Moana and Te Fiti

“I know who you are
Who you truly are”

When a mysterious darkness reaches her island home and destroys the fish and plant life on which her people depend, Moana learns that she must find Maui and take him to return the heart of the creation goddess Te Fiti, which he stole long ago (an example of slow violence), in order to restore ecological health to all the islands. Ultimately Moana discovers that the lava monster Te Kā guarding the resting place of Te Fiti is in fact Te Fiti herself, transformed by rage at the theft of her heart. Instead of their original plan to have Maui defeat Te Kā in battle, Moana gets close enough to return the heart by expressing sympathy and connection with the raging goddess.

Moana encourages young people to think about youth activism, marine conservation, and ecofeminism. In Moana, the ecological disaster manifests like a magical version of marine pollution, but the source and the solution are individual rather than widespread: Maui alone causes the problem, and Moana alone resolves it. The ocean itself, who is an amorphous but slightly anthropomorphized character in the film, chooses Moana to represent it and resolve the ecological crisis. Moana’s choice to resolve the problem through an emotional connection with a traumatized female representation of nature embodies ecofeminist themes. Despite the magical framing, Disney hints that ecological devastation can be caused by unchecked greed for progress, since Maui claims to have stolen the heart so that humans could use it to create new life.

©2021 ClimateLit Emily Midkiff and Sara Austin

Publisher: Disney, 2016

Pages: 103 min.


Audience: Little People (4-7), Questers (8-13)

Format: Films

Topics: Marine Conservation, Slow Violence, Youth Climate Activism, ecofeminism