Mae's Real Stories

Memories for Miriam, Alice, Theo, Delia, Tessa and anyone else who would like to be here

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


How Pele Became a Goddess

Miriam and Alice are asking for more stories about Pele. They know one story about how Pele came to the volcanic island of Hawaii with her little sister, and how she decided to eat Ohelo berries. This is a different story.

In this story, Pele starts out as an ordinary person, and later becomes the goddess of the volcano. At the beginning of the story, she lived in a house like the one in the picture (which we saw at a park in Hawaii). Her brothers made canoes like the man in the picture is making.

Kamapuaa, the god who changes his shape is also in this story. He can change himself into a fish -- the humuhumunukunukuapuaa. He can change himself into a boar (also called a pig or a hog). At the beginning of the story, Kamapuaa looks like a man. He is a very successful warrior and he is a leader of other warriors. They have defeated many tribes on the island of Hawaii.

At the beginning of the story, Kamapuaa and his men go to the southeast tip of Hawaii, below the volcano. This place is called Puna. We were near this place when we visited the volcano last summer. The house where Pele and her brothers lived was in Puna.

When he gets to Puna, Kamapuaa meets Pele and her family. He thinks Pele is very beautiful. He asks her to marry him. Pele and her brothers say "No, Pele won't marry you. You look like a hog. You have hog bristles on your back."

This made Kamapuaa very mad. He brought his warriors to attack Pele's family and her whole village. They all ran away from their houses in the middle of the night while Kamapuaa and his men were asleep. Kamapuaa and the men had to sleep on top of hard lava, like we saw in this picture.

Meanwhile, Pele and her family hid in a cave that they knew about in another part of Puna. Alice and Miriam might remember that lava flowing down from the volcano makes many caves. We even walked through one in the National Park (see photo).

Pele and her family thought they would be safe in the very big cave. The cave had a small opening in front, but it went far back into the black lava rock, into the side of the mountain. No one knew where the other end of the cave was, but they knew there was an opening because air came rushing through the cave. When they built a fire in the cave, the smoke blew out the front door.

In the cave, they put down their sleeping mats and their food. They rolled some big rocks into the front opening, and set up spears to keep the attackers away. Soon Kamapuaa and his men began to attack. Pele's brothers and the other men with them threw spears out the narrow opening. They were keeping the attackers away. Once Kamapuaa got too close and Pele's brother wounded him with a spear.

Kamapuaa decided they would make a fire and the smoke would drive Pele and her family out of the cave. The fire roared around the big rocks at the entry to the cave, but the smoke blew right out again because of the vent in the back. Pele's family had thought of this! The front part of the cave was hot, but they knew how to go back to cooler parts of the cave where they could be comfortable.

Next the boar god and his men decided to try to make a big hole above the cave, digging down so that they would come into the far end of the cave. As they dug, they heard a huge noise. They saw lava starting to flow out of a lava vent above the hole they were digging. They ran as fast as they could and got into their canoes. They paddled away to the other islands.

Lava flowed all around. The cave was full of lava. But Pele and her brothers became the goddess and gods of the volcano. Now Pele can make lava flow whenever she is angry. Sometimes people still see the beautiful young girl who refused to marry a man who could turn into a boar or into a fish. Sometimes she has flames for hair and is very frightening, sometimes she is warm and kind. Sometimes she is old instead of young. Pele isn't a person any more: she's a goddess. At least that's how this story ends.

In old Hawaii, people made temples where they worshiped the goddess Pele and other gods and goddesses. In the picture at the left is a platform where one of the temples once stood. It is called a heiau.

Even now, people leave flowers and candy or crackers for Pele. The picture at right shows a rock near the volcano crater where people put these things for Pele. They used to throw them into the pools of hot lava, but this year, the lava is very far from the road and you can't get there.

I based this story on a tale in the book The Legends and Myths of Hawaii, which was written long ago, in 1888, by King David Kalakaua, who was really the king of Hawaii.

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