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Artist's depiction of the Sun god, Maui.
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Maui

Maui was a hero of Polynesian mythology. For Maui and his mother the days were too short. For them, there was never enough time to accomplish anything in only one day. Maui wanted to allow his mother to have more daylight to make bark cloth. He thought that if the Sun were moving slower across the sky, there would be more hours of light in one day.

So, Maui cut off the sacred tresses of his wife, Hina, to make a rope that would not burn in the Sun. With his rope he caught the Sun as it was rising and beat it with the magic jawbone of his grandmother. The Sun was so weak after the beating that it could not run but only creep along its course. In this way, sunlight lasted longer, and it was possible to work more during the day.

Maui was small but very heroic. In one tale, he desired the art of making fire. Maui stole a hen from heaven because fire was guarded by the celestial chicken.

The trickster god was always trying to impress women. According to one myth, Maui was making an earth oven when his poker got stuck in the sky. At that time, the sky was much lower than it is now. To get more room, Maui simply pushed the sky up. He did this to impress a lady.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF