The origins of hula

Ancient Polynesians, probably from the Marquesas, arrived in Hawai’i around 500 AD.  The Tahitians arrived later, around 1000 AD, settled on each of the major islands, and regularly traveled back and forth to Tahiti until about 1450 AD when all contact between the two nations ceased.  No one knows the exact origins of the hula, as the dance is completely different from other Polynesian dances.  Nevertheless, there are two myths that describe the arrival of hula in the Hawaiian islands.

One traces the source of hula to the island of Moloka’i and the arrival of two gods, male and female, both named Laka.  The male god disappears as mysteriously as he arrives but the female remains and teaches hula.  Today Laka is considered the goddess of hula.

Another myth names Hopoe, from the big island of Hawai’i, as the first kumu hula (teacher of hula).  Her first student was Hi’iakaikapoliopele, the youngest sister of the volcano goddess Pele.  During a dream, Pele saw a Kauai chief and she wanted him to be her husband.  So she asked her youngest sister to make the trip to Kauai to bring him back.  Hi’iaka agreed to make the journey but extracted a promise from her extraordinarily jealous sister that Hopoe would be protected from harm while she was gone.  Hi’iaka was delayed on her mission so, in revenge, Pele destroyed Hopoe by covering her with lava and turning her to stone, placing her on the shoreline as a balancing rock.  There was actually a large rock which swayed just offshore at Puna and many believe it to be Hopoe; the rock was eventually knocked over by an earthquake.

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One Response to The origins of hula

  1. Ting says:

    Haven’t we all known a Pele at one time or another? Thanks for this interesting story. I love your blog and your secret life is so interesting. I feel so boring now!

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