The wind god of Ata, a low Tongan island. According to legend, the sky god Tamapoulialamafoa sent Laufakanaa down to the earth as the ruler of Ata and the controller of winds. ‘If there is a vessel that has bad winds’, said Tamapoulialamafoa, ‘and men come to you, Laufakanaa, and ask for your aid, then you must give fair winds to that vessel.’ When the Tongans, therefore, had need of perfect sailing conditions, it was customary for sailors to visit Ata and present to Laufakanaa bread cooked with the oil of grated coconut.
Though this offering apparently pleased the wind god, he was never identified with the coconut tree. Instead, the Tongans say, Laufakanaa brought down from heaven and planted on Ata the banana and several edible roots. He is also credited with the invention of the fishing net. His name means ‘speak’, lau, ‘to silence’, fakanaa, and it is interesting in this occupation myth that the Tongans assume the pre-existence of sky and sea. Maui, the trickster hero of Polynesia, fished up numerous islands with a strong fish hook, but others like Ata were thrown down from heaven. The latter were called makafonua, ‘land stones’. A variant, however, does include Ata in the land-fishing of Maui, who hauled it from the sea, jumped ashore, ‘and stamped heavily on the highest mountain. ‘As he stamped, the earth shook, and the mountain crumbled away beneath his feet, and rolled down into the valleys below; till they were filled up to the level on which he stood. This he did to four of the seven hills, leaving the other three untrodden, for he was weary of the work.’.