Friday, May 11, 2012

Topographical Myths

It seems to be an easy segue from maps to mythology. Sure many myths focus on gods and supernatural heroes but there is also a large collection of myths that dwell upon the natural world and seek to explain how the earth came to take its current form.

As New Zealanders, Kirsty and I grew up with the Maori legend of Māui. One of Māui's most famous exploits was to use the jaw bone of his ancestress as a fish hook and to haul an enormous fish from the bottom of the sea. Māui ws concerned that the gods might be unhappy with the catch and left the fish with his brothers while he went to make peace with the gods. His brothers didn't wait as instructed but immediately set about to cut up the fish. As the fish writhes in agony, the mountains, hills and valleys of the North Island of New Zealand are created.

In Maori mythology, the South Island of New Zealand is also known as Māui's waka (canoe) with Banks Peninsula on the east coast denoting Māui's foot hold as he strained to bring in his fish.


Kristin L said...

It is not so difficult to see connections throughout the Polynesian Triangle (which includes both Aotearoa and the Hawaiian Islands at two points). Maui plays large in the Hawaiian Myths too. The version here is that he was fishing, but as pulled up the great catch, prankster Maui got in a fight with his brothers and they let the line go slack, thus loosing the "fish" and instead of pulling up one large landmass, only the high spots emerged (thus the eight main Hawaiian Islands).