The Polynesian sea-god, who separated the sky from the earth. He is a son the earth-goddess Papa
, who had so much water in her body that it swelled one day and burst forth, becoming the ocean. He may appear as a huge fish giving birth to all the sea creatures, including mermen and mermaids. From the latter sprang humanity, according to certain myths, so people are really fish who have lost their fish-like appearance. Others say also that human beings were once aquatic, hence their hairlessness. Tangaroa changes regularly into a green lizard, signifying fine weather. He only needs to breath once in 24 hours, so huge is he (this breathing explains the tidal movement).
Tangaroa's brother is Rongo, who is, according to some myths, the same as Maui, the Fisher of Islands, the inventor of sail-ships. In some sculptures, he is shown as the creator out of whose body the creatures emerge, including human beings.
In Tahuata (the Marquesas), he is known as Tanaoa
Some Polynesian and Micronesian sailors secretly keep a piece of brain coral under their seat in the boat. The brain coral represents the sea-god whose help is invoked for a safe crossing.