Tongan legends portray Maui as a scientist, but in poetic language, say scholars

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Professor Tēvita.ʻO. Kaili (L) and Late Professor Futa Helu

Tongan fananga or tales portrayed the demigod Mauis in poetic language as if they were real men – and they were scientists, said Professor Tēvita.‘O. Ka’ili.

Professor Ka’ili said stories about Maui who captured the sun was a poetic expression for Maui mastering scientific knowledge relating to the celestial movement of the sun, the seasons as regulated by the sun, summer solstice knowledge pertaining to navigation and astronomy.

“Maui was a top astronomer and a master navigator”, he told Kaniva News.

“Throughout Oceania, Maui utilised mountains, such as Mt Haleakalā in Hawaiʻi, and megalithic structures, such as the Haʻamonga ʻa Maui (Maui’s Stone Arch) in Tonga, to study the movement of the sun.

In addition, he observed constellations and applied the knowledge to his long-distant voyages to “fish up” new lands. Maui was not only a famous demigod but also a great indigenous scientist.”

Professor Ka’ili of Brigham Young University in Hawaiʻi made his comments after Kaniva News ran a story in May about a mythical rock in the village of Kalaʻau in Tonga which was known as Makatolo ʻA Maui.

Professor Ka’ili said: “The demigod  Maui placed this gigantic boulder in the village of Kalaʻau in Tonga. There are two tales about this Maui’s Rock”.

“Maui threw this boulder at a gigantic man-eating chicken. He killed the chicken and saved people.

Some tales said:

“Maui used this boulder together with a magical rope from the goddess Hina’s hair to anchor the sun and slow it down from racing across the sky. This act of slowing down the sun gave people more daylight to complete their work.

“The tales of Maui relating to this boulder are probably metaphoric references to the earthquake or underground turbulence that caused tsunamis to bring this boulder to the surface”, Professor Kaʻili said.

Scientists theorised that a mega tsunami brought this massive boulder from the sea to the surface of Tongatapu.

“According to Tongan tradition, Maui Motuʻa resides in the subterranean world, Lalofonua, and he bears the world on his shoulders. When he falls asleep the world shakes. Maui Motuʻa is the cause of earthquakes or underground turbulances. Thus, Maui’s earthquake brought the boulder to the surface of Tonga. This boulder is known in Tongan as Makatolo-ʻa-Maui or Makatolo-Moa-ʻa-Maui, The Throwing Boulder of Maui. Indigenous Tongan science is poetically encoded in the stories of Maui, ” Professor Kaʻili said.

Professor Futa Helu

The late Professor Futa Helu classified Tongan fananga into three categories dealing with creation myths, about heroes and tale about people or folk tales.

He said tales were how people attempted to interpret nature and what happened naturally including earthquakes, tornadoes, cyclones and tsunami.

Professor Helu said in a paper published in the Tala ʻO Tonga journal, Voliume 2 by the Tonga Ministry of Education in 1990 that people in the olden days may have had more imaginative minds than people nowadays.

The tale about earthquake, according to Professor Helu, was how people attempted to explain why the earthquake happened.

Because they did not have the technology to search underground to find out what had actually happened, they just used people’s actions to describe the earthquake.

“People’s action were the only thing they knew,” Professor Helu said.

The only human actions they were familiar with was that when men slept they could become numb. As a result, they could react to their condition and at some stage they could move and shake.

Professor Helu said people thought that was what actually happened underground. A man was sleeping, became numb and all of a sudden he reacted physically, causing the land to vibrate.

The same thing happened in the Tongan tale about tornadoes, he said.

People thought the natural disaster was blind and when it hit the only thing people could do was to make as much noise as they could to chase it away.

He said that was the result of the imagination of people in past times. They interpreted nature  through human nature and action. They thought the tornado was blind because once it hit it did not see the houses and trees and destroyed them.

Mauis

There were various Mauis in the Tongan legends, including Maui ‘Esiafi or Maui who first brought the fire to earth.

Professor. Helu claimed there was a real man named Maui ‘Esiafi. According to the legends Maui stole the fire from Pulotu, the underground paradise.

There was Maui Fusifonua or Maui who fished the land from underwater.

Professor Helu said there was a man Maui Fusifonua. While he did not fish the land, he was the one who found land and gave them to people to live on.

There was another Maui known as Maui Tekelangi meaning he pushed the sky up into the atmosphere.

According to the legends the sky was just above ground level and people were crawling under it as they did not have space to stand up. Then Maui Tekelangi finally pushed it and sent it to the atmosphere.

Professor Helu claimed there was a man known as Maui Tekelangi, but he did not push the sky as no man could have that physical ability to do so. Instead the tale poetically said that Maui Tekelangi freed the people from an authority that had enslaved them.

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  1. ʻOku fakapunake ʻa hono fakalea ʻe he fananga faka-Tongá ʻa e kau tangata konga ʻotua muʻa ko ia ne nau ʻiloaʻaki ʻa e hingoa Maui ʻo pehē ko e kau saienitisi, ko e lau ia ʻa Palōfesa Tēvita. ʻO. Kaʻili.

    Pehē ʻe Palōfesa Kaʻili ko e ngaahi talanoa ko ia kau kia Maui ʻo pehē naʻá ne puke ʻa e laʻaá ko e fakapunake ia ki heʻene maʻu ʻa e ngaahi ʻilo kau ki he ngaahi ngaue holo ʻa e ngaahi selesitiale ʻo e laʻaá, ko e faʻahi taʻú ʻa ia ʻoku tuʻunga ʻenau hoko maí mei he laʻaá, ko e hoko mai ʻa e faʻahi taʻu samá he vaeua taʻú ʻa ia ʻoku ʻi ai ʻene fekauʻaki mo e folau tahí mo e saianisi ʻo e ngaahi fetuʻú.

    Naʻe hoko ʻa Maui ko ha ʻasitalōnoma mo ha faifolau lahi, ko ʻene fakahā ia ki he Ongoongo ʻa e Kanivá.

    Ne ʻi ai e ngaahi moʻunga lahi ne langa ʻe Maui ʻi ʻoseania hangē ko Moʻunga Haleakalā ʻi Hawaiʻi pehē ki he ngaahi faʻunga maka hangē ko e Haʻamonga ʻa Maui ʻi Tonga, ke fai ai ha ako ki he ngaahi ngaue holo ʻa e laʻaá.

    Tānaki atu ki hení, naʻá ne siofi e ngaahi pupunga fetuʻú mo ne ngāueʻaki ʻa e ʻilo ko iá ki heʻene ngaahi folau mamaʻo ʻo fusi fonua foʻoú. Ko Maui naʻe ʻikai ngata heʻene ʻiloa ko ha tangata konga ʻotua fakakuongamuʻa ʻataʻatā pe ka naʻá ne toe hoko ko ha saienitisi poto lahi.

    Ko ha fakamatala ʻeni ʻa Palōfesa Kaʻili mei he ʻUnivēsiti ʻo Brigham Young ʻi Hawaiʻi hili hano leleʻi ʻe he Ongoongo ʻa e Kanivá ha talanoa ʻi Mē kau ki he maka talatupuʻa ko ia ʻi Kalaʻau ʻoku ʻiloa ko e Makataoko ʻA Mauí.

    Naʻé pehē ʻe he fananga faka-Tongá naʻe ʻita ʻa Maui, ʻa ia ne nofo ʻi ʻEua, ʻi he longoaʻa ʻa e moataʻane ʻa ʻene tangataʻeikí he taimi ka ʻuʻua ai he pongipongí.

    Naʻá ne tolongiʻaki leva ha fuʻu maka ʻo mate ʻa e moá ki muʻa pea tō atu ʻa e fuʻu maká ki Kalaʻau kilomita ʻe mei 50 mei ʻEua.

    Naʻe pehē ʻe palōfesa Kaʻili ne fokotuʻu ʻe Maui ʻa e fuʻu maká ʻi he kolo ko ia ko Kalaʻau ʻi Tonga. ʻOku ua ʻa hono fanangaʻi ʻo e maka ʻa Mauí, fakatatau ki heʻene laú.

    Naʻe pehē naʻá ne tolongi ʻaki e fuʻu maká a fuʻu moa kai tangata. Naʻá ne tamateʻi ʻa e moá mo fakahaofi ʻa e kakaí.

    Kae pehē ʻe he fananga ʻe tahá naʻe tauheleʻiʻaki ʻe Maui e fuʻu maká ʻa ia ne haʻi ki ai ha laʻi ʻulu mei he ʻulu ʻo hiná ke māmālie hifo ʻene hopo hake ʻi he langí koeʻuhi ke loloa atu e taimi ʻo e ʻahó maʻa e kakaí ke fakakakato ai ʻenau ngāué.

    ʻOku toe ngali ʻi ai e fekauʻaki ʻa e ngaahi fananga ki he maka ʻa Mauí mo e ngaahi lave fakapunake ki he mofuiké pe ngaahi ngaʻunu ʻi lalo fonua ʻoku nau fakatupu ʻa e peau kulá ʻo ʻohake ai ʻa e fuʻu maká ki he fukahi kelekelé, ko e lau ia ʻa Kaʻilí.

    Naʻe tui foki ʻa e kau saienitisí naʻe ʻi ai ʻa e fuʻu peau kula lahi naʻá ne ʻomi ʻa e fuʻu maká mei loto tahi ki ʻuta ʻi Tongatapu.

    Lau ʻa Palōfesa Futa Helu

    Naʻe hanga foki ʻe Palōfesa Futa Helu kuo mamaʻó ʻo fakakalasi ʻa e fananga faka-Tongá ki ha faʻahinga ʻe tolu ʻa ia ko e fananga haohaoa, tala ʻo e kau heló mo e fananga ʻa e kakaí.

    Ko e fanangá ko e feinga ʻa e kakaí ke fakaʻuhingaʻi ʻa e ngaahi foʻi meʻa ʻi natula, hangē ko e fakaʻuhingaʻi ʻo e mofuiké, afaá mo e peau kulá pehē ki he matangí.

    Naʻe pehē ʻe Futa ʻi haʻane fakamatala ne pulusi ʻi he Tala ʻo Tonga, Voliume 2 ʻa e Potungāue Akó he 1992 ko e ʻatamai ʻo e kakai ʻi onoʻahó naʻe lahi ange ʻenau ʻatamai faʻú he kakai ʻo onopōní.

    Ko e fananga ki he mofuiké fakatatau ki ha Palōfesa Helú ko e anga ia e feinga ʻa e kakai ʻo onoʻahó ke fakamatalaʻi e anga e hoko ʻa e mofuiké.

    Koeʻuhī naʻe ʻikai ke nau maʻu ʻa e tekinolosia ka e lava ke nau fekumi ki lalofonua ke ʻilo e tupuʻanga totonu e mofuiké ko e meʻa leva pe ne nau fakaʻuhingaʻaki ko e tōʻonga ʻa e tangatá.

    Pea ko e tōʻonga ia ʻa e tangatá ne nau alāanga mo iá ko e mohe ʻa e tangata pea mamatea ʻo ʻai ʻene fuʻu mafuli lolotonga pe ʻokú ne mohe pea hangē ʻoku teté.

    Pea toʻo atu pe ia ʻe he kakaí e foʻi tōʻonga ko iá ʻo fakaʻuhingaʻiʻaki ʻa e mofuiké tokua ko e tangata ʻoku mohe ʻi lalo fonua pea ko ʻene mohe pe ʻo ʻai ʻene foʻi mafuli pea tupu ai ʻa e mofuiké.

    Ko e meʻa tatau ki he ʻahioʻahio ʻa ia ne pehē ʻe he fananga ʻoku kui tokua. Pea ko ʻene tō mai ʻoku ʻikai lava ia ʻo sio ki he falé mo e ʻakaú mo e ngaahi meʻa ʻoku tuʻu ʻi hono halangá. Koeʻuhī tokua ko ʻene kuí. Pea ko e meʻa pe ʻa e kakaí ʻoku faí ko e longoaʻa ke lahi mo tā kapa ke ne ongoʻi ʻo ʻalu mamaʻo pea ko hono tuli ia ke mavahe atu ʻa e ʻahiohio.

    Pehē ʻe Futá ko e anga ia e ʻatamai fifili ʻa e kakai ʻo onoʻahó mo ʻenau fakʻauhinga kuo tuku fakapunake mai ʻi he fanangá.

    Kau Maui

    Lahi foki e kau Mauí he talatupuʻa ʻo Tongá hangē ko e Maui ʻEsiafi, Maui Fusifonua mo Maui Tekelangi.

    Pehē ʻe Futá naʻe ʻi ai pe ʻa e kakai pehē ne ui ko Maui ka ko hono tala fakafananga ʻenau ngāué ʻa ia pe ē ne uiʻaki kinautolú.

    ʻOku pehē foki ʻe he fanangá ne teke ʻe Maui ʻa e langí ʻo ʻalu ki he ʻataá ʻo toki lava ai ʻa e kakaí ʻo tuʻu mo ʻalu hangatonu he ne olo lalo holo pe ʻao ia ʻi he funga kelekelé.

    Kae pehē ʻe Futá, ko e fakapunake ia ʻa e talanoá ki he tangata ko Maui ne ne fakatauʻatāinaʻi ʻa e kakaí mei ha fakapōpula ʻa ha taha mafai mālohi.

    Tatau pe mo e Maui Fusifonuá, fakatatau kia Futá ʻe ʻikai lava ʻe ha tangata ʻo fusi ha fonua. Ka ko e fakapunake ia ki hono hanga ʻe Maui ʻo fuofua ʻilo ha fonua ke nofo ai ʻa e kakaí ʻa hono ui ia ʻo pehē naʻá ne fusi hake e fonuá ʻaki ʻa e mātaʻu.