Hina (goddess)

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This article is about the Polynesian goddess. For the agriculture, see Henna. For the anime series, see Love Hina. For the anime character, see Hina (One Piece)
"Mararu": Offerings of gratitude to Tahitian goddess Hina.
Woodcut by Paul Gauguin (1894).

Hina (literally “girl”) is the name of several different goddesses and women in Polynesian mythology. In some traditions, the trickster and culture hero Maui has a wife named Hina, as do the gods Tane and Tangaroa.[1] Hina is often associated with the moon.[2]

New Zealand[edit]

Tuna-roa, the father of all eels, lived in a swamp near Tami's home. Tami’s spouse, Suki, visited the swamp daily to fill her calabash with water. One day, as Suki was filling her calabash, the eel-god leaped from the water and raped her. When the same thing happened the next day, she told Tami about it.

Tami dug a deep ditch linking the swamp to the sea and stretched a net across the ditch. When rain came, the swamp overflowed into the ditch, washing Tuna-roa into the meshes of the net. Tami cut off Tuna-roa’s head, which washed out to sea, and cut the eel-god’s tail into many pieces.

The eel-god’s head became a fish; his tail became the conger eel; and the tiny pieces of it became fresh-water eels. Thus, Tuna-roa gave rise to all eels.[3]


A girl named Hina-moe-aitu ("Hina-sleeping-with-a-god") liked to bathe in a pool that housed many eels. One day, as Hina was bathing, one of the eels transformed into a young man. Hina took him as her lover. His name was Tuna.

After they had been together for a while, one day Tuna told Hina that there would be a great downpour the next day. He would be washed up onto the threshold of her house in his eel-form. When that happened, Tuna said, Hina must cut off his head and bury it, and then regularly visit the place where the head had been buried.

Hina obeyed Tuna, returning faithfully to watch the place where she had buried his head. After many days, she saw a shoot sprout from the spot. Another shoot appeared, and the two shoots grew into a pair of coconut trees—the first coconut trees known to man.

In Mangaian tradition, the coconut's white flesh is called "Tuna’s brains", and it is said that one can see a face when one looks at the shell of a coconut.[4]

Tuamotu and Tahiti[edit]

For a time, the goddess Hina lived as the wife of Te Tuna, the god of eels. But she grew tired of him and decided to seek love elsewhere. Telling Tuna that she was going to get him some delicious food, Hina left him and went onto land.

Hina went from place to place, seeking a lover. But all the men she met were afraid to take Tuna’s wife, fearing the eel-god’s vengeance. Finally she met Maui, whose mother Taranga urged him to take the goddess as his wife.

When the people round about learned that Maui had taken Hina as his wife, they went to tell Tuna. At first, Tuna didn’t care, but the people annoyed him about it so much that he eventually vowed to win back his wife from Maui.

Along with four companions, Tuna rushed toward Maui’s home, carried by a huge wave. But Maui’s power turned back the wave and left Tuna and his companions beached on the reefs. Maui killed three of Tuna’s companions, while one escaped with a broken leg. Tuna himself Maui spared.

Tuna actually lived in peace in Maui’s home for some time. But one day, Tuna challenged Maui to a duel. Each would take a turn leaping into the others’ body and trying to kill him. If Tuna killed Maui, then Tuna would take his wife back. Tuna’s turn came first: he made himself small and entered Maui’s body. When he came back out, Maui was intact. Now it was Maui’s turn: Maui made himself small and entered Tuna’s body, tearing it apart. Maui cut off Tuna’s head and, at his mother’s suggestion, buried it in a corner of his house.

In time, a shoot sprouted from Tuna’s buried head and grew into a coconut tree. That was how humankind acquired coconuts.[5]


Wooden carved kiʻi of Hina (right) and Kūkaʻilimoku (left)

Many stories about the goddess Hina, especially in connection with the moon, can be found in chapter 15 (“Hina Myths”) of Martha Beckwith’s Hawaiian Mythology.[6]

Hina is mostly described as a very attractive, smart, beautiful, determined young woman pursued by men and other creatures. Hina becomes tired of living in the crowd, flees to the moon, and eventually becomes goddess of it.


In Samoa, the equivalent the name Sina referred to in many different stories in mythology. One example is the legend Sina and the Eel which is associated with the Mata o le Alelo pool on the island of Savai'i.

Hina in Literature[edit]

Richard Adams has written a poem retelling the Tahitian story of Hina and Maui, published as a book, The Legend of Te Tuna.

Also, in his popular book The Seven Daughters of Eve, Bryan Sykes used Hina's name, (spelled therein "Ina") to denote the clan matriarch of mtDNA haplogroup B.

Hina In Popular Music[edit]

David Lee Roth recorded a song called "Hina", contained on the hard rock album Skyscraper, released in 1988.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wilkinson, p. 122
  2. ^ Luquet, p. 449
  3. ^ Reed, pp. 41-42
  4. ^ Alpers, pp. 73-75
  5. ^ Campbell, p. 191-95
  6. ^ Beckwith, pp. 214-25

Sources and bibliography[edit]

  • Adams, Richard. The Legend of Te Tuna. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1986.
  • Alpers, Anthony. Legends of the South Sea. London: John Murray, 1970.
  • Beckwith, Martha. Hawaiian Mythology. New Haven: Yale UP, 1940.
  • Campbell, Joseph. The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology. New York: Viking, 1970.
  • Luquet, G.H. “Oceanic Mythology”. New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology (ed. Felix Guirand, trans. Richard Aldington and Delano Ames, London: Hamlyn, 1968), pp. 449–72.
  • Reed, A. W. Myths and Legends of Maoriland. Wellington: A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1961.
  • Sykes, B. "The Seven Daughters of Eve" New York, London: W. W. Norton,2001.
  • Wilkinson, Philip. Illustrated Dictionary of Mythology. New York: DK, 1998.