Old lady Hawaiian legend


Informant: “So in Hawaii there’s a legend– And it’s basically like an unspoken rule– where basically if you are driving at night and you see an old woman…”

Me: “Where at?”

Informant: “So on the big island, to get from Kona to Hilo, there are two ways. You can either go around the island which takes like 2 hours or you can cut through diagonally on the straight road called Saddle road. It just got renovated so it is really nice, it has lights and it is very safe, but a few years ago it was basically almost like a dirt road. It was barely paved and there was only one painted line in the middle. The unspoken rule that was– that all of the locals know– is that if you are driving, especially at night, and you see an older woman with really long white hair in a white mo’u mo’u, which is just a really long white dress, you are just supposed to stop and pick her up because that is one of pele’s forms. Pele is the goddess of volcanoes, and on the big island there are I think two active volcanoes right now, so the Big Island residents respect her very much especially because at any point their homes can be destroyed by volcanoes. Basically, you just pick her up and you just keep going about your drive. It’s just a sign of respect and it shows that you respect her, you respect the land, and the culture. Usually she is silent, but then she will just disappear. 


Age: 19

From: Oahu, HI

In regards to her relationship to the piece, it is very close to her since she has such a strong bond with Hawaiian culture. Although she lives on Oahu and not the Big Island, she says this is still important for when she visits. She does not really remember when she found out about this legend, but she has heard stories about people picking her up. Weird enough, she says the stories are never in the present tense though. She interprets this as real, but she doubts it will actually ever happen to her.  


I interpret this legend as something that will be close to never happening. I think people could abuse this in order to get a free ride since there are a lot of homeless in Hawaii. Knowing this though, if I were to ever be in this situation, I would still pick up the lady just as a sign of respect even if I don’t necessarily live there. It sounds pretty frightening as a non local, but I am sure it is not something the residents are afraid of–or at least that’s the way I understood it from my interview with the informant.