Sacred Texts  Pacific  Index  Previous  Next 

p. 35



HISTORY is frequently legendary. That historian is incompetent who deliberately ignores tradition and fable. A nation founded in the sunlight of civilisation cannot have a legendary past, but it must depend many times upon the cloudy memory of individuals. Legends are the indistinct memories of nations, and are of real value when there is any opportunity for comparison. Early Norse history was told in song legends. The sagas of the Vikings are rivalled in some measure by the meles of the Hawaiians. The Hawaiians have both the chant--the mele, and the tradition--the olelo. From these come Hawaiian ancient history. The Vikings, "sea kings," as they are often named, the "wickel-ings," as Froude calls them, the men who sailed out from the "vicks," the fjords of the Scandinavian coast, were brave mariners. They swept the European coast; they infested Mediterranean waters; they found the North Atlantic islands. They made themselves at home in Sneeland (Snowland), now Iceland and Greenland. They named the countries newly discovered

p. 36

after their own fancies, as Flatland, Woodland, and Vinland, for Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Massachusetts, respectively.

The Polynesian folklore abounds in stories of remarkable men, bold expeditions, stirring adventures and voyages to far-off lands. The Vikings of the Pacific gave to their foreign lands the names by which these lands were then known, and by which they are known to-day.

In the long Hawaiian chant of Kumu Honua, "the first created," there is a part devoted to Hawaii-loa, the first sea-king of the Polynesians. He is reported as making long journeys and discovering the Hawaiian Islands. Besides this chant there are many legends and references which make him an important ancestor among Hawaiians, an ancestor of islands rather than of families. He lived in the "land of the handsome or golden god, Kane." To the north lay the land Ulu-nui or "the Great Ulu," possibly Ur of Chaldea. His home was near the "green precipiced paradise" of Hawaiian legend, the place where the water of life gave forth healing even for the dead.

Hawaii-loa was a noted fisherman. He launched out into deep waters. He fished for new worlds and found them. From the Great Ulu to Java, from Java to Jilolo, and from Jilolo far out into the eastern Pacific, Hawaii-loa sailed. His relative, Ti-i, also launched out into the deep seas. Ti-i went almost directly east from the old home,

p. 37

and found the Society Islands. These he made his home, according to the Society Island legends, becoming the creator of the islands.

Hawaii-loa sailed to the northeast, following "Iao," Jupiter, as the morning star. Iao was a favorite guiding star among the Hawaiians. Five of the planets were known by the sea-rovers. The planets were called "Na Hoku hele"--"the going stars." Mars was known as "Hoku ula," "the red star." "Na hoku paa" were "the fastened stars, immovable in the heavens." The name "Iao" is given to one of the mountains of the Island of Maui.

Hawaii-loa found the fire islands--the islands somewhat like the old Java home, luxuriant and volcanic. He named the large island Hawa-i-i--"the little or the burning Java."

The large island was full of delight to the bold navigator, and he determined to bring his family to this new land for their permanent home. He took them from "the land where his forefathers dwelt before him." He sailed through the "dotted sea," the sea with many islands lying near his old ancestral home, "the rainy Zaba"--the modern Zaba or Saba of the Arabian seacoast--from which his own name, "Hawa," is easily derived. On his journey back and forth he passed through a sea which delighted his heart as a fisherman--"a sea where the fishes run." He must have found excellent deep-sea fishing. He crossed the "many-coloured

p. 38

ocean" and the "sky-blue sea." He revelled in the beauty of the sun rising and setting in glorious colours on the restless waves. On he sailed with his family until he came to Hawaii--"the burning Java," the land of volcanoes and earthquakes and of luxuriant valleys and fertile seacoasts.

Fornander suggests that Hawaii is derived from Java and Java from the Arabian Saba.

Evidently a Polynesian chief of high rank gathered a number of adherents or members of his tribe, and sailed eastward over the Pacific, about the beginning of the Christian era. His descendants, or at least such portion of his family as did not follow him on his voyage, seem to have moved from Java to the Molucca Islands and settled in Jilolo.

It is said that after he brought his family to Hawaii, new islands sprang out of the sea, well wooded and well watered. These he divided among his children.

When the later sea-rovers came to Hawaii, possibly in the fifth or sixth century, they found the islands already inhabited by people of their own race, and yet apparently without a chief--probably a servant class. If we sift the legends and then assume that in the course of three or four hundred years the family of the chief, Hawaii-loa, became extinct in Hawaii, leaving only the servants on the islands, we have at least a probable explanation

p. 39

of the coming of the so-called little people, or fairies, from the Southern Pacific to Hawaii.

The South Pacific islanders called their servants, or laborers, the Manahune people.

The fairies were known in the Hawaiian legends as the Menehunes. Sometimes they were credited with powers like the gnomes of old England. They were supposed to work only at night. A very ancient stone water-wall along the side of one of the swift-flowing Hawaiian rivers has no tradition or history save that the Menehune people built it in one night. Another very ancient stone wall around a large fish pond is referred to the Menehunes, who did not finish their work in one night, therefore the wall has always been incomplete. So also some of the most ancient temples were referred to the mysterious midnight labors of this people.

One of the legends states that a priest desired to carry the Menehune people across the long stretch of ocean between the foreign lands and the Island of Oahu, therefore "he stretched out his hands to the farthest bounds of Tahiti and over him the Menehunes--the servants--crossed to Oahu."

It was this same sorcerer-priest who saw the sun die and the earth become dark. He leaped across to the foreign land, caught the sun before it was buried, brought it back to Hawaii and placed it in the heavens, where it has been ever since. These are simply graphic descriptions of an eclipse, and

p. 40

also of a chief who carried his common people--his servants--with him across the waters. The presence of this servant class in the very ancient times is unquestioned.

Chiefs coming later found this servant class which readily accepted new rulers.

Hawaii-loa--"the Great Hawaii"--may well be considered both a founder of the Polynesian race and the first settler of the Hawaiian Islands. Brave lover of the sea and founder of nations, Hawaii-loa deserves first place among the Vikings of the Pacific.

Next: V. Legendary Home of the Polynesians