The Truth About Moana And Its Polynesian Origin: Is It A True Life Story or Myth?

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Moana's Polynesian Origin
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It is almost impossible to forget about Walt Disney 2016 American 3D animated musical adventure film Moana, not just for being a massive success at the box office, its inch-perfect animation, and compelling storyline, but for its strong elements of ancient Hawaiian, Mangarevan, Tahitian, Tongan, Samoan, and Polynesian mythology. The plot revolves around the adventures of Princess Moana who defiles her father in a bid to find the powerful goddess Te Fitiin to assemble an ancient relic so as to save her people. However, Moana’s Polynesian origin is also a thing of interest in the plot of the animated film.

Along the way, she comes across a demigod named Maui and enlists his help to overcome several obstacles before succeeding on her mission to restore Te Fiti’s heart. She eventually goes home where she takes up the title of the village chief, hence, leading her people on a voyage. Like every great story ever told on the big screens, there have been several questions as to if it is indeed a true story or myth and if it is of actual Polynesian origin? Still interested in getting an answer to quell your uncertainties about Moana’s Polynesian origin and other facts? Read along.

Moana’s Polynesian Origin

The term Polynesian is often used to describe an inhabitant of Polynesia; a sub-region comprising of over 1000 Islands, all scattered over central and southern Pacific Ocean. The Islands are made up of natives from Fuji, Samoa, Niue, Tonga, Mangarev, Tuamotus, Marquesas, Rapa Nui, Cook Island, and New Zealand to name a few.

That being said, Producers of Moanamade sure the film wasn’t just telling any Polynesian story but one deeply rooted in the Polynesian culture. It makes use of several Polynesian cultural elements such as its dance, songs, gods, and names. Although there are several creative devices adopted to make the tale very spicy, it is kept subtle so as not to sway away from its Polynesian origin. That being said, it might interest you to know that the South Pacific island of Motunui(home to lead character Moana) is purely fictional and not an actual place in Polynesia or anywhere on planet earth. The island is however of Maori Origin which is often argued to hail from the North Island of New Zealand or Southern Eastern Island, Chile. As a matter of fact, a fictional Island was chosen instead of an actual one so as to avoid favoring a certain Polynesian culture over the other; hence, Moana incorporates several Polynesian cultures and traditions thus, promoting diverseness.

Go through the history books and you will find out that the Polynesian people like the Vikings are perfect navigators and sailors (only thing separating them from the Vikings is they weren’t much for looting, killings, and fighting) an element which is explored to the fullest in Moana. The Polynesian religion is also made up of several gods, goddesses, demigods, and deities that the people feel a close connection to and as such consult for protection and go ahead before embarking on any voyage, a feature which Moana as a film fully embodies.

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Moanas Polynesian Origin
Moana characters – image source

Is Moana A True Life Story Or Myth?

Movie lovers can never be satisfied, give them a great story and they become inquisitive to know if it’s a true story, fiction or myth; fans of Disney’s Moana aren’t any different in this regard. It is important to know that although the movie uses some fictional devices, it isn’t a mere fiction as some might suppose, neither is it a true life story but a mythology of which several versions exist. The movie, however, pays much significance to the Polynesia version. While the Hawaiians see Maui as a salient figure in the story of creation, the Polynesians see him as one of four sons of a god and a human hence making him a demigod. In the production of the movie, Disney portrays Maui as an abandoned son by his human parents who eventually gets raised by a god.

The movie, however, omits several important characters in the mythology such as Hina (Maui goddess mistress), probably to suit the much younger audience as it is for the same reasons Maui’s violent traits weren’t made conspicuous. That being said it is best to say that Moana is a perfect blend of Polynesian mythology with the right amount of fiction to create a story worth $643.3 million.