Tag Archives: volcano

The story of the Popocatepetl

Main piece: 

The following is transcribed from a conversation between informant and interviewer. 

Infromant: The story of the Popocatepetl is of a umm…. I think of an Aztec warrior. He pretty much falls in love with her but is called into battle. So before he goes he tells her dad that upon returning, he will marry his daughter with his permission. The dad allows it and he goes but the news breakouts that he dies in battle. 

Interviewer: So he dies? What happens then with her? 

Informant: No he doesn’t die but the news got to her and the dad and she ends up dying from depression and loneliness. A week later he comes back from war, with riches and honor, but finds out she’s dead. So he asks the dad if he can take her body to give her a proper ceremony. He allows it and Popocatepetl takes her to the top of a pyramid. He holds a torch and watches her body. He plans to stay the night and he does but umm there’s a snow fall and he gets buried in it. Over time, annual rain and snowfall buries them even more and the mountaintop becomes the volcano that you can see from the house in Mexico. 

Interviewer: Oh it’s that volcano? I remember that name but I wasn’t sure it was the same name. 

Informant: Yeah that’s his body… his spirit. And whenever the volcano erupts or has activity… It means that Popocatepetl is remembering his love for the Aztec princess. 

Background: My informant here was my grandma who’s staying with us during COVID-19. She was born in Guadalajara, Mexico but lives in the U.S. with us for the most part. She says that she heard about this story from school textbooks and that she always remembers the story whenever there’s news about Popocatepec’s volcanic activity. For her it represents a true love story and a tragedy. She says that there is no longer love like that one in today’s world. 

Context: I asked my grandma during dinner if she can tell me the story of Popocatepetl because my mom heard it from my grandma but I wanted to get someone else’s view on it so I asked her. She complied and gave me this version while I recorded. Setting was at our house during dinner so it provided nice entertainment and I personally loved the story. 

Thoughts: I really enjoyed the story. When my grandma finished, my sister and I looked at each other and said “wow that’s true love” at the same time. I had known about the volcano for many years but I had never heard about the story behind it. I want to say I don’t believe in it fully but I do admire the love they had for each other. That love is scarce in today’s world so it was nice hearing that story. 

Pele, Goddess of Fire

Main Piece: I learned about Pele in my elementary school. She’s the goddess of fire, lightning, wind, dance, and volcanoes. Pele’s home, Halemaumau crater is at the summit of Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Any volcanic eruption is supposed to be attributed to her long lasting true love. It’s kind of like her passionate temperament but I’m not too sure why she makes volcanoes erupt. Traditional Hawaiian’s see her not as a destructive although she might be seen as destructive by tourists. One thing you should not do when visiting one of her volcanoes is take a rock or souvenir from the volcanoes or else you will suffer for the rest of your life.

Context: The informant is a current freshman at USC. She lived in Hawaii until she graduated high school. Growing up there, she learned all about the customs and folklore of Hawaii. She learned about Pele from her public elementary school

Thoughts: I’ve never heard about Pele before but her story tells a lot about how people in Hawaii have their own pride in culture. Comparing it to the history that I learned in elementary, this seems much more intriguing. I’m curious about the beliefs that come with Pele, like how one should not steal from the volcanoes. It shows off how the people of Hawaii have come to respect the land and preserve it.

For more information see “Passions of Pele: The Hawaiian Goddess of Fire.” by Martini Fisher

Fisher, Martini. “Passions of Pele: The Hawaiian Goddess of Fire.” Ancient Origins, Ancient Origins, 23 July 2018, www.ancient-origins.net/history/passions-pele-hawaiian-goddess-0010415.

Pele, the volcano goddess

Main piece:

Pele is a volcano goddess in Hawaii. She’s feared by people and known to be mean, because she spurts magma. She became that way because she fell in love with a guy and he betrayed her.


Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

The informant attended a public elementary school in Hawaii. She first learned about Pele in a mandatory hawaiian culture class. The class was about Hawaii’s history, culture, and language. Pele doesn’t mean much to her. When she grew up, Pele was like Santa Claus- a fictional being. The informant respects the culture, but it’s not her own culture so it’s different from what she identifies with. Growing up, she had a lot of different cultures and races around her but she didn’t know about the others in depth. She knew that Japanese had a god for everything which was similar to Pele. She always doubted the existence and truth of these stories because of her own skepticism.


Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

It is taught in elementary schools in Hawaii. It is regional folklore, similar to greek myth which is taught not as fact but part of culture. Pele is thought of as a story to tell kids growing up.

Personal Analysis:

I’ve never heard of Pele before, but I’m not surprised by the fact that the Hawaiians have a god for their volcanos. The idea of gods seems much more integrated into the Hawaiian culture, but it is more foreign in Los Angeles. Even those who aren’t religious can know these stories like Pele as a part of culture.



For another version of this proverb, see Kane, Herb Kawainui. Pele: Goddess of Hawaii’s Volcanoes. Captain Cook, HI: Kawainui, 1996. Print.


Pele, the Hawaiian goddess

I was discussing myths, legends, and the like with the informant, and she told me the story of Pele from her home state of Hawaii.

“Ok, so, there’s a Hawaiian goddess and her name is Pele, and um she’s the goddess of fire and the mother of the island, and cause my family is from there, I visit there a lot, and they always tell this to tourists also. She basically has this very big temper and she’s very powerful so there’s a lot of legends of if you take a rock off the island then you’ll anger Pelé and she’ll exact revenge by covering your house in like, lava because she’s like a volcano. Or there’s legends of, she liked a boy, and because a girl stole him, she turned the girl into a flower. So, that’s why you don’t take rocks from Hawaii… Once I took a rock from there, and um… because my sister is really into geology and she convinced me to, and then I felt like I was under a curse. And then I’d go to all of my Hawaiian friends and be like, ‘haha, Pele got me cause I took a rock,’ and then they’d be like, ‘OH MY GOD, you can’t do that!’ Like, it’s a real thing. Even though, you know, even though it’s a legend, people actually really like, respect it and they’re like, ‘OH MY GOD YOU CAN’T DO THAT!’ I even told it to my grandma and she’s like ‘WHAT… DID YOU DO!?’”

Beliefs about what to do and what not to do based on myths and legends are quite common in folklore. While it’s interesting to observe these beliefs, it’s even more interesting to observe who takes part in them, who doesn’t and who is in-between. The informant seems to be in the in-between category, because she seemed to not take the myth seriously enough to avoid taking a rock off of the island, but then she seemed to believe that she was cursed after she had committed the violation.

Hitchhiker on Saddle Road

The informant is my younger sister, and over Spring Break, she and her friend had stayed with me. This is one of the legends she told me while we were getting ready for bed.

If you are driving along Saddle Road, and you see a either a young and beautiful, or older woman with long white hair, who may or may not have a dog with her, you are supposed to pick her up, because she is actually the goddess Pele in disguise. If you don’t, the next time the volcano is erupting, your house will be destroyed by the lava.

The legend that goes along with this superstition, describes two different men. One had been driving on saddle road but refused to pick up a hitchhiking woman with white hair. A second man however, stopped and gave her a ride. When the volcano later began to erupt, the lava flow demolished the first guy’s house, but went right around the second man’s house.

Background & Analysis

The informant was raised in Hawaii, and she had heard the legend from friends telling scary stories at sleepovers. Since the informant is very superstitious, she definitely believes there could be Pele in disguise that wander Saddle Road, just waiting for someone to pick her up.

This legend is specific to the Big Island of Hawaii. Saddle Road, which connects Kailua-Kona on the west side to Hilo on the east side, is known to be dangerous to drive at night. Many of the legends and scary stories associated with Saddle Road stem mainly from the belief that Saddle Road is haunted since there have been a lot of accidents along it. The real causes of the accidents however, tend to be due to low visibility from the fog since the road is at a high altitude, or the rain, and that fact that the road has not been repaved for many years.

This legend is very well-known among residents on the west side, and is a popular one among the tourists as well. Since Saddle Road is often travelled by tourists making their way around the island, they can never resist a good old local superstition to keep their eyes peeled. Also, since the volcano Kilauea is currently erupting and the lava flow has been heading towards parts of Hilo, I wouldn’t put it past some of the strongest believers to be seeking out Pele in her human form to ask for help or mercy.