Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
This is Branden and just like on Thanksgiving I wanted to drop an extra episode into your feed at a time where a lot of podcasts take a week or two off. Just like the Thanksgiving episode this one isn’t very long. But this time I’m giving you a sneak peak into a project that I’m working on called Legends Of Fandom. Legends of Fandoms was inspired by the many times that as a parent I have introduced my children to a fandom that I love where they ask me if it is real. Surprising many times I’ve been able to tell them that the character or story is based off of ancient legends. Legends of Fandom is where Ancient Legends meet Modern Fandom. The first episode of this new show talks about the Legendary Maui and the differences in his character from Disney’s Moana. There are mild spoilers if you haven’t seen it yet, but I would love for you to listen and give me some feedback on the music, story and design. I have included ads and links in the show that are not active yet in order to give you a feel what the show will be like when its completed, but for now you can reach out to me at Feedback@FandomPodcast.com or using FandomPodcast.com/Contact
Sneak Peak – Legends of Fandom
From Across the Fandomverse our favorite Books, Movies, TV Shows and Comics reach into established mythology to find inspiration. The Characters and Creatures that they use become the LEGENDS OF FANDOM
Welcome to the Legends of Fandom, I am Branden Ushio. This is going to be the first part in a series of discussions about the Legends that have inspired popular animated Disney Movies. This episode we are going to be talking about the demigod Maui and his connection to the Animated Disney Movie Moana.
Before we get into some of the legends that inspired the cool tattoos that adorned the animated body Maui. Let’s talk about today’s sponsor, Audible. Audible has over 180,000 titles and all sorts of spoken word content, but if you listen to other podcasts I know that you have heard the schpeel before, but here is what is different. If you go to LegendsOfFandom.com/Audible you can get TWO free audio books. What you’ll do is sign up for a 30 day free trial on the Gold Plan and then pick out your two free books. You can cancel at any time and if you cancel the books are yours to keep. What happens if you pick a book and don’t like it? Audible has a Great Listen Guarantee, you can return the book and pick another one without catches, but I don’t think that will happen. If you’re listening to this you may be interested in the official Moana audio story book, or How to Be Like Walt: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life. which is a character biography about Walt Disney that draws out the important lessons from his life. Again you can sign up for this special offer at LegendsOfFandom.com/Audible. I love audible and I think you will too.
Okay, back to the Legends.
Facts about Legendary Maui
There are over 1000 polynesian that dot the pacific ocean and Maui is a legendary character in many of the cultures which is amazing when you think about how spread out each of those islands are.
Maui is typically depicted as a muscle bound warrior with face tattoos. I would imagine that the physique of Jason Momoa or Dwayne Johnson would be some of the closest real life depictions of Maui.
Depending on which legends you listen to Maui is either extremely lazy and loves to lie about or is a trickster that likes to get people involved in his hair brained schemes. And as such most of his heroic feats are motivated by either
Some of his feats include:
His weapon of choice is the jawbone of his grandmother that has been enchanted by the gods.
Maui Tames the Sun
While doing some research on the Legendary Maui I found a legend that is pretty consistent across the different islands. While some details change depending on who tells it, the majority of the story has stayed the same across many Polynesian cultures.
Have you ever wished that the day was just a little bit longer? Yeah, apparently Maui did too. According to Legend one evening Maui and his family (yes you heard right, his family) were out getting ready for dinner by heating a bunch of rocks to cook with and by the time they finished heating their stones the sun was down and it was too dark to cook, or even to see, yeah dinner was pretty much ruined.
Maui got pretty annoyed at this, because apparently back then the days were extremely short and you had to rush to get your chores done and your food prepared before it got too dark to do anything and well Maui was done living his life on the Sun’s schedule and so he was going to teach it a lesson. He was going to force it to move more slowly across the sky.
When he announced his intentions to his brothers they started mocking him. They pointed out that the heat and the flames of the sun would burn them to death and that the sheer size of the sun made it impossible to catch. Which seem like reasonable objections even not knowing that the sun reaches temperatures of 5777 Kelvin or 9,939 Degrees Fahrenheit, or that it has a circumference of 2.7 million miles and they didn’t even mention that it is about 93 million miles away, I guess I probably would have sided with his brothers.
Maui let them have their fun and laugh a little bit, but then he pulled out that magic Jawbone of his and said, “Don’t Worry, I have a plan, after all you’ve seen me do a lot of impossible things with this Jawbone. With your help I can conquer the sun..” Maui was able to convince his brothers to help him make flax ropes to catch the sun, but obviously normal flax ropes wouldn’t work, Maui used a technique that he learned while in the underworld to enchant them, but that is an entirely different legend. I can’t imagine that this was easy because they were either doing it completely in the dark or they were putting off their regular chores and meals, because well the sun wasn’t slowing down on it’s own.
After 5 days they had all of the ropes that they needed and they began their night journey east to the place where the sun rises. They moved only at night so that the sun wouldn’t see them and know that they were coming. This also meant that they had to hide under bushes and other objects during the day to avoid being spotted in the wrong place. Along the way Maui made them gather as much water as they could, but wouldn’t tell them what it was for, only that it was important. I imagine that it only took a few days for his brothers to start to forget what exactly they were doing all of this work for, after all they were tired of doing everything in the dark but isn’t that exactly what they had been doing for the past week? Well Maui kept his brothers going until the twelfth night when they actually made it to the pit that the sun rises out of the ground.
