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Hawaiian Legends & Myths: Hi`iaka and Pele

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For our very first Blog entry, we would like to honor the Hawaiian Goddess sisters Hi`iakaikapoliopele and Pelehonuamea, in modern times commonly referred to as Hi`iaka and Pele… the legend brought to us by talented writer of Hawaiian myths and legends, Kimo Armitage:

A mo`olelo (story) of Hi`iakaikapoliopele and Pelehonuamea

Hi`iakaikapoliopele is Pelehonuamea’s youngest sister and her closest confidant.  One day, Pelehonuamea tells her sisters, who live with her on the summit of Kilauea, that she would like to sleep and under no circumstances is she to be awakened; however, if Pelehonuamea must tend to an urgent matter, only her favorite sister Hi`iakaikapoliopele may wake her.

pele hawaiian goddess of fire

“Sacred Fire of Pele” by Olga Shevchenko

Pelehonuamea sleeps for several days. Soon the sisters become frightened and want to wake her, but they also fear their older sister, so they pay her to her instructions.

While Pelehonuamea is sleeping, her spirit leaves her body and is drawn to the sound of chanting and merriment on the island of Kaua`i.

When Pelehonuamea nears the source of the chanting, she is immediately attracted to a handsome Hawaiian chief named Lohiauipo. Lohiauipo returns the attention.

For several days, Pelehonuamea and Lohiauipo enjoy each others company, while Hi`iakaikapoliopele dances in the Pandanus groves of Puna with her companion, Hopoe.

After many nights together, Pelehonuamea tells Lohiauipo that she must return to her homeland. Lohiauipo is heartbroken, but Pelehonuamea tells him that she will send someone to bring him to her, and then she disappears into the ocean.

When Pelehonuamea awakens from her spirit-traveling sleep, she summons all of her sisters and tells them about her adventures and her new love, Lohiauipo.  She asks her sisters if one of them could travel to Kaua`i and bring Lohiauipo back to her.  All the sisters decline.  They are afraid of the long journey and the numerous mo’o, lizard-like water creatures who can take the form of Humans.

Hiiaka and the Moo

“Hi`iaka and the Mo`o” by Linda Rowell Stevens

Only the very young, inexperienced, and devoted Hi`iakaikapoliopele agrees to make this journey.  She does so with Pelehonuamea’s promise to guard her beloved forest of lehua trees and her companion Hopoe.

Over the arduous journey, Hi`iakaikapoliopele as many challenges. The first challenge, which is the most deadly, takes place in the forest of Pana`ewa on the island of Hawai`i. Hi`iakaikapoliopele fights the dangerous mo’o named Pana`ewa for whom the forest is named.  She is almost killed, but she uses the sacred skirt and staff given to her by Pelehonuamea to kill Pane`ewa before it kills her.

Hi`iakaikapoliopele experiences many battles on her journey to Kaua`i, and with each battle, she becomes stronger and stronger until she eventually becomes a formidable goddess and is able to exercise the ultimate of godly powers, bringing the dead back to life.

Hi`iakaikapoliopele finds Lohiauipo on Kaua`i but the journey back to Kilauea takes longer than expected.

When Hi`iakaikapoliopele finally returns to Kilauea, she discovers her impatient sister has burned her beloved lehua groves to the ground and killed Hopoe.  Hi`iakaikapoliopele vows revenge.  She digs a hole to connect the ocean to Pelehonuamea’s sacred fires.  Her plan – to extinguish her sister as her sister has extinguished the life of the the fragile Hopoe.

Kilauea Fern

Kilauea fern photo by Kevin McCarthy

The pantheons of gods intervene, realizing that should either sister die, her death would wreak havoc on the natural order of life and growth.  The gods order a truce, and the sisters agree.

After the volcanoes of Pelehonuamea create new land, among the first plants to grow are the beloved lehua tree and ferns of Hi`iakaikapoliopele.  The creation of new land is followed by the growth of new vegetation.  These sister-gods ensure that the life of the land continues.

Source: Akua Hawai`i
Author: Kimo Armitage
Copyright 2005, Bishop Museum

  1. Aubrey Says:

    VERY VERY HELPFUL! Thank you for posting this, I couldn’t find any information about Hi’iaka for my research project! You paraphrased the myth very well, unlike some of the websites I’ve seen, either with too little or too much information! Thanks again!

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