The Giant Gods

Gods and demi-gods as vast as their mountains are celebrated in the

traditionary chants of the Hawaiians. While the largest island in the

group seems to have been their favorite residence, it was the easiest

thing imaginable to move, since they had only to step on board of

their enchanted canoes and make a wish and they were at once wafted

to any port they desired. A few of them did not need any canoes:

they were of such height they could step from island to island,

and could wade through the deepest oceans without submerging their

heads. Kana would often straddle from Kauai to Oahu, like a colossus

of Rhodes, and when a king of Kahiki, who was keeper of the sun,

undertook to deprive the people of it, because of some slight, Kana

waded across the sea and forced that king to behave himself instanter;

then, having seen the light properly placed in the sky, he spread

his breech-clout over a few acres of volcano to dry, and took a nap

on a mile or so of lava bed. This deity had the power of compressing

himself into a small space, and likewise of pulling himself out to

any desired length, like an accordion, so that there was not water

in the eight seas deep enough to drown him.

And Maui, the demi-god, was even more tremendous in his bulk. Whales

were his playthings, and sharks were minnows beside him. He had to

swim in water that reached only to his waist, because there was no

deeper, and even then his head was circled by clouds. He had a wife

of an immensity comparable to his own. Once, while busily beating

out a piece of bark-cloth, the sun sank low before she had finished

her task. Like the excellent housewife that she was, she did not wish

the day to end on work unfinished, so, at her request, Maui reached

out into the west, seized the sun, without burning his fingers much,

pulled it back to noon and held it there for two or three hours while

the making of the cloth proceeded. Then it resumed its journey through

the heavens, and has kept excellent time ever since.

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