Maui's Kite

Long ago in Hawaii people told stories to explain the wonders of nature. This story is about Maui, who wanted to tame the winds.

The weather had been first warm and then cool that month. There was a feeling of uncertainty, of change, of excitement in the air that inspired Maui, and he decided to build a kite.

And what a kite it was! For a sail, his mother gave him her largest, strongest piece of barkcloth. For cross-pieces he used great lengths of bamboo carefully cut and notched. And from the olona shrub he cut long lengths of branch, twisting them together to make a strong rope. With great care he constructed his kite.

Maui's kite was a work of art. His friends excitedly gathered around to help him carry it to Keeper-of-the-Winds. Maui and the others paraded though the village, and all the people left their work and came to watch.

To the Cave-of-the-Winds they marched. As the approached the cave they could see Keeper-of-the-Winds sitting by the entrance.

"O Keeper-of-the-Winds," cried Maui, "come, bring Ipu Iki, the small gourd that holds the gentle breezes, and let us fly our kite!"

Keeper-of-the-Winds was a wise old woman, and knew that the gentle winds of Ipu Iki would play kindly with the boy. She went into her cave and returned, carrying a small calabash, or hollowed-out gourd.

"The name of this calabash is Ipu Iki," she said, "and it holds the gentle winds; the soft, the misty, and the dusty." And she sang her song,

O Wind, Soft Wind of Hilo,
Wind from the calabash of everlasting winds,
come from Ipu Iki.
O Wind, Soft wind of Hilo,
Come gently, come with mildness.

The lid of the calabash began to stir, and Keeper-of-the-Winds carefully lifted its edge. Slowly Soft Wind of Hilo drifted out and tugged at the kite. Maui let out some cord and his friends held up the great sail, but the wind could do no more than rustle the cloth. Again Keeper-of-the-Winds sang her song.

O Wind, Soft Wind of Waimea,
Wind from the calabash of everlasting winds,
come from Ipu Iki.
O Wind, Soft wind of Waimea,
hasten to me, come to me with strength.

Again the lid of the calabash stirred, and Keeper-of-the-Winds raised it slightly. Misty Wind of Waimea flew out, sweeping the kite from the hands of Maui's friends, sending it soaring over the trees.

Maui's friends cheered as he let out the cord, and even Keeper-of-the-Winds became excited. She called Dusty Wind and Smoky Wind. The kite soared like a great bird out over the sea. Maui leaned back and laughed in happiness as Keeper-of-the-Winds stood silently and looked with pleasure upon the boy's face, and then at the kite.

"That's enough for today," said Keeper-of-the-Winds. "One must respect the winds; they should not be taken for granted. They will respect you if you respect them."

After a few moments of silence, Maui slowly nodded his head. "Yes, O Keeper-of-the-Winds," he said a little reluctantly. "Call your winds back to you."

Keeper-of-the-Winds removed the lid from Ipu Iki and called back her winds. Slowly the kite dropped, and as Maui reeled in the line, his friends caught the kite. Keeper-of-the-Winds put the lid back on the calabash, and everyone went home.

But Maui was not content. He had seen how high his kite had gone, but wondered just how much higher it could fly. He remembered the words of Keeper-of-the-Winds, and knew that he must respect the winds, but still he wondered.

The next day Maui and his friends took the great kite and went back to Cave-of-the-Winds. They found Keeper-of-the-Winds sitting out front.

"O Keeper-of-the-Winds, bring out Ipu Nui, calabash of the Four Great Winds!" cried out Maui.

"The winds of Ipu Iki were enough, Maui," said the old woman. "Do you not remember what I said to you? You must respect the winds, especially the Four Great Winds."

"But I am strong, as strong as the Four Great Winds," said Maui, only half believing his own words, and he began to chant,

O Winds, mighty as the gods,
Wind from the calabash of everlasting winds,
come from Ipu Nui.
Strong Wind of the East,
Churning Wind of the North,
hasten and come to me.

From inside the cave came a mighty roar. Keeper-of-the-Winds started and ran towards the entrance, but she was greeted by North Wind and East Wind, who bowled her over and snatched the kite from the hands of Maui's friends. Maui leaned back as far as he could as the kite was swept far out over the sea. He laughed with delight when he saw how far his kite had gone, and at Keeper-of-the-Winds who was struggling vainly to put the lid back on Ipu Nui. But with a great screaming and howling, West Wind and South Wind roared out of the calabash, knocking it from the woman's hands and sending it rolling away.

The kite went as high as the cord was long, and still it tugged violently. The cord began to hum in the wind, and as the sky grew dark, the kite disappeared into the clouds.

Thinking himself to be in control, Maui called out, "O Winds, mighty as the gods, return to Ipu Nui."

But of course the winds were beyond his control. The sky darkened. The four howling winds raged stronger and stronger until the cord attached to the kite snapped with a mighty crack, sending Maui reeling backwards. The kite sailed away over the mountain, never to be seen again.

Yet the winds continued to rage. The palms that grew around Cave-of-the-Winds bent down their heads in the face of the onslaught, until they too broke. Over the entire island the winds screamed and howled. The sheets of barkcloth set out to dry were blown away and a heavy rain began, flooding the fields, sending the men scurrying in all directions. The winds had proven who was the stronger.

In desperation Keeper-of-the-Winds pounced on Ipu Nui and took it back to the cave and worked the night, gently coaxing the winds back into the calabash. Finally the storm ended.

Maui was in disgrace, and people started to call him He-Who-Brought-the-Great-Storm. The people would have nothing to do with him. His friends left him and Keeper-of-the-Winds looked the other way when Maui came to visit.

Finding himself alone with nothing to do, Maui built another kite, small than the first, and flew it near his home when there was no-one else about. He would tie the kite to a rock and study its movements in the sky, and soon he could tell when the weather would be fine, or stormy. One day he noticed some men going off to the fields.

"It will rain today," said Maui to the men, "Tomorrow will be a better day to work the fields."

But the men just scowled at him. Soon it did begin to rain, and the men came running back to the village, looking in amazement at Maui as they ran by.

Another day Maui warned a group of women that their barkcloth could be blown from its drying place, because his kite told him that there would be a storm that day. The women paid him no attention. Soon, however, they were out of their yards, chasing the cloth which was blowing about in the storm.

In time, the village people began to rely on Maui and his kite. He taught them how to predict for themselves from the dancing movements of the kite which days would be good for planting, or fishing, or drying barkcloth. People stopped calling Maui He-Who-Brought-the-Great-Storm and started calling him Teacher-and-Foreteller-of-the-Weather. Keeper-of-the-Winds became friendly towards him again, but Maui had learned his lesson. Never again did he call for the winds of Ipu Iki or Ipu Nui.

Barkcloth is a felt-like type of cloth found in many tropical countries, made of tree bark that has been pounded soft.
Hilo is a district on the island of Hawaii.
Olona is a tropical flower.
Waimea is a district on the island of Hawaii.

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