to become a water goddess as instructed by her mother. But as she grew up, her fascination with fire overwhelmed her. Being headstrong and have a bit of a temper, she became rebellious. She ignored everything and played with the fires from the underworld accidentally setting her home in Kahiki or Tahiti on fire. Then her sister Namaka, the sea goddess used her power to quench the fire and ended up flooding the place. Pele was then forced to leave her home and she settled in Kilauea surround by fire that she loves. There are a lot of stories of Pele around, legends of her greatness and wrath. The newest one is the belief that she would curse people who takes any natural sources out of Hawaii as talked in my "curses from around the world" video. Number 2 Milu Milu is the ruler of the land of the dead or the underworld in many Polynesian mythology. Milu's gender is pretty much unspecified as some stories says Milu is female while others, male. Anyways, in Hawaiian folklore there's a few different stories of him, one said he was a chief that was banished to the underworld because of disobeying the gods and ended up taking over the underworld while the other said he's Pele's brother and is the lord of the spirit world. In Maori folklore, she is one of the goddess of the underworld who likes to capture souls with nets and later dragging them to her abode. In Mangaian mythology, she is an ugly old woman who eats spirits of those that ends up in the underworld by cooking them in an oven and in Mangarevan folklore, Milu is a god of unknown gender of the night world. I guess we could just assume that Milu takes care of the dead, either by eating them or ruling over them. Number 1 Maui The most popular of the gods as his legend can be found everywhere in the Polynesian islands. Though it varies from region to region with some regarding him as a demi-god, some as a full god while some as human but the base of event of his story seems to be consistent. So he is technically the one that created the Pacific Islands, the ensnarer of the sun, the sky pusher and even the discoverer of fire. Now, because there are so many versions of the legends concerning Maui, for this video, I will take one of his popular story that involves him and the sun's speed taken from the Maori Folktale. A long time ago, it was said that the time the sun was up was very short. Night after night, people were complaining and discussing about this problem. The problem of not having enough time in the mornings to do their daily duties such as hunting or fishing or even farming. Maui heard of this problem from his brothers and one day, he said he could actually solve it. Of course his brothers were like "what is this madness?" but still gave him a chance and Maui explained that he will need a lot of flax. I imagined him having a cheeky grin on his face when he said that with the sun slowly rising up or should I say "quickly" rising up shining in his face. So, they asked the women of the tribe to cut and gather as much flax as they can so that they could make a large and strong enough net to capture the sun. Why flax you might be thinking, its probably because flax is a fire retardant, so it burns very slowly. Then when the net was completed, Maui together with his brother and some other men from the tribe went on a journey East. Well, East to where the Sun's resting place is, you know right before it rises. After a very long journey, they found the cave where the Sun rests and quickly started to cover the entrance with the net they plaited and made sure its not easily seen. Then they hid behind some clay walls they made to protect themselves from the scorching heat the sun would produce when it wakes up. Not soon after, a glimmer of light came from the cave, the sun was rising. The heat from the sun seemed to get stronger and stronger, the men there were losing hope as it got hotter and hotter. But then, they heard Maui shouting, "Pull! Pull the ropes as hard as you can! Pull!!" And so they did. All while thinking that if they can't stop the sun now, they're all dead . So with all their might, they pulled as hard as they can to stop the Sun from escaping. This is when Maui proceeded to the next step of the plan. He ran out of the protection of the dried wall, had his special axe raised high above his head and rushed straight towards the sun. Of course he's practically burnt by now but he went and attacked the sun with his axe. The Sun screamed, "Don't kill me you [censored beep]" the sun was very angry, being hot headed and all. Then Maui reassured the sun that he wasn't trying to kill, but was there to "persuade" the Sun from going across the sky too quickly. Feeling bitter, the sun was like, "Tch, with this kind of injury, its not like I could go fast anyways". So Maui had to ask again and again until finally the sun promised to go slow. That's when they released the net and let the sun free. Since then, the sun stayed in the sky longer, moving slowly in the sky.



