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Pele and Hiiaka : a myth from Hawaii online

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A Myth From Hawaii

.' By


Author of The Long Voyages of the Ancient Hawaiians, and of

Unwritten Literature of Hawaii, Translator of

David Malo's Hawaiian Antiquities


l^ottolulu ^[email protected] ICtmttPlt


Copyright, 1915, by

Published March, 1915.






Pele and Hiiaka — A Myth V


[HE story of Pele and her sister Hiiaka stands at the
fountain-head of Hawaiian myth and is the matrix
from which the unwritten hterature of Hawaii drew
its life-blood. The material for the elaboration of
this story has, in part, been found in serial contributions to the
Hawaiian newspapers during the last few decades ; in part, gath-
ered by interviews with the men and women of the older regime,
in whose memory it has been stored and, again, in part, it has
been supplied by papers solicited from intelligent Hawaiians.
The information contained in the notes has been extracted by
viva voce appeal to Hawaiians themselves. These last two sour-
ces of information will soon be no longer available.

Merely as a story, this myth of Pele and her kindred may be
deemed to have no compelling merit that should attract one to
its reading. The cycle of world-myth already gathered from the
rising to the setting of the sun, from the north pole to the south
pole, is quite vast enough, and far in excess of the power of any
one scholar to master and digest. It contains enough pretty
stories, in all conscience, to satisfy the demands of the whole
raft of storiologists and penny-a-liners, ever on the alert to cram
the public with new sensations, without making it necessary to
levy upon Hawaii for her little contribution.

It is not from a disposition to pander to any such appetite that
the writer has drudged through many long years in collecting and
giving literary shape to the material herein presented. The peo-
ple who settled the Hawaiian group of islands are recognized
as having occupied a unique station, one so far removed from
the center and vortex of Polynesian activity as to enable them
to cast a highly important side-light on many of the problems
yet unsolved, that are of interest to ethnologists and philologists
and that still enshroud the Polynesian race.

Hawaii rejoiced in a Kamehameha, who, with a strong hand,
welded its discordant political elements into one body and made
of it a nation. But it was denied a Homer capable of voicing
its greatest epic in one song. The myth of the volcanic queen,
like every other important Hawaiian myth, has been handled by
many poets and raconteurs, each from his own point of view,
influenced, no doubt, by local environment ; but there never stood

VI Pele and Hiiaka — A Myth

forth one singer with the supreme power to symphonize the jar-
ring notes and combine them into one concordant whole. This
fact is a tribute to the independent attitude of Hawaii's geo-
graphical units as well as to its scattered minstrelsy.

This book does not offer itself as a complete history of Pele ;
it does not even assume to present all the oli, mele, and pule that
deal with the great name of Pele. There were important events
in her life that will receive but incidental mention. Of such is
the story of Pele's relations with the swine-god Kama-pua'a. As
indicated in the title, the author confines his attention almost
wholly to the story of Pele's relations with Prince Lohiau of
Haena, in which the girl Hiiaka became involved as an accessory.

It was inevitable that such a myth as that of Pele should draw
to it and, like an ocean-reef, become the stranding ground of a
great mass of flotsam and jetsam poetry and story. Especially
was this true of those passional fragments of Hawaiian mele and
oli, which, without this, would not easily have found a concrete
object to which they might attach themselves.

It matters not whether the poet-philosopher, deep pondering
on the hot things of love, hit upon Pele as the most striking and
appropriate character to serve his purpose and to wear his gar-
ment of passionate song and story, or, whether his mind, working
more objectively, took Nature's suggestion and came to realize
that, in the wild play of the volcanic forces, he had exemplified
before him a mighty parable of tempestuous love. Certain it is
that the volcano was antecedent to the poet and his musings,
and it seems more reasonable to suppose that from it came
the first suggestion and that his mind, as by a flash of inspira-
tion, began its subjective work as the result of what he saw
going on before his eyes.

