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A single tale might run on for years, as happened in the case of one whose translation I had attempted, only to find that the transcriber had died without bringing the story to a conclusion. Luckily the mother of my interpreter was able to furnish the gist of the ending from her familiarity with the legend as told in the section of the country from which she came. Through the picture given in these recitals the background of old Hawaiian culture may be actually realized. It is that of a people divided into strict classes as chiefs, priests, commoners, and slaves, holding prerogatives according to inherited rank down to their minutest subdivisions, and of land similarly subdivided, parceled out by each district chief to his followers during his own lifetime and returned to his successor for redistribution after his death.

Each such ruling chief represented a family group ohana claiming a divine ancestor of whom he was the oldest male of pure blood in direct descent, or lacking such, the female of highest rank, and through whom he inherited the land rights for his district,. From time to time this orderly system of inherited descent was broken by the usurpation of a popular leader, inferior in blood but ambitious for land and power and encouraged by a discontented faction within the following or by a powerful relative from a neighboring district.

Many of the legends turn upon such a conflict with the old order, in which an adventurer of a younger branch leads a popular revolt. The complete success of the first Kamehameha and his final domination over the group was due not only to unusual strength of character but also to his readiness in adopting foreign ways of warfare and in following the advice of white men salvaged from the crews of looted foreign vessels, by which qualities he proved himself a capable dictator. The express commands of the dying chief, loyal to the old gods under whom he had won victory, were nevertheless powerless to prevent the final overthrow of the old religious system upon which had depended the stability of the social order.

General demoralization had followed the economic changes which took place as a result of the conquest.


Land was redistributed to the victors, old families were dispossessed and their holdings given to warring adventurers. Moreover, for forty years the presence of white strangers and contact with other countries had weakened respect for the old system by which law had been regulated upon religious tapus.

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Young Hawaiians visiting America on whaling ships around the Horn asked for teachers for their people. Almost immediately upon the death of the old chief in the rejection of the eating tapus between men and women took place. In the first missionaries sent out from Boston by the American Board of Missions were allowed to land and to take up their mission of teaching a new faith and imposing the standards of a foreign civilization.

Within a few years after this event the whole nation followed their chiefs in repudiating the national worship and adopting the Christian religion. Social and political changes took western pat-. The uniting of the nation under a single ruler moi as in European countries was followed by the setting up of a constitutional form of government after the American model, the dividing up of lands for individual ownership, and the abolition of the class system.

Chiefs and slaves were alike under the new law of Christian democracy.

Destructive war ceased, however political intrigue might continue. Foreign contacts of this period must certainly have influenced story-telling, especially those traditional narratives which are comparable with Bible incidents like the creation, flood, and fall of man, or episodes also which would have seemed indecent to the foreign listener. Borrowings from southern groups must have occurred, too, after interrelations were again established with neighbors of their own blood.

Hawaiians joined whaling expeditions in very early days, and had intercourse with China and the Northwest Coast. Mexican cowboys were introduced into Hawaii to help in the development of cattle ranches and may have contributed some episodes from their own stock of racy story-telling.

Modern interpolations certainly occurred and are to be recognized in tales collected direct from more than one native narrator and recorded in Hawaiian text. It is likely too that the long novelistic passages which occur in romances published for Hawaiian readers, as well as the handling of dialogue and incident to create a picture of life, are imitated from English models.

It is highly probable that the almost complete absence of cosmic imagination already noticed is due to suppression under the influence of the hard-headed incredulity of the literal-minded English and Americans who became their mentors. But those tales which Hawaiians themselves accept as genuine are easily to be distinguished from the spurious. The strangeness of the concepts to our own culture and their consistency with Polynesian thought prove a minimum of foreign influence.

Many episodes or whole histories correspond with southern types. Only in certain cases is this correspondence so close as to prove a late borrowing. In every case, however recently remodeled, the story is firmly based on native tradition and remains true in detail to native Hawaiian culture. Despite the breakdown of classes, Hawaiians of chief stock take pride today in preserving family genealogies, possibly at times distorted by a desire to aggrandize their claim to rank. Blue blood is still to be recognized in some fine old Hawaiians who do honor, in the dignity of their lives, to their inherited tradition.

Many old Hawaiian chiefs during the first hundred years of foreign contact remained on their holdings in the back country conducting their lives much according to the old pattern, retelling their family tales or those belonging to their own locality, repeating their family chants and genealogies, treasuring their family gods or setting up new gods for immediate protection against want or sorcery. In everything relating to the past the family bond remained sacred.