A sacred god figure wrapping for the war god 'Oro, made of woven dried coconut fibre (sennit), which would have protected a Polynesian god effigy (to'o), made of wood
A sacred god figure wrapping for the war god 'Oro, made of woven dried coconut fibre (sennit), which would have protected a Polynesian god effigy (to'o), made of wood

Prior to the 15th century AD, Polynesian peoples fanned out to the east, to the Cook Islands, and from there to other groups such as Tahiti and the Marquesas. Their descendants later discovered the islands from Tahiti to Rapa Nui, and later Hawai‘i and New Zealand. Latest research puts the settlement of New Zealand at about 1300 AD. The various Polynesian languages are all part of the Austronesian language family. Many are close enough in terms of vocabulary and grammar to permit communication between some other language speakers. There are also substantial cultural similarities between the various groups, especially in terms of social organisation, childrearing, as well as horticulture, building and textile technologies; their mythologies in particular demonstrate local reworkings of commonly shared tales.

In some island groups, help is of great importance as the god of the sea and of fishing. There is often a story of the marriage between Sky and Earth; the New Zealand version, Rangi and Papa, is a union that gives birth to the world and all things in it. There are stories of islands pulled up from the bottom of the sea by a magic fishhook, or thrown down from heaven. There are stories of voyages, migrations, seductions and battles, as one might expect. Stories about a trickster, Māui, are widely known, as are those about a beautiful goddess/ancestress Hina or Sina.

In addition to these shared themes in the oral tradition, each island group has its own stories of demi-gods and culture heroes, shading gradually into the firmer outlines of remembered history. Often such stories were linked to various geographic or ecological features, which may be described as the petrified remains of the supernatural beings.

From oral to written

The various Polynesian cultures each have distinct but related oral traditions, that is, legends or myths traditionally considered to recount the history of ancient times (the time of "pō") and the adventures of gods (“atua”) and deified ancestors. The accounts are characterised by extensive use of allegory, metaphor, parable, hyperbole, and personification. Orality has an essential flexibility that writing does not allow. In an oral tradition, there is no fixed version of a given tale. The story may change within certain limits according to the setting, and the needs of the narrator and the audience. Contrary to the Western concept of history, where the knowledge of the past serves to bring a better understanding of the present, the purpose of oral literature is rather to justify and legitimatise the present situation.

An example is provided by genealogies, which exist in multiple and often contradictory versions. The purpose of genealogies in oral societies generally is not to provide a 'true' account, but rather to emphasise the seniority of the ruling chiefly line, and hence its political legitimacy and right to exploit resources of land and the like. If another line should rise to ascendency, it was necessary to bestow upon the new line the most prestigious genealogy, even if this meant borrowing a few ancestors from the preceding dynasty. Each island, each tribe or each clan will have their own version or interpretation of a given narrative cycle.

This process is disrupted when writing becomes the primary means to record and remember the traditions. When missionaries, officials, anthropologists or ethnologists collected and published these accounts, they inevitably changed their nature. By fixing forever on paper what had previously been subject to almost infinite variation, they fixed as the authoritative version an account told by one narrator at a given moment. In New Zealand, the writings of one chief, Wiremu Te Rangikāheke, formed the basis of much of Governor George Grey's Polynesian Mythology, a book which to this day provides the de facto official versions of many of the best-known Māori legends.

Some Polynesians seem to have been aware of the danger and the potential of this new means of expression. As of the mid-19th century, a number of them wrote down their genealogy, the history and the origin of their tribe. These writings, known under the name of "pukapuka whakapapa" (genealogy books, Māori) or in tropical Polynesia as "puta tumu" (origin stories) or "puta tūpuna” (ancestral stories) were jealously guarded by the heads of households. Many disappeared or were destroyed. In the 1890s, Makea Takau, a Rarotongan chief, ordered his tribe to burn all their family books, save his own. As a result, Makea Takau's version became the official history of the chiefly line, removing the possibility of dissent. At his request, extracts were published in the Journal of the Polynesian Society.

See also


  • Beckwith, Martha, Hawaiian Mythology, Yale University Press, 1940, as re-issued in 1970, University of Hawaii Press
  • Buck, Sir Peter / Te Rangi Hiroa, Samoan Material Culture. Bishop Museum bulletin.
  • Craig, D. Robert, Dictionary of Polynesian Mythology, 1989, Greenwood Press.
  • Kirch, Patrick, 'On the Road of the Winds' 2000, University of California Press.
  • Malo, David, Hawaiian Antiquities, first published in English in 1898, available as Bernice P. Bishop Museum Special Publication 2, Second Edition, 1951
This page was last edited on 24 February 2019, at 15:26
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