THAT portion of Oceania whose mythology is both most is widely known and to which reference is most frequently made is undoubtedly Polynesia. One of the chief reasons for this lies in the character of the legends themselves, for they are both pleasing and in many respects unusual. We may well begin then with Polynesia in presenting an outline of Oceanic mythology.
The people of these Happy Isles have, from the beginning, been of great interest to anthropologists; but although much has been learned regarding them, the problems of their origin and ethnic history are still far from being settled. Most students of the subject, however, are now agreed that in the Polynesians we must see a somewhat complex blending of several waves of immigration, bringing relatively fair-skinned peoples from the Indonesian area (or perhaps from still farther west) eastward through Melanesia into the Pacific. That there have been at least two, and probably more, such great waves, and that these have in varying degree mixed with the dark-skinned people of Melanesia in transit, seems clear; but whether other racial elements also enter into the question is not yet certain. Although older and younger waves are probably represented in all the island-groups of Polynesia, the oldest seems especially noticeable in two of the most outlying portions of the whole region, i. e. New Zealand and Hawaii. The detailed study of the spread of these waves can as yet however be said only to have begun.