Author Archives: Maria Gao

Contemporary Legend – Hawaii

“There is an Ancient Hawaiian Goddess named Pele, who’s the Goddess of Volcanoes. She is a very jealous, emotional and bitter type of Goddess. Some say she got chased away from Tahiti and ended up in Hawaii because she seduced her sister’s husband. She can also control lava of any volcano at will and if you upset her she can bring you bad fortune in many different forms.

The way you can tell that it’s her is because she’s clad in all white and her eyes are red. Some people say they have seen her by the side of the road. It’s been rumored that if you don’t pick her up when you see her, she can do horrible things to you. I’ve also heard of this one guy who picked her up once out of fear and when he tried to light a cigarette, she snapped her fingers and the cigarette lit. She won’t talk on the ride and you can’t kick her out because that’ll upset her, she’ll get out when she wants to. With this particular guy, I heard that she eventually got off at a gas station after hours of driving around. I’ve also heard of many guys picking her up at night because she can also take on a very beautiful, seductive form.”

The Informant, a Hawaiian resident of Chinese ethnicity, heard this story when she was in High School. Since Pele is one of the most well known Goddesses in Hawaii, there are many urban legends, myths and ghost stories about her. She is also very deep-rooted in Hawaii’s history because some natives claim that she created Hawaii because she controls the volcanoes. The informant grew up in Hawaii and first learned about Pele in elementary school as a mythical figure. She learned other stories about her later on. These legends and tales are especially popular among campers and at parties.

I think this story is very interesting and has several parallels to the folklore of La Llorona. Just like La Llorona, Pele’s story is one of dangerous feminine power and mystique. It is also centered on betrayal, seduction and taking of different forms. Whereas La lorona is often seen with water, fire and volcano is Pele’s trademark. Similar to the Mexican Goddess, the informant also mentioned that Pele has other gentler forms.  Both figures are very multi-dimensional, popular and invite lots of discussion resulting in tons and tons of variations of the same figure.


Ray, Sondra. Pele’s Wish: Secrets of Hawaiian Masters and Eternal Life. Makawao,

Hawaii: Inner Ocean Publishing, 2005.

Slang – Hawaii

“Ho, that’s choke!”

Woah, that’s a lot.

“Dere get choke kine cars dere.”

There are a lot of cars there.

“Ho you eat choke!”
Woah, you eat a lot!

“Auntie! No get nuts.”

Lady, don’t get crazy.

“You want some dirty lick’ns?”

You want to get your ass kicked?

These quotes are just a small fraction of a form of pidgin known as Hawaiian English. Pidgin is a second language created that is a simplified form of an original language. According to the informant, a Hawaiian resident of Chinese ethnicity, Hawaiian pidgin is widely used and does not discriminate among age, gender, class or location. Any resident of Hawaii would be fit to speak pidgin and there are no specific stereotypes or common traits associated with those who speak and understand it.

Like the examples provided, pidgin can range from full on hard to understand sentences like “Dere get choke kine cars dere,” or one could substitute a word or two with a popular saying like “You want some dirty lick’ns?” Choke means a lot, full of, while dirty lick’ns means a spanking, or butt-kicking. Auntie is used much like the word lady, usually directed to any mid-age female and does not denote any familial relationships like the way we use it here in the States.

Those who can speak pidgin ‘full-out’ and can do so naturally with ease tend to be Hawaiian natives, as explained by the informant, “if an outsider comes to the island trying to speak all out pidgin, it would be kind of funny, but we would know that he or she is trying to be Hawaiian.”

From this, I think it is safe to assume that Hawaiian pidgin is also a form of “rite of passage”. Just like any culture, if you want to be part of the locals and really demonstrate understanding of a language, you’ve got to know the slang. This reminds me of surfer talk, say, if a clean cut preppy boy with a checkered vest comes up to you and says “Duuudeee…. That was freakin AWESOME!”, you would probably laugh because of the displacement. Same with pidgin, if you look like you’re straight out of New York with your metro-style, you’d have a lot of trouble pulling off pidgin compared to some tanned Hawaiian native.

Folk Belief – Oahu, Hawaii

“This one is also about the Goddess of Pele. Since she is the Goddess of Volcanoes and rumored to be the creator of Hawaii islands, all the lava rocks and black sand is said to be a part of her. I’ve heard that it is bad luck to take anything volcano related off of the island. A lot of tourists who didn’t know would take home pieces of lava rock or black sand as souvenirs, but I heard many of them ended up returning whatever they took because bad things would happen to them. Some even wrote apologies to the Goddess asking for forgiveness and there’s some museum displaying things people sent back, there’s even an address to mail back the rocks.”

The informant heard this superstition from many of her friends growing up on the island of Oahu. Stories of the Goddess are popular among local folk culture and this particular superstition is one which many tourists should be aware of. It has also become a tourist tale these days since Hawaiian tour guides will often warn those who step onto Hawaii, “take only those that are given” or “come with nothing, leave with nothing.”

As with all superstitions, I think those that visit the island, who otherwise would’ve openly taken rocks as souvenirs, would probably second guess themselves before leaving with a piece of Hawaii. While it might seem like a harmless action, most of us will eventually falter to our ‘just-in-case’ mentality. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Blessing/Poem – Ireland


Go n-éirí an bóthar leat
Go raibh an ghaoth go brách ag do chúl
Go lonraí an ghrian go te ar d’aghaidh
Go dtite an bháisteach go mín ar do pháirceanna
Agus go mbuailimid le chéile arís,
Go gcoinní Dia i mbos A láimhe thú.

English translation:

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
The sun shine warm upon your face
The rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.

The informant is third generation Irish. He heard many of these traditional Irish folklore genres from his grandmother whose mother came from Ireland, one of twelve kids that was sent to America as a result of the potato famine. He’s seen and heard this prayer “all over the place.” Usually it’d be hung up on ornaments on the door, also used for wedding blessing.

The informant interpreted this blessing within the context of Irish history. Since most of these lines refer to traveling, for example, imagery of nature, the wind, the sun, the rain and the road, he believes the blessing came about as a result of the mass exodus of Irish people from their homeland. Thus, this blessing was probably used numerous times before send offs.

I know I’ve seen this poem/blessing before somewhere, but I never knew it was Irish. This also sounds a lot like something Yeats would write; whom I also did not know was Irish until my informant brought it to my attention. After researching this blessing a bit more, I’ve also realized that a lot of Irish poems start with “may…” and that there are different versions and variations of this same blessing, thus making it Dundes’ definition of a typical folklore.

Legend – Germany

“Alright, a wanderer came into a town called Hameln and told the townspeople there that he would rid the town of all the rats in exchange for a bit of money. The townspeople didn’t believe him and would not give him any money and told him to go away, so he pulled out his pipe, of doom, and began playing a little melody on it and all of a sudden all the rats popped out of their little holes, and started running after the little pipe of doom. He then walked out of the city; the rats followed him and promptly followed him into a river where they drowned their little butts off. As people saw that they were free of the rats, they were really happy but still didn’t pay the dude AKA the wanderer, so he left. Then the townspeople thought they were good. One night, he came back dressed in a cloak and a crazy hat and started playing his pipe again, this time, all the children in all the houses got out of bed and ran off like the rats after the wanderer. He led them into a little cave thing where they disappeared, he did too and the townspeople were really sad but they learned their lesson. “

The informant, a third generation Irish-American, spent a couple of years living in Germany with a host family. He heard this story from his host mother who is “about as German as they come.” It was told to kids to make sure that they don’t use and abuse people, much like a fable with a moral lesson. Stories like this would typically be told to children in Kindergarten. The informant finds this story particularly interesting because he’s been to the town where this legend was supposed to have occurred. The legend was so famous that the town has been preserved in its original state though people still live there like the Amish and has become a tourist attraction because of its ‘authentic’ German look.

Like all legends there are multiple versions of this tale, though most end with children being taken away. In America, the story is called The Pied Piper though amazingly the storyline hasn’t changed much. In German however, the title Rattenfänger literally means the Rat Catcher. Much like what we discussed in class, the town Hemln though kept in its original state, is more a tourist attraction than a real ‘folklore’ setting. This is similar to ‘folk’ music produced in studios, or folklorasmus though it is folk music in digital music, is it really ‘folk’?