Legend has it that New Zealand was fished from the sea by the daring demigod Māui.

Māui - no ordinary man

Māui is the gifted, clever demigod of Polynesian mythology responsible for fishing up the North Island of Aotearoa, New Zealand.

After a miraculous birth and upbringing Māui won the affection of his supernatural parents, taught useful arts to mankind, snared the sun and tamed fire. But one of his most famous feats was fishing up the North Island.

Fishing up an island

Despising him, Māui’s four brothers conspired to leave him behind when they went out fishing. Overhearing their plans, Māui secretly made a fishhook from a magical ancestral jawbone. Then one night he crept into his brothers' canoe and hid under the floorboards.

It wasn't until the brothers were far out of sight of land and had filled the bottom of their canoe with fish that Māui revealed himself. Then he took out his magic fishhook and threw it over the side of the canoe, chanting powerful incantations as he did so.

The hook went deeper and deeper into the sea until Māui felt the hook had touched something. He tugged gently and far below the hook caught fast. It was a huge fish! Together with his brothers, Māui brought the fish to the surface.

Māui cautioned his brothers to wait until he had appeased Tangaroa the god of the sea before they cut into the fish. They grew tired of waiting and began to carve out pieces for themselves. These are now the many valleys, mountains, lakes and rocky coastlines of the North Island.

Te Ika a Māui - Māui's fish

To this day the North Island is known to Māori as Te Ika a Māui or Māui’s fish. Take a look at a map of New Zealand to see the fish’s head in the south and its tail in the north. The South Island is also known as Te Waka a Māui or Māui’s canoe, and Stewart Island or Rakiura is known as Te Punga a Māui or Māui’s anchor stone.

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