The fire goddess, an ancestress of Māui. Māui found that fire had been lost from among mortals, and resolved to obtain from Mahuika the secret of procuring it when desired. He set forth on his quest and came to where Mahuike dwelt, she whose offspring were the five Fire Children. Their names are Konui, Koroa, Mapere, Manawa, and Koiti, which are also the names of the five fingers of the human hand. The fingers of Mahuika were the Fire Children, and Māui the Deceitful sought to destroy them. He applied to her for the gift of fire, and she gave him Koiti; that is, she pulled off her little finger and gave it to him. Māui took it away with him, but did not carry it home. Instead, he extinguished it; that is to say, he destroyed Koiti. He then returned to Mahuika and begged for more fire, saying that the first had gone out. On receiving another one of the Fire Children, he also took it away and destroyed it, and so continued until only one was left. The fire goddess was so enraged by the loss of her children that she plucked off the remaining finger and cast it at Māui. This caused a terrible conflagration. Māui fled and narrowly escaped death.
In one version of the myth, he escaped by assuming the form of a hawk, but even so he got scorched by the heat, hence the color of the hawk's plumage. The hawk, kahu, was a god of fire, and a child of Mahuika.
Mahuika now faced death, for fire was in danger of extinction. She fled to Hine-kaikomako, to Hinahina, to the child of Momuhunga for protection. They gave her refuge and within them fire found a shelter. These names represent forest trees, and are used to generate fire, particularly the kaikōmako tree.
Fire is generally known as Te Ahi-o-Mahuika, but subterranean fire is called Te Ahi-o-Tapeka, after Hine-i-tapeka.
In Samoa the fire god is called Mafui'e; and Ti'iti'i (Māui-tikitiki-a-Taranga) wrestled with him, and obtained the secret of fire — that is, the art of getting it by friction of wood. In the Bowditch Islands the fire god is Mafuike. In Niue, Māui the father, and Māui the son, went together to steal the fire. The guardian of fire in Tahitian legend is. The man who is called "The Father of Fire" is Āo-āo-mā-ra'i-ā. He is so-named because he taught the art of obtaining fire by friction of wood. Before this time men ate their food raw.
The Mangarevan fire goddess is Mauike, and the Prometheus is Māui-matavaru ("Eight-eyed Māui"). The Tongans have the tradition also; but, in Tongan, Mofuike means "earthquake." At Mangaia (Hervey Islands), Mauiki is the god of fire, and with him Māui had a fearful struggle, worthy of a demigod; but Māui compelled the fire god (by tossing him into the air like a ball) to show him the fire-raising process, and to teach him the magical song.
The Marquesan version relates that Māui killed the goddess of fire, and cut off her head, putting the fire into certain trees; the wood of these trees being used ever since for obtaining fire by rubbing.
- Best, Eldson. (1899). "Notes on Maori Mythology." Journal of the Polynesian Society 8:93-121, p. 96.
- Best, Elsdon. (1924). The Maori. Wellington: Harry H. Tombs, pp. 146-147.
- Grey, Sir George. (1855). Polynesian Mythology. Auckland: Brett, p. 29.
- Tregear, Edward. (1891). Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary. Wellington: Government Printer, pp. 112, 194.
- White, John. (1887). Ancient History of the Maori. 6 vols. Wellington: G. Didsbury, Government Printer, p. 2:71.
- Wohlers, J. F. H. (1875). "Mythology and Tradition of the Maori." New Zealand Institute, Transactions 7:3-53, p. 7.
This article incorporates text from Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary (1891) by Edward Tregear, which is in the public domain.