Oceanic Mythologies: Australian Aborigine and Polynesian

Maui, the Hero and Trickster

Is the explicit sexuality of this myth meant to be taken seriously?

It is true that some myths seem to have been created primarily to entertain. This is true, for example, of the Greek myth in which Ares and Aphrodite are exposed by Hephaistos during an adulterous act. Other highly sexualized myths are clearly meant to convey an important cultural belief. Such a myth is the Mesopotamian story in which Inanna uses explicity sexual language to express her longing to fulfill her role as a goddess of fertility. Sexuality is also typically associated with the trickster figure. The Maui myth has humorous aspects, but if we recall that Maui is the son of Rangi, the personification of the masculine principle, it is not altogether surprising that he should use the symbol of that principle, that potency, to hold back the tidal wave. As for the two masculine forces sharing the feminine one represented by Hina and then fighting over her, it is possible that this myth reflects not only a cultural sense of the proper relationship between men and women, but a cultural decision from some time in the past—presumably established by the culture-hero—that two men possessing the same woman was a taboo arrangement, much as most societies prohibit polygamy. The myth also celebrates the particular power of Maui as not only a culture hero, but as a trickster of great prowess.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Mythology Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App