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The Legend of Moana-Nui-Ka-Lehua

Official Disney Moana movie still

Did you know that Disney’s 2016 film Moana is based on a Polynesian legend?

Moana-Nui-Ka-Lehua was a Polynesian water goddess/mermaid, who resided in the ocean between the two islands Hawaiian islands of K’aui and O’ahu. It was Moana’s duty to guard the Ka’ie’ie Channel with the help of two two shark gods named Kuna and Kahole-a-Kane.

According to some legends, Moana appeared as a fish, while in others she was as a half-human half-fish hybrid (mermaid). Moana had the power to summon storms whenever she wanted.

Official Disney Moana movie still

Moana according to legend, wasn’t always the well-mannered goddess as depicted in Disney’s film version of Moana. Like many other deity’s and goddesses, Moana was mischievous and playful.

Moana prevented the volcano/fire goddess Pele from being with her human Lohiau by brewing a storm, so that the couple couldn’t go beyond the reef to be married.

However, there was one god, who could match Moana and that was Maui. Moana met the fisherman god, Maui (the island of Maui is named after him), when she found him fishing in her waters. She snatched his fishhook from the rock it was sitting on.

Maui, was known for being a trickster god and wasn’t going to take Mauna stealing his fishhook lightly. So, he pursued Moana, until he was able to capture her. Maui, then brought Moana to shore, where she passed away. Maui, paid his respects to the mermaid goddess by burying her body and built a shrine in her honor. Moana’s spirit was metamorphosed into a oli’a lehua, which is one of Hawaii’s most sacred trees.

 

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