The Hawaiian to whose memory was committed the keeping
of an old time mele regarded it as a sacred trust, to be transmit-
ted in its integrity; and he was inclined to look upon every dif-
ferent and contradictory version of that mele as, in a sense, an
infringement of his preserve, a desecration of that sacred thing
which had been entrusted to him. It resulted from this that such
a thing as a company of haku-mele (poets or song-makers) con-
ferring together for the purpose of settling upon one authorita-
tive version of a historic mele was an impossibility.

It is a misfortune when the myth-cycle of any people or country
is invaded for exploitation by that class of writers whose sole
object is to pander, or cater — to use a softer term — to the public

Pele and Hiiaka — A Myth VII

taste for novelty and sensation, before that cycle has been can-
vassed and reported upon by students who approach it in a
truthful yet sympathetic spirit. In other words : plain exposition
should come before sensational exploitation. To reverse the
order would be as undesirable as to have Munchausen gain the
ear of the public before Mungo Park, Livingston, Stanley, Cook,
or Vancouver had blazed the way and taken their observations.

Fortunately for Hawaii, the spirit of the times has set its face
like a flint against this sort of sensation-mongering, and if a
Munchausen were now to claim the public ear he would have
the searchlight of scientific investigation turned upon him as
pitilessly as it was done in the case of an alleged claim to the
discovery of the north pole.

It is a satisfaction to the author, after having accomplished
his pioneer work of opening up a new domain, to bid the public
enter in and enjoy the delicious lehua parks once claimed by the
girl Hiiaka as her own ; and he can assure them that there yet
remain many coverts that are full of charm which are to this
day unravaged by the fires of Pele.

Thanks, many thanks, are due from the author — and from us
all — to the men and women of Hawaiian birth whose tenacious
memories have served as the custodians of the material herein
set forth, but who have ungrudgingly made us welcome to these
remainder biscuits of mythological song and story, which, but
for them, would have been swallowed up in the grave, unvoiced
and unrecorded.


Pele and Hiiaka — A Myth IX


CCORDING to Hawaiian myth, Pele, the volcanic
fire-queen and the chief architect of the Hawaiian
group, was a foreigner, born in the mystical land of
Kuai-he-lani, a land not rooted and anchored to one
spot, but that floated free like the Fata Morgana, and that showed
itself at times to the eyes of mystics, poets and seers, a garden
land, clad with the living glory of trees and habitations — a vision
to warm the imagination. The region was known as Kahiki
(Kukulu o Kahiki), a name that connotes Java and that is asso-
ciated with the Asiatic cradle of the Polynesian race.

Pele's mother was Haumea, a name that crops up as an ances-
tor in the hoary antiquity of the Hawaiian people, and she was
reputed to be the daughter of Kane-hoa-lani.

Pele was ambitious from childhood and from the earliest age
made it her practice to stick close to her mother's fireplace in
company with the fire-keeper Lono-makua, ever watchful of
his actions, studious of his methods — an apprenticeship well fit-
ted to serve her in g;ood stead such time as she was to become
Hawaii's volcanic fire-queen. This conduct drew upon Pele the
suspicion and illwill of her elder sister Na-maka-o-ka-ha'i, a sea-
goddess, who, fathoming the latent ambition of Pele, could not
fail to perceive that its attainment would result in great commo-
tion and disturbance in their home-land.

Her fears and prognostications proved true. Namaka, return-
ing from one of her expeditions across the sea, found that Pele,
taking advantage of her absence, had erupted a fiery deluge and
smothered a portion of the home-land with aa.

