Call It Courage Questions and Answers
by Armstrong Sperry

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What event makes Mafatu question if he is still the boy who was afraid in Call It Courage?

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Mafatu is presented as having been fearful ever since his mother died in a hurricane. In particular, he fears the sea, which presents a real problem because his people journey long distances in their boats. The other boys mock his fear, and he realizes that he must get beyond it. The sea is identified as a god, Moana, and Mafatu determines to conquer this god. Accompanied by his dog and his albatross, he sets out in a canoe, which later gets wrecked on a coral reef. Mafatu realizes that it is the site of ritual sacrifices, and when he happens upon an altar, he forces himself to touch the idol that sits atop it. This is the first significant step in proving to himself that he has courage.

Mafatu begins the process of building a new canoe but meanwhile builds a raft with which to reach the fish traps he will set offshore. He also makes a knife out of whalebone. One day when he is out on the raft, he sees a hammerhead shark robbing his traps, and his dog is swept off the raft by a huge wave. To save the dog, Mafatu dives into the water and stabs the shark repeatedly, killing it. They both regain the raft, and as they return to shore, he realizes what happened.

He had killed the ma'o with his own hand, with naught but a bone knife. He could never have done it for himself. Fear would have robbed his arm of all strength. He had done it for Uri, his dog. And he felt suddenly humble, with gratitude.

A few days later, on another outing to the reef, Mafatu is finally feeling that the sea is his element. However, he drops his knife into the water and now feels defenseless. He can see it lying on the sand but must dive deeper than he ever has before. Contemplating doing so, he wonders if he has truly changed.

Mafatu drew a deep breath. How could he abandon his knife? Would Maui (the thought chilled him) think him a coward? Was he still Mafatu, the Boy Who Was Afraid?

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