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The First Fire






Category: IN THE PACIFIC

Source: Myths & Legends Of Our New Possessions & Protectorate

The demi-god Maui lived near Mauna Kea, and in roaming over that
mountain he often felt the chill that is in high places. It set him
wondering why the volcano gods had never given to men the secret
of fire, that so warmed and comforted one at night. To take it from
the craters was dangerous. One was liable to be stifled by sulphur,
blinded by dust, scalded by steam, and destroyed by lava, for the crust
was continually breaking and falling. The mud-hens, or bald coots,
had the secret, however, and when he came upon their little fires
in the woods, Maui hid among the trees and watched. Despite his vast
bulk, he was not observed, or was more probably mistaken for a hill,
for presently the mud-hens assembled in a glade, before his eyes, and
made a fire by rubbing dry sticks together. They cooked fish and roots
over the fire, and the savor of the banquet was so appetizing that
Maui could not resist the temptation: he reached out and confiscated
the dinner, and the mud-hens flew off crying.

His attempt to catch the hens and learn from them how to make fire
did not succeed until he had rolled himself in bark-cloth; for, so
disguised, and after patient waiting, he captured the mother hen. She
tried to deceive him, for she did not want the secret to leave her
family. She told him to rub taro stalks on the line of their spirals,
the twist being put there for that purpose. He tried it without effect,
and gave the old hen's neck a twist to make her tell the truth. She
finally showed him how to make sparks with old, dry chips, and he
let her go, but not until he had rubbed her head until it was raw,
to punish her delay and falsehoods. And to this day the head of this
bird is bare of feathers.





Next: The Little People

Previous: The Giant Gods



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