It would have gone hard with Pele ; but mother Haumea bade
her take refuge in the fold ( pola) of Ka-moho-alii's malo. Now
this elder brother of Pele was a deity of great power and author-
ity, a terrible character, hedged about with tabus that restricted
and made difficult the approach of his enemies. Such a refuge
could only be temporary, and safety was to be assured only by
Pele's removal from her home in the South land, and that meant
flight. It was accomplished in the famed mythical canoe Honua-

The company was a distinguished one, including such godlike
beings as Ka-moho-alii, Kane-apua, Kane-milo-hai and many

X Pele and Hiiaka — A Myth

other relations of Pele, the youngest, but not the least important,
of whom was the girl Hiiaka, destined to be the heroine of the
story here unfolded and of whom it was said that she was born
into the world as a clot of blood out of the posterior fontanelle
(nunoi) of her mother Haumea, the other sisters having been
delivered through the natural passage.

The sailing course taken by Pele's company brought them to
some point northwest of Hawaii, along that line of islets, reefs,
and shoals which tail off from Hawaii as does the train of a
comet from its nucleus. At Moku-papapa Pele located her bro-
ther Kane-milo-hai, as if to hold the place for her or to build
it up into fitness for human residence, for it was little more than
a reef. Her next stop was at the little rock of Nihoa that lifts
its head some eight hundred feet above the ocean. Here she
made trial with the divining rod Paoa, but the result being un-
favorable, she passed on to the insignificant islet of Lehua which
clings like a limpet to the flank of Niihau. In spite of its small-
ness and unfitness for residence, Pele was moved to crown the
rock with a wreath of kau-no'a, while Hiiaka contributed a chap-
let of lehua which she took from her own neck, thus christening
it for all time. The poet details the itinerary of the voyage in
the following graphic lines:

Ke Kaao a Pele i Haawi ia Ka-moho-alii i k\
Haalele ana I a Kahiki

Ku makou e hele me ku'u mau poki'i aloha,

Ka aina a makou i ike ole ai malalo aku nei,

A'e makou me ku'u poki'i, kau i ka wa'a ;

No'iau ka hoe a Ka-moho-alii ;

A'ea'e, kau i ka nalu —

He nalu haki kakala.

He nalu e imi ana i ka aina e hiki aku ai.

O Nihoa ka aina a makou i pae mua aku ai :

Lele a'e nei makou, kau i uka o Nihoa.

O ka hana no a ko'u poki'i, a Kane-apua,

O ka hooili i ka ihu o ka wa'a a nou i ke kai :

Waiho anei o Ka-moho-alii ia Kane-apua i uka o Nihoa.

No'iau ka hoe a Ka-moho-alii

A pae i ka aina i kapa ia o Lehua.

Pele and Hiiaka — A Myth XI


Pele's Account to Kamohoalii of the Departure
FROM Kahiki

We stood to sail with my kindred beloved

To an unknown land below the horizon;

We boarded — my kinsmen and I — our craft,

Our pilot well skilled, Ka-moho-alii.

Our craft o'ermounted and mastered the waves;

The sea was rough and choppy, but the waves

Bore us surely on to our destined shore —

The rock Nihoa, the first land we touched;

Gladly we landed and climbed up its cliffs.

Fault of the youngster, Kane-apua,

He loaded the bow till it ducked in the waves ;

Ka-moho-alii marooned the lad.

Left the boy on the islet Nihoa

And, pilot well skilled, he sailed away

Till we found the land we christened Lehua.

When they had crowned the desolate rock with song and
wreath, Ka-moho-alii would have steered for Niihau, but Pele,
in a spasm of tenderness that smiles like an oasis in her life, ex-
claimed, ''How I pity our little brother who journeyed with us
till now !" At this Ka-moho-alii turned the prow of the canoe in
the direction of Nihoa and they rescued Kane-apua from his
seagirt prison. Let the poet tell the story:

Hui (a) iho nei ka wa'a a Ka-moho-alii

E kii ana i ko lakou pokii, ia Kane-apua, i Nihoa.

Pili aku nei ka wa'a o Ka-moho-alii i uka nei o Nihoa,

Kahea aku nei i ko lakou pokii, ia Kane-apua,

E kau aku ma ka pola o ka wa'a.