The old pride of rank did not easily lose its hold upon the imagination. About the places where the old gods walked, where the forefathers dwelt, lingered still their active influence for good or evil; wahi pana storied places they are called. Even today a mere child of the district will point them out. Local entertainers may always be found ready to tell the legend, embellished by a chant at emotional moments to break the monotony of recital.

On the edge of the royal fishponds below Kalihi, in a house built for King Kalakaua, lives David Malo Kupihea, holding among his kindred, who have settled close about him, a position corresponding in humble fashion to the old patriarchal dignity of the past.

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Beyond the soft fringe of overhanging cassias shimmer the surfaces of the ponds outlined in enduring stone, and there are dusty exhalations from neighboring dump-heaps to which the once royal area has been consigned as the creeping population of the city seeks to build up firm land upon the bordering marshes. There Kupihea rules alike over fishponds and dump-heaps. Descended from a long line of sorcery priests of Molokai in the high-chief class, educated in the best English-speaking schools of Honolulu side by side with the children of the newcomers, inheriting from his fathers the office of guardian of the royal fishponds, he keeps his love for the old learning taught by the elders of his own blood, and takes an even emo-.

According to Kupihea the great gods came at different times to Hawaii. Ku and Hina, male and female, were the earliest gods of his people. Kane and Kanaloa came to Hawaii about the time of Maui. Lono seems to have come last and his role to have been principally confined to the celebration of games. At one time he was driven out, according to Kupihea, but he returned later. They were the gods who ruled the ancient people before Kane. That is the tradition of our people. Kane and Kanaloa [arrived there], but not Lono. Some claim that Lono came to Maui. KU and Hina, male or husband kane and female or wife wahine , are invoked as great ancestral gods of heaven and earth who have general control over the fruitfulness of earth and the generations of mankind.

Prayer is addressed to Ku toward the east, to Hina toward the west. Together the two include the whole earth and the heavens from east to west; in a symbol also they include the generations of mankind, both those who are to come and those already born.

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Some kahunas teach a prayer for sickness addressing Ku and Hina, others address Kahikina-o-ka-la The rising of the sun and Komohana-o-ka-la Entering in of the sun. Still others call upon the spirits of descendants and ancestors, praying toward the east to Hina-kua -back as mother of those who are to come, and toward the west to Hina-alo -front for those already born. The prayer to Ku and Hina of those who pluck herbs for medicine emphasizes family relationship as the claim to protection.

Ulukau: Hawaiian mythology

All are children from a single stock, which is Ku. Ku [or Hina], listen! I have come to gather for [naming the sick person] this [naming the plant] which was rooted in Kahiki, spread its rootlets in Kahiki, produced stalk in Kahiki, branched in Kahiki, leafed in Kahiki, budded in Kahiki, blossomed in Kahiki, bore fruit in Kahiki. Life is from you, O God, until he [or she] crawls feebly and totters in extreme old age, until the blossoming time at the end.

Amama, it is freed. Ku is therefore the expression of the male generating power of the first parent by means of which the race is made fertile and reproduces from a single stock.

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Hina is the expression of. AA — Through the woman must all pass into life in this world. The two, Ku and Hina, are hence invoked as inclusive of the whole ancestral line, past and to come. Ku is said to preside over all male spirits gods , Hina over the female. They are national gods, for the whole people lay claim to their protection as children descended from a single stock in the ancient homeland of Kahiki.

The idea of Ku and Hina as an expression of common parentage has had an influence upon fiction, where hero or heroine is likely to be represented as child of Ku and Hina, implying a claim to high birth much like that of the prince and princess of our own fairy tales. It enters into folk conceptions. A slab-shaped or pointed stone pohaku which stands upright is called male, pohaku-o-Kane; a flat papa or rounded stone is called female, papa-o-Hina or pohaku-o-Hina, and the two are believed to produce stone children.

So the upright breadfruit ulu tree is male and is called ulu-ku; the low, spreading tree whose branches lean over is ulu-ha-papa and is regarded as female.

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These distinctions arise from analogy, in the shape of the breadfruit blossom and of the rock forms, with the sexual organs, an analogy from which Hawaiian symbolism largely derives and the male expression of which is doubtless to be recognized in the conception of the creator god, Kane.

The universal character of Ku as a god worshiped to produce good crops, good fishing, long life, and family and national prosperity for a whole people is illustrated in a prayer quoted by J. Emerson as one commonly used to secure a prosperous year:.