Hawaiian Children's Literature
Hawaiian Children's LiteratureINTRODUCTION
OVERVIEWS AND GENERAL STUDIES
DEPICTIONS OF HAWAIIANS IN CHILDREN'S LITERATURE
FANTASY AND MYTH IN HAWAIIAN CHILDREN'S LITERATURE
The contributions of Hawaiian authors to and the depiction of Hawaiian history, culture, and mythology in the children's literature genre.
Underrepresented and often relying on stereotypes and cultural myths, Hawaiian children's literature suffers from a shallow pool of native-born authors, thus often leaving the depiction of the archipelagic state's history and mythology to authors with a lack of proper understanding of Hawaiian culture. In some ways, this cultural confusion is arguably reflective of the history of Hawaii itself, in which the network of islands has been variously ruled as a native monarchy, a European colony, and, most recently, as a territory and fiftieth state of the United States of America. Many scholars have described Hawaii's history as turbulent, particularly since it has been regularly retold from two divergent standpoints, that of native Hawaiians versus those ingrained with colonialist understandings. As such, critics like Janet E. Benton have stressed the importance of Hawaiian literature for children, arguing that, "if public schools in the United States are composed of a variety of cultural perspectives, then classroom literature selections should reflect that richness of diversity." However, unlike other minority cultures in the United States, Hawaii lacks a primary figurehead author to spear a movement towards greater accessibility of Hawaiian culture within the framework of American children's literature. Stephen Canham has lamented this absence, noting that, "Hawaii has about 800,000 people scattered over its various islands, of whom a goodly proportion are children. Yet it has no major writer for children, no author whose name we would instantly recognize and say, ‘Oh yes, I've heard of …’ Nor does it have a major illustrator. Why not?"
This apparent gap may be attributable to Hawaiian culture itself given its traditional reliance on oral stories as a means of cultural conveyance. Further, American children's literature often remains the province of "proper" English, a language which many native Hawaiians often reject, particularly the Anglicization of their contemporized language, a Hawaiian/English pidgin. However, while these potentially problematic issues may partially explain why there are not more prominent works of children's literature from native Hawaiian authors, it does not address the myriad of inaccuracies and stereotypes that seemingly plague many works of juvenile literature that use Hawaii and Hawaiian culture as an inspiration or backdrop. At best, children's stories about the Hawaiian islands are often earnest in their intent, albeit sometimes negligent in their portrayals. At worst, there have been several juvenile works, particularly from the early twentieth century, that characterized Hawaiian culture as innately primitive. Hawaiian scholar Craig Howes has asserted that such characterizations place Hawaiians on "the long list of ethnic minorities victimized through the cultural stereo-typing found so often in children's books." Howes has cited Peter Roop's The Cry of the Conch (1984) as an example of inadvertently detrimental Hawaiian children's literature. The story of a native boy who is forced to break a kapu (part of ancient Hawaiian laws) set by a chieftain who sees the boy as a rival to his own child, The Cry of the Conch offers inaccurate portrayals of the sacred kapu, while depicting ancient Hawaiians as bloodthirsty and vindictive. Howes has suggested that "racist assumptions pervade and undermine Roop's and many other writers' sincere and attempts to create positive, sympathetic Hawaiian child heroes largely because Hawaii has suffered acutely from the effects of what Edward Said calls Orientalism."
