Posted by: Alex Borders | May 17, 2011

Myths of the Maori

Tuesday 17th May

Myths of the Maori in Ms Stevenson’s Fourth Grade

It is traditional to teach Norse mythology in fourth grades in Waldorf Schools around the world. Ever since visiting New Zealand in 1991, during my first sabbatical, I have felt that Maori myths and Maori songs and stick games would be equally as popular and appropriate with this age group as the Norse myths and Anglo-Saxon alliterative riddles are. We started with the creation story – how the gods Rangi (Sky Father) and Papa (Earth Mother) had to be separated so that Light could enter into the world. We then went on to the stories of Maui tikitiki a Taranga (Maui born from the topknot of Taranga). Maui is a demi-god who combines the qualities of Loki, Thor, Prometheus, Heracles, and Odysseus.

The myths have really touched the children. One of the children said, “That is the best creation story so far!” and there were murmurs of agreement from other members of the class. The Maori song and stick game is challenging, and the struggle to learn the Maori words to the song has us all laughing. Occasionally, the sticks fly wildly, but mostly, the children are hard at work to keep the pattern going without mistakes.

I have included a few children’s versions of the myths we have heard so far.

The Creation by Rylee

The gods were getting tired of living in Te Po uriuri, the dark night. So they decided to try to push Papa and Rangi, Earth Mother and Sky Father, apart. First Te, the god of war, tried to push them apart but he could not. Then they all tried, except Tawhiri, the god of winds and storms. Finally Tane, the god of the forests, tried and he grew like a kauri tree and pushed them apart.

Tawhiri was angry; he thought his brothers would take over so he made a big storm. Rongo, the god of cultivated foods, and Haumia, the god of wild foods, retreated underground. Tangoroa, the sea god, retreated to the depths of the sea with all the sea animals. And Tane retreated deep into the forests.

The winds went on and on. Finally Tawhiri grew weary of making storms so he stopped. But sometimes he still remembers his anger, and then he makes great storms.

Rangi was so sad, he kept crying and crying. Soon his tears began to flood the earth. So the gods decided to turn Papa over. When they turned her over, she was still nursing her youngest child, so when the earth was turned over, he was underneath Papa. Papa made fires to keep him warm, so that makes volcanoes, and when he walks around, that makes earthquakes.

How Maui was Born by Julian

Maui mua, Maui roto, Maui taha, and Maui pae were walking with their mother Taranga. Now one night a strange boy came to her home. “Who are you?” asked Taranga. “I am your son, too,” he said. “Are you Maui roa?”  “No1”  “Are you Maui roto?”  “No!”  “Maui taha?”  “No!”  “Maui pae?” “No1”  “Then who are you?” “I am Maui tikitiki a Taranga! You were by the sea when you gave birth to me. Immediately you wrapped me in hair from your topknot and flung me out to sea. The sea took care of me until a breeze blew me to shore. There Tama nui ti ke Rangi saved me. So here I stand as a human child.” Taranga cried out with joy, “You are the child of my old age! I thought you were lost, yet here you are.” She welcomed him to her home.

How Maui Found His Parents by Alexis

Maui transformed into a wood pigeon and flew down into the other world and landed on a branch. Right below him, he saw his parents. He used his beak and plucked a berry off the tree. He dropped it on his father’s forehead. His father thought it just fell off the tree on its own. Maui plucked two more berries and dropped one on his mother’s forehead and one on his father’s forehead. Then all of the people started to throw rocks at the tree. Maui dodged all the rocks but he let his father hit him. The rock hit Maui’s leg and he fell to the ground.

When his father learned his name was Maui tikitiki a Taranga, he said it was a warrior’s name. He went to make a blessing, but he made a mistake, and so he said one day Maui would have to die.

The Separation of Rangi and Papa by Hana

Rangi (Sky Father) and Papa (Earth Mother) were locked in an embrace. Some of their children were getting very upset about Te Po nui (the great Night). Te (the war god) wanted to kill them but Tawhiri (the god of winds and storms) liked Te Po. The decision was made to push them apart. All of the gods tried, except Tawhiri, and finally Tane (the god of forests) put his shoulders on Papa and his feet on Rangi, and he grew like a kauri tree. When they were pushed far enough that the sun could come in, they were done.

Now Tawhiri was so mad that they had not listened to him, that he made storms, and storms, and storms. And all the creatures of the sea went deep under water to hide, and the food went into the earth, and the animals went deep into the forests. At last Tawhiri calmed down, and the children of the gods could live on the earth.



  1. Yay! I’m a Kiwi and I love that Ms Stevenson has used Maori myths with her Year Four class. The Maui stories are wonderful as is the creation story. Stick games are fun, and I would love to hear American children trying to get their tongues around Maori pronounciation!
    Thank-you, Ms Stevenson, from the bottom of the world. 🙂

    • Thanks – and it is not only the American children who are struggling with the Maori pronunciation – their teacher is as well. We performed (sort of) the stick game at Grandparents Day, and it was very exciting – but no injuries!

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