Resource Sheet gg: Full synopsis of the story of Maui One Man Against the Gods


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Resource Sheet GG: Full synopsis of the story of Maui – One Man Against the Gods


Ra, the god of light, and Hine, the goddess of darkness, call upon the children of the Earth (Papatuanuku) and Sky (Ranginui) to sever their parents’ smothering embrace. Their success creates the first dawn of a new world (te ao marama).

Karanga mai ra, karanga te poo

A call to the night, to the darkness

Io Matua Te Kore...e arara...e arara

Io-matua-te-kore awaken

Tenei te timatatanga o te ao marama

This is the coming of the world's first light

Ka tuohu kia Papatuanuku kia

We look down to Papatuanuku and Ranginui beneath us


Ages pass and mere mortals journey in and out of our earthly realm, becoming the ancestors that watch over us. Into this world, Taranga gives premature birth to her fifth child, Maui. Hine rises from the spirit world to embrace the soul of the lifeless infant. But Taranga, in her grief, refuses to give up her baby to death. She wraps Maui in a lock of her hair and casts him into the waves.

Aue te piripoho

My dearest stillborn

Naa toku wharetangata

From my womb

Ka whiua koe ki te moana

I give you to the ocean

Naa Tangaroa koe e tiaki

For Tangaroa to care for you


Wrapped in the protective strands of his mother’s dark hair, the infant Maui struggles between life and death. Eventually, Maui cheats Hine with the help of the sons and daughters of the ocean god, Tangaroa.

Ra plucks Maui from the jellyfish and adopts him into his godly kingdom. Thwarted in her claim for Maui’s spirit, Hine nevertheless marks Maui with a moko of mortality.

Ei teenaa te mauri

Here is the life force

Te mauri ka noho

The life force dwelling within

Ka noho ki runga

From below to above

Ki runga ki teenei mokopuna

Given to this child


Ra schools Maui in the godly arts, teaching him an ancient prayer (karakia). In ignorance of his human limitations, Maui dares to wield Ra’s sacred weapon (patu) and unwittingly conjures a vision of his mother, Taranga. Recognising the comb (heru) in her hair, the impulsive youth is inspired to go in search of his earthly roots.


To Maui, who was bundled in Taranga’s hair

Mai ee te tipua

The sacred teachings

Mai ee te tawhito

The ancient knowledge

Mai ee te kahui-o-ngaa-ariki

The lore of the ancients


Returning to the land of his mother, Maui encounters his brothers at play. Unfamiliar with the customs of the mortal world, he offends them by refusing to take up their offering (taki). Unpracticed at combat between mortals, Maui is beaten by his brothers.

Rejected and alone, Maui realizes he is out of place both in the world of his mother and his adoptive father: a mortal raised by gods. Maui has a vision of death, but refuses to succumb to his despair.

Kaore au e mataku a Hine-nui-te-Poo

I am not afraid of Hine

Whakarongo mai ki te kaupapa nei

Listen to my declaration

Teenei ahau, te rangatira,

I am descended from chiefs


Maui has an emotional reunion with his mother, which is later tempered by the realization that his former tormentors are actually his older brothers. Taranga tries to welcome Maui by including him in a song that celebrates the family’s sacred fire, but his brothers want nothing to do with him. Snubbed again, the mischievous Maui secretly desecrates his brothers’ fire. When Taranga discovers that the sacred flame has been extinguished, she orders the brothers to fetch a new flame from the cavern of fire.

Ka rongo ahau (matou) ki to ihi

We feel your heat

Ka mahana te ngaakau e

And it warms our hearts

Moo to manaakitanga whakanuia a to taatou ahi-kaa

For the care you provide, we salute you, our sacred, eternal flame


Maui’s brothers eventually find the necessary courage to venture into the cavern of fire. However, their daring proves short-lived in the face of the menacing flames.

Alone in the cave, Maui captures the life of a flame with Ra’s sacred patu. This transgression unleashes an inferno that threatens to engulf him.

Luckily, Ra appears to save him by calling down snow to quell the firestorm. Ra then demands that Maui return the secret of fire to the gods. Maui refuses.

Ko Rangi, ko Papatuanuku, te whaea,

Our sky father and sacred earth mother

Te heketanga o ngaa roimata

The falling of tears during your separation

He tio, he huka, he hau uu

Heke nuku, heke rangi, heke raro ra.

Bring down the snows to quell the flames.


Maui’s brothers deliberately leave the trickster behind when they next go fishing, but the outsider stows away. The brothers refuse to offer him a hook or bait. However, unable to resist humiliating his brothers, Maui wipes his own blood on the sacred patu and, using the ancient prayer that Ra taught him, conjures the spirits to fish a great land from the sea.

Ko teenei te waka o ngaa tuakana

This is the canoe of the elder brothers

Tenei maatou ngaa rangatira

We are the chiefs around here

Ki te hii-ika i te moana

Catching fish from the ocean

Nekenekehia a Maui tinihanga

We don’t need Maui the trickster


Exhausted from his efforts, Maui is unable to prevent his envious brothers from carving up the new land. Tempers erupt. Maui is on the verge of killing one of his brothers when Hine is drawn to the scene. When he senses her presence, Maui stops short of the final blow and instead openly challenges Hine. Yet Ra again denies her, this time to teach his wayward son a lesson.

Ripia ripia

Sever the flesh, split it apart

Tapahia atu ra!

Lacerate the body


The body of Maui’s great fish


Bruised by Ra’s punishment, Maui contemplates his destiny. In this moment of reflection, Taranga bestows on Maui the taiaha that symbolises leadership of the family.

Refusing to be cowed by the gods, the mighty warrior commits himself to humbling Ra. In fear and admiration, Maui’s brothers join him in a plan to trap the sun-god and steal his power of flight.

Ko te ira atua, ko te ira tangata

Part god, part man

Ko wai ra, aha ko wai ra

Who am I really?

Kei hea i taku ara poutama ra

Where does my destiny lead me

Ara karapa, ka uira, katoa, te mahuru ki koonei

I summon the lightning, the thunder and the spiritual forces to aid my journey of discovery


Ra warns Maui of the folly of his actions, but Maui is emboldened by his success; he has stolen flame, fished up a mighty land and now rules the skies. He resolves to defeat Hine, the goddess of death, who stands between him and his dream of immortality.

Sensing that she will lose her youngest son, Taranga tries to dissuade Maui from his plan. But he rejects her counsel. As he leaves, she mourns her son a second time.

Kei whea te ara i whanatu ai koe

Where is the path you have taken?

Aue i takahi ai te ara ki to matenga

You have taken the path to your doom

Waiho te whaaea maana e mae noa

Leaving your mother to seek solace in vain


Three times Maui has defied Hine, leaving the crafty warrior confident of outwitting her again. In the underworld he confronts what will be his ultimate challenge as Hine welcomes him to her domain.

Haere mai ra ki to taatou kaainga tuuturu

Come back to your ancient homeland

Hoki wairua mai ki ahau

Your spirit returns to my side

Kei runga i te ara wairua e,

Along the path of souls


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