Hui iho nei ka ihu o ka wa'a o Ka-moho-alii —

He wa'a e holo ana i Niihau,

Kau aku nei o Ka-moho-alii i ka laau, he paoa, (b)

ia) Hui, an elided form of huli, the I being dropped.

(6) Paoa. One Hawaiian says tiiis should be pahoa. (Paulo Hokii.)

The Paoa mentioned in verse eight was a divining rod used to determine
the suitability of any spot for Pele's excavations. The land must be proof
against the entrance of sea water. It also served as a spade in excavating
for a volcanic crater.

When a suitable place was finally discovered on Hawaii, the Paoa staff
was planted in Panaewa and became a living tree, multiplying itself until
it was a forest. The writer's informant says that it is a tree known to
the present generation of men. "I have seen sticks cut from it," said he,
"but not the living tree itself."

XII Pele and Hiiaka — A Myth

E imi ana i ko lakou aina e noho ai, o Kauai:

Aole na'e i loa'a.

Kau mai la o Ka-moho-alii i ka laau, he paoa;

O Ahu (c) ka aina.

la ka ana iho nei o lakou i Alia-pa'akai,

Aole na'e he aina.


Ka-moho-alii turned his canoe

To rescue lad Kane from Nihoa.

Anon the craft lies off Nihoa's coast ;

They shout to the lad, to Kane-apua,

Come aboard, rest with us on the pola. (d)

Ka-moho-alii turns now his prow,

He will steer for the fertile Niihau.

He sets out the wizard staff Paoa,

To test if Kauai's to be their home ;

But they found it not there.

Once more the captain sails on with the rod,

To try if Oahu's the wished for land :

They thrust in the staff at Salt Lake Crater,

But that proved not the land of their promise.

Arrived at Oahu, Ka-moho-alii, who still had Pele in his
keeping, left the canoe in charge of Holoholo-kai and, with the
rest of the party, continued the journey by land. The witchery of
the Paoa was appealed to from time to time, as at Alia-pa'akai,
Puowaena (Punchbowl Hill), Leahi (Diamond Head), and lastly
at Makapu'u Point, but nowhere with a satisfactory response.
(The words of Pele in the second verse of the kaao next to be
given lead one to infer that she must for a time have entertained
the thought that they had found the desired haven at Pele-ula —
a small land-division within the limits of the present city of
Honolulu.) Let the poet tell the story:

Ke ku nei makou e imi kahi e noho ai

A loa'a ma Pele-ula:

O Kapo-ula-kina'u ka wahine ;

(c) O Ahu. The particle o Is not yet joined to its substantive, as in
Oahu, the form we now have.

(d) Pola, the raised platform in the waist of the canoe, a place of honor.

Pele and Hiiaka — A Myth XIII

A loa'a i ka lae kapu o Maka-pu'u.

Ilaila pau ke kuleana;

Imi ia Kane-hoa-lani,

A loa'a i ka lae o Maka-hana-loa. —

He loa ka uka o Puna:

Elua kaua i ke kapa hookahi.

Akahi au a ike — haupu man, walohia wale:

E Kane-hoa-lani, e-e !

E Kane-hoa-lani, e-e !

Aloha kaua !

Kau ka hoku hookahi, hele i ke ala loa !

Aloha kama kuku kapa a ka wahine !

He wahine lohiau, nana i ka makani;

He makani lohiau, haupu mai oloko!


We went to seek for a biding" place,

And found it, we thought, in Pele-ula —

Dame Kapo — she of the red-pied robe —

Found it in the sacred cape, Maka-pu'u ;

The limit that of our journey by land.

We looked then for Kane-hoa-lani

And found him at Maka-hana-loa.

Far away are the uplands of Puna ;

One girdle still serves for you and for me.

Never till now such yearning, such sadness !

Where art thou, Kane-hoa-lani?

O Father Kane, where art thou ?

Hail to thee, O Father, and hail to me !

When rose the pilot-star we sailed away.

