The epic tale of Hiiakaikapoliopele
July 29, 2010
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Jealous sister steals sister's boyfriend. Retaliation, trickery, death and rebirth ensue.
And, that's just for starters.
While the plot could be an episode from one of today's steamy soap operas, the story originated thousands of years ago as ancient Hawaiians sought explanations for natural phenomena.
Known as "Ka Moolelo O Hiiakaikapoliopele," or "The Epic Tale of Hiiakaikapoliopele," the plot summarizes the exploits of Hiiaka, the youngest and favorite sister of Pele, goddess of volcanoes.
Dr. Puakea Nogelmier recounted the legend at the Sgt. Yano Library, here, July 22, during his presentation, "Hawaiian Legend Storytelling." The Office of the Native Hawaiian Liaison, and the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, both of the U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, cosponsored the event.
Nogelmier, an associate professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, is a historian and cultural scholar dedicated to the renewal of the Hawaiian language and culture.
One of Nogelmier's academic projects has been the digitization of Hawaiian language newspapers. Missionaries and the government in the Hawaiian Islands first printed Hawaiian language newspapers in 1834. These were eventually replaced by commercial enterprise, and Hawaiian language newspapers ceased publication in 1948 because the Hawaiian-speaking population was shrinking, Nogelmier said.
Commercial papers encouraged readership with daily serialization of literature. Front pages would carry a Hawaiian legend and a "foreign" tale such as Jules Verne's "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea," translated into Hawaiian.
"The daily story would end with something like, 'As the spear was lifted over her, she said...' ending with an editorial note of 'Do buy tomorrow's newspaper,'" Nogelmier said. "That's what kept newspapers commercially viable."
While newspapers had published the Hiiakaikapoliopele story numerous times, Nogelmier chose to translate the serialized version originally published by the Hawaiian language newspaper Ka nai Aupuni in 1906. The English translation eventually swelled to a 500-page typewritten manuscript.
Nogelmier commissioned artwork by a local Hawaiian artist and published the story in 2006 in original Hawaiian and in English.
"'The Epic Tale of Hiiakaikapoliopele" is the epic saga of one of the Hiiaka sisters," Nogelmier said. "Some versions of the tale say that Pele has eight sisters; in other versions, Pele has 20 sisters. But the sisters are all named Hiiaka - Hiiaka In The Low Rising Wave, Hiiaka In The Crashing Wave, Hiiaka In The Glittering Cloud.
"But Pele's favorite sister was the youngest: Hiiakaikapoliopele, which means Hiiaka In The Bosom of Pele," he said.
In Nogelmier's translated version, Hiiaka is almost grown up, but is still considered a girl. The tale begins with Pele looking for a place where she can establish a volcano. When she landed on Oahu, she stomped the ground with her magical rod, but water came up, so she had to leave. Evidence of Pele's visit to Oahu can still be seen in the craters around Makakilo, Salt Lake, Punchbowl and Diamond Head.
Pele finally established a successful place for her and her family to live in the Kilauea Volcano on the island of Hawaii.
"One day, Pele took her family surfing," Nogelmier said. "Pele told Hiiakaikapoliopele, 'I am so sleepy, I have to lay down. I have to sleep, watch over me, and don't let anyone wake me up. I'll wake myself.'
"While sleeping, Pele's spirit heard the sound of hula drums," he said. "Her spirit flew to Hilo. But when she got to Hilo, the drums were not there, but farther away. She kept traveling to different islands. She finally found the hula drums on Kauai, where she met Lohiau, king of Kauai, the most handsome man in the islands."
Pele and Lohiau fell in love and spent time together during her dream journey. Pele returned to Kilauea and sent her most trusted sister, Hiiakaikapoliopele, to bring Lohiau back. Pele also gave Hiiakaikapoliopele her powers.
Hiiakaikapoliopele encountered evil spirits, trickery and treachery during her travels and upon arriving on Kauai, she found Lohiau, who was dead.
"Two mo'o women had taken his spirit out of his body, and put it in a little basket," Nogelmier said. "The mo'o then took the body and buried it in a cave on the cliffs, or pali.
"Mo'o are evil lizard-like women," he said. "The mo'o threw trees and limbs at Hiiakaikapoliopele as she attempted to climb the pali. To get rid of the mo'o, Hiiakaikapoliopele struck them with her magical skirt, blasting them to small pieces."
Hiiakaikapoliopele finally reached the body of Lohiau and restored his life by chanting for 30 days, after which, Hiiakaikapoliopele kissed Lohiau, which Pele saw since she could see everywhere. Pele tried to kill them out of jealousy but only succeeded in covering Lohiau in lava, killing him.
Hiiakaikapoliopele and Pele eventually made a truce. They couldn't live together in the same volcano, but they would love each other. Hiiaka went to Kauai and Pele remained in Kilauea, where she lives to this day.
Learn more about Hawaiian legends in the Hawaiian section at Sgt. Yano Library, Schofield Barracks. To learn more about the Hawaiian culture or learn the hula and the Hawaiian language, attend free, weekly classes sponsored by the Office of the Native Hawaiian Liaison, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii. The office also sponsors a quarterly Distinguished Lecture Series. See MWR Briefs, B-2, for additional details.
Cultural programs, such as those offered by the Office of the Hawaiian Native Liaison, and recreatonal libraries are just some of the ways that the Installation Management Command keeps the Army Covenant promise of providing programs and services for all Soldiers and their families.