Many of us are familiar with the narrative of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis. In the second and third chapters of Genesis, God tells Adam that he must not eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, or he will die as a consequence (King James Version, Genesis 2.17). The serpent figure, known as Satan in the New Testament, then persuades Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil against God’s command (Revelation 12.9). The serpent tempted Eve by informing her that God withheld the full story, that if she and Adam would eat from the tree, they would not die, but would instead become as gods knowing good and evil (Genesis 3.1-7).
There is another interpretation of the story that many have not heard. In contrast with the Biblical account which paints the serpent as an adversary and a trickster, the alternative view sees him as a symbol who was also good, because he gifted humanity with the knowledge of self and associates with the attainment of immortality (Hall 88). It is a gnostic perspective, and it fundamentally inverts the Genesis account of the fall of man, rendering Satan as the good guy. As we observe and analyze the children’s film, Moana, we will find that there are parallels of the gnostic Genesis account which reveal that Maui, the secondary main character, represents Satan painted as the hero.
We will begin with an overview of the opening prologue which establishes the background of the movie. Notably, the first three words uttered by the narrator happen to be the same first three words of the Bible, “In the beginning” (House, Moana, 00:00:54 – 00:00:57; Genesis 1.1). The narrator establishes that the beginning was a peaceful period when Te Fiti, the mother goddess, used her creative power to bless the whole world. Then came Maui, the most daring of all the demigods, who sought to steal the very source of the goddess’s creative power: the heart of Te Fiti. He stole it in the attempt to gift humanity with “the power to create life itself” (Johnson, Moana, 00:37:46 – 00:38:20). As a consequence, the goddess Te Fiti turned into Te Ka, a “demon of earth and fire,” and caused a sweeping fog of darkness to bring death to the whole world (Moana, 00:02:50 – 00:02:55). The goddess, now in her evil form, struck Maui from the sky and imprisoned him on an island for a thousand years.
Maui Compared to Prometheus
So, we see from the background of the plot that Maui stole the creative power from the goddess so he could selflessly gift it to humanity. We may recall a similar story in the Greek myth of Prometheus when he stole fire from the gods to do the very same thing. According to esoteric author Helena P. Blavatsky, the allegory of the fire of Prometheus was just another version of the serpent Lucifer’s rebellion against God because, like Prometheus, Lucifer (meaning “light-bearer” in Latin) brought the light, or fire (meaning wisdom), to man in the form of the forbidden fruit (237; Hall 68). Mind you, this is the gnostic view of the serpent, not the biblical one.
Man took the Forbidden Fruit, then Came Death into the World
The next aspect of Moana’s back-story is what makes it such an unmistakable parallel with the Book of Genesis. Maui’s act of gifting the heart of Te Fiti resulted in the goddess giving birth to a terrible darkness that brought “inescapable death” (Johnson, Moana, 00:03:44 – 00:03:47). In Genesis, it was not until after Adam and Eve received the knowledge of good and evil that the curse of death came upon them (Genesis 3.17-22). What’s more, Adam and Eve were not the only ones to receive a curse. God confined the serpent to the dust of the earth just as Zeus had Prometheus chained to a rock; and in the film, Maui was imprisoned on a remote island (Genesis 3:14-15; Blavatsky 283; Johnson, Moana, 00:38:05 – 00:38:20).
Maui Compared to Satan
So far, we have looked at the story of Moana and how it parallels with the esoteric interpretation of Genesis and the myth of Prometheus. Aside from noted elements of the back-story, there are several characteristics of the movie’s secondary hero, Maui, that correspond with the attributes of Lucifer, or Satan.
- First of all, Maui is a demigod who prides himself on his good looks. The song that introduces his character contains the lyric, “I know it’s a lot: the hair, the bod! When you’re staring at a demigod” (Johnson, Moana, 00:38:50 – 00:38:58). In the Bible, the fallen angel Lucifer had a heart that grew proud because of his beauty (Ezekiel 28.17).
- Secondly, Maui was said to have been “struck from the sky” at the hand of the goddess (House, Moana, 00:03:02 – 00:03:06). Various passages in the Bible describe Lucifer as “fallen from heaven” and “cast out into the earth” (Isaiah 14:12; Revelation 12:9).