Hail, girl who beats out tapa for women —

The home-coming wife who watches the wind,

The haunting wind that searches the house !

The survey of Oahu completed, and Kamoho-alii having re-
sumed command of the canoe, Pele uttered her farewell and they
voyaged on to the cluster of islands of which Maui is the center:

Aloha, Oahu, e-e !

E huli ana makou i ka aina mamua aku,

Kahi a makou e noho ai.

XIV Pele and Hiiaka — A Myth


Farewell to thee, Oahu !

We press on to lands beyond,

In search of a homing place.

Repeated trial with the divining rod, Paoa, made on the west-
ern part of Maui as well as on the adjoining islands of Molokai
and Lanai proving unsatisfactory, Pele moved on to the explora-
tion of the noble form of Hale-a-ka-la that domes East Maui, with
fine hope and promise of success. But here again she was dis-
satisfied with the result. She had not yet delivered herself
from the necessity of protection by her kinsman, Ka-moho-alii :
"One girdle yet serves for you and for me," was the note that
still rang out as a confession of dependence, in her song.

While Pele was engaged in her operations in the crater of
Hale-a-ka-la, her inveterate enemy Na-maka-o-ka-ha'i, who had
trailed her all the way from Kahiki with the persistency of a
sea-wolf, appeared in the offing, accompanied by a sea-dragon
named Ha-ui.

The story relates that, as Na-maka-o-ka-ha'i passed the sand-
spit of Moku-papapa, Kane-milo-hai, who, it will be remembered,
had been left there in charge as the agent of Pele, hailed her with
the question: "Where are you going so fast?"

"To destroy my enemy, to destroy Pele," was her answer.

"Return to Kahiki, lest you yourself be destroyed," was the
advice of Kane-milo-hai.

Pele, accepting the gage thrown down by Na-maka-o-kaha'i,
with the reluctant consent of her guardian Ka-moho-alii, went
into battle single-handed. The contest was terrific. The sea-
monster, aided by her dragon consort, was seemingly victorious.
Dismembered parts of Pele's body were cast up at Kahiki-nui,
where they are still pointed out as the bones of Pele {na iivi o
Pele.) (She was only bruised). Ka-moho-alii was dismayed
thinking Pele to have been destroyed; — but, looking across the
Ale-nui-haha channel, he saw the spirit-form of Pele flaming in
the heavens above the summits of Mauna-loa and Mauna-kea.
As for Na-maka-o-ka-ha'i, she retired from the battle exultant,
thinking that her enemy Pele was done for : but when she re-
ported her victory to Kane-milo-hai, that friend of Pele pointed
to the spirit body of Pele glowing in the heavens as proof that
she was mistaken. Namaka was enraged at the sight and would

Pele and Hiiaka — A Myth XV

have turned back to renew the conflict, but Kane-milo-hai dis-
suaded her from this foolhardy undertaking, saying, "She is
invincible ; she has become a spirit."

The search for a home-site still went on. Even Hale-a-ka-la
was not found to be acceptable to Pele's fastidious taste. Ac-
cording to one account it proved to be so large that Pele found
herself unable to keep it warm. Pele, a goddess now, accordingly
bade adieu to Maui and its clustering isles and moved on to

He Kaao na Pele, i Haalele ai ia Maui

Aloha o Maui, aloha, e!
Aloha o Moloka'i, aloha, e!
Aloha o Lana'i, aloha, e !
Aloha o Kaho'olawe, aloha, e !
Ku makou e hele, e!

Hawaii ka ka aina

A makou e noho ai a mau loa aku ;

Ke ala ho'i a makou i hiki mai ai.

He ala paoa ole ko Ka-moho-alii,

Ko Pele, ko Kane-milo-hai, ko Kane-apua,

Ko Hiiaka — ka no'iau — i ka poli o Pele,

1 hiki mai ai.


Pele's Farewell to Maui

Farewell to thee, Maui, farewell!
Farewell to thee, Moloka'i, farewell !
Farewell to thee, Lana'i, farewell !
Farewell to thee, Kaho'olawe, farewell!
We stand all girded for travel:
Hawaii, it seems, is the land
On which we shall dwell evermore.
The route by which we came hither
Touched lands not the choice of Paoa; —
'Twas the route of Ka-moho-alii,
Of Pele and Kane-milo-hai,
Route traveled by Kane-apua, and by
Hiiaka, the wise, the darling of Pele.

Pele and her company landed on Hawaii at Pua-ko, a desolate

XVI Pele and Hiiaka — A Myth

spot between Kawaihae and Kailua. Thence they journeyed
inland until they came to a place which they named Moku-aweo-
weo — not the site of the present crater of that name, but — situ-
ated where yawns the vast caldera of Kilauea. It was at the
suggestion of Ku-moku-halii and Keawe-nui-kau of Hilo that
the name was conferred. They also gave the name Mauna-loa
to the mountain mass that faced them on the west, "because,"
said they, "our journey was long."

Night fell and they slept. In the morning, when the elepaio
uttered its note, they rose and used the Paoa staff. The omens
were favorable, and Pele decided that this was the place for her
to establish a permanent home.

The people immediately began to set out many plants valuable
for food ; among them a variety of kalo called aweii, well suited
for upland growth; the ulu {brcad-frivit) ; the maia (banana);
the pala-a (an edible fern); the awa {Piper methysticum) and
other useful plants.

The land on the Hilo side of Kilauea, being in the rain belt,
is fertile and well fitted for tillage. The statement, however,
that Kilauea, or its vicinity, became the place of settlement for
any considerable number of people cannot be taken literally.
The climatic conditions about Kilauea are too harsh and untropi-
cal to allow either the people or the food plants of Polynesia to
feel at home in it. The probability is that instead of being gath-
ered about Kilauea, they made their homes in the fat lands of
lower Puna or Hilo.

Pele, on her human side at least, was dependent for support
and physical comfort upon the fruits of the earth and the climatic
conditions that made up her environment. Yet with all this, in
the narrative that follows her relations to humanity are of that
exceptional character that straddle, as it were, that border line
which separates the human from the superhuman, but for the
most part occupy the region to the other side of that line, the
region into which if men and women of this work-a-day world
pass they find themselves uncertain whether the beings with
whom they converse are bodied like themselves or made up of
some insubstantial essence and liable to dissolve and vanish at
the touch.

Pele and Hiiaka — A Myth 1


Once, when Pele was living in the pit of Kilauea, she roused
up from her couch on the rough hearth-plate and said to her
sisters, "Let us make an excursion to the ocean and enjoy our-
selves, open the opihi shells and sea-urchins, hunt for small squid
and gather sea-moss."

To this all joyfully assented, saying, "Yes, let us go."

The sisters formed quite a procession as they tramped the nar-
row downhill path until they came to the hill Pu'u-Pahoehoe — a
place in the lower lands of Puna. Pele herself did not visibly
accompany them on this journey; that was not according to her
custom: she had other ways and means of travel than to plod
along a dusty road. When, however, the party arrived at the
rendezvous, there, sure enough, they found Pele awaiting them,
ready for the business in hand.

In the midst of their pleasurings Pele caught sight of Hopoe
and Haena as they were indulging in an al fresco dance and hav-
ing a good time by the Puna sea. She was greatly pleased and,
turning to her sisters, said, "Come, haven't you also got some
dance that you can show ofif in return for this entertainment by
Hopoe and her companion?"

They all hung their heads and said, "We have no hula."

Hiiaka, the youngest, had stayed behind to gather lehua flowers,
and when she came along laden with wreaths, Pele said to her,
jestingly, "I've just been proposing to your sisters here to dance
a hula in response to that of Hopoe and her fellow, but they de-
cline, saying they have not the art. I suppose it's of no use to
ask you, you are so small ; but, perhaps, you've got a bit of a

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