This is where the water came in handy. They used it to make clay huts that they could hide the ropes in and a wall to shelter them from the sun. As the sun started to rise Maui waited until it got to just the right height and signaled his brothers to throw the ropes around the sun. With the Sun immobilized Maui jumped on and started bashing it with his trusty jawbone. The Sun had no idea what was going on and so it finally cried out for Maui to stop and asked him what he was doing. Maui told him that he was tired of having such a short day and was going to make it impossible for the sun to go quickly across the sky anymore, and so Maui went back to work. After the bashing that the sun received he was too feeble to do anything but crawl slowly across the sky and if you look closely every once in awhile you can see still the flax cords hanging off of the sun.
So what happened to Maui and his brothers? They returned home and Maui got all of the credit and glory for making everyone’s day longer, but I’m sure being the brother of Maui came with some perks.
If we were to use this one story to compare the Legendary Maui to the Maui from Disney’s Moana there are some things that were kept true and there were some other things that are glaringly different. The biggest difference between Disney’s Maui and the Legendary Maui is that he lives with his family. In the movie Maui’s Parents threw him into the sea as an infant where the God’s took mercy on him and raised him, which inspired his heroic feats, but in this legend he is living with his family and convinces them to go on a 12 day journey in the dark to beat up the sun. It sounds like not only did he know his family but they trusted him.
Story Short hand
In researching this I did find a Maori legend where Maui was given up by his parents to the gods, but he found his way back to his family by the time he was a toddler and was welcomed back by not only his parents but his siblings as well. So why did Disney essentially orphan Maui? Well they have a pattern of doing this, whether it is Bambi, Dumbo, Simba, Cinderella, or Belle their parents are all taken from them, but that is because these are all essentially coming of age stories where the protagonist has to find out who they really are and with parents taking care of you it takes a lot longer, and so it’s a form of story short hand where they can quickly show motivation and growth. This is probably the reason, especially since the movie’s name is Moana and not Maui and so they couldn’t spend too much time explaining Maui’s back story.
Art Imitating Life
But another reason might have to do with some tragic events that happened in Walt Disney’s life. In 1938 everything was looking great for Walt Disney. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs had just finished it’s run in the theaters and things couldn’t have been going better. Walt Disney was even able to buy a house for his parents, which is kind of every kid’s dream right? That November the furnace was acting up in his parent’s home and so Walt sent over some maintenance guys from the Studio to take a look at it, but apparently they didn’t know what they were doing because that evening there was a carbon monoxide leak and when the housekeeper came over in the morning she found his parents unconscious. They took them outside and Walt’s father was very sick, but his mother didn’t make it and was already gone. Walt took that very personally. It was the house that HE bought, it was the maintenance men that HE employed and so he very much felt that it was HIS fault. This may or may not be the reason that he gravitated towards stories where the characters didn’t have parents, but if it was then it had a large impact on his studio since they have continued with that theme to this day.
So if the Legendary Maui was not dealing with the issues of being abandoned by his family, why did he go to the work of slowing the sun? One version of the legend that I read was that he liked taking naps in the sun but the day was too short to do that, but most of them had to do with taking care of his family. In one version his mother would spend all day getting ready to weave kapa cloth but would have to roll it all back up shortly after starting because the sun had already gone down and Maui felt pity for her. My guess is that maybe he was just a kind soul that wanted to be helpful.
That’s Messed Up
Another difference that you may have noticed is that I kept talking about Maui’s enchanted Jawbone and not a Fish Hook. In a future legend one of the Polynesian gods carves the fish hook from the Jawbone, but Disney acted like it had always been a Fishhook. I don’t blame them though… you may have noticed that I said that the Jawbone had belonged to his Grandmother and maybe you assumed that it just sounded weird and maybe it was a weapon that he had inherited from his grandmother, but every story that I read that explained where he got the Jawbone phrased it in the same weird way that I think that Maui was swinging around a human Jawbone, and I don’t really blame disney for glossing over that fact.
The last difference is hard to describe in words, but most of the pictures that accompanied the legends that I read to research this story show Maui as a young man with incredible strength and built like a modern superhero, and well the Maui that we meet in Moana looks like the american stereotype of an overweight polynesian. Now to be fair to Disney the way that he moves and fights in Moana all of that mass appears to be muscle, but you’d have to be grasping at straws to say that Disney’s Maui physically resembles the legendary Maui.
Getting it Right
It appears that Disney nailed the braggadocious manner that Maui exudes and the trickster personality, they even tie into the historical time frame where there was a pause in exploration/settling of Polynesian islands.
So how does the Ancient Legend compare to the Modern Mythology? I would have to give it 6.5 Coconut pirates out of 10 (I really hope that I get a chance to do something on the coconut pirates someday.) At the end of the day I just couldn’t get over the fact that Maui wasn’t really an orphan and that his appearance is mildly offensive to the culture that this myth was taken from. I didn’t know any of Maui’s legends when I saw Moana for the first time and I loved the movie. Now that I know some I think that I it will enhance the story that much more, but I won’t hold my breath expecting cultural accuracy.
Thanks for listening to this episode of Legends of Fandom. I would love to get your feedback on the Disnification of Maui. You can reach me at Feedback@LegendsOfFandom.com , or Facebook.com/LegendsofFandom. Make sure to subscribe, if you head to LegendsofFandom.com/Subscribe it will give you all of the options to stay up to date.
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Until Next Time: May the Fandom Be With You!