- Thirdly, the narrator of the film dubbed Maui a “trickster” (meaning ‘deceiver’), and Satan is known as the father of lies (House, Moana, 00:01:50 – 00:01:54; Harper; John 8.44).
- Lastly, Maui found himself stuck on a remote island for a thousand years until princess Moana set him loose after which remained a short time for him to defeat Te Ka; otherwise, Moana’s home island would die (Moana). Here, Maui resembles Satan in two ways: (1) Like Maui, Satan was bound for a “thousand years,” and (2) was “loosed [for] a little season” before he went out to deceive the nations, and to gather Gog and Magog to battle. (Revelation 20.3-10).
The Heart of Te Fiti is a Serpentine Stone
If the back-story and character qualities are not convincing enough to indicate that the film reflects the serpent allegory in Genesis, then it is necessary to note one final piece of evidence. To recap, we previously illustrated how Maui’s character corresponds with the fallen angel Lucifer – the serpent. It complements the fact that Maui’s desire to gift the creative god-like power to humans relates to the knowledge of good and evil given to mankind in Genesis. Maui is therefore analogous with the serpent. To further strengthen the claim that Maui represents the Serpent, we need only to examine the sacred stone: the Heart of Te Fiti. The heart of Te Fiti happens to take the form of a small pounamu stone, also known as a greenstone (Roach). A pounamu is a type of ‘serpentine’ rock named for its greenish pattern that resembles the skin of a snake (Keane; Schoennher 35). In the film, when princess Moana retrieved the lost Heart of Te Fiti from the sea, she held in her hands a symbolic serpent stone, containing within it the potential power of creation. It was as God had described Adam after eating from the tree of knowledge, “And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever” (Genesis 3.22). Salvation from death would come to Adam if he ate from the tree of life to undo the curse brought by the serpent. Salvation would come to princess Moana and her people if she would restore the serpentine stone to the Goddess (House, Moana, 00:03:51 – 00:04:08).
Moana is a film that undoubtedly borrows elements from the Book of Genesis and the Greek myth of Prometheus. The evidence presented here, however, suggests it is more than mere cherry picking of random components from the Bible. The evidence of similarities between Genesis and the film illustrates that multiple elements match in sequence, such as the sweeping fog of death following humanity’s introduction to a god-like knowledge, and how that corresponds with the third chapter of Genesis. Furthermore, the background of Moana is not merely a repackaged version of an old Bible story, but rather a reversed creation narrative that flips the antagonist-protagonist relationship between God and Satan. The character traits of the deuteragonist demigod, Maui, relate closely to that of the Bible’s illustration of Satan. And the protagonist nature in which Maui is painted agrees with the esoteric interpretation of the Genesis story in which the serpent is regarded as the hero of humanity.
Blavatsky, Helena P. The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy. Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press, 1888. PDF.
Hall, Manly P. The Secret Teachings of All Ages. San Francisco, CA: H.S. Crocker Company, Inc., 1928. PDF.
Harper, Douglas. trickster (n.). 2018. Web. 15 September 2018. <https://www.etymonline.com/word/trick?ref=etymonline_crossreference#etymonline_v_17813>.
Keane, Basil. Pounamu – several names. 12 June 2006. Web. 8 September 2018. <https://teara.govt.nz/en/pounamu-jade-or-greenstone/page-1>.
Moana. Dirs. Ron Clements, et al. Perf. Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, and Rachel House. Walt Disney Animation Studios. 2016. DVD.
Roach, Vicky. Strong, resourceful, physically confident — is Moana the most evolved Disney princess yet? 10 December 2016. Web. 8 September 2018. <https://www.news.com.au/entertainment/movies/new-movies/strong-resourceful-physically-confident-is-moana-the-most-evolved-disney-princess-yet/news-story/626f5c9226fd6d2bce95846220eaabb5>.
Schoenherr, Allan A. A Natural History of California. 2nd ed. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2017. PDF.
The Holy Bible: King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2017.
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