Activity for ‘Maui and the Big Fish’

Maui and the Big Fish

by Barbara Ker Wilson

This book tells the familiar myth of how Maui-tikitiki (Maui topknot) came to fish up the Hawaiian islands of Maui, Molokai, Kuaii, Hawaii, Oahu and Lanai, and become known as the great Maui-tinihanga (Maui of the Thousand Tricks) throughout all of Polynesia. Presumed dead and cast into the sea as a baby, Maui is taken to the underworld by the great god Tama, who teaches him all there is to know about magic. When Maui returns to his mother, his brothers become jealous and refuse to take him out fishing with them. Maui sneaks onto the boat and uses his magic fish hook to catch six gigantic fish, which become the aforementioned islands as they are known today.

This book was nominated for the collection because it is attractive and well made in hardback, and it tells a well known Pacific myth.

Activity: RETELLING (The Arts)

Curriculum Level 1, 2 & 3(see curriculum links at the end of the activity)

NZC Key Competencies

  • thinking
  • using language, symbols and text
  • relating to others
  • participating and contributing
  • managing self


In this activity, children will work in groups to create a play which retells the story of Maui and the Big Fish.

1. After reading the story a few times, identify as a class

  • the characters
  • the main parts of the story

Write or draw these up where everyone can see them.

2. With a partner, children practice oral retelling. Share some as a class.

This will help to get the story ingrained and start children thinking about how they might begin structuring a play.

3. In groups, children work to create their own retelling play.

  • If time, they may like to make masks or props for their performances.
  • Children could use percussion instruments to create sound effects.

For example: the sea, or a particular chant or beat which shows that Maui is in the underworld

4. Practice and perform the plays to an audience.


  • paper, card, felts, paint for mask making
  • other props
  • instruments

Taking it further

  • Video record the plays.
  • Read and dramatise some other Pasifika stories.

Curriculum Links

The Arts Drama

  • explore the elements of role, focus, action, tension, time and space through dramatic play (Level 1)
  • contribute and develop ideas in drama, using personal experience and imagination (Level 1)
  • share drama through informal presentation and respond to ways in which drama tells stories and conveys ideas in their own and others’ work (Level 1)
  • explore and use the elements of drama for different purposes (Level 2)
  • develop and sustain ideas in drama, based on personal experience and imagination (Level 2)
  • share drama through informal presentation and respond to elements of drama in their own and others’ work (Level 2)
  • use techniques and relevant technologies to explore drama elements and conventions (Level 3)
  • initiate and develop ideas with others to create drama (Level 3)
  • present and respond to drama, identifying ways in which elements, techniques, conventions, and technologies combine to create meaning in their own and others’ work (Level 3)

Other Ideas

  • Compare this version of Maui and the Big Fish with other Maui creation stories – in particular, the story which describes how Maui fished up the North Island of New Zealand. You may like to use this beautifully narrated version, by storyteller David Heathfield: (English)
  • Explore other Maui myths and legends (English)
  • Create a piece of artwork, using the story of Maui and the Big Fish as inspiration (Visual Art)

Links to other PPBC books

Tangaroa’s Gift by Mere Whaanga

Maui and the Nose Flute by Sione Tu’itahi

Tulevai and the Sea by Joy Cowley

Sina and Tinilau by Vilsoni Hereniko

Legends of the Cook Islands by Shona Hopkins

The Shark God by Rafe Martin

– these are all myths and legends which could be effectively used for retelling