A MYTH is a purely imaginative story. A legend is a story with some foundation in fact. A fable tacks on a moral. A tradition is a myth or legend or fact handed down from generation to generation.
The old Hawaiians were frequently mythmakers. They imagined many a fairy-story for the different localities of the islands, and these are very interesting. The myth of the two taro plants belongs to South Kona, Hawaii, and affords an excellent illustration of Hawaiian imagination. The story is told in different ways, and came to the writer in the present form:
A chief lived on the mountain-side above Hookena. There his people cultivated taro, made kapa cloth, and prepared the trunks of koa-trees for canoes. He had a very fine taro patch. The plants prided themselves upon their rapid and perfect growth.
In one part of the taro pond, side by side, grew two taro plants--finer, stronger, and more beautiful than the others. The leaf stalks bent over in more perfect curves: the leaves developed in graceful proportions. Mutual admiration
filled the hearts of the two taro plants and resulted in pledges of undying affection.
One day the chief was talking to his servants about the food to be made ready for a feast. He ordered the two especially fine taro plants to be pulled up. One of the servants came to the home of the two lovers and told them that they were to be taken by the chief.
Because of their great affection for each other they determined to cling to life as long as possible, and therefore moved to another part of the taro patch, leaving their neighbors to be pulled up instead of themselves.
But the chief soon saw them in their new home and again ordered their destruction. Again they fled. This happened from time to time until the angry chief determined that they should be taken, no matter what part of the pond they might be in.
The two taro plants thought best to flee, therefore took to themselves wings and made a short flight to a neighboring taro patch. Here again their enemy found them. A second flight was made to another part of South Kona, and then to still another, until all Kona was interested in the perpetual pursuit and the perpetual escape. At last there was no part of Kona in which they could be concealed. A friend of the angry chief would reveal their hiding-place, while
[1. Also kalo, Calocasia antiquorum.]
one of their own friends would give warning of the coming of their pursuer. At last they leaped into the air and flew on and on until they were utterly weary and fell into a taro patch near Waiohinu. But their chief had ordered the imu (cooking-place) to be made ready for them, and had hastened along the way on foot, trying to capture them if at any time they should try to alight. However, their wings moved more swiftly than his feet, so they had a little rest before he came near to their new home. Then again they lifted themselves into the sky. Favoring winds carried them along and they flew a great distance away from South Kona into the neighboring district of Kau. Here they found a new home under a kindly chief. Here they settled down and lived many years under the name of Kalo-eke-eke, or "The Timid Taro." A large family grew up about them and a happy old age blessed their declining days.
It is possible that this beautiful little story may have grown out of the ancient Hawaiian unwritten law which sometimes permitted the subjects of a chief to move away from their home and transfer their allegiance to some neighboring ruler.