Hawaiian Folk Tales, A Collection of Native Legends

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It is becoming more and more a matter of regret that a larger amount of systematic effort was not established in early years for the gathering and preservation of the folklore of the Hawaiians. The world is under lasting obligations to the late Judge Fornander, and to Dr. Rae before him, for their painstaking efforts to gather the history of this people and trace their origin and migrations; but Fornander’s work only has seen the light, Dr. Rae’s manuscript having been accidentally destroyed by fire.

The early attempts of Dibble and Pogue to gather history from Hawaiians themselves have preserved to native and foreign readers much that would probably otherwise have been lost. To the late Judge Andrews we are indebted for a very full grammar and dictionary of the language, as also for a valuable manuscript collection of meles and antiquarian literature that passed to the custody of the Board of Education.

There were native historians in those days; the newspaper articles of S. M. Kamakau, the earlier writings of David Malo, and the later contributions of G. W. Pilipo and others are but samples of a wealth of material, most of which has been lost forever to the world. From time to time Prof. W. D. Alexander, as also C. J. Lyons, has furnished interesting extracts from these and other hakus.

Hawaiian Girl
Hawaiian Girl

The Rev. A. O. Forbes devoted some time and thought to the collecting of island folk-lore: and King Kalakaua took some pains in this line also, as evidenced by his volume of “Legends and Myths of Hawaii,” edited by R. M. Daggett, though there is much therein that is wholly foreign to ancient Hawaiian customs and thought. No one of late years had a better opportunity than Kalakaua toward collecting the meles, kaaos, and traditions of his race; and for purposes looking to this end there was established by law a Board of Genealogy, which had an existence of some four years, but nothing of permanent value resulted there from.

Fornander’s manuscript collection of meles, legends, and genealogies in the vernacular has fortunately become, by purchase, the property of the Hon. C. R. Bishop, which insures for posterity the result of one devoted scholar’s efforts to rescue the ancient traditions that are gradually slipping away; for the haku meles (bards) of Hawaii are gone. This fact, as also the Hawaiian Historical Society’s desire to aid and stimulate research into the history and traditions of this people, strengthens the hope that some one may yet arise to give us further insight into the legendary folk-lore of this interesting race.

In response to repeated requests, the compiler now presents in book form the series of legends that have been made a feature of “The Hawaiian Annual” for a number of years past. The series has been enriched by the addition of several tales, the famous shark legend having been furnished for this purpose from the papers of the Hawaiian Historical Society.

The collection embraces contributions by the Rev. A. O. Forbes, Dr. N. B. Emerson, J. S. Emerson, Mrs. E. M. Nakuina, W. M. Gibson, Dr. C. M. Hyde, and others, all of whom are recognized authorities.




MLA Source Citation:

Thrum, Thomas G. Hawaiian Folk Tales A Collection of Native Legends. Chicago: R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company. 1907. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 21 April 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/hawaii/hawaiian-folk-tales-collection-native-legends.htm - Last updated on Oct 25th, 2013


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