Tag Archives: Island

Maui Harnessing the Sun

Informant Context:

James has lived in many locations internationally, including Cosa Rica, Mexico, and Nepal. His family is located in Hawaii, where he will often visit during his breaks from school. He is a student in London, United Kingdom, studying fashion. 


JAMES: Obviously I am not native Hawaiian, but having spent some time there—especially now that my family lives there—um, there’s obviously a pretty rich cultural… culture of storytelling, and obviously they had their own kind of mythology and stuff. And one that always stuck with me was that on oddly enough, in the hotel that we used to say at often when we would go to Maui, there was a huge massive like—oh gosh, it must have been, it was probably like 30 feet tall, 20 feet tall and like 40 feet wide—is a massive wood carving of Maui harnessing the sun. Which comes from… obviously, Hawaiian legend and myth—of how in the early days of creation, the sun raced—was obviously a personified person, and they would drive rapidly around the earth, basically, racing around the earth and… days were so short,  that people couldn’t do anything, they couldn’t get anything done. And so, they—the people, you know, cried out to Maui their demigod savior, and said, “Can you do something—[laughs]


JAMES: —about this?”, as people tend to do of their deities and stories, and even in modern days, but that’s a lit—that’s a different issue [laughs]. Um… and yeah, so as far as I’ve been told the story, it’s—Maui climbed up to Haleakalā, which is the, uh… largest—larger of the two volcanoes on Maui, and cast out his fishing net—which is one of those ones that you like… yo—I don’t know like, the term for it, but you like, swing it out, and it like, spreads out. And he managed to catch the sun, and brought him down to earth, and was basically like “Hey!”… basically threatened him, which I feel like you shouldn’t do to like, the *sun*, but… he… basically threatened him—

INTERVIEWER: [laughs] You’re nice to the sun?

JAMES: [voice broken by laughter] You know? Like, you kind of… be polite, [or(?)], diplomatic, but—


JAMES: Anyways, I guess you can do whatever you want if you’re a demigod. And uh, yeah. But he harnessed the sun, brought him down, and basically [showed him(?)] like, “Hey! You—we need like, more… we need longer periods of light. Because otherwise, the food isn’t gonna grow, and if… we can’t just keep working at night, because you know, electricity isn’t a thing. And so, please go slower.” And then he released him, and that is where they believe the day comes from. The… uh, as far as… in its longevity, um… and its consistency, I suppose, being where they are at—near the equator. Um… but yeah! That one always stuck with me, mostly because we would just see this massive woodcarving over, um… in the foyer of this restaurant. [unintelligible] is always… like, like right in the middle of the hotel. Um… but I always… I always loved the Hawaiian myths, I suppose. I think they’re very…  mythology in general, I mean, is just fascinating…

Informant Commentary:

James has a general interest in religious folklore, especially the folklore of those places he has personally visited. He expressed a positive view of folklore in Hawaii, citing institutional efforts of preservation and respect, such as laws surrounding burial grounds and other sacred land, as well as the consistent invocation of traditional Hawaiian symbolism around government buildings and tourist areas (e.g., the statue mentioned in the transcript). When countered on this idea, James acknowledged that many of these efforts are, in his words, “performative”. 


This story is best categorized as a myth, as it is a creation story and an explanation of a natural phenomenon: the length of the days. Based solely on the narrative of the story, the myth of Maui harnessing the sun seems to reference a fundamental trust in deities to intervene on behalf of man, even capturing one of the (if not the single most) powerful natural force.

Otok Daksa (Daksa island)

NK is my grandmother who was born and raised in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Being a local she knows a lot about the city and its folklore. She first told me this story in elementary school for a project on islands near Dubrovnik.

“Daksa is a small island near Dubrovnik. For years after World War 2 access to this island was forbidden. The island is haunted and even the owners of the island don’t live on it and have tried to sell it couple of times now. The island is haunted because there were 48 people accused of being Nazi sympathizers and were brutally executed in 1944. Locals say it’s haunted by their ghosts looking for justice.”


What’s the real story behind it?


“Yugoslav partisans celebrated their victory over the Nazis by rounding up anyone they thought corroborated with the enemy, including the village priest and mayor,

The ‘guilty’ were then rowed out to the island where they were gunned down in cold blood and left unburied. The locals were told that the same fate awaited them if they intervened, so the corpses remained uncovered for decades and it wasn’t until recent years that they were finally laid to rest. So the legend has it that spirits of the dead men haunt the island, demanding justice against those responsible.”


The ghost story obviously has some true facts. I’m guessing that because of the tragedy that occurred on the island, the locals had to cope with it some way and said the island was haunted.

The Magical Wolf Island Riddle

This informant is a senior at USC in the Marshall School of Business.  He told me he had a riddle for me that he was asked in an interview for consulting, but then later said it could have been an investment banking interview as well he didn’t remember.

Out in the middle of the ocean there exists a magical island with only grass.  There are 120 wolves and 1 sheep on the island.  The wolves can live off the grass but they would rather eat sheep.  Every time a sheep is eaten that wolf turns into a sheep.  Now the wolf has to worry about being eaten by another wolf.  All the wolves are rational and smart and want to survive.  Given that there are 120 wolves and 1 sheep on the island, will the sheep be eaten?

The answer is: No the sheep will not be eaten.  This can be shown much simpler with smaller numbers.  If there is 1 wolf and 1 sheep the sheep will be eaten.  If there is 2 wolves and 1 sheep the sheep won’t be eaten, because each one knows the other will eat him right after.  So with this reasoning, whenever there is an even number of wolves on the island, the sheep won’t get eaten.

I definitely didn’t know the answer off the top of my head, but once I heard the answer it seemed like a pretty simple concept.  This shows how much people working in high finance value critical thinking and problem solving skills.



the longest riddle in the world

I was told by the informant of this riddle that it was the longest riddle in world (and therefore the most difficult to guess the answer to).  The informant learned it from her father and she enjoys repeating it because it’s amusing to have people challenge the idea that it’s the “world’s longest riddle”.

So Frank (a very famous celebrity) was out to dinner with his friend Bob (not famous) and they were outside this very famous restaurant waiting to put their name in when the hostess spots Frank and motions for he and Bob to come up to the front. Within minutes, the two are seated and a waiter comes by to take their drink orders. Frank orders a coke and Bob a Black and Tan. The waiter returns a little later with their drinks and then takes their food orders: Frank orders the house special of the night, roasted peacock; and Bob orders a deluxe burger. In another twenty minutes, the food arrives. After taking one bite of his roasted peacock, Frank runs outside and shoots himself. Why?

The answer?

Four weeks prior to this evening out, Frank, Bob, Frank’s brother, and lots of Franks fans were on a small cruise ship together. The ship sank in the midst of a storm and the only survivors to make it to a nearby island were Frank, Bob, Frank’s brother, and Frank’s number one fan. As the hours flew by, everyone’s hunger grew, and as a gesture towards his idol, Frank’s number one fan said he’d take Bob and Frank’s brother with him to go find food for them all. The three boys are gone for hours and hours when finally just Frank’s number one fan and Bob emerge from the trees. They say the bad news is that they lost Frank’s brother ans spent forever looking for him, but the good thing is that they found food, and they presented Frank with peacock which they hunted and killed.

Frank so enjoyed the peacock that he decided to order it four weeks later at this great restaurant, but at the restaurant it tasted so different from what he had had before that it made him realize it wasn’t peacock that he had eaten on the island, but rather it was his brother.


This informant said that most people react to this riddle with “that’s not a riddle, it’s an impossible-to-guess story!” But hey, it’s all relative, right?

Blueberry Island Trip

My informant described a family tradition that takes place

Usually first week in august during their stay in their vacation home, which is located on Blueberry island (in Lake Joseph, Canada).


The following is a transcript of our interview:


“Each year up in Canada we go to this island called Blueberry Island for a picnic. It’s like a 90 minute boat ride and we have like 4 boats going together and we go and dock up next to each other on this tiny wooden dock and we jump off this rock, fry soft shell crabs, make s’mores, and sit on the rock, which has a nice view. It is a family tradition, and my whole family goes, often with extended family, every year for the past 50 years. My mother did this once when she was a little kid, and she liked it so much that she vowed to come back every year.”


To the informant, this day is the pinnacle of vacation, and he looks forward to it all year. He said it wouldn’t occur on a specific day, just when a majority of his family could come out for the picnic. He said he liked it so much because his family was together all at once, but isolated in the world because they were alone on the island.


The informant’s mother, who enjoyed this so much when she was a child, is sharing her favorite memory with her entire family. Also, by repeating what she did that day, she is likely conjuring memories of her parents and siblings and reliving the moment so that she could feel young again. The food, crab and s’mores, represents their vacation home and summer, since crabbing and cooking over the fire are limited to their vacation.  Thus, this event serves to create a memorable experience with which to codify the vacation.  Moreover, family is key to the event, which will not take place until a sufficient (but arbitrary) number of members can go, illustrating the importance of their established community. Spending time together, the family strengthens their bonds, and since this takes place on a private island, this trip reinforces their identity as part of the family.