Hiʻiakaikapoliopele as orature


I. He aha ka mea ʻē aʻe? How is orature different from literature?


• One author
• Composed over a short time span – a few years, perhaps
• One original version
• Written down by the author
• Transmitted by institutions (libraries, schools, publishers, bookstores, Amazon.com)
• Intended for a solitary (one-by-one) audience
• Intended to be silently read
• Tone / voice communicated through text
• No need for mnemonic devices — the text is not intended to be memorized
• Intended for an audience that does not know the story
• May have social value, or may serve an individual purpose related to the psychology of one person
• Created by and for people who live in a text-based world, who rely on books (or computers) as external memory – in one sense, as crutches.


√ Many authors
√ Many versions
√ Composed / altered / developed over many generations
√ Transmitted through families or small groups / villages
√ Intended for a group audience
√ Intended to be performed
√ Tone / voice communicated through performance
√ Mnemonic devices (recurring phrases, repeated passages)
√ Intended for an audience that already knows the story
√ Memorized and passed down orally
√ Serves a social purpose / function necessary to the survival or well-being of the group
√ Created by and for people who relied on memory to a much greater extent that we do now, and who were capable of memorizing extended works.

II. He mau mana’o no ke ʻano no Hiʻiakaikapoliopele. Some thoughts about the nature of Hiʻiakaikapoliopele

∆ Names often suggest nature and attributes: Hiʻiakaikapoliopele, Wahineōmaʻo, Lohiʻau.
∆ The traveling companions of Hiʻiaka are separate characters but they are also aspects of her own nature.
∆ Hiʻiaka herself is an aspect of Pele. Thus, Hiʻiaka, Wahineōmaʻo and Pāʻūopalae are all aspects of Pele, as are all the rest of her ʻohana.
∆ The moʻolelo is both an adventure story and a religious treatise on the nature of Pele as a goddess and on the correct ways to worship her — and on the dangers of not acknowledging her supremacy.
∆ Many (but not all) of the conflicts are with moʻo. Fire and water don’t mix in this moʻolelo.
∆ Some of the deeper meaning of this moʻolelo is located inside the mele.
∆ Much of the meaning is communicated or reinforced through a symbolic language of place references. Places mentioned would have evoked other mele and moʻolelo known to the audience, which would have added additional layers of meaning and kaona.
∆ In this moʻolelo (and in Hawaiian orature in general) words have power. Words, especially in the form of chant, can give life and take it away. In battle, they can be used as weapons.
∆ At least some of the episodes and adventures in the mo’olelo are actual historical events. Some of the main characters refer to real people. Hiʻiakaikapoliopele (like many other works of orature) recounts history, but in a symbolic form.

III. He mau nīnau no ke ʻano no Hiʻiakaikapoliopele. Some questions about the nature of Hiʻiakaikapoliopele.

  1. What does the moʻolelo reveal about the nature and power of Pele as a goddess?
  2. Much of the moʻolelo deals with relationships within the Pele ʻohana. What comment does it make about the reciprocal obligations and responsibilities within ʻall ʻohana? (You need to read the end before you can really answer this question)
  3. What does the moʻolelo reveal about relations – in general – between men and women? Among women?
  4. Aside from being born a moʻo, what are the ways one can irritate Hiʻiaka and get killed in this moʻolelo?
  5. What is the role / function of Wahineōmaʻo in the moʻolelo? What is her nature?
  6. What are the attributes and powers of Hiʻiaka at the beginning of the journey and at the end? How does Hiʻiaka change in the course of the journey?
  7. Aside from fetching Lohiʻau, what are the several purposes of the journey?
  8. What does the moʻolelo reveal about the Pele ʻohana and its relationship with the rest of the society, and especially with other ʻohana such as moʻo and pueo?

Finally, the most important question (at least in this course):
IV. Aia i hea ka poʻe e like me ka ʻāina? What is the relationship between humans and the land in Hiʻiakaikapoliopele?

(Here’s a big hint:)

Today, as a result of the cultural diversity of our island community, island residents look at the natural and cultural resources around them in different ways and apply different values to them. In the Hawaiian context, these values— the “sense of place”—have developed over hundreds of generations of evolving “cultural attachment” to the natural, physical, and spiritual environments. In any culturally sensitive discussion on land use in Hawai‘i, one must understand that Hawaiian culture evolved in close partnership with its’ natural environment. Thus, Hawaiian culture does not have a clear dividing line of where culture ends and nature begins.

In a traditional Hawaiian context, nature and culture are one and the same, there is no division between the two. The wealth and limitations of the land and ocean resources gave birth to, and shaped the Hawaiian world view. The ʻāina (land), wai (water), kai (ocean), and lewa (sky) were the foundation of life and the source of the spiritual relationship between people and their environs. Hawaiian moʻolelo, or traditions express the attachment felt between the Hawaiian people and the earth around them. In Hawaiian culture, natural and cultural resources are one and the same. Native traditions describe the formation (literally the birth) of the Hawaiian Islands and the presence of life on, and around them, in the context of genealogical accounts. All forms of the natural environment—from the skies and mountain peaks, to the watered valleys and plains, to the shore line and ocean depths—were the embodiments of Hawaiian gods and deities.

— from Mālama pono i ka ʻāina – an overview of the Hawaiiian cultural landscape, by Kepā Maly, cultural historian and resource specialist

given the manaʻo above, question IV might be better phrased in this way:

V. ʻAuhea ka manaʻo? If characters within Hiʻiakaikapoliopele, as akua, embody aspects of the natural world, in which passages and in what ways is this connection made clear? Your assignment is to pick three passages from the Oʻahu section of the journey and to use them as illustrations as you answer this question.