Author Archives: Sierra Chinn-Liu

Why Māui Snared the Sun

A long time ago, the days were very short because the sun, Kalā, raced across the sky as he pleased. There were just a few hours of daylight before the lazy moon crept slowly across the darkness. There was only a little day and a very long night. At that time of the short days and long dark nights, there was a beautiful woman named Hina who lived on the island of Hawaii in a cave behind Rainbow falls. Hina was known for the fine kapa cloth she made from the bark of wauke and māmaki trees. Hina’s handiwork was prized in the community for making kihei, malo for the men, and a’u for the women. But because Kala raced through the sky, refusing to share his light and warmth, Hina didn’t have enough time in the day to dry her kapa. Now, the sun’s behavior wasn’t just a problem for Hina; fishermen didn’t have enough time in the day to catch enough to feed their families, farmers’ crops couldn’t grow without sunlight, and fruit wouldn’t ripen on the trees. Everyone was suffering. Hina had four sons, and the youngest was named Māui. He was a clever boy, quick and strong. Hina knew her youngest child was special, but Māui was only beginning to suspect he was capable of many wondrous things…

After so much time watching his mother struggle with her work and run out of time to dry her beautiful kapa, Māui decided he would be the one to capture Kalā and make him promise to slow down…

Māui started up the rough and steep slopes of the great mountain Haleakalā. It was a long, cold, and difficult journey. He was weary, and doubt slowly started creeping into his mind. Many times he thought about turning back and leaving things the way they were. But the thought of his mother and her hard work pushed him through the night and he realized that there was no journey back. He had to make things pono. He had to confront the mighty Kalā…

When he finally reached the summit of Haleakalā, Maui battled Kalā for his attention and with his special coconut fiber rope and stone adze from his mother, he snared Kalā and forced him to listen…

Māui and Kalā had a long talk about community and responsibility and the great honor in doing one’s work properly…

They agreed that during the summertime Kalā would travel more slowly across the sky to help the people of the world but that he could make his daily journey faster during the winter months so that he, and everyone else, could have more sleep. Kala kept his promise. Soon, crops were flourishing as they never had before. People had enough daylight hours to do their work and everyone enjoyed health and abundance; a great relief after all that suffering. Hina was finally able to dry her kapa properly, which meant that the cloth was even more refined and able to hold rich colors and intricate patterns. She made Māui special kapa clothing, the most beautiful that anyone had ever seen in all of Hawaii. Māui had many other great adventures, but this was probably his bravest deed—especially since he was a young man at the time. Māui distinguished himself as a great hero and a brave man by helping his mother with her laundry. But you see, everyone has responsibilities; Kalā’s kuleana was to bring light and warmth to all living things so the world could grow and thrive. He quickly learned to care about every plant and animal and person in the world. Because of this he became quite proud of his work and did it the best he could. He did it with honor and aloha.

How did you come across this folklore: “through research, these are favorite legends from my collection because I collect and shares mo`olelo/stories from the Hawaiian islands.”Other information: “These are well known folk tales/legends passed down from generations and written in the Hawaiian newspapers and several collections.”This story is often referred to as one of the “legends of Māui,” but this should be considered as more of a folk tale for its format and truth value relationship to people in the islands. It can also be considered as fitting into the myth genre, because it is using these kinds of characters and tales to explain the workings of the world (for example, the deal between Māui and Kalā aligning with/explaining the seasons). And the story is used to dictate behavior; people aspire to be brave, strong, heroic, and selfless like Māui, regardless of the truth/reality of the story itself.

For another version of this, see the book, Maui, How It Came to Be.

Kyselka, Will, and Ray E. Lanterman. Maui, How It Came to Be. Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 1980. Print.

“Pele: The Fire Goddess”

There was a time, in the mysterious past of these islands, when the very air was peopled with the spirits of the departed and a thin veil divided the living from the dead; the natural from the supernatural, and mortals were made the sport of the elements and the playthings of the gods. This was the period when Pele came to us as a foreigner, born in the mystical land of Kuaihelani, a land not rooted or anchored to any one spot. Having traveled many thousands of miles in search of a suitable abode, she decided to settle in the fiery pit of Halema’uma’u, in the crater of Kilauea on the island of Hawaii.

One day, in the guise of an old, emaciated, gray-haired woman, walking with the aid of a twisted coffee wood stick, she left her home to seek repose and sleep beneath the spreading hala tree at Puna. Before leaving, she instructed her family and slaves not to awaken her under any condition, no matter how long she slept. Sleep had barely overcome her when she heard the sound of distant drums. Pele’s curiosity was aroused, and assuming her spiritual form, she resolved to follow the sound.

Leaving her slumbering, earthly body, Pele mounted the air and proceeded in the direction of the sound. She followed it from island to island, until she had reached the beach of Ka’ena on the island of Kaua’i. Hovering over the place unseen, she observed the drum was a pa’u, a dance drum, beaten by Loheau, the handsome young prince of Kaua’i. Loheau was noted for his lavish entertainments, participated in by the most noted and beautiful women of the island. Assuming the form of a woman of great beauty and grace, with every feminine charm at her command, Pele suddenly appeared before the festive throne. The prince graciously invited her to a seat near him, where she could best witness the entertainment. Glancing at the stranger from time to time, Loheau the prince became so fascinated with Pele that he yielded the pa’u to another and seated himself beside the enchantress.

Gazing into her eyes with a devouring passion, Loheau smilingly said, “I love beautiful women. Can I convince you?”

Pele, with a play of modesty, answered: “Loheau is in his own kingdom and has but to command.”

Thus, Pele became the wife of Loheau. For a few days, they loved and lived so happily together, that life seemed a dream to the prince. But the time came for Pele’s return to Puna. Pledging him to remain true to her, she left with vows of affection and the promise of a speedy return. Pele mounted on the wings of the wind and was wafted back to the shores of Puna, and shade of the spreading Hala tree. There, her spirit entered her slumbering earthly body, and she returned home.

Loheau was inconsolable over Pele’s absence and as months passed, he refused food and eventually died of grief. An old kaula, or priest, who had seen Pele at Ka’ena, and noted her actions, told the people that the strange beautiful and unknown woman who Loheau had taken as a wife, was an immortal who had become attached to her earthly husband and had called his spirit to her. For that reason, the body of Loheau must lie in state until the return of his spirit.

On leaving Kaua’i, Pele never expected or particularly desired to see the prince again. But he had so endeared himself to her during their brief marriage, that she could not forget him. After struggling with her feelings, she resolved to send for him. But whom could she entrust to the important mission? Pele appealed to her sisters and brothers, but knowing the way was beset with evil spirits, they refused to go. Pele then sent for her youngest and most favorite sister, Hi’iaka.

Arrangements were made for the immediate departure. Pele conferred on Hi’iaka some of her own powers, with an injunction to use them discreetly. On arrival Hi’iaka saw the spirit-hand of Loheau, beckoning to her from the mouth of the cliffs. Turning to her companion, she said, “the lover of Pele is dead. I see his spirit, beckoning from the pali.” Leaving her companions, Hi’iaka alone descended the cliff, and entering the cave, found the spirit of Loheau hidden in a niche. Taking it tenderly in her hand, she enclosed it in a fold of her gown, and in an invisible form, floated down with it. Waiting for nightfall, Hi’iaka entered the chamber of death unseen and with the supernatural powers that Pele had given her, she restored the spirit to the earthly body of Loheau and he became a living mortal. It was not long before his recovery was celebrated and sacrifices made to the gods. Soon after, Loheau announced to his people that he was leaving to visit his wife, Pele, on the island of Hawaii.

In a magnificent double canoe bearing the royal and priestly standards, Loheau set sail for Hawaii with Hi’iaka and Hopoi. Loheau, fascinated with the beauty and gentleness of Hopoi, he began to fall in love with her. Hi’iaka gave little attention to the romance between Loheau and Hopoi. Pele grew impatient at Hi’iaka’s long absence and suspicious of her sister having fallen in love with the prince, prepared for an eruption. It was averted when the winds of Ke’au’au, carrying the true message to Pele, that although Loheau had been untrue to her, he had taken unto himself Hopoi, not Hi’iaka. In a rage of jealousy, Pele appeared before Loheau and punished him by throwing him over the cliff into the sea below. Loheau called to Hopoi from his watery grave. Grief striken, Hopoi threw herself over the cliff. Instantly, the lovers were transformed into two huge rocks. At low tide, Hopoi and Loheau can be seen to this day, lying side by side.

Prince Loheau was Pele’s one and only love. In her jealous rage and punishment of Loheau, she had killed his spirit and earthly body at the same instant, losing him forever. Upon Hi’iaka’s return, a consultation was held in the crater by all the gods under the watchful eyes of the seven rainbows. Pele announced that she was again free and could resume her role as fire goddess and reign supreme over all her domain. Down thousands of feet below the pit, lava started to boil. The land about began to tremble. The entire surroundings took on a crimson glow, fountains of fiery lava rose high into the air. Those who were present whispered in awe: There is Pele.

Casting aside her cloak of molten lava, Pele displayed herself as the ever-glorious fire goddess with all the flame of youth, beauty, and passion. She knows all: she has been, is, and will be. She is the deity most respected, and at the same time, most dreaded.

*Also, it is well known in Hawaii to not remove anything from a natural place, especially a volcanic site because that is where Pele lives. If you steal from her or vandalize her home, she will come after you… if you take a rock without permission, or litter on the grounds, consider yourself cursed. The story of Pele is hyper-true (transcends the literal truth), and though we might not expect to see her appear before us, we believe the curse; we believe her wrath.

How did you come across this folklore: “through research, these are favorite legends from my collection because I collect and shares mo`olelo/stories from the Hawaiian islands, this one is my adaptation of the Kamokila Cambell version.”

Other information: “These are well known folk tales/legends passed down from generations and written in the Hawaiian newspapers and several collections.”

“The Shark Man, Nanaue”

There was once a young woman of  Hawaiʻi named Kalei. She lived many years ago in Waipi’o Valley on the island of Hawai’i. Kalei was very fond of ʻopihi and often went down to the sea to collect her favorite food to a place called Ku-i-ʻopihi. She usually went to collect ʻopihi with other women but when the sea was rough and her friends were afraid to venture forth to the wild and dangerous beach, Kalei would go alone. She was a brave and an adventurous girl…

In those days, the Waipiʻo River emptied over a low fall into a basin partly open to the sea; this place was used as a bathing place for all the people who lived in the valley—now it is filled with rocks from some earthquake which has happened since then…

Kamohoaliʻi, Peleʻs older brother, the king of sharks, used to visit this place quite often to play in the fresh waters of the Kahawai o Waipiʻo the river of Waipiʻo. Now, Kamohoaliʻi had noticed  the beautiful Kalei, she was well formed, a strong swimmer, an expert diver, and noted for the neatness and grace with which she would lelekawa (jump from the rocks into the deep water) without any splashing of the water. Kamohoaliʻi longed to meet the beautiful Kalei and took the form of a very handsome man and walked on the beach one rather rough morning hoping to see Kalei…

The weather was threatening and the waves were high. The wildness of the elements and the waves raised by Kamohoaliʻi himself were enough to warrant help for Kalei, who had come down to the sea to look for ʻopihi and had been swept into the waves. Kamohaliʻi disguised as a young man came to her rescue. It was through this encounter that Kalei met Kamohaliʻi and they became friends. They met from time to time and within a season she became his wife…

Although, they were married, Kamohoaliʻi would only come home at night and before she knew it, she was with child. Because of this child, he was forced to tell her of his true nature and told her he would have to leave and gave her instructions in the raising of her child. He particularly cautioned her never to feed the child any animal flesh of any kind as he would be born with a dual nature, and with a body he could change at will.

Soon, Kalei delivered a fine, healthy boy. He was the same as any other child, but he had, besides the normal mouth of a human being, a sharkʻs mouth on his back between the shoulder blades. Kaleie told her family about her son and they all agreed that this should remain a secret as the fears of the people and the high chiefs might be excited and the baby might be killed…

Now, Nanaue as the boy was called, was well loved by his grandfather, his kupunakāne. As soon as Nanaue was old enough to come under the Kapu in regard to eating, he was to come to the mua house and take his meals there with the men of the family. (At the age of 3 or 4, a male child was placed in the muas and his eating made kapu (hoʻai kapu ʻia) never again would he eat with his mother or any other woman; he was under kapu and was consecrated to the gods. Kamakau;People of Old)

Nanaueʻs grandfather made it a point to feed the boy on dog meat and pork, hoping his son would grow up to be a strong man and a famous warrior. Great possibilities lay before a powerful warrior in those days, so the old man fed the boy with meat whenever it was available, and the boy grew strong, big and handsome as a young lama tree…

Now, there was another pool with a small waterfall near the house of Kalei, and the boy often went into it while his mother watched on the banks. Whenever he got into the water, he would take the form of a shark and would chase and eat the small fish in the pool. As he grew old enough to understand, his mother took special pains to impress upon him the necessity of concealing his shark nature from other people.

This pool was also a favorite bathing place of the people, but Nanaue would never go in with others, but always alone, and when his mother was able, she used to go with him, and sit on the banks, holding the kapa scarf, which he always wore to hide the shark mouth on his back…

When Nanaue became a man, his appetite for an animal diet had grown so strong that a human beingʻs ordinary allowance was no longer enough for him. After his grandfather died, the boy depended on the food supplied by his stepfather and uncles and they often teased him about his shark like appetite and called him “manōhae” which means ravenous shark. This was a term given to gluttonous men, esp. those who craved meat…

People in the valley often wondered why Nanaue always wore his Kihei as all the other young men went bare back. And why did he stand apart while others bathed or played at games. Nanaue seemed to have one good quality that people noticed. He was often seen working in his motherʻs kalo and ʻuala patches. People going to the sea would see him working. Nanaue would often call to them and ask them where they were going. If they answered, “to bathe in the sea” or “fishing”, he would warn them, “take care or you may disappear, head and tail.” …

Not long after, those he spoke to or some other member of their party would be bitten by a shark… If the person he spoke to was going alone, that person would never be seen again. The shark man would follow his chosen victim into the sea and swim close by, then he would turn into a shark and rush at and drag the unsuspecting person into the deep; thus he was able to satisfy his desire for meat….

One day, ʻUmi , the king of Hawaii called everyone living in Waipiʻo to kōʻele work in his mala, his farm, all must work except the very young and the very old. Everyone went on the first day except Nanaue, he kept working at his motherʻs garden; this was reported to the king and he was summoned, Nanaue came still wearing his kapa kīhei…

“Why arenʻt you doing kōʻele work with everyone else?”

“I didnʻt know it was required?” answered Nanaue boldly, but the next day he was there and he proved himself to be a good worker but still he kept on his Kihei…

The other young men thought this to be odd and decided to tear off his covering… and there they saw the shark mouth exposed, Nanaue was so angry, he turned his back and bit several of them…

The news of Nanaueʻs shark mouth was quickly reported to the King along with the facts of the disappearances of people in the area who swam close to the pool… everyone believed it was Nanaueʻs doing. The king ordered a large fire to be lit, so that Nanaue could be burnt alive, the only way to destroy a supernatural shark man…

When Nanaue saw what their plans were for him, he called on Kamohoaliʻi, to help him, then as if endowed with superhuman strength, he burst out of the ropes that bound him, broke through the throng of Umiʻs warriors and ran toward the pool that emptied into the sea. When he got to the edge of the rocks bordering the pool and jumped into the water and turned into a large shark, he lay at the surface for awhile to catch his breath and then as quick as a flash he was gone. He left the island of Hawaii and crossed over to Maui landing at Kipahulu where he regained his human shape and many of his ancestors are still living there today.


This is more of a tale than a legend, because it is implausible in today’s world, but the truth of the story doesn’t really matter as much as the themes in it, for example the strong tie between this man and the shark. Although in this case, he is actually (physically) part shark, today this could be similar to a member of a family with a shark ‘aumakua, or guardian. Many Hawaiian people traditionally associate themselves and their family groups/chains to an animal and share a profound respect for said animal.

How did you come across this folklore: “through research, these are favorite legends from my collection because I collect and shares mo`olelo/stories from the Hawaiian islands, this version has been adapted from “Hawaiian Folktales,” collected by Thomas G. Thrum from Mrs. E. M. Nakuina.”

Other information: “These are well known folk tales/legends passed down from generations and written in the Hawaiian newspapers and several collections.”







At the sound of two claps of thunder, twin girls were born to Kahauokupua, ruling chief of Laie, Oʻahu and his wife Malaekahana. This should have been a time of rejoicing for the couple but instead it was a time of fear and secrecy. Why?  Why… Because Malaekahana had given birth to 4 daughters and Kahauokapaka had them all put to death because he wanted only sons…

Desperate to keep these two, Malaekahana called a kahuna who took the girls and hid them away. One named Laielohelohe was taken to live in the uplands of Wahiawa and the other, Laieikawai was take by the kahunaʻs wife, Waka to the island of Hawaii, in the forest uplands of Puna, to a magical place called Paliuli.

Laʻieikawai spent her days among the red and yellow lehua flowers and colorful birds of the forest. For her just at the approach of evening was heard the ʻōō, at nightfall, the alalā, (the Hawaiian crow) at midnight the ʻelepaio and at the first streak of light the ʻiʻiwi calls. Paliuli is a truly wonderful place.

Laiʻeikawai was a sacred child, so much so, that a rainbow constantly arched over her. Soon there was much talk about who this sacred one could be and gossip spread about her beauty and her mana…

Now there lived a handsome yet vain chief in Kohala named ʻAiwohikupua who heard about the one known as the rainbow princess of Paliuli and began to dream of her and vowed to make her his wife. He set sail from Kohala to search for her and along with him he took his most prized possession, a red feather cloak. After landing his canoe at Keaʻau, ʻAiwohi climbed to where the rainbow ended and there he was awestruck when he saw before him a house completely thatched with the yellow feathers of the ʻōʻō bird, he knew it was Laiʻe’s house. Surrounded by ohi’a trees with red blossoms and colorful birds of the wao kele, the forest…

At the approach of evening is heard the ʻōʻō

At nightfall, the ʻAlalā

At midnight, the ʻelepaio

And at first streak of light the ʻiʻiwi

Paliuli is truly a wonderful place.

‘Aiwohi was so overcome with the beauty of the place and the extraordinary beauty of her house that he turned away in shame and left Paliuli… now so embarrassed of the pitiful red cloak he once was so proud of.

The chief returned to Kohala and as he traveled back to his home, he met Poliahu, the snow goddess who lived at the summit of Mauna Kea. She came to him draped in her white mantle of snow and he gave her his red feather cloak in exchange. They stayed together for many days …

ʻAiwohi continued to dream of Laieikawai. But soon, the embraces of Poliahu proved too cold for “Aiwohi and he longed for the warmth of Puna and his rainbow princess at Paliuli. So… to wrestle himself away from the snow goddess, he made up a story about trouble between his five sisters on Kauaʻi and told Poliahu he would have to leave her to attend to family matters.

His plan was to go again to the yellow house but this time with his sisters accompanying him. Their womanly ways, he thought, would help him win over the rainbow princess and secure her as his wife.

Four of ʻAiwohiʻs sisters were named after the different kinds of sweet smelling maile, Mailekaluhea, Mailelauliʻi, Mailepākaha, … and the youngest was called Kahalaomapuana. They all agreed to go with their brother to Paliuli.

When they finally arrived at Laiʻeʻs house of yellow feathers, they sent forth their wonderful maile fragrance to charm Laiʻeikawai out of her house…Laʻie called out to Waka, What is that fragrance that touches my heart?”

“It is only ‘Aiwohi and his Maile sisters trying to lure you into their family.”

Laʻie ignored their advances and remained cloistered in her house of yellow feathers.

But in time with the help of a Ti-Leaf trumpet and the beautiful singing voices of the Maile Sisters, Laʻie soon invited the sisters to live with them and keep her company. Waka built a house for the sisters… And for a time, they lived happily together.

ʻAiwohi became very bitter and plotted revenge against Laʻie and sent 40 of his soldiers and his man-eating dog to destroy her but they were all fought off and killed by Laieikawaiʻs protector, Kiha-nui-lulu-moku, a wondrous, gigantic moʻo or lizard.

With his soldiers beaten and his man-eating dog missing its tail and ears, ʻAiwohi was totally demoralized and to make matters worse, all this was at the hands of a few girls.


Does Laieikawai ever find love? Does Poliahu win ʻAiwohi ?

Does ʻAiwohi ever win Laieikawai? Does Laieikawai ever meet her twin sister Laielohelohe again?


This story was invented for the purposes of publishing via the newspaper and then that version was retold to me, but it is kind of a mixture between a tale and a legend because of the way it’s told. It’s not particularly realistic or potentially true, but it’s convincing as a story because it follows many of the laws and accommodates many features of the tale (such as the items mentioned by Propp and Olrik), and because it incorporates common themes of what we call “Hawaiian legends” in both formatting and plot.

How did you come across this folklore: “through research, these are favorite legends from my collection because I collect and shares mo`olelo/stories from the Hawaiian islands.”

Other information: “These are well known folk tales/legends passed down from generations and written in the Hawaiian newspapers and several collections. This is a portion of a series published in newspapers in the mid-1800s, so it has kind of a cliffhanger ending intended to induce suspense and maintain readership. I have left the questions from the version told to me at the end, after the “TO BE CONTINUED” note.”







And the way he (my uncle) tells it is,

When he was a little boy, he was hanging out with his cousins (late one night), and was kind of a story night—like, not quite raining, but windy and the clouds were rolling in, sort of thing—and… from a distance, like on a ridge, he just starts seeing these lights popping up. And he’s asking all of his older cousins, why all of these lights are over there—there’s more and more of them coming down the mountain, so he asked “what’s going on?”

So his cousins start freaking out, telling him: “we need to go home NOW. And we need to go home in the OPPOSITE direction of that ridge!”

… Meanwhile, they start to hear the faint sounds of drum beats, like very faint but constant drum beats (pats out a beat)…

So my uncle, freaking out, because they were freaking out, goes along with them but has to ask what was going on back there…

So they explain to him that those were the nightmarchers, which are ancient Hawaiian spirits, and they’re participating in one of their ancient rituals… and you are NOT to break the line of nightmarchers by either walking through it or making a noise to distract form the sound of the drum beats… They march in a line at night, usually down mountains, but they could really be/go anywhere. You can see their torches in the dark, and hear their drum beats… You can’t look at them, don’t make noises, don’t do anything to disrespect them or make fun. If you happen to see it or can’t leave and are stuck in the middle of their path, you’re supposed to just keep your head down to the ground and let it happen until they pass you and you keep minding your own business… oh, and don’t talk about it… because if they look at you, or you do any of these things, you DIE.

Literally, a death stare…


Nightmarchers are an interesting folk belief, that simultaneously introduce an opportunity to reconnect with the dead, and yet tabooize the interaction between the living and the dead. Nightmarchers not only make a distinction between the two groups of living and dead, but also between Hawaiian and foreign, because “Others” would not know to protect themselves and might even make the mistake of deliberately investigating, following, or contacting the nightmarchers, which would then result in death (as opposed to a relatively harmless outcome otherwise). There are ways to protect yourself, but only someone from the islands would know them. Similar to the fairies in Ireland, it also doesn’t matter whether you believe in nightmarchers, you will in certain contexts and most people would say they’re there, regardless.

How did you come across this folklore: “I was told by uncle during childhood.”

Other information: “this uncle is from Molokai…”

* When you’re from Hawai`i, saying someone is from Molokai is like saying someone is the most legitimate kind of “country”/”native”/”authentic” Hawaiian. If someone has a Hawaiian story and you find out he’s from Molokai, you are about a thousand times more likely to believe it.