Myth – Hawaii

Myth of the ‘Ohi’a Lehua plant

There was a man named ‘Ohi’a and a woman named Lehua. They met and fell in love with each other. They were inseparable because they loved each other so much. One day however, ‘Ohi’a walked past the Goddess of fire, Pele. Pele liked ‘Ohi’a and wanted him to be with her. When ‘Ohi’a told Pele that he was in love with Lehua and could not be with Pele she got very angry. Being a very powerful goddess, Pele turned ‘Ohi’a into an ugly tree. When Lehua found out she was crushed. She went to Pele and begged her to turn ‘Ohi’a back into a man, but Pele refused. Lehua then went to the gods and asked them to turn ‘Ohi’a back into a man but they could not and so instead they turned Lehua into a flower on the tree of ‘Ohi’a. Because of this, it is said that if you ever pick a flower off the ‘Ohi’a Lehua plant, it will start raining because you separated the lovers and they are crying.


Alisa first heard this story during the second grade when she went on a field trip to the Big Island.  The Ohi’a Lehua plant is usually only found on the big island, so this legend is distinct to them.  It is a fairly common story but more well known to Big Island residents because of its relevance and proximity.  It is also found in many travel brochures and magazines.

The message of this story gives hope.  It tells people that true love will prevail.  When two people love each other, nothing can come in the way between that.  Not even the most powerful goddess or tampered physical appearance because the couple will do anything for each other.  Stories that involve love are very popular tend to be circulated more.  This is apparent in modern day media but also ancient tales.  It provides a feeling of comfort that many can identify with.  These stories are almost addictive because they give a sense of fantasy to humans, which they in turn deem as ideal and long to obtain.

The legend of the ‘Ohi’a Lehua plant has premise in ancient Hawaiian mythology.  This comes as no surprise because mythical Gods and Goddesses are a very common aspect in Hawaiian culture.  Unlike Americans or Europeans, Hawaiians give meaning to objects, creation, and everyday life by relating it back to stories of the Gods. Some of the legends from these Gods have such an impact that they can actually be a basis for government, religion, and science.[1] Legends, myths, and folklore are common to a society but in Hawaiian folklore, it seems to define their culture.  Most Hawaiian mythology has similarities with Polynesian culture, as well as other Pacific islands.

[1] Native Hawaiian