Ālae: Mudhen

This is a picture of the beach where Maui learned the secret of fire.
Picture taken by Kauila Team


The ‘alae ula, the mud hen, was common on most Hawaiian Islands except two, Lana‘i and Kaho‘olawe. By the 1940s the ‘alae birds were considered dangerous. Then on Moloka‘i they exterminated the population all together but then reintroduced but it wasnῑt a success and even today there is no population of ‘alae on Moloka‘i. ‘Alae could also be found on the other islands by the banks of the rivers. ‘Alae were also found in Wai‘ane it was there that the ‘alae taught Maui the secret of fire.
Hina's mother gave her burning coals and everyday Hina would tend to the coals. One day Hina forgot to feed the flames and the fire died out.
That day as Maui and his brothers went fishing as Maui stared out towards Haleakalā he saw a pillar of smoke and then he exclaimed to his brothers, “There,” he said pointing to the smoke coming from the beach, “someone knows how to make fire let’s go and find out who.”
His brothers feared that it might be the Pele the fire goddess so they sent Maui. When he reached the spot where the flame had been he only found ashes and banana leaves, oloema sticks, dry hau and coconut husks, but no fire. Maui knew it was the ‘alae who had made the fire so the next day Maui stayed back and waited for the ‘alae, but the ‘alae saw through his tricks and got away.
Maui had another plan he made a doll out of kapa and told his brothers to take with them on the fishing trip. When the ‘alae arrived Maui hid in the bushes, and watched as the ‘alae started to make fire. Then one of the ‘alae heard a rustle in the bushes and as the mud hens made their get away Maui jumped out and grabbed one by the neck and demanded it tell him how to make fire. The ‘alae bird refused and Maui tightened his grip on the birds neck.
“Stop!’ pleaded the mud hen, “I'll tell you!” But of course the bird lied and lied until Maui squeezed the bird's so tightly that it finally told the truth.
When flames finally appeared the ‘alae told Maui, “ Now let me go!”
Then Maui took a burning stick and put it to the bird's forehead and it left a red mark then Maui said, “now all the ‘alae will know it was you who let out their secret.” And that is how Maui learned the secret of fire.


Center for Biological Diversity. Anderson, Greta. December
19, 2006. December 15, 2006 <http://www.esasuccess.org>.

Maui and The Secret of Fire. December 13, 2006<http://library.thinkquest.org/3502/fire.htm>

Williams, Julie Stewart. From the Mountains to the Sea. Honolulu: Kamehameha Schools Press, 1997.

Moniz Jonathan. Personal interview. 17 November 2006.