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May 12, 2008

Fishing up New Zealand.

I enjoy some of the Maori myths and legends. This one, telling of Maui and the birth of New Zealand, is one of my favorites. As with all legends, there are a few variations.

Maui was a demi-god who possessed magical powers. Not all his family knew of his magical powers, and he used this to his advantage.

One day, he hid in the bottom of his brothers’ boat in order to go out fishing with them. Once out at sea, Maui was discovered by his brothers, however they weren’t able to take him back to shore because Maui made use of his magic powers and made the shoreline seem farther away than it was in reality.

The brothers continued rowing, and once they were far out into the ocean Maui dropped his magic fishhook over the side of the waka (canoe). After a while he felt a strong tug on the line. This seemed to be too strong a tug to be any ordinary fish, and Maui called to his brothers for assistance.

After much straining and physical effort, up surfaced Te Ika a Maui (the fish of Maui), known today as the North Island of New Zealand. Maui told his brothers that the Gods might be angry about this, and he asked them to wait while he went to placate the Gods.

However, once Maui had gone his brothers began to argue about the ownership of this new land. They took out their weapons and started pounding away at the catch. The blows on the land created the many mountains and valleys of the North Island today.

The South Island is known as Te Waka a Maui (the waka of Maui). Stewart Island, which lies at the very bottom of New Zealand, is known as Te Punga a Maui (Maui’s anchor), as it was the anchor holding Maui’s waka as he pulled in the giant fish.

So, there you have it – the story of the origin of New Zealand.

Do you have a favorite myth or legend?

Today it’s my turn to blog at The Danger Zone. Check out my post about my adventures in Rwanda while viewing the mountain gorillas.


  1. Wylie Kinson

    I’ve always loved myths and legends. In Canada, we have similar Native American myths to explain many of the natural wonders. Sadly, I don’t have any to share that are short enough to fit into an exceptable-length comment box!

  2. Amy Ruttan

    Yeah Wylie is right, they myths are too long for the comment box. I love the First Nation Myths about the Thunder Bird, sleeping Giant and the great turtle that carries the world on his shell. :)

  3. julia

    I love the Norse valkyries, who arrive at battlefields to choose the most valiant of the slain heroes and bring them up to Valhalla. There they await the end of the world with Odin and all his warriors, when they will one day fight the ultimate battle against the forces of darkness.

    Man – I LOVE that! Thanks for telling us your New Zealand legend. That’s funny in a way. Sibling rivalry as island formation.

  4. Shelley Munro

    Wylie – true, there’s not much room. :grin:

    Amy – I’ve heard the turtle one before. That’s a cool myth.

    Julia – this myth is one of my favorites.

  5. Crystal Jordan

    I have to say I have a definite yen for the Native American skinwalker myth. :mrgreen: