Nationality: Native Hawaiian
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language: English
Context: TC is a 22 year old senior at USC, she is also my coworker. T was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, and is really familiar with a lot of legends of Hawaii. During our break at work I decided to ask her about any known legends she’d like to share with me. There were other people in the break room which created the atmosphere of storytelling and interest was sparked among the other individuals. We all gathered around her while people ate their snacks.
YM: So who are Ohia and Lehua?
TC: They were young lovers. But one day Pele; she’s a volcano goddess. She met Ohia and decided that she wanted him for herself. But he rejected her so this upset Pele, she then turned him into an ugly twisted tree. Lehua pleaded to pele to turn him back but pele ignored her pleas. The other gods felt sorry for the young girl so they turns her into a beautiful red flower on the tree so the two lovers never had to be apart again
TC:Legend says that as long as the flowers remain in the tree, that the weather is sunny and fair. But when a flower is plucked from the tree, rain falls like tears as lehua cannot handle being separated from her love, ohia
YM: Does Ohia and Lehua represent a specific tree? Or is it any tree?
TC: Oh yeah its a tree called ‘Ohi’a lehua haha just like their names
YM: Do you believe this story, what are your thoughts about it ?
TC: Yes, It’s a love story about lovers who can’t be together but in the afterworld they are together? Pretty much saying that in the end, love conquers all despite all forces trying to break It apart. Whether it’s people or just life.
YM: I believe that
Background info: TC shared that her grandmother would always tell stories at the dinner table. The legend of Ohia and Lehua was popular throughout the years. Most of the stories her grandmother told her had Pele, the volcano goddess that was considered the protector and creator of the island. She grew up listening to stories to appreciate the trees and plants more. Caring for the earth and believing that they have a spirit or are alive is important to T and her family, knowing that nature is alive reminds them that they should care for it.
Analysis: Although this is a legend of Ohia and Lehua, this story points more towards nature mythology, an allegory of natural processes. The two loves are obviously a representation of nature and their separation is the natural process when the seasons change. Lehua is the official flower of the island of Hawaii, it seems fit to have a story for it. It is also recognized as Pele’s flower; it seems appropriate to include the protector and creator of the island. This myth also holds a significance that TC mentioned, “love conquers all despite all forces trying to break It apart. Whether it’s people or just life.” Which I think is true and this story is perfect to send that message across.