Context: TC is a 22 year old senior at USC, she is also a coworker. T was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii and is really familiar with a lot of legends. During our break at work I decided to ask her about any known legends she’d like to share with me. There were other people in the break room which created the atmosphere of storytelling and interest was sparked among the other individuals. We all gathered around her while people ate their snacks.
YM: So tell me about this legend of Pele
TC: Well I’ve heard different things for the story of Pele, but I tell you the one my grandma use to tell me about
YM: oh yeah ! tell me what you know
TC: okay so there’s this legend about this lady in white who haunts or inhabits this one highway called the Pali Highway…. Uh there many variations of this story, depending on which Hawaiian island. Apparently she is the ancient Hawaiian volcano goddess named Pele. If you are driving down this highway…which is a one lane highway through a dense forest, and very often deserted and you see a lady in white, you are supposed to pick her up and take her wherever she asks to go, otherwise…you’ll have bad luck for the rest of your life? I don’t know … I guess because she owns the land. Also for some reason if you drive down this highway with any pork in your car, your car will break down, unless you throw out the pork. And, do not take lava rocks home. It apparently angers Pele, and there are “stories” of people who have had a lot of bad things happen to them like the loss of a family member or bad accidents.
YM: did your grandma ever tell you why you’re not supposed to take the lava rocks home or about the pork ?
TC: Well she would say that the lava rocks are a creation of Pele the volcano goddess, so I think if you take them you take something that is hers and doesn’t belong to you. But I always thought it was because you take the land of the islands. The entire islands are made from lava. We’ve had our land taken from us so I think it’s symbolic to that and uh Yeah I don’t know about the pork….It was just kinda like a given that you’re just not supposed to do that
YM: wow, interesting. Do you believe in this legend ?
TC: I mean I do and I don’t. I’ve gone through this highway many times and nothing has happened to me, but there are real people from my town who swear things have happened to them. I guess I also see Pele as like a mother or protector of the island so in that sense I kinda do believe in her legend
YM: Yeah I see how she would have a symbolic meaning to you
TC: Yeah I remember being scared as a child but not anymore… I like knowing there’s this woman who is not to be messed with or disrespected and that we should also respect her land
YM: thats awesome
Background info: T shared that her grandmother would always tell stories at the dinner table. The legend of Pele was the most popular throughout the years. She grew up listening to stories about Pele and remember being scared as a child. But as she grew older she realized that it was more about honoring and respecting their goddess rather than fearing her.
Analysis: This legend seems to encourage the people of the islands of Hawaii to honor their Gods. I would believe the fear inflicted in their everyday lives by the lady in white seems to encourage them to respect the mother and protector of their island. This seems to be a religious or otherwise spiritual legend that inclines towards myth. The story is essentially a mythic truth that relates to larger works. In this case it’s the story of the mother and protector of Hawaii. As well as a cosmogenic story of how Hawaii was created. It definitely imbukes meaning and is a sacred narrative that the people of Hawaii should believe in otherwise it will bring you bad juju.