Origin of the island of Mata-Nui's name? (Speculation)

Many of us are familiar with how Bionicle borrowed many names and titles from the Maori language, and how it stirred up a controversy that was eventually settled. But, I have not heard much about the origin for the name of the island, Mata-Nui. Well, I may have some insight, though this is mostly speculation. So, to start, here’s a little historical context:
I will start in the year 1722. The Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen,was searching for an island known as Davis Island. On his voyage, he came across an island he decided to call “Easter Island”, since he had found it on the 5th of April of that year.
Just hearing that name most likely brings to mind the large Moai, statues, otherwise known as the Easter Island Heads. There’s no doubt that these had an influence on Gen 1, since, on certain areas of the island, massive head sculptures were seen.
Additionally, the island’s current Polynesian name is “Rapa Nui”. So, one might conclude that Lego used the latter part of the name, but kept the same amount of syllables, “Mata Nui”. Plus, it even rhymes a bit.
Well, I hope this was insightful!
Have a great day, fellow Lego fans!


Very Spooki…

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I’m pretty sure Mata nui, like almost all the names at the very start of G1, is simply just Maori words. Essentially, “mata” means “eye” and “nui” means “great”, so “Great eye”. This is meant more a a name for the great spirit, mata nui, than a name for the island.
I mean, Lego used less Maori words in later years, but they always used other languages for names (like how latin had lots of names in glatorian: metus = fear, malum =bad/evil, fero = wild/savage), but in the first year, almost all the names of characters or many objects were maori words, with a few exceptions (turaga and koro are both fijiin words).
Hope that helps.


Mata might have some overlap into “eye” as a meaning in Maori but the Bionicle team was using it as the term “face” - aka mata nui = big face. The island was named first (because it is literally a big face), then the robot followed suit.

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Yeah, I have thought about the Rapa Nui example before; that being said, “Nui” just means “great” or “impressive” in Maori. Interestingly, the idea of the great spirit robot came before the name, back in 1999.

If you look at the Faber Files, a ton of words were Hawaiian, amd Fijian as well.

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Well their a lady in WWI how’s first name is Mata, and Nui is a Maori word.

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I’m positive I saw an actual Mata Nui island on a map before :stuck_out_tongue:

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‘Mata’ also apparently means ‘surface’ in Maori, according to this website. I think it’s the most plausible etymology of the Mata Nui Island’s name (aside from ‘face’, obviously) but it doesn’t really apply to the Great Spirit in any way. However, the site also lists ‘spell, charm, incantation’ as one of the meanings of the word. There’s also a ‘prophetic song’, which is somewhat fitting, considering that prophecies were a prominent theme in the Bionicle story.


Are you referring to a Mata Nui shaped island?

As a curious side note, the writers of the original MNOLG threw in an odd line that seems to be one hundred percent their idea. The line, presumably non-canon, comes from one of the Turaga to Takua, and goes like this:

“Papu and Rangi have great plans for you.”

Anyways, an online Maori dictionary reveals that “Papu” is just a personal name, á la “Jeff”, but “Rangi” means “sky”, “rest” or “heaven”. Were the writers trying to throw some more overt mysticism into the story?

No, an island names Mata Nui.

Papu and Rangi are corruptions of the names for the Maori Mother and Father gods, Ranginui and Papatuanuku. The names were supposed to be edited out of the game around the time the Maori people spoke up to Lego, but a single text file was missed and still mentions them.

People seem to think that they were conceived of by Templar on their own, but I find it far more likely that they were part of the original story as developed by the story team, and were written out/reworked since they are quite clearly taken directly from Maori mythology.

There is not much to speculate.

Mata-Nui translated from Maori means “Face Island” or “Great Face” or “Important Face” or “Many Face”…

And given the fact that it looked like a face even way back in its concept designs, it also was hinting a plot point later in 2008.


Upon doing a little research (using Google Translate, lol), you are correct. :+1: