The Hawaiian Romance Of Laieikawai
Author: Anonymous
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse







This work of translation has been undertaken out of love for the land of Hawaii and for the Hawaiian people. To all those who have generously aided to further the study I wish to express my grateful thanks. I am indebted to the curator and trustees of the Bishop Museum for so kindly placing at my disposal the valuable manuscripts in the museum collection, and to Dr. Brigham, Mr. Stokes, and other members of the museum staff for their help and suggestions, as well as to those scholars of Hawaiian who have patiently answered my questions or lent me valuable material—to Mr. Henry Parker, Mr. Thomas Thrum, Mr. William Rowell, Miss Laura Green, Mr. Stephen Desha, Judge Hazelden of Waiohinu, Mr. Curtis Iaukea, Mr. Edward Lilikalani, and Mrs. Emma Nawahi. Especially am I indebted to Mr. Joseph Emerson, not only for the generous gift of his time but for free access to his entire collection of manuscript notes. My thanks are also due to the hosts and hostesses through whose courtesy I was able to study in the field, and to Miss Ethel Damon for her substantial aid in proof reading. Nor would I forget to record with grateful appreciation those Hawaiian interpreters whose skill and patience made possible the rendering into English of their native romance—Mrs. Pokini Robinson of Maui, Mr. and Mrs. Kamakaiwi of Pahoa, Hawaii, Mrs. Kama and Mrs. Supe of Kalapana, and Mrs. Julia Bowers of Honolulu. I wish also to express my thanks to those scholars in this country who have kindly helped me with their criticism—to Dr. Ashley Thorndike, Dr. W.W. Lawrence, Dr. A.C.L. Brown, and Dr. A.A. Goldenweiser. I am indebted also to Dr. Roland Dixon for bibliographical notes. Above all, thanks are due to Dr. Franz Boas, without whose wise and helpful enthusiasm this study would never have been undertaken.



October, 1917.



I. The book and its writer

II. Nature and the Gods as reflected in the story 1. Polynesian origin of Hawaiian romance 2. Polynesian cosmogony 3. The demigod as hero 4. The earthly paradise; divinity in man and nature 5. The story: its mythical character 6. The story as a reflection of aristocratic social life

III. The art of composition 1. Aristocratic nature of Polynesian art 2. Nomenclature: its emotional value 3. Analogy: its pictorial quality 4. The double meaning; plays on words 5. Constructive elements of style

IV. Conclusions

Persons in the story Action of the story Background of the story

Text and translation

Chapter I. The birth of the Princess[A] II. The flight to Paliuli III. Kauakahialii meets the Princess VI. Aiwohikupua goes to woo the Princess V. The boxing match with Cold-nose VI. The house thatched with bird feathers VII. The Woman of the Mountain VIII. The refusal of the Princess IX. Aiwohikupua deserts his sisters X. The sisters' songs XI. Abandoned in the forest XII. Adoption by the Princess XIII. Hauailiki goes surf riding XIV. The stubbornness of Laieikawai XV. Aiwohikupua meets the guardians of Paliuli XVI. The Great Lizard of Paliuli XVII. The battle between the Dog and the Lizard XVIII. Aiwohikupua's marriage with the Woman of the Mountain XIX. The rivalry of Hina and Poliahu XX. A suitor is found for the Princess XXI. The Rascal of Puna wins the Princess XXII. Waka's revenge XXIII. The Puna Rascal deserts the Princess XXIV. The marriage of the chiefs XXV. The Seer finds the Princess XXVI. The Prophet of God XXVII. A journey to the Heavens XXVIII. The Eyeball-of-the-Sun XXIX. The warning of vengeance XXX. The coming of the Beloved XXXI. The Beloved falls into sin XXXII. The Twin Sister XXXIII. The Woman of Hana XXXIV. The Woman of the Twilight

[Footnote A: The titles of chapters are added for convenience in reference and are not found in the text.]

Notes on the text

Appendix: Abstracts from Hawaiian stories I. Song of Creation, as translated by Liliuokalani II. Chants relating to the origin of the group III. Hawaiian folk tales, romances, or moolelo

Index to references


PLATE 91. A kahuna or native sorcerer 92. In the forests of Puna 93. A Hawaiian paddler 94. Mauna Kea in its mantle of snow 95. A native grass house of the humbler class



The Laieikawai is a Hawaiian romance which recounts the wooing of a native chiefess of high rank and her final deification among the gods. The story was handed down orally from ancient times in the form of a kaao, a narrative rehearsed in prose interspersed with song, in which form old tales are still recited by Hawaiian story-tellers.[1] It was put into writing by a native Hawaiian, Haleole by name, who hoped thus to awaken in his countrymen an interest in genuine native story-telling based upon the folklore of their race and preserving its ancient customs—already fast disappearing since Cook's rediscovery of the group in 1778 opened the way to foreign influence—and by this means to inspire in them old ideals of racial glory. Haleole was born about the time of the death of Kamehameha I, a year or two before the arrival of the first American missionaries and the establishment of the Protestant mission in Hawaii. In 1834 he entered the mission school at Lahainaluna, Maui, where his interest in the ancient history of his people was stimulated and trained under the teaching of Lorrin Andrews, compiler of the Hawaiian dictionary, published in 1865, and Sheldon Dibble, under whose direction David Malo prepared his collection of "Hawaiian Antiquities," and whose History of the Sandwich Islands (1843) is an authentic source for the early history of the mission. Such early Hawaiian writers as Malo, Kamakau, and John Ii were among Haleole's fellow students. After leaving school he became first a teacher, then an editor. In the early sixties he brought out the Laieikawai, first as a serial in the Hawaiian newspaper, the Kuokoa, then, in 1863, in book form.[2] Later, in 1885, two part-Hawaiian editors, Bolster and Meheula, revised and reprinted the story, this time in pamphlet form, together with several other romances culled from Hawaiian journals, as the initial volumes of a series of Hawaiian reprints, a venture which ended in financial failure.[3] The romance of Laieikawai therefore remains the sole piece of Hawaiian, imaginative writing to reach book form. Not only this, but it represents the single composition of a Polynesian mind working upon the material of an old legend and eager to create a genuine national literature. As such it claims a kind of classic interest.

The language, although retaining many old words unfamiliar to the Hawaiian of to-day, and proverbs and expressions whose meaning is now doubtful, is that employed since the time of the reduction of the speech to writing in 1820, and is easily read at the present day. Andrews incorporated the vocabulary of this romance into his dictionary, and in only a few cases is his interpretation to be questioned. The songs, though highly figurative, present few difficulties. So far as the meaning is concerned, therefore, the translation is sufficiently accurate. But as regards style the problem is much more difficult. To convey not only the meaning but exactly the Hawaiian way of seeing things, in such form as to get the spirit of the original, is hardly possible to our language. The brevity of primitive speech must be sacrificed, thus accentuating the tedious repetition of detail—a trait sufficiently characteristic of Hawaiian story-telling. Then, too, common words for which we have but one form, in the original employ a variety of synonyms. "Say" and "see" are conspicuous examples. Other words identical in form convey to the Polynesian mind a variety of ideas according to the connection in which they are used—a play upon words impossible to translate in a foreign idiom. Again, certain relations that the Polynesian conceives with exactness, like those of direction and the relation of the person addressed to the group referred to, are foreign to our own idiom; others, like that of time, which we have more fully developed, the Polynesian recognizes but feebly. In face of these difficulties the translator has reluctantly foregone any effort to heighten the charm of the strange tale by using a fictitious idiom or by condensing and invigorating its deliberation. Haleole wrote his tale painstakingly, at times dramatically, but for the most part concerned for its historic interest. We gather from his own statement and from the breaks in the story that his material may have been collected from different sources. It seems to have been common to incorporate a Laieikawai episode into the popular romances, and of these episodes Haleole may have availed himself. But we shall have something more to say of his sources later; with his particular style we are not concerned. The only reason for presenting the romance complete in all its original dullness and unmodified to foreign taste is with the definite object of showing as nearly as possible from the native angle the genuine Polynesian imagination at work upon its own material, reconstructing in this strange tale of the "Woman of the Twilight" its own objective world, the social interests which regulate its actions and desires, and by this means to portray the actual character of the Polynesian mind.

This exact thing has not before been done for Hawaiian story and I do not recall any considerable romance in a Polynesian tongue so rendered.[4] Admirable collections of the folk tales of Hawaii have been gathered by Thrum, Remy, Daggett, Emerson, and Westervelt, to which should be added the manuscript tales collected by Fornander, translated by John Wise, and now edited by Thrum for the Bishop Museum, from which are drawn the examples accompanying this paper. But in these collections the lengthy recitals which may last several hours in the telling or run for a couple of years as serial in some Hawaiian newspaper are of necessity cut down to a summary narrative, sufficiently suggesting the flavor of the original, but not picturing fully the way in which the image is formed in the mind of the native story-teller. Foreigners and Hawaiians have expended much ingenuity in rendering the mele or chant with exactness,[5] but the much simpler if less important matter of putting into literal English a Hawaiian kaao has never been attempted.

To the text such ethnological notes have been added as are needed to make the context clear. These were collected in the field. Some were gathered directly from the people themselves; others from those who had lived long enough among them to understand their customs; others still from observation of their ways and of the localities mentioned in the story; others are derived from published texts. An index of characters, a brief description of the local background, and an abstract of the story itself prefaces the text; appended to it is a series of abstracts from the Fornander collection, of Hawaiian folk stories, all of which were collected by Judge Fornander in the native tongue and later rendered into English by a native translator. These abstracts illustrate the general character of Hawaiian story-telling, but specific references should be examined in the full text, now being edited by the Bishop Museum. The index to references includes all the Hawaiian material in available form essential to the study of romance, together with the more useful Polynesian material for comparative reference. It by no means comprises a bibliography of the entire subject.

Footnotes to Section I: Introduction

[Footnote 1: Compare the Fijian story quoted by Thomson (p. 6).]

[Footnote 2: Daggett calls the story "a supernatural folklore legend of the fourteenth century," and includes an excellent abstract of the romance, prepared by Dr. W.D. Alexander, in his collection of Hawaiian legends. Andrews says of it (Islander, 1875, p. 27): "We have seen that a Hawaiian Kaao or legend was composed ages ago, recited and kept in memory merely by repetition, until a short time since it was reduced to writing by a Hawaiian and printed, making a duodecimo volume of 220 pages, and that, too, with the poetical parts mostly left out. It is said that this legend took six hours in the recital." In prefacing his dictionary he says: "The Kaao of Laieikawai is almost the only specimen of that species of language which has been laid before the public. Many fine specimens have been printed in the Hawaiian periodicals, but are neither seen nor regarded by the foreign community."]

[Footnote 3: The changes introduced by these editors have not been followed in this edition, except in a few unimportant omissions, but the popular song printed below appears first in its pages:

"Aia Laie-i-ka-wai I ka uka wale la o Pali-uli; O ka nani, o ka nani, Helu ekahi o ia uka.

"E nanea e walea ana paha, I ka leo nahenahe o na manu.

"Kau mai Laie-i-ka-wai I ka eheu la o na manu; O ka nani, o ka nani, Helu ekahi o Pali-uli.

"E nanea, etc.

"Ua lohe paha i ka hone mai, O ka pu lau-i a Malio; Honehone, honehone, Helu ekahi o Hopoe.

"E nanea, etc."

Behold Laieikawai On the uplands of Paliuli; Beautiful, beautiful, The storied one of the uplands.

REF.—Perhaps resting at peace, To the melodious voice of the birds.

Laieikawai rests here On the wings of the birds; Beautiful, beautiful, The storied one of the uplands.

She has heard perhaps the playing Of Malio's ti-leaf trumpet; Playfully, playfully, The storied one of Hopoe.]

[Footnote 4: Dr. N. B. Emerson's rendering of the myth of Pele and Hiiaka quotes only the poetical portions. Her Majesty Queen Liluokalani interested herself in providing a translation of the Laieikawai, and the Hon. Sanford B. Dole secured a partial translation of the story; but neither of these copies has reached the publisher's hands.]

[Footnote 5: The most important of these chants translated from the Hawaiian are the "Song of Creation," prepared by Liliuokalani; the "Song of Kualii," translated by both Lyons and Wise, and the prophetic song beginning "Haui ka lani," translated by Andrews and edited by Dole. To these should be added the important songs cited by Fornander, in full or in part, which relate the origin of the group, and perhaps the name song beginning "The fish ponds of Mana," quoted in Fornander's tale of Lonoikamakahiki, the canoe-chant in Kana, and the wind chants in Pakaa.]



Truly to interpret Hawaiian romance we must realize at the start its relation to the past of that people, to their origin and migrations, their social inheritance, and the kind of physical world to which their experience has been confined. Now, the real body of Hawaiian folklore belongs to no isolated group, but to the whole Polynesian area. From New Zealand through the Tongan, Ellice, Samoan, Society, Rarotongan, Marquesan, and Hawaiian groups, fringing upon the Fijian and the Micronesian, the same physical characteristics, the same language, customs, habits of life prevail; the same arts, the same form of worship, the same gods. And a common stock of tradition has passed from mouth to mouth over the same area. In New Zealand, as in Hawaii, men tell the story of Maui's fishing and the theft of fire.[1] A close comparative study of the tales from each group should reveal local characteristics, but for our purpose the Polynesian race is one, and its common stock of tradition, which at the dispersal and during the subsequent periods of migration was carried as common treasure-trove of the imagination as far as New Zealand on the south and Hawaii on the north, and from the western Fiji to the Marquesas on the east, repeats the same adventures among similar surroundings and colored by the same interests and desires. This means, in the first place, that the race must have developed for a long period of time in some common home of origin before the dispersal came, which sent family groups migrating along the roads of ocean after some fresh land for settlement;[2] in the second place, it reflects a period of long voyaging which brought about interchange of culture between far distant groups.[3] As the Crusades were the great exchange for west European folk stories, so the days of the voyagers were the Polynesian crusading days. The roadway through the seas was traveled by singing bards who carried their tribal songs as a race heritage into the new land of their wanderings. Their inns for hostelry were islets where the boats drew up along the beach and the weary oarsmen grouped about the ovens where their hosts prepared cooked food for feasting. Tales traveled thus from group to group with a readiness which only a common tongue, common interests, and a common delight could foster, coupled with the constant competition of family rivalries.

Hawaiian tradition reflects these days of wandering.[4] A chief vows to wed no woman of his own group but only one fetched from "the land of good women." An ambitious priest seeks overseas a leader of divine ancestry. A chief insulted by his superior leads his followers into exile on some foreign shore. There is exchange of culture-gifts, intermarriage, tribute, war. Romance echoes with the canoe song and the invocation to the confines of Kahiki[5]—this in spite of the fact that intercourse seems to have been long closed between this northern group and its neighbors south and east. When Cook put in first at the island of Kauai, most western of the group, perhaps guided by Spanish charts, perhaps by Tahitian navigators who had preserved the tradition of ancient voyages,[6] for hundreds of years none but chance boats had driven upon its shores.[7] But the old tales remained, fast bedded at the foundation of Hawaiian imaginative literature. As now recited they take the form of chants or of long monotonous recitals like the Laieikawai, which take on the heightened form of poetry only in dialogue or on occasions when the emotional stress requires set song. Episodes are passed along, from one hero cycle to another, localities and names vary, and a fixed form in matter of detail relieves the stretch of invention; in fact, they show exactly the same phenomena of fixing and reshaping, that all story-telling whose object is to please exhibits in transference from mouth to mouth. Nevertheless, they are jealously retentive of incident. The story-teller, generally to be found among the old people of any locality, who can relate the legends as they were handed down to him from the past is known and respected in the community. We find the same story[8] told in New Zealand and in Hawaii scarcely changed, even in name.

Footnotes to Section II, 1: Polynesian Origin of Hawaiian Romance

[Footnote 1: Bastian In Samoanische Schoepfungssage (p. 8) says: "Oceanien (im Zusammenbegriff von Polynesien und Mikronesien) repraesentirt (bei vorlaeufigem Ausschluss von Melanesien schon) einen Flaechenraum, der alles Aehnliche auf dem Globus intellectualis weit uebertrifft (von Hawaii bis Neu-Seeland, von der Oster-Insel bis zu den Marianen), und wenn es sich hier um Inseln handelt durch Meeresweiten getrennt, ist aus solch insularer Differenzirung gerade das Hilfsmittel comparativer Methode geboten fuer die Induction, um dasselbe, wie biologiseh sonst, hier auf psychologischem Arbeitsfelde zur Verwendung zu bringen." Compare: Kraemer, p. 394; Finck, in Royal Scientific Society of Goettingen, 1909.]

[Footnote 2: Lesson says of the Polynesian groups (I, 378): "On sait ... que tous ont, pour loi civile et religieuse, la meme interdiction; que leurs institutions, leurs ceremonies sont semblables; que leurs croyances sont foncierement identiques; qu'ils ont le meme culte, les memes coutumes, les memes usages principaux; qu'ils ont enfin les memes moeurs et les memes traditions. Tout semble donc, a priori, annoncer que, quelque soit leur eloignement les uns des autres, les Polynesiens ont tire d'une meme source cette communaute d'idees et de langage; qu'ils ne sont, par consequent, que les tribus disperses d'une meme nation, et que ces tribus ne se sont separees qu'a une epoque ou la langue et les idees politiques et religieuses de cette nation etaient deja fixees."]

[Footnote 3: Compare: Stair, Old Samoa, p. 271; White, I, 176; Fison, pp. 1, 19; Smith, Hawaiki, p. 123; Lesson, II, 207, 209; Grey, pp. 108-234; Baessler, Neue Suedsee-Bilder, p. 113; Thomson, p. 15.]

[Footnote 4: Lesson (II, 190) enumerates eleven small islands, covering 40 degrees of latitude, scattered between Hawaii and the islands to the south, four showing traces of ancient habitation, which he believes to mark the old route from Hawaii to the islands to the southeast. According to Hawaiian tradition, which is by no means historically accurate, what is called the second migration period to Hawaii seems to have occurred between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries (dated from the arrival of the high priest Paao at Kohala, Hawaii, 18 generations before Kamehameha); to have come from the southeast; to have introduced a sacerdotal system whose priesthood, symbols, and temple structure persisted up to the time of the abandoning of the old faith in 1819. Compare Alexander's History, ch. III; Malo, pp. 25, 323; Lesson, II, 160-169.]

[Footnote 5: Kahiki, in Hawaiian chants, is the term used to designate a "foreign land" in general and does not refer especially to the island of Tahiti in the Society Group.]

[Footnote 6: Lesson, II, 152.]

[Footnote 7: Ibid., 170.]

[Footnote 8: Ibid., 178.]


In theme the body of Polynesian folk tale is not unlike that of other primitive and story-loving people. It includes primitive philosophy—stories of cosmogony and of heroes who shaped the earth; primitive annals—migration stories, tales of culture heroes, of conquest and overrule. There is primitive romances—tales of competition, of vengeance, and of love; primitive wit—of drolls and tricksters; and primitive fear in tales of spirits and the power of ghosts. These divisions are not individual to Polynesia; they belong to universal delight; but the form each takes is shaped and determined by the background, either of real life or of life among the gods, familiar to the Polynesian mind.

The conception of the heavens is purely objective, corresponding, in fact, to Anaxagoras's sketch of the universe. Earth is a plain, walled about far as the horizon, where, according to Hawaiian expression, rise the confines of Kahiki, Kukulu o Kahiki.[1] From this point the heavens are superimposed one upon the other like cones, in number varying in different groups from 8 to 14; below lies the underworld, sometimes divided into two or three worlds ruled by deified ancestors and inhabited by the spirits of the dead, or even by the gods[2]—the whole inclosed from chaos like an egg in a shell.[3] Ordinarily the gods seem to be conceived as inhabiting the heavens. As in other mythologies, heaven and the life the gods live there are merely a reproduction or copy of earth and its ways. In heaven the gods are ranged by rank; in the highest heaven dwells the chief god alone enjoying his supreme right of silence, tabu moe; others inhabit the lower heavens in gradually descending grade corresponding to the social ranks recognized among the Polynesian chiefs on earth. This physical world is again the prototype for the activities of the gods, its multitudinous manifestations representing the forms and forces employed by the myriad gods in making known their presence on earth. They are not these forms themselves, but have them at their disposal, to use as transformation bodies in their appearances on earth, or they may transfer them to their offspring on earth. This is due to the fact that the gods people earth, and from them man is descended. Chiefs rank, in fact, according to their claim to direct descent from the ancient gods.[4]

Just how this came about is not altogether uniformly explained. In the Polynesian creation story[5] three things are significant—a monistic idea of a god existing before creation;[6] a progressive order of creation out of the limitless and chaotic from lower to higher forms, actuated by desire, which is represented by the duality of sex generation in a long line of ancestry through specific pairs of forms from the inanimate world—rocks and earth, plants of land and sea forms—to the animate—fish, insects, reptiles, and birds;[7] and the special analysis of the soul of man into "breath," which constitutes life; "feeling," located in the heart; "desire" in the intestines; and "thought" out of which springs doubt—the whole constituting akamai or "knowledge." In Hawaii the creation story lays emphasis upon progressive sex generation of natural forms.

Individual islands of a group are popularly described as rocks dropped down out of heaven or fished up from below sea as resting places for the gods;[8] or they are named as offspring of the divine ancestors of the group.[9] The idea seems to be that they are a part of the divine fabric, connected in kind with the original source of the race.

Footnotes to Section II, 2: Polynesian Cosmogony

[Footnote 1: In the Polynesian picture of the universe the wall of heaven is conceived as shutting down about each group, so that boats traveling from one group to another "break through" this barrier wall. The Kukulu o Kahiki in Hawaii seems to represent some such confine. Emerson says (in Malo, 30): "Kukulu was a wall or vertical erection such as was supposed to stand at the limits of the horizon and support the dome of heaven." Points of the compass were named accordingly Kukulu hikina, Kukulu komohana, Kukulu hema, Kukulu akau—east, west, south, north. The horizon was called Kukulu-o-ka-honua—"the compass-of-the-earth." The planes inclosed by such confines, on the other hand, are named Kahiki. The circle of the sky which bends upward from the horizon is called Kahiki-ku or "vertical." That through which, the eye travels in reaching the horizon, Kahiki-moe, or "horizontal."]

[Footnote 2: The Rarotongan world of spirits is an underworld. (See Gill's Myths and Songs.) The Hawaiians believed in a subterranean world of the dead divided into two regions, in the upper of which Wakea reigned; in the lower, Milu. Those who had not been sufficiently religious "must lie under the spreading Kou trees of Milu's world, drink its waters and eat lizards and butterflies for food." Traditional points from which the soul took its leap into this underworld are to be found at the northern point of Hawaii, the west end of Maui, the south and the northwest points of Oahu, and, most famous of all, at the mouth of the great Waipio Valley on Hawaii. Compare Thomson's account from Fiji of the "pathway of the shade." p. 119.]

[Footnote 3: White, I, chart; Gill, Myths and Songs, pp. 3, 4; Ellis, III, 168-170.]

[Footnote 4: Gill says of the Hervey Islanders (p. 17 of notes): "The state is conceived of as a long house standing east and west, chiefs from the north and south sides of the island representing left and right; under chiefs the rafters; individuals the leaves of the thatch. These are the counterpart of the actual house (of the gods) in the spirit world." Compare Stair, p. 210.]

[Footnote 5: Bastian, Samoanische Schoepfungs-Sage; Ellis, I, 321; White, vol. I; Turner, Samoa, 3; Gill, Myths and Songs, pp. 1-20; Moerenhout I, 419 et seq.; Liliuokalani, translation of the Hawaiian "Song of Creation"; Dixon, Oceanic Mythology.]

[Footnote 6: Moerenhout translates (I, 419): "He was, Taaroa (Kanaloa) was his name. He dwelt in immensity. Earth was not. Taaroa, called, but nothing responded to him, and, existing alone, he changed himself into the universe. The pivots (axes or orbits), this is Taaroa; the rocks, this is he. Taaroa is the sand, so is he named. Taaroa is the day. Taaroa is the center. Taaroa is the germ. Taaroa is the base. Taaroa is the invincible, who created the universe, the sacred universe, the shell for Taaroa, the life, life of the universe."]

[Footnote 7: Moerenhout, I, 423: "Taaroa slept with the woman called Hina of the sea. Black clouds, white clouds, rain are born. Taaroa slept with the woman of the uplands; the first-germ is born. Afterwards is born all that grows upon the earth. Afterwards is born the mist of the mountain. Afterwards is born the one called strong. Afterwards Is born the woman, the beautiful adorned one," etc.]

[Footnote 8: Grey, pp. 38-45; Kraemer, Samoa Inseln, pp. 395-400; Fison, pp. 139-146; Mariner, I, 228; White, II, 75; Gill, Myths and Songs, p. 48.]

[Footnote 9: In Fornander's collection of origin chants the Hawaiian group is described as the offspring of the ancestors Wakea and Papa, or Hina.]


As natural forms multiplied, so multiplied the gods who wedded and gave them birth. Thus the half-gods were born, the kupua or demigods as distinguished from akua or spirits who are pure divinities.[1] The nature of the Polynesian kupua is well described in the romance of Laieikawai, in Chapter XXIX, when the sisters of Aiwohikupua try to relieve their mistress's fright about marrying a divine one from the heavens. "He is no god—Aole ia he Akua—" they say, "he is a man like us, yet in his nature and appearance godlike. And he was the first-born of us; he was greatly beloved by our parents; to him was given superhuman power—ka mana—which we have not.... Only his taboo rank remains, Therefore fear not; when he comes you will see that he is only a man like us." It is such a character, born of godlike ancestors and inheriting through the favor of this god, or some member of his family group, godlike power or mana, generally in some particular form, who appears as the typical hero of early Hawaiian romance. His rank as a god is gained by competitive tests with a rival kupua/ or with the ancestor from whom he demands recognition and endowment. He has the power of transformation into the shape of some specific animal, object, or physical phenomenon which serves as the "sign" or "body" in which the god presents himself to man, and hence he controls all objects of this class. Not only the heavenly bodies, clouds, storms, and the appearances in the heavens, but perfumes and notes of birds serve to announce his divinity, and special kinds of birds, or fish, or reptiles, or of animals like the rat, pig, or dog, are recognized as peculiarly likely to be the habitation of a god. This is the form in which aumakua, or guardian spirits of a family, appear to watch over the safety of the household they protect.[2]

Besides this power of transformation the kupua has other supernatural gifts, as the power of flight,[3] of contraction and expansion at will, of seeing what is going on at a distance, and of bringing the dead to life. As a man on earth he is often miraculously born or miraculously preserved at birth, which event is heralded by portents in the heavens. He is often brought up by some supernatural guardian, grows with marvelous rapidity, has an enormous appetite—a proof of godlike strain, because only the chief in Polynesian economic life has the resources freely to indulge his animal appetite—and phenomenal beauty or prodigious skill, strength, or subtlety in meeting every competitor. His adventures follow the general type of mythical hero tales. Often he journeys to the heavens to seek some gift of his ancestors, the ingenious fancy keeping always before it an objective picture of this heavenly superstructure—bearing him thither upon a cloud or bird, on the path of a cobweb, a trailing vine, or a rainbow, or swung thither on the tip of a bamboo stalk. Arrived in the region of air, by means of tokens or by name chants, he proves his ancestry and often substantiates his claim in tests of power, ability thus sharing with blood the determining of family values. If his deeds are among men, they are of a marvelous nature. Often his godlike nature is displayed by apparent sloth and indolence on his part, his followers performing miraculous feats while he remains inactive; hence he is reproached for idleness by the unwitting. Sometimes he acts as a transformer, changing the form of mountains and valleys with a step or stroke; sometimes as a culture hero bringing gifts to mankind and teaching them the arts learned from the gods, or supplying food by making great hauls of fish by means of a miraculous hook, or planting rich crops; sometimes he is an avenger, pitting his strength against a rival demigod who has done injury to a relative or patron of his own, or even by tricks outwitting the mischievous akua. Finally, he remains on earth only when, by transgressing some kupua custom or in contest with a superior kupua, he is turned into stone, many rock formations about the islands being thus explained and consequently worshiped as dwelling places of gods. Otherwise he is deified in the heavens, or goes to dwell in the underworld with the gods, from whence he may still direct and inspire his descendants on earth if they worship him, or even at times appear to them again on earth in some objective form.[4]

Footnotes to Section II, 3: The Demigod as Hero

[Footnote 1: Mariner, II, 103; Turner, Nineteen Tears in Polynesia, pp. 238-242; Ibid., Samoa, pp. 23-77; Ellis, I, 334; Gracia, pp. 41-44; Kraemer (Samoa Inseln, p. 22) and Stair (p. 211) distinguished akua as the original gods, aiku as their descendants, the demonic beings who appear in animal forms and act as helpers to man; and kupua as deified human beings.]

[Footnote 2: When a Polynesian invokes a god he prays to the spirit of some dead ancestor who acts as his supernatural helper. A spirit is much stronger than a human being—hence the custom of covering the grave with a great heap of stone or modern masonry to keep down the ghost. Its strength may be increased through prayer and sacrifice, called "feeding" the god. See Fornander's stories of Pumaia, and Nihoalaki. In Fison's story of Mantandua the mother has died of exhaustion in rescuing her child. As he grows up her spirit acts as his supernatural helper, and appears to him in dreams to direct his course. He accordingly achieves prodigies through her aid. In Kuapakaa the boy manages the winds through his grandmother's bones, which he keeps in a calabash. In Pamano, the supernatural helper appears in bird shape. The Fornander stories of Kamapua'a, the pig god, and of Pikoiakaalala, who belongs to the rat family, illustrate the kupua in animal shape. Malo, pp. 113-115. Compare Mariner, II, 87, 100; Ellis, I, 281.]

[Footnote 3: Bird-bodied gods of low grade in the theogony of the heavens act as messengers for the higher gods. In Stair (p. 214) Tuli, the plover, is the bird messenger of Tagaloa. The commonest messenger birds named in Hawaiian stories are the plover, wandering tattler, and turnstone, all migratory from about April to August, and hence naturally fastened upon by the imagination as suitable messengers to lands beyond common ken. Gill (Myths and Songs, p. 35) says that formerly the gods spoke through small land birds, as in the story of Laieikawai's visit to Kauakahialii.]

[Footnote 4: With the stories quoted from Fornander may be compared such wonder tales as are to be found in Kraemer, pp. 108, 116, 121, 413-419; Fison, pp. 32, 49, 99; Grey, p. 59; Turner, Samoa, p. 209; White I, 82, etc.]


For according to the old myth, Sky and Earth were nearer of access in the days when the first gods brought forth their children—the winds, the root plants, trees, and the inhabitants of the sea, but the younger gods rent them apart to give room to walk upright;[1] so gods and men walked together in the early myths, but in the later traditions, called historical, the heavens do actually get pushed farther away from man and the gods retreat thither. The fabulous demigods depart one by one from Hawaii; first the great gods—Kane, Ku, Lono, and Kanaloa; then the demigods, save Pele of the volcano. The supernatural race of the dragons and other beast gods who came from "the shining heavens" to people Hawaii, the gods and goddesses who governed the appearances in the heavens, and the myriad race of divine helpers who dwelt in the tiniest forms of the forest and did in a night the task of months of labor, all those god men who shaped the islands and named their peaks and valleys, rocks, and crevices as they trampled hollows with a spring and thrust their spears through mountains, were superseded by a humaner race of heroes who ruled the islands by subtlety and skill, and instead of climbing the heavens after the fiery drink of the gods or searching the underworld for ancestral hearth fires, voyaged to other groups of islands for courtship or barter. Then even the long voyages ceased and chiefs made adventure out of canoe trips about their own group, never save by night out of sight of land. They set about the care of their property from rival chiefs. Thus constantly in jeopardy from each other, sharpening, too, their observation of what lay directly about them and of the rational way to get on in life, they accepted the limits of a man's power and prayed to the gods, who were their great ancestors, for gifts beyond their reach.[2]

And during this transfer of attention from heaven to earth the objective picture of a paradise in the heavens or of an underworld inhabited by spirits of the dead got mixed up with that of a land of origin on earth, an earthly paradise called Hawaiki or Bulotu or "the lost land of Kane"—a land about which clustered those same wistful longings which men of other races have pictured in their visions of an earthly paradise—the "talking tree of knowledge," the well of life, and plenty without labor.[3] "Thus they dwelt at Paliuli," says Haleole of the sisters' life with Laieikawai, "and while they dwelt there never did they weary of life. Never did they even see the person who prepared their food, nor the food itself save when, at mealtimes, the birds brought them food and cleared away the remnants when they had finished. So Paliuli became to them a land beloved."

Gods and men are, in fact, to the Polynesian mind, one family under different forms, the gods having superior control over certain phenomena, a control which they may impart to their offspring on earth. As he surveys the world about him the Polynesian supposes the signs of the gods who rule the heavens to appear on earth, which formerly they visited, traveling thither as cloud or bird or storm or perfume to effect some marriage alliance or govern mankind. In these forms, or transformed themselves into men, they dwelt on earth and shaped the social customs of mankind. Hence we have in such a romance as the Laieikawai a realistic picture, first, of the activities of the gods in the heavens and on earth, second, of the social ideas and activities of the people among whom the tale is told. The supernatural blends into the natural in exactly the same way as to the Polynesian mind gods relate themselves to men, facts about one being regarded as, even though removed to the heavens, quite as objective as those which belong to the other, and being employed to explain social customs and physical appearances in actual experience. In the light of such story-telling even the Polynesian creation myth may become a literal genealogy, and the dividing line between folklore and traditional history, a mere shift of attention and no actual change in the conception itself of the nature of the material universe and the relations between gods and men.

Footnotes to Section II, 4: The Earthly Paradise

[Footnote 1: Grey, pp. 1-15; White, I, 46; Baessler, Neue Suedsee-Bilder, pp. 244, 245; Gill, Myths and Songs, pp. 58-60.]

[Footnote 2: Compare Kraemer's Samoan story (in Samoa Inseln, p. 413) of the quest after the pearl fishhooks kept by Night and Day in the twofold heavens with the Hawaiian stories collected by Fornander of Aiai and Nihoalaki. Kraemer's story begins:

"Aloalo went to his father To appease Sina's longing; He sent him to the twofold heavens, To his grandparents, Night and Day, To the house whence drops fall spear-shaped, To hear their counsel and return. Aloalo entered the house, Took not the unlucky fishhook, Brought away that of good luck," etc.]

[Footnote 3: Kraemer, Samoa Inseln, pp. 44, 115; Fison, pp. 16, 139-161, 163; Lesson, II, 272, 483 (see index); Mariner, II, 100, 102, 115, et seq.; Moerenhout, I, 432; Gracia, p. 40; Turner, Nineteen Years in Polynesia, p. 237; Gill, Myths and Songs, pp. 152-172.

In Fison's story (p. 139) the gods dwell in Bulotu, "where the sky meets the waters in the climbing path of the sun." The story goes: "In the beginning there was no land save that on which the gods lived; no dry land was there for men to dwell upon; all was sea; the sky covered it above and bounded it on every side. There was neither day nor night, but a mild light shone continually through the sky upon the water, like the shining of the moon when its face is hidden by a white cloud."]


These mythical tales of the gods are reflected in Haleole's romance of Laieikawai. Localized upon Hawaii, it is nevertheless familiar with regions of the heavens. Paliuli, the home of Laieikawai, and Pihanakalani, home of the flute-playing high chief of Kauai, are evidently earthly paradises.[1] Ask a native where either of these places is to be found and he will say, smiling, "In the heavens." The long lists of local place names express the Polynesian interest in local journeyings. The legend of Waiopuka is a modern or at least adapted legend. But the route which the little sister follows to the heavens corresponds with Polynesian cosmogonic conceptions, and is true to ancient stories of the home of the gods.

The action of the story, too, is clearly concerned with a family of demigods. This is more evident if we compare a parallel story translated by Westervelt in "Gods and Ghosts," page 116, which, however confused and fragmentary, is clearly made up of some of the same material as Haleole's version.[2]

The main situation in this story furnishes a close parallel to the Laieikawai A beautiful girl of high rank is taken from her parents and brought up apart in an earthly paradise by a supernatural guardian, Waka, where she is waited upon by birds. A great lizard acts as her protector. She is wedded to a high taboo chief who is fetched thither from the gods, and who later is seduced from his fidelity by the beauty of another woman. This woman of the mountain, Poliahu, though identical in name and nature, plays a minor part in Haleole's story. In other details the stories show discrepancies.[3] It is pretty clear that Haleole's version has suppressed, out of deference to foreign-taught proprieties, the original relationship of brother and sister retained in the Westervelt story. This may be inferred from the fact that other unpublished Hawaiian romances of the same type preserve this relation, and that, according to Hawaiian genealogists, the highest divine rank is ascribed to such a union. Restoring this connection, the story describes the doings of a single family, gods or of godlike descent.[4]

In the Westervelt story, on the whole, the action is treated mythically to explain how things came to be as they are—how the gods peopled the islands, how the hula dances and the lore of the clouds were taught in Hawaii. The reason for the localization is apparent. The deep forests of Puna, long dedicated to the gods, with their singing birds, their forest trees whose leaves dance in the wind, their sweet-scented maile vine, with those fine mists which still perpetually shroud the landscape and give the name Haleohu, House-of-mist, to the district, and above all the rainbows so constantly arching over the land, make an appropriate setting for the activities of some family of demigods. Strange and fairylike as much of the incident appears, allegorical as it seems, upon the face of it, the Polynesian mind observes objectively the activities of nature and of man as if they proceeded from the same sort of consciousness.

So, in Haleole's more naturalistic tale the mythical rendering is inwrought into the style of the narrative. Storm weds Perfume. Their children are the Sun-at-high-noon; a second son, possibly Lightning; twin daughters called after two varieties of the forest vine, ieie, perhaps symbols of Rainbow and Twilight; and five sweet-smelling daughters—the four varieties of maile vine and the scented hala blossom. The first-born son is of such divine character that he dwells highest in the heavens. Noonday, like a bird, bears visitors to his gate, and guards of the shade—Moving-cloud and Great-bright-moon—close it to shut out his brightness. The three regions below him are guarded by maternal uncles and by his father, who never comes near the taboo house, which only his mother shares with him. His signs are those of the rainstorm—thunder, lightning, torrents of "red rain," high seas, and long-continued mists—these he inherits from his father. An ancestress rears Rainbow in the forests of Puna. Birds bear her upon their wings and serve her with abundance of food prepared without labor, and of their golden feathers her royal house is built; sweet-scented vines and blossoms surround her; mists shroud her when she goes abroad. Earthquake guards her dwelling, saves Rainbow from Lightning, who seeks to destroy her, and bears a messenger to fetch the Sun-at-high-noon as bridegroom for the beautiful Rainbow. The Sun god comes to earth and bears Rainbow away with him to the heavens, but later he loves her sister Twilight, follows her to earth, and is doomed to sink into Night.

Footnotes to Section II, 5: The Story: Its Mythical Character

[Footnote 1: As such Paliuli occurs in other Hawaiian folk tales:

1. At Paliuli grew the mythical trees Makali'i, male and female, which have the power to draw fish. The female was cut down and taken to Kailua, Oahu, hence the chant:

"Kupu ka laau ona a Makali'i, O Makali'i, laau Kaulana mai ka pomai."

2. In the Fornander notes from Kepelino and Kamakau, Paliuli is the land given to the first man and is called "hidden land of Kane" and "great land of the gods." 3. In Fornander's story of Kepakailiula, the gods assign Paliuli to be the hero's home. To reach it the party start at second cockcrow from Keaau (as in the Laieikawai) and arrive in the morning. It is "a good land, flat, fertile, filled with many things desired by man." The native apples are as large as breadfruit. They see a pond "lying within the land stocked with all kinds of fish of the sea except the whale and the shark." Here "the sugar cane grew until it lay flat, the hogs until the tusks were long, the chickens until the spurs were long and sharp, and the dogs until their backs were flattened out." They leave Paliuli to travel over Hawaii, and "no man has ever seen it since."

4. In Fornander's story of Kana, Uli, the grandmother of Kana, goes up to Paliuli to dig up the double canoe Kaumaielieli in which Kana is to sail to recover his mother. The chant in which this canoe is described is used to-day by practicers of sorcery to exorcise an enemy.]

[Footnote 2: The gods Kane and Kanaloa, who live in the mountains of Oahu, back of Honolulu, prepare a home for the first-born son of Ku and Hina, whom they send Rainbow to fetch from Nuumealani. The messenger, first gaining the consent of the lizard guardian at Kuaihelani, brings back Child-adopted-by-the-gods to the gods on Oahu. Again Hina bears a child, a daughter. For this girl also the gods send two sister messengers, who bring Paliuli to Waka, where she cares for the birds in the forests of Puna. Here a beautiful home is prepared for the girl and a garden planted with two magical food-producing trees, Makalei, brought from Nuumealani to provide fish and prepared food in abundance. These two children, brother and sister, are the most beautiful pair on earth, and the gods arrange their marriage. Kane precedes the boy, dressed in his lightning body, and the tree people come to dance and sing before Paliuli. Some say that the goddess Laka, patroness of the hula dance, accompanied them. For a time all goes well, then the boy is beguiled by Poliahu (Cold-bosom) on the mountain. Paliuli, aware of her lover's infidelity, sends Waka to bring him back, but Cold-bosom prevents his approach, by spreading the mountain with snow. Paliuli wanders away to Oahu, then to Kauai, learning dances on the way which she teaches to the trees in the forest on her return.

Meanwhile another child is born to Ku and Hina. The lizard guardian draws this lovely girl from the head of Hina, calls her Keaomelemele, Golden-cloud, and sets her to rule the clouds in the Shining-heavens. Among these clouds is Kaonohiokala, the Eyeball-of-the-sun, who knows what is going on at a distance. From the lizard guardian Golden-cloud learns of her sister Paliuli's distress, and she comes to earth to effect a reconciliation. There she learns all the dances that the gods can teach.

Now, Ku and Hina, having learned the lore of the clouds, choose other mates and each, bears a child, one a boy called Kaumailiula, Twilight-resting-in-the-sky, the other a girl named Kaulanaikipokii.

The boy is brought to Oahu, riding in a red canoe befitting a chief, to be Goldencloud's husband. His sister follows with her maidens riding in shells, which they pick up and put in their pockets when they come to land. Ku, Hina, and the lizard family also migrate to Oahu to join the gods, Kane and Kanaloa, for the marriage festival. Thus these early gods came to Oahu.]

[Footnote 3: Although the earthly paradise has the same location in both stories, the name Paliuli in Westervelt's version belongs to the heroine herself. The name of the younger sister, too, who acts no part in this story, appears again in the tale collected by Fornander of Kaulanapokii, where, like the wise little sister of Haleole's story, she is the leader and spokesman of her four Maile sisters, and carries her part as avenger by much more magical means than in Haleole's naturalistic conception. The character who bears the name of Haleole's sungod, Kaonohiokala, plays only an incidental part in Westervelt's story.]

[Footnote 4: First generation: Waka, Kihanuilulumoku, Lanalananuiaimakua.

Second generation: Moanalihaikawaokele, Laukieleula; Mokukeleikahiki and Kaeloikamalama (brothers to Laukieleula).

Third generation: Kaonohiokala m. Laieikawai, Laielohelohe (m. Kekalukaluokewaii), Aiwohikupua, Mailehaiwale, Mailekaluhea, Mailelaulii, Mailepakaha, Kahalaomapuana.]


Such is the bare outline of the myth, but notice how, in humanizing the gods, the action presents a lively picture of the ordinary course of Polynesian life. Such episodes as the concealment of the child to preserve its life, the boxing and surfing contests, all the business of love-making—its jealousies and subterfuges, the sisters to act as go-betweens, the bet at checkers and the Kilu games at night, the marriage cortege and the public festival; love for music, too, especially the wonder and curiosity over a new instrument, and the love of sweet odors; again, the picture of the social group—the daughter of a high chief, mistress of a group of young virgins, in a house apart which is forbidden to men, and attended by an old woman and a humpbacked servant; the chief's establishment with its soothsayers, paddlers, soldiers, executioner, chief counselor, and the group of under chiefs fed at his table; the ceremonial wailing at his reception, the awa drink passed about at the feast, the taboo signs, feather cloak, and wedding paraphernalia, the power over life and death, and the choice among virgins. Then, on the other hand, the wonder and delight of the common people, their curious spying into the chief's affairs, the treacherous paddlers, the different orders of landowners; in the temple, the human sacrifices, prayers, visions; the prophet's search for a patron, his wrestling with the god, his affection for his chief, his desire to be remembered to posterity by the saying "the daughters of Hulumaniani"—all these incidents reflect the course of everyday life in aristocratic Polynesian society and hence belong to the common stock of Hawaiian romance.

Such being the material of Polynesian romance—a world in which gods and men play their part; a world which includes the heavens yet reflects naturalistically the beliefs and customs of everyday life, let us next consider how the style of the story-teller has been shaped by his manner of observing nature and by the social requirements which determine his art—by the world of nature and the world of man. And in the first place let us see under what social conditions Polynesia has gained for itself so high a place, on the whole, among primitive story-telling people for the richness, variety, and beauty of its conceptions.[1]

Polynesian romance reflects its own social world—a world based upon the fundamental conception of social rank. The family tie and the inherited rights and titles derived from it determine a man's place in the community. The families of chiefs claim these rights and titles from the gods who are their ancestors.[2] They consist not only in land and property rights but in certain privileges in administering the affairs of a group, and in certain acknowledged forms of etiquette equivalent to the worship paid to a god. These rights are administered through a system of taboo.[3]

A taboo depends for its force upon the belief that it is divinely ordained and that to break it means to bring down the anger of the gods upon the offender. In the case, therefore, of a violation of taboo, the community forestalls the god's wrath, which might otherwise extend to the whole number, by visiting the punishment directly upon the guilty offender, his family or tribe. But it is always understood that back of the community disapproval is the unappeased challenge of the gods. In the case of the Polynesian taboo, the god himself is represented in the person of the chief, whose divine right none dare challenge and who may enforce obedience within his taboo right, under the penalty of death. The limits of this right are prescribed by grade. Before some chiefs the bystander must prostrate himself, others are too sacred to be touched. So, when a chief dedicates a part of his body to the deity, for an inferior it is taboo; any act of sacrilege will throw the chief into a fury of passion. In the same way tabooed food or property of any kind is held sacred and can not be touched by the inferior. To break a taboo is to challenge a contest of strength—that is, to declare war.

As the basis of the taboo right lay in descent from the gods, lineage was of first importance in the social world. Not that rank was independent of ability—a chief must exhibit capacity who would claim possession of the divine inheritance;[4] he must keep up rigorously the fitting etiquette or be degraded in rank. Yet even a successful warrior, to insure his family title, sought a wife from a superior rank. For this reason women held a comparatively important position in the social framework, and this place is reflected in the folk tales.[5] Many Polynesian romances are, like the Laieikawai, centered about the heroine of the tale. The mother, when she is of higher rank, or the maternal relatives, often protect the child. The virginity of a girl of high rank is guarded, as in the Laieikawai, in order to insure a suitable union.[6] Rank, also, is authority for inbreeding, the highest possible honor being paid to the child of a brother and sister of the highest chief class. Only a degree lower is the offspring of two generations, father and daughter, mother and son, uncle and niece, aunt and nephew being highly honorable alliances.[7]

Two things result as a consequence of the taboo right in the hands of a chief. In the first place, the effort is constantly to keep before his following the exclusive position of the chief and to emphasize in every possible way his divine character as descended from a god. Such is the meaning of the insignia of rank—in Hawaii, the taboo staff which warns men of his neighborhood, the royal feather cloak, the high seat apart in the double canoe, the head of the feast, the special apparel of his followers, the size of his house and of his war canoe, the superior workmanship and decoration of all his equipment, since none but the chief can command the labor for their execution. In the second place, this very effort to aggrandize him above his fellows puts every material advantage in the hands of the chief. The taboo means that he can command, at the community expense, the best of the food supply, the most splendid ornaments, equipment, and clothing. He is further able, again at the community expense, to keep dependent upon himself, because fed at his table, a large following, all held in duty bound to carry out his will. Even the land was, in Hawaii and other Polynesian communities, under the control of the chief, to be redistributed whenever a new chief came into power. The taboo system thus became the means for economic distribution, for the control of the relation between the sexes, and for the preservation of the dignity of the chief class. As such it constituted as powerful an instrument for the control of the labor and wealth of a community and the consequent enjoyment of personal ease and luxury as was ever put into the hands of an organized upper class. It profoundly influenced class distinctions, encouraged exclusiveness and the separation of the upper ranks of society from the lower.[8]

To act as intermediary with his powerful line of ancestors and perform all the ceremonials befitting the rank to which he has attained, the chief employs a priesthood, whose orders and offices are also graded according to the rank into which the priest is born and the patronage he is able to secure for himself.[9] Even though the priest may be, when inspired by his god, for the time being treated like a god and given divine honors, as soon as the possession leaves him he returns to his old rank in the community.[10] Since chief and priest base their pretensions upon the same divine authority, each supports the other, often the one office including the other;[11] the sacerdotal influence is, therefore, while it acts as a check upon the chief, on the whole aristocratic.

The priest represented in Polynesian society what we may call the professional class in our own. Besides conducting religious ceremonials, he consulted the gods on matters of administration and state policy, read the omens, understood medicine, guarded the genealogies and the ancient lore, often acted as panegyrist and debater for the chief. All these powers were his in so far as he was directly inspired by the god who spoke through him as medium to the people.[12]

Footnotes to Section II, 6: The story as a reflection of aristocratic social life

[Footnote 1: J.A. Macculloch (in Childhood of Fiction, p. 2) says, comparing the literary ability of primitive people: "Those who possess the most elaborate and imaginative tales are the Red Indians and Polynesians."]

[Footnote 2: Moerenhout, II, 4, 265.]

[Footnote 3: Gracia (p. 47) says that the taboo consists in the interdict from touching some food or object which, has been dedicated to a god. The chief by his divine descent represents the god. Compare Ellis, IV, 385; Mariner, II, 82, 173; Turner, Samoa, pp. 112, 185; Fison, pp. 1-3; Malo, p. 83; Dibble, p. 12; Moerenhout, I, 528-533. Fornander says of conditions in Hawaii: "The chiefs in the genealogy from Kane were called Ka Hoalii or 'anointed' (poni ia) with the water of Kane (wai-niu-a-Kane) and they became 'divine tabu chiefs' (na lii kapu-akua). Their genealogy is called Iku-pau, because it alone leads up to the beginning of all genealogies. They had two taboo rights, the ordinary taboo of the chiefs (Kapu-alii) and the taboo of the gods (Kapu-akua). The genealogy of the lower ranks of chiefs (he lii noa), on the other hand, was called Iku-nuu. Their power was temporal and they accordingly were entitled only to the ordinary taboo of chiefs (Kapu-alii)."]

[Footnote 4: Compare Kraemer, Samoa Inseln, p. 31; Stair, p. 75; Turner, Samoa, p. 173; White, II, 62, and the Fornander stories of Aukele and of Kila, where capacity, not precedence of birth, determines the hero's rank.]

[Footnote 5: In certain groups inheritance descends on the mother's side only. See Kraemer, op. cit., pp. 15, 39; Mariner, II, 89, 98. Compare Mariner, II, 210-212; Stair, p. 222. In Fison (p. 65) the story of Longapoa, shows what a husband of lower rank may endure from a termagant wife of high rank.]

[Footnote 6: Kraemer (p. 32 et seq.) tells us that in Samoa the daughter of a high chief is brought up with extreme care that she may be given virgin to her husband. She is called taupo, "dove," and, when she comes of age, passes her time with the other girls of her own age in the fale aualuma or "house of the virgins," of whom she assumes the leadership. Into this house, where the girls also sleep at night, no youth dare enter.

Compare Fornander's stories of Kapuaokaoheloai and Hinaaikamalama.

See also Stair, p. 110; Mariner, II, 142, 212; Fison, p. 33.

According to Gracia (p. 62) candidates in the Marquesas for the priesthood are strictly bound to a taboo of chastity.]

[Footnote 7: Rivers, I, 374; Malo, p. 80.

Gracia (p. 41) says that the Marquesan genealogy consists in a long line of gods and goddesses married and representing a genealogy of chiefs. To the thirtieth generation they are brothers and sisters. After this point the relation is no longer observed.]

[Footnote 8: Keaulumoku's description of a Hawaiian chief (Islander, 1875) gives a good idea of the distinction felt between the classes:

"A well-supplied dish is the wooden dish, The high-raftered sleeping-house with shelves; The long eating-house for women. The rushes are spread down, upon them is spread the mat, They lie on their backs, with heads raised in dignity, The fly brushers wave to and fro at the door; the door is shut, the black tapa is drawn up.

"Haste, hide a little in refreshing sleep, dismiss fatigue. They sleep by day in the silence where noise is forbidden. If they sleep two and two, double is their sleep; Enjoyable is the fare of the large-handed man. In parrying the spear the chief is vigorous; the breaking of points is sweet. Delightful is the season of fish, the season of food; when one is filled with fish, when one is filled with food. Thou art satisfied with food, O thou common man, To be satisfied with land is for the chief."

Compare the account of the Fiji chief in Williams and Calvert, I, 33-42.]

[Footnote 9: Stair, p. 220; Gracia, p. 59; Alexander, History, chap. IV; Malo, p. 210. The name used for the priesthood of Hawaii, kahuna, is the same as that applied in the Marquesas, according to Gracia (p. 60), to the order of chanters.]

[Footnote 10: Gracia, p. 46; Mariner, II, 87, 101, 125; Gill, Myths and Songs, pp. 20, 21; Moerenhout, I, 474-482.]

[Footnote 11: Malo, p. 69.]

[Footnote 12: Ellis (III, 36) describes the art of medicine in Polynesia, and Erdland (p. 77) says that on the Marshall Islands knowledge of the stars and weather signs is handed down to a favorite child and can raise rank by attaching a man to the service of a chief.

Compare Mariner, II, 90; Moerenhout, I, 409; Williams and Calvert, I, 111.]



The arts of song and oratory, though practiced by all classes,[1] were considered worthy to be perfected among the chiefs themselves and those who sought their patronage. Of a chief the Polynesian says, "He speaks well."[2] Hawaiian stories tell of heroes famous in the hoopapa, or art of debating; in the hula, or art of dance and song; of chiefs who learned the lore of the heavens and the earth from some supernatural master in order to employ their skill competitively. The oihana haku-mele, or "business of song making," was hence an aristocratic art. The able composer, man or woman, even if of low rank, was sure of patronage as the haku mele, "sorter of songs," for some chief; and his name was attached to the song he composed. A single poet working alone might produce the panegyric; but for the longer and more important songs of occasion a group got together, the theme was proposed and either submitted to a single composer or required line by line from each member of the group. In this way each line as it was composed was offered for criticism lest any ominous allusion creep in to mar the whole by bringing disaster upon the person celebrated, and as it was perfected it was committed to memory by the entire group, thus insuring it against loss. Protective criticism, therefore, and exact transmission were secured by group composition.[3]

Exactness of reproduction was in fact regarded as a proof of divine inspiration. When the chief's sons were trained to recite the genealogical chants, those who were incapable were believed to lack a share in the divine inheritance; they were literally "less gifted" than their brothers.[4]

This distinction accorded to the arts of song and eloquence is due to their actual social value. The mele, or formal poetic chants which record the deeds of heroic ancestors, are of aristocratic origin and belong to the social assets of the family to which they pertain. The claim of an heir to rank depends upon his power to reproduce, letter perfect, his family chants and his "name song," composed to celebrate his birth, and hence exact transmission is a matter of extreme importance. Facility in debate is not only a competitive art, with high stakes attached, but is employed in time of war to shame an enemy,[5] quickness of retort being believed, like quickness of hand, to be a God-given power. Chants in memory of the dead are demanded of each relative at the burial ceremony.[6] Song may be used to disgrace an enemy, to avenge an insult, to predict defeat at arms. It may also be turned to more pleasing purposes—to win back an estranged patron or lover;[7] in the art of love, indeed, song is invaluable to a chief. Ability in learning and language is, therefore, a highly prized chiefly art, respected for its social value and employed to aggrandize rank. How this aristocratic patronage has affected the language of composition will be presently clear.

Footnotes to Section III, 1: Aristocratic Nature of Polynesian Art

[Footnote 1: Jarves says: "Songs and chants were common among all classes, and recited by strolling musicians as panegyrics on occasions of joy, grief, or worship. Through them the knowledge of events in the lives of prominent persons or the annals of the nation were perpetuated. The chief art lay in the formation of short metrical sentences without much regard to the rhythmical terminations. Monosyllables, dissyllables, and trisyllables had each their distinct time. The natives repeat their lessons, orders received, or scraps of ancient song, or extemporize in this monotonous singsong tone for hours together, and in perfect accord."

Compare Ellis's Tour, p. 155.]

[Footnote 2: Moerenhout, I, 411.]

[Footnote 3: Andrews, Islander, 1875, p. 35; Emerson, Unwritten Literature, pp. 27, 38.]

[Footnote 4: In Fornander's story of Lonoikamakahiki, the chief memorizes in a single night a new chant just imported from Kauai so accurately as to establish his property right to the song.]

[Footnote 5: Compare with Ellis, I, 286, and Williams and Calvert, I, 46, 50, the notes on the boxing contest in the text of Laieikawai.]

[Footnote 6: Gill, Myths and Songs, pp. 268 et seq.]

[Footnote 7: See Fornander's stories of Lonoikamakahiki, Halemano, and Kuapakaa.]


The Hawaiian (or Polynesian) composer who would become a successful competitor in the fields of poetry, oratory, or disputation must store up in his memory the rather long series of names for persons, places, objects, or phases of nature which constitute the learning of the aspirant for mastery in the art of expression. He is taught, says one tale, "about everything in the earth and in the heavens"—- that is, their names, their distinguishing characterstics. The classes of objects thus differentiated naturally are determined by the emotional interest attached to them, and this depends upon their social or economic value to the group.

The social value of pedigree and property have encouraged genealogical and geographical enumeration. A long recitation of the genealogies of chiefs provides immense emotional satisfaction and seems in no way to overtax the reciter's memory. Missionaries tell us that "the Hawaiians will commit to memory the genealogical tables given in the Bible, and delight to repeat them as some of the choicest passages in Scripture." Examples of such genealogies are common; it is, in fact, the part of the reciter to preserve the pedigree of his chief in a formal genealogical chant.

Such a series is illustrated in the genealogy embedded in the famous song to aggrandize the family of the famous chief Kualii, which carries back the chiefly line of Hawaii through 26 generations to Wakea and Papa, ancestors of the race.

"Hulihonua the man, Keakahulilani the woman, Laka the man, Kepapaialeka the woman,"

runs the song, the slight variations evidently fitting the sound to the movement of the recitative.

In the eleventh section of the "Song of Creation" the poet says:

She that lived up in the heavens and Piolani, She that was full of enjoyments and lived in the heavens, Lived up there with Kii and became his wife, Brought increase to the world;

and he proceeds to the enumeration of her "increase":

Kamahaina was born a man, Kamamule his brother, Kamaainau was born next, Kamakulua was born, the youngest a woman.

Following this family group come a long series, more than 650 pairs of so-called husbands and wives. After the first 400 or so, the enumeration proceeds by variations upon a single name. We have first some 50 Kupo (dark nights)—"of wandering," "of wrestling," "of littleness," etc.; 60 or more Polo; 50 Liili; at least 60 Alii (chiefs); followed by Mua and Loi in about the same proportion.

At the end of this series we read that—

Storm was born, Tide was born, Crash was born, and also bursts of bubbles. Confusion was born, also rushing, rumbling shaking earth.

So closes the "second night of Wakea," which, it is interesting to note, ends like a charade in the death of Kupololiilialiimualoipo, whose nomenclature has been so vastly accumulating through the 200 or 300 last lines. Notice how the first word Kupo of the series opens and swallows all the other five.

Such recitative and, as it were, symbolic use of genealogical chants occurs over and over again. That the series is often of emotional rather than of historical value is suggested by the wordplays and by the fact that the hero tales do not show what is so characteristic of Icelandic saga—a care to record the ancestry of each character as it is introduced into the story. To be sure, they commonly begin with the names of the father and mother of the hero, and their setting; but in the older mythological tales these are almost invariably Ku and Hina, a convention almost equivalent to the phrase "In the olden time"; but, besides fixing the divine ancestry of the hero, carrying also with it an idea of kinship with those to whom the tale is related, which is not without its emotional value.

Geographical names, although not enumerated to such an extent in any of the tales and songs now accessible, also have an important place in Hawaiian composition. In the Laieikawai 76 places are mentioned by name, most of them for the mere purpose of identifying a route of travel. A popular form of folk tale is the following, told in Waianae, Oahu: "Over in Kahuku lived a high chief, Kaho'alii. He instructed his son 'Fly about Oahu while I chew the awa; before I have emptied it into the cup return to me and rehearse to me all that you have seen.'" The rest of the tale relates the youth's enumeration of the places he has seen on the way.

If we turn to the chants the suggestive use of place names becomes still more apparent. Dr. Hyde tells us (Hawaiian Annual, 1890, p. 79): "In the Hawaiian chant (mele) and dirge (kanikau) the aim seems to be chiefly to enumerate every place associated with the subject, and to give that place some special epithet, either attached to it by commonplace repetition or especially devised for the occasion as being particularly characteristic." An example of this form of reference is to be found in the Kualii chant. We read:

Where is the battle-field Where the warrior is to fight? On the field of Kalena, At Manini, at Hanini, Where was poured the water of the god, By your work at Malamanui, At the heights of Kapapa, at Paupauwela, Where they lean and rest.

In the play upon the words Manini and Hanini we recognize some rhetorical tinkering, but in general the purpose here is to enumerate the actual places famous in Kualii's history.

At other times a place-name is used with allusive interest, the suggested incident being meant, like certain stories alluded to in the Anglo-Saxon "Beowulf," to set off, by comparison or contrast, the present situation. It is important for the poet to know, for example, that the phrase "flowers of Paiahaa" refers to the place on Kau, Hawaii, where love-tokens cast into the sea at a point some 20 or 30 miles distant on the Puna coast, invariably find their way to shore in the current and bring their message to watchful lovers.

A third use of localization conforms exactly to our own sense of description. The Island of Kauai is sometimes visible lying off to the northwest of Oahu. At this side of the island rises the Waianae range topped by the peak Kaala. In old times the port of entry for travelers to Oahu from Kauai was the seacoast village of Waianae. Between it and the village of Waialua runs a great spur of the range, which breaks off abruptly at the sea, into the point Kaena. Kahuku point lies beyond Waialua at the northern extremity of the island. Mokuleia, with its old inland fishpond, is the first village to the west of Waialua. This is the setting for the following lines, again taken from the chant of Kualii, the translation varying only slightly from that edited by Thrum:

O Kauai, Great Kauai, inherited from ancestors, Sitting in the calm of Waianae, A cape is Kaena, Beyond, Kahuku, A misty mountain back, where the winds meet, Kaala, There below sits Waialua, Waialua there, Kahala is a dish for Mokuleia, A fishpond for the shark roasted in ti-leaf, The tail of the shark is Kaena, The shark that goes along below Kauai, Below Kauai, thy land, Kauai O!

The number of such place names to be stored in the reciter's memory is considerable. Not only are they applied in lavish profusion to beach, rock, headland, brook, spring, cave, waterfall, even to an isolated tree of historic interest, and distributed to less clearly marked small land areas to name individual holdings, but, because of the importance of the weather in the fishing and seagoing life of the islander, they are affixed to the winds, the rains, and the surf or "sea" of each locality. All these descriptive appellations the composer must employ to enrich his means of place allusion. Even to-day the Hawaiian editor with a nice sense of emotional values will not, in his obituary notice, speak of a man being missed in his native district, but will express the idea in some such way as this: "Never more will the pleasant Kupuupuu (mist-bearing wind) dampen his brow." The songs of the pleading sisters in the romance of Laieikawai illustrate this conventional usage. In Kualii, the poet wishes to express the idea that all the sea belongs to the god Ku. He therefore enumerates the different kinds of "sea," with their locality—"the sea for surf riding," "the sea for casting the net," "the sea for going naked," "the sea for swimming," "the sea for surf riding sideways," "the sea for tossing up mullet," "the sea for small crabs," "the sea of many harbors," etc.

The most complete example of this kind of enumeration occurs in the chant of Kuapakaa, where the son of the disgraced chief chants to his lord the names of the winds and rains of all the districts about each island in succession, and then, by means of his grandmother's bones in a calabash in the bottom of the canoe (she is the Hawaiian wind-goddess) raises a storm and avenges his father's honor. He sings:

There they are! There they are!! There they are!!! The hard wind of Kohala, The short sharp wind of Kawaihae, The fine mist of Waimea, The wind playing in the cocoanut-leaves of Kekaha, The soft wind of Kiholo, The calm of Kona, The ghost-like wind of Kahaluu, The wind in the hala-tree of Kaawaloa, The moist wind of Kapalilua, The whirlwind of Kau, The mischievous wind of Hoolapa, The dust-driven wind of Maalehu, The smoke-laden wind of Kalauea.

There is no doubt in this enumeration an assertion of power over the forces the reciter calls by name, as a descendant of her who has transmitted to him the magic formula.

Just so the technician in fishing gear, bark-cloth making, or in canoe or house building, the two crafts specially practiced by chiefs, acquires a very minute nomenclature useful to the reciter in word debate or riddling. The classic example in Hawaiian song is the famous canoe-chant, which, in the legend of Kana, Uli uses in preparing the canoe for her grandsons' war expedition against the ravisher of Hina (called the Polynesian Helen of Troy) and which is said to be still employed for exorcism by sorcerers (Kahuna), of whom Uli is the patron divinity. The enumeration begins thus:

It is the double canoe of Kaumaielieli, Keakamilo the outrigger, Halauloa the body, Luu the part under water, Aukuuikalani the bow;

and so on to the names of the cross stick, the lashings, the sails, the bailing cup, the rowers in order, and the seat of each, his paddle, and his "seagoing loin cloth." There is no wordplay perceptible in this chant, but it is doubtful whether the object is to record a historical occurrence or rather to exhibit inspired craftsmanship, the process of enumeration serving as the intellectual test of an inherited gift from the gods.

Besides technical interests, the social and economic life of the people centers close attention upon the plant and animal life about them, as well as upon kinds of stone useful for working. Andrews enumerates 26 varieties of edible seaweed known to the Hawaiians. The reciters avail themselves of these well-known terms, sometimes for quick comparison, often for mere enumeration. It is interesting to see how, in the "Song of Creation," in listing plant and animal life according to its supposed order of birth—first, shellfish, then seaweed and grasses, then fishes and forests plants, then insects, birds, reptiles—wordplay is employed in carrying on the enumeration. We read:

"The Mano (shark) was born, the Moana was born in the sea and swam, The Mau was born, the Maumau was born in the sea and swam, The Nana was born, the Mana was born in the sea and swam."

and so on through Nake and Make, Napa and Nala, Pala and Kala, Paka (eel) and Papa (crab) and twenty-five or thirty other pairs whose signification is in most cases lost if indeed they are not entirely fictitious. Again, 16 fish names are paired with similar names of forest plants; for example:

"The Pahau was born in the sea, Guarded by the Lauhau that grew in the forest."

"The Hee was born and lived in the sea, Guarded by the Walahee that grew in the forest."

Here the relation between the two objects is evidently fixed by the chance likeness of name.

On the whole, the Hawaiian takes little interest in stars. The "canoe-steering star," to be sure, is useful, and the "net of Makalii" (the Pleiads) belongs to a well-known folk tale. But star stories do not appear in Hawaiian collections, and even sun and moon stories are rare, all belonging to the older and more mythical tales. Clouds, however, are very minutely observed, both as weather indicators and in the lore of signs, and appear often in song and story.[1]

Besides differentiating such visible phenomena, the Polynesian also thinks in parts of less readily distinguishable wholes. When we look toward the zenith or toward the horizon we conceive the distance as a whole; the Polynesian divides and names the space much as we divide our globe into zones. We have seen how he conceives a series of heavens above the earth, order in creation, rank in the divisions of men on earth and of gods in heaven. In the passage of time he records how the sun measures the changes from day to night; how the moon marks off the month; how the weather changes determine the seasons for planting and fishing through the year; and, observing the progress of human life from infancy to old age, he names each stage until "the staff rings as you walk, the eyes are dim like a rat's, they pull you along on the mat," or "they bear you in a bag on the back."

Clearly the interest aroused by all this nomenclature is emotional, not rational. There is too much wordplay. Utility certainly plays some part, but the prevailing stimulus is that which bears directly upon the idea of rank, some divine privilege being conceived in the mere act of naming, by which a supernatural power is gained over the object named. The names, as the objects for which they stand, come from the gods. Thus in the story of Pupuhuluena, the culture hero propitiates two fishermen into revealing the names of their food plants and later, by reciting these correctly, tricks the spirits into conceding his right to their possession. Thus he wins tuberous food plants for his people.

For this reason, exactness of knowledge is essential. The god is irritated by mistakes.[2] To mispronounce even casually the name of the remote relative of a chief might cost a man a valuable patron or even life itself. Some chiefs are so sacred that their names are taboo; if it is a word in common use, there is chance of that word dropping out of the language and being replaced by another.

Completeness of enumeration hence has cabalistic value. When the Hawaiian propitiates his gods he concludes with an invocation to the "forty thousand, to the four hundred thousand, to the four thousand"[3] gods, in order that none escape the incantation. Direction is similarly invoked all around the compass. In the art of verbal debate—called hoopapa in Hawaii—the test is to match a rival's series with one exactly parallel in every particular or to add to a whole some undiscovered part.[4] A charm mentioned in folk tale is "to name every word that ends with lau." Certain numbers, too, have a kind of magic finality in themselves; for example, to count off an identical phrase by ten without missing a word is the charm by which Lepe tricks the spirits. In the Kualii, once more, Ku is extolled as the tenth chief and warrior:

The first chief, the second chief, The third chief, the fourth chief, The fifth chief, the sixth chief, The seventh chief, the eighth chief, The ninth, chief, the tenth chief is Ku, Ku who stood, in the path of the rain of the heaven, The first warrior, the second warrior, The third warrior, the fourth warrior, The fifth warrior, the sixth warrior, The seventh warrior, the eighth warrior, The ninth warrior, the tenth warrior Is the Chief who makes the King rub his eyes, The young warrior of all Maui.

And there follows an enumeration of the other nine warriors. A similar use is made of counting-out lines in the famous chant of the "Mirage of Mana" in the story of Lono, evidently with the idea of completing an inclusive series.

Counting-out formulae reappear in story-telling in such repetitive series of incidents as those following the action of the five sisters of the unsuccessful wooer in the Laieikawai story. Here the interest develops, as in the lines from Kualii, an added emotional element, that of climax. The last place is given to the important character. Although everyone is aware that the younger sister is the most competent member of the group, the audience must not be deprived of the pleasure of seeing each one try and fail in turn before the youngest makes the attempt. The story-teller, moreover, varies the incident; he does not exactly follow his formula, which, however, it is interesting to note, is more fixed in the evidently old dialogue part of the story than in the explanatory action.

Story-telling also exhibits how the vital connection felt to exist between a person or object and the name by which it is distinguished, which gives an emotional value to the mere act of naming, is extended further to include scenes with which it is associated. The Hawaiian has a strong place sense, visible in his devotion to scenes familiar to his experience, and this is reflected in his language. In the Laieikawai it appears in the plaints of the five sisters as they recall their native land. In the songs in the Halemano which the lover sings to win his lady and the chant in Lonoikamakahiki with which the disgraced favorite seeks to win back his lord, those places are recalled to mind in which the friends have met hardship together, in order, if possible, to evoke the same emotions of love and loyalty which were theirs under the circumstances described. Hawaiians of all classes, in mourning their dead, will recall vividly in a wailing chant the scenes with which their lost friend has been associated. I remember on a tramp in the hills above Honolulu coming upon the grass hut of a Hawaiian lately released from serving a term for manslaughter. The place commanded a fine view—the sweep of the blue sea, the sharp rugged lines of the coast, the emerald rice patches, the wide-mouthed valleys cutting the roots of the wooded hills. "It is lonely here?" we asked the man. "Aole! maikai keia!" ("No, the view is excellent") he answered.

The ascription of perfection of form to divine influence may explain the Polynesian's strong sense for beauty.[5] The Polynesian sees in nature the sign of the gods. In its lesser as in its more marvelous manifestations—thunder, lightning, tempest, the "red rain," the rainbow, enveloping mist, cloud shapes, sweet odors of plants, so rare in Hawaii, at least, or the notes of birds—he reads an augury of divine indwelling. The romances glow with delight in the startling effect of personal beauty upon the beholder—a beauty seldom described in detail save occasionally by similes from nature. In the Laieikawai the sight of the heroine's beauty creates such an ecstasy in the heart of a mere countryman that he leaves his business to run all about the island heralding his discovery. Dreaming of the beauty of Laieikawai, the young chief feels his heart glow with passion for this "red blossom of Puna" as the fiery volcano scorches the wind that fans across its bosom. A divine hero must select a bride of faultless beauty; the heroine chooses her lover for his physical perfections. Now we can hardly fail to see that in all these cases the delight is intensified by the belief that beauty is godlike and betrays divine rank in its possessor. Rank is tested by perfection of face and form. The recognition of beauty thus becomes regulated by express rules of symmetry and surface. Color, too, is admired according to its social value. Note the delight in red, constantly associated with the accouterments of chiefs.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse