Part I: Identification/Essay Question
This wonderful narrative is a clear paradigm of oral tradition told for many generations of storytellers by word-of-mouth to portray a sacred world before time. A time before the advent of fire, the tale of Maui bringing fire to the cold world may dictate a factual event that by some may be considered as true and sacred, yet the veracity of the narrative is irrelevant. Rather or not this narrative is believed to be sacred or true, its genre is evident in its seemingly “before-time” setting with supportive examples of theriomorphic transformations and etiological style of explaining the existence of fire. Since the audiences’ interpretation of the narratives believability to be fact or fiction is not given, the only option to select the appropriate genre for this is to consider how the world is understood by the folklore. The narrative genre is a myth, a traditional story, esp. one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.
The myth provides an explanation of a worldview for the existence of fire, whereby the general perception from which one sees and understands the world is used to expound the advent of fire. The myth in worldview terms creates basic assumptions and images that provide a more or less coherent, though not necessarily accurate, way of thinking about the world, in our case the advent of fire. To be defined as myth, there must be an element of explaining important aspects of world order. We can see that world order in this story is restored when fire is brought to mankind by Maui hiding sparks of flame into different trees. This myth holds the primary topic concerning the etiological reasons behind fire and mankind’s use of it. The etiological topic can be seen by the myths explanation of origins of fire. Where, how, and why fire came into existence or in the hands of man? Mythical narratives serve the purpose of providing origin to answer questions like these, and the origin explanation serves as evidence for defining this narrative as myth.
Another feature classifying this narrative to be myth is the description of divine characters actions. Mahuika fingernails holding fire, Maui transformations into a hawk, intervening of ancestors including the thunder god are clear examples of divine or semi-divine actions. The use of divine characters and their mystical actions elicits a world of sacred time and place, whereby religious acceptance of “sacred and true” category could theoretically hold for defining it as myth. The thematic implication of divine actions is to show the relationship between divinity and humanity. Mahuika, almost a semi-god by description, had to save fire for man by throwing sparks into trees so fire can be obtain by rubbing two sticks together. The relationship of divine, Mahuika, and humanity, Maui and his people, was a struggle between guarded jealously for the prized possession of fire to the sparing of fire for the greater good. Mahuika has been tricked, causing her to release fire to humanity in order to save it. Even the thunder god had a favorable relationship with humanity when he/she aided Maui to escape the blaze. Demonstrating the positive mixed relationship with of mankind and god correlates well with how myths are generally told.
The last factor for classifying this narration to be myth is the consideration of the time and setting. Where does this story particular take place is of no importance, but understanding that it occurs in a fantasy place from long ago is. Notice how the narration began with “In one his many adventures long ago,” signifies a distant time-before-time world where the spirit and human whelm coexisted. In our modern world today we have luxury of fire with no worries of revengeful divinities (secularly speaking); however long ago there was supposedly no fire for man and divinities/spirits walked...
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