Cook Islands Myths Legends

Errol Hunt & Oliver Berry

Cook Islands Legends, by Jon Jonassen, is a short anthology of many traditional myths and legends, told in a lively and engaging style. The book also explains the origins of many place names in the Cook Islands; you can usually buy it at the USP bookshop in Avarua (p54).

Pre-Christian religion was remarkably consistent between islands scattered over the entire, vast Polynesian area. Gods such as Vatea, Tan-garoa, Rongomatane and Tane, and demigods such as Maui and Rata, were known to Polynesians everywhere from Hawaii to Easter Island to Aotearoa (New Zealand).

It was the prodigious navigation and voyaging feats of the Polynesians in their long vaka (outrigger canoes) that made such homogeneity of religion possible, although in many cases the driving force behind vaka sailing off to settle new lands was religious dissent.

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