Pele's appeal: Mo'olelo, Kaona, and Hulihia in “Pele and Hi'iaka” literature (1860–1928)
An important figure in Hawaiian mo'olelo (hi/story) is Pele, goddess of the volcano, whose many deeds are vividly described in the vast repository of chants, songs, poetry, dance and narrative recorded in a myriad of oral and written traditions, the body of which I identify as Pele and Hi'iaka mo'olelo. Collectively, it significantly outnumbers mo'olelo for all other Hawaiian gods. Yet despite the immense repository of Hawaiian-language Pele literature it has been virtually ignored by scholars because it is recorded, for the most part, in Hawaiian.
This dissertation is an examination of written Pele and Hi'iaka mo'olelo published in the Hawaiian language newspapers from 1860-1928, and Nathaniel B. Emerson's Pele and Hi'iaka (1915), focusing on what I identify as a genealogically-linked "strand" of texts, namely Kapihenui (1861), Pa'aluhi and Bush (1893), Emerson (1915), and an undated Bishop Museum Archives manuscript (HI. L. 23). Through selected examples, I identify and discuss four important points relevant to the development of this literature: (1) the Pele and Hi'iaka mo'olelo can be organized genealogically because of the existing relationships between the texts; (2) as the earliest written text, Kapihenui's relied more on (and is more reminiscent of) oral tradition because it was closer in time and form to it as a transitional (oral to written) text; (3) Hawaiians became more adept at understanding the nuances of written literature, their literary productions flourished, embracing and adapting the western style; (4) politically, in form and content the texts represent Native Hawaiian resistance to western colonialism and an assertion of cultural identity, pride, and creativity, demonstrating a "hulihia discourse," a dynamic continuity of cultural thought and practice. As such, I argue the poetics (kaona) and political meaning (hulihia) of the Pele and Hi'iaka mo'olelo have been culturally encoded for a Hawaiian audiences, inspiring Hawaiian writers today to continue to weave a lei of resistance to colonization through our literary and performing arts, of which the Pele and Hi'iaka mo'olelo is but one example.
0591: American literature