In his 1978 treatise, Orientalism, Edward Said suggested that Western culture had established incorrect characterizations of Asian culture, creating an underlying current of unintentional stereotypes that had, over the course of centuries, cemented themselves as fact in the eyes of the Western world. This, in Said's opinion, created a "subtle and persistent Eurocentric prejudice" against Asian culture. Critics such as Howes and Nancy Alpert-Mower have extended Said's theories to explain the subversive colonialist perspectives that seem to drive many literary characterizations of the Hawaiian islands authored by Caucasian writers. These sorts of propagandist portrayals reached an apex in the first half of the twentieth century, a period extending from the annexation of Hawaii by colonial settlers in 1898 to Hawaii's statehood in 1959. Typical among this canon was Mary Hazelton Wade's Hawaiian edition of her long-running "Our Little Cousin" series for young readers, which sought to profile children from around the world. In Our Hawaiian Cousin (1902), Wade's introduction notes her desire to profile the "the geography and the queer customs that are followed among strange people." A more egregious example was Lillian Elizabeth Roy's Hawaiian edition of her "Five Little Starrs" series, called Five Little Starrs in Hawaii (1919). In the story, a typical children's book of the time, Mumzie laments the fading Hawaiian language, to which her husband pointedly responds: "Such is civilization, my dear! The quaint and interesting customs of the untrained peoples gives way to the accepted forms of things of the dominant nations." Seemingly a work of colonialist dogma, the story was probably not intended as a perverse sublimation of the Hawaiian peoples; however, the story can be seen as reflective of societal attitudes of the era. In the period immediately following Hawaii's admittance to the Union in 1959, similarly reflective children's stories presumably mimic popular American sentiments of the period. In Eloise Engle's 1962 juvenile biography of Liliuokalani, the last Queen of Hawaii, titled The Princess of Paradise, Engle suggests, through the narrative voice of Liliuokalani, that she is "thrilled" to become a part of the U.S. after the annexation of her nation. Historical evidence, however, directly refutes such a statement, as Liliuokalani fought U.S. occupation well after the overthrow of her monarchy in 1893. Similarly, Liliuokalani: Young Hawaiian Queen, Shirlee Petkin Newman's 1960 biography of Princess Kaiulani, the successor to Liliuokalani, portrays the Princess as feeling excited upon seeing the American flag being hoisted above her nation for the first time. Kaiulani, however, has earned renown in her native land for her strong denunciation of American interference in Hawaiian affairs. Nancy Alpert-Mower has asserted that such historical inaccuracies are manifestations of "the European habit of viewing Asian cultures through a lens of romanticism for both the culture and geography of these distant places while still differentiating them as inferior, and requir(ing) the assistance of Western benevolence and rule."
Howes has further noted the disparity in how Hawaiians are depicted in most Western children's literature, arguing that "a fundamental contradiction runs through such meditations: Hawaiians are childlike, happy, and gentle people, but their former native leaders—the priests and he chiefs—were somehow evil, cunning, and powerful. This opposition is in fact a paradigm for the Western understanding of the alien or other. Always lurking behind the little child, or even the civilized Hawaiian adult, is the diabolical spectre of the savage." Another modern-day example of such a dismissal of Hawaiian tradition is found in the mythic tale of "Punia and the King of the Sharks." A popular story, "Punia" has been retold many times for a juvenile audience. In Lee Wardlaw's Punia and the King of the Sharks: A Hawaiian Folktale (1997), the American adaptor alters the story's conclusion to allow the native villagers to mock the dangerous Shark King, which would never happen in traditional Hawaiian culture. Alpert-Mower has suggested that the ending reflects "Wardlaw's own Western cultural assumptions and her lack of knowledge about Hawaiian culture." Illustrator Felipe Davolos's drawings similarly inaccurately reflect Hawaiian culture, incorrectly imagining Punia's lei, an important native symbol. Chicko Tachihata has alleged that, more than merely representative of Western philosophy or colonialist intonations, such transfigurations of Hawaiian cultural tradition are disrespectful because these legends "were real to the Hawaiian people just as the Greek and Roman gods and mythological figures were real to the ancient Greeks and Romans. The Hawaiian word for legends is mo'olelo, i.e., stories which were ‘real,’ in contrast to the work, ka'ao, which refers to made-up stories."
While there have been many cases of Caucasian children's authors co-opting Hawaiian legends for their own purposes, there have also been several examples of Hawaiian authors taking typically Western narratives and recontextualizing them for Hawaiian audiences. Donivee Martin Laird's series of recontextualized fairy tales—among them The Three Little Hawaiian Pigs and the Magic Shark (1981), Keaka and the Liliko'i Vine (1982), and Wili Wai Kula and the Three Mongooses (1983)—are variations on classic Western stories refashioned to use Hawaiian names, places, and language, but nearly identical to their Western forebears in almost every other regard. However, some critics, such as Cristina Bacchilega, have criticized the "Hawaiianization" of Western children's literature for Hawaiian audiences because such "transformations are purely functional (i.e., dictated by the setting) and the children are encouraged to recognize them as such, the mythic dimensions of the tales as imaginative stories of initiation is unfortunately reduced; transformations do not seem to symbolize the inner journey through which we learn to know and use our strength, to produce ‘magic’." Canham has suggested that "true" Hawaiian children's literature should "ring with the sense of place, that aloha aina (love for the land) with which a local writer might have imbued the narrative." In so doing, Canham has suggested that the "regional story, Hawaiian or Bostonian, responds to the linguistic context, uses it without exploiting it, enriches itself with the tenor of the language, thereby achieving both credibility and honesty."
Recent trends in Hawaiian children's literature have begun to favor more regional and culturally accurate narratives, thanks in no small part to the growing Hawaiian sovereignty movement and the increase in native Hawaiian schools. Critic Janet E. Benton has recommended Miriam E. Rappolt's One Paddle, Two Paddle … Hawaiian Teenage Mystery and Suspense Stories (1983), Rodney Morales's The Speed of Darkness (1988), and Graham Salisbury's Blue Skin of the Sea (1992) for their honest portrayal of contemporary and historical Hawaii. Benton has alleged that these three texts "skillfully explore the multi-dimensional nature of cultural identity and social interaction while incorporating themes cutting across all cultural groups." In summation, Stephen Canham has argued that, "Modern Hawaii prides itself on being a meeting point, a place where peoples and cultures merge and learn from one another. In our haste to learn of the technology and business skills of others, we—adult and child alike—should not forget the old wisdom embodied in the ancient Hawaiian tales, wisdom still accessible through the best of Hawaiian's ‘children's’ literature."
Hawaiian Mythology (mythology) 1940; revised edition, 1970
Backbone of the King: The Story of Pakaa and His Son Ku (picture book) 1966; republished, 1984
Adventures of Kamapua'a [with Pam Buffet; edited by Ruth Tabrah] (picture book) 1972
Kahala: Where the Rainbow Ends [edited by Ruth Tabrah] (picture book) 1973
Princess of Paradise (juvenile biography) 1962
Helen P. Hoyt
The Princess Kaiulani (juvenile biography) 1974
The Night Marchers: A Tale of the Huakai Po [illustrations by Susan Carter-Smith] (picture book) 1976
Ku'ulei Ihara and 'I Johnson
The Eight Rainbows of Umi [illustrations by Marcia Morse] (picture book) 1976
His Hawaiian Majesty King David Kalakaua
The Legends and Myths of Hawaii: The Fables and Folk-Lore of a Strange People (folklore and mythology) 1988
Samuel M. Kamakau
Ka Po'e Kahiko: The People of Old [translated by Mary Kawena Pukui] (juvenile history) 1987
Herb Kawainui Kane
Voyage: The Discovery of Hawaii (juvenile history) 1976
Donivee Martin Laird
The Three Little Hawaiian Pigs and the Magic Shark (picture book) 1981
Keaka and the Liliko'i Vine (picture book) 1982
Wili Wai Kula and the Three Mongooses (picture book) 1983
'Ula Li'i and the Magic Shark (picture book) 1985
The Speed of Darkness (juvenile short stories) 1988
Nancy Alpert Mower
I Visit Tūtū and Grandma [illustrations by Patricia A. Wozniak] (picture book) 1984
My Tūtū Kane and Grandpa [illustrations by Patricia A. Wozniak] (picture book) 1988
Da Kine Pidgin Stories (juvenile short stories) 1954
Shirlee Petkin Newman
Liliuokalani: Young Hawaiian Queen (juvenile biography) 1960
The Haole Substitute (juvenile novel) 1994
Miriam E. Rappolt
One Paddle, Two Paddle … Hawaiian Teenage Mystery and Suspense Stories (juvenile short stories) 1983
Jama Kim Rattigan
The Woman in the Moon: A Story of Hawaii [illustrations by Carla Golembe] (picture book) 1996
*The Cry of the Conch [illustrations by Patric] (juvenile novel) 1984
Lillian Elizabeth Roy
Five Little Starrs in Hawaii (juvenile novel) 1919
Blue Skin of the Sea (juvenile short stories) 1992
Vivian L. Thompson
Hawaiian Myths of the Earth, Sea, and Sky [illustrations by Leonard Weisgard] (folklore and mythology) 1966
Hawaiian Legends of Tricksters and Riddlers [illustrations by Sylvie Selig] (folklore and mythology) 1969
Maui-Full-of-Tricks: A Legend of Old Hawaii [illustrations by Earl Thollander] (folklore and mythology) 1970
Hawaiian Tales of Heroes and Champions [illustrations by Herb Kawainui Kane] (folklore and mythology) 1971
Mary Hazelton Wade
Our Little Hawaiian Cousin (juvenile history) 1902
Punia and the King of the Sharks: A Hawaiian Folktale [adaptor; illustrations by Felipe Davalos] (picture book) 1997
Kalakaua: Hawaii's Last King (juvenile history) 1983
*First appeared in a shorter form in the June 1983 issue of Cricket magazine. An expanded version was later published as part of the Treasury of Children's Hawaiian Stories imprint in 1984.
Stephen Canham (essay date winter 1984-1985)
SOURCE: Canham, Stephen. "‘Da Kine’: Writing for Children in Hawaii—and Elsewhere." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 9, no. 4 (winter 1984-1985): 174-76.
[In the following essay, Canham analyzes the lack of internationally-known Hawaiian children's authors and offers suggestions for writers seeking to create enduring works of Hawaiian children's literature.]
Hawaii has about 800,000 people scattered over its various islands, of whom a goodly proportion are children. Yet it has no major writer for children, no author whose name we would instantly recognize and say "Oh yes, I've heard of …" Nor does it have a major illustrator. Why not? Do artists need cold winters? Interstate freeways? Squirrels, snakes, or other fauna that Hawaii lacks? I doubt it; the problem is more complex than that, and its various issues touch not only Hawaii, but any community with a distinct regional identity.
Let's take the most obvious things first. Where is Hawaii, anyway? All most people know is that it's a long way away. When mainlanders visit Hawaii they don't even consider it part of the United States—"Back in the States," they say, and their mistake tacitly acknowledges the isolation and sense of difference which inform life in the Islands. But while Hawaii is the most geographically isolated inhabited land area in the world, the artist cannot really "get away" in Hawaii—after all, we have our traffic jams, our pollution, our crime, just like every other place in the U.S. And it's only a five hour flight back to the mainland, and a microsecond by satellite. Wall Street Journal? New York Times? You can get them the same day in Honolulu. So, if one is going to claim remoteness as a reason for the lack of a major writer for children resident in Hawaii, one cannot do so strictly on the basis of geography.
Besides geographic isolation, there are more complex and delicate aspects of the issue. Take language. I have lived in Hawaii for six years, and throughout that time, I have observed and participated in what I call the Great On-Going Pidgin Debate. The lingua franca in Hawaii is not standard English, but a creole inaccurately called "pidgin." Actually, there are many different pidgins, spoken by different ethnic groups in different parts of the Islands. But together they form a powerful, colorful, and useful blend of English, Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, and other Pacific languages, with its origins in the speech of immigrant laborers of the sugar and pineapple plantations. Pidgin is the oral language of the "local," the person who is decidedly from Hawaii without necessarily being of full Hawaiian ancestry; the precise meaning of "local" depends entirely on the speaker. To call someone "local" can carry everything from commendatory to pejorative implications, a typical example of pidgin's flexibility. A "local boy"—or girl—takes "da kine" (pidgin), would like to drive "da kine" (a lowered Volkswagen or Toyota with dark-tinted windows and a three-hundred dollar sound system), "grinds da kine" (eats plate lunches "wit two scoop rice"), likes to "go beach" or cruise, and outwardly seems perfectly content doing so. Novice locals, those in the pre-driving years, imitate their elders scrupulously, studying the moves and intonations, the patterns of culture and language, that their local heroes display in shopping malls, parking lots, and on the beach. Here's the rub: the local doesn't read.
Not that he can't—he just doesn't. The written word, the word as art, doesn't matter much to the local. He has not been trained, has not been initiated into the mystery of the word, into its beauty, its probing, expressive and evocative capabilities, and so its aesthetic dimension remains unknown. For the local, words are often only mechanical instruments, minimal tools to be used to obtain something at a rudimentary level of exchange—a driver's license, position in the peck order, a fight. There are, of course, crude generalizations, but they hold—not only in Hawaii.
The predominant use of pidgin by the local youth reveals their intense ethnocentricity, their profound need for a group identity in the midst of the numerous ethnic and economic enclaves of the Islands. This ethnocentricity seems to stem first and foremost from a desire to clearly establish a sense of boundary, a sense of familiarity and shared interest—a safe harbor in the midst of cultural and ethical diversity and change. Anything with the potential to rock one's boat, as good literature pre-eminently should, is to be viewed skeptically. A confident sense of self-containment, an insularity bred of living on a tiny speck of volcanic rock in the middle of an ocean, controls the thinking of many of the youth of the island. Paradoxically, these same youth are absolutely dependent on the outside world for most of what they prize—the technology, the music, the fads, the styles. But books? Nah, nevah read em, bra. There is a fierce pride associated with the local's use of pidgin and in many cases a resistance to the use of pidgin "proper" English, which is viewed, rightly or wrongly, as the colonial language of the upper middle class Caucasian.
Truly Hawaiian children, those of clear Hawaiian ancestry, share a rich and sad cultural heritage, one filled with powerful stories and myths which are still vital today, and filled also with a clear sense of the central value of ohana (family) and aloha (love). Yet these values were, and still are, primarily transmitted orally, through the spoken story. This accounts for another problem for the writer in Hawaii. Not only does the local disdain reading, but, drawing precedent from Hawaiian and Pacific cultures, the local prefers to "talk story," to chat amiably for hours on end. The arts of storytelling and bullshitting are alive and well in Hawaii, as in the art of oral disputation—local people love to argue. Oral narrative tradition ensures that a non-literate culture such as pre-contact Hawaii's preserves its history, legends, myths, and lineages; it continues today in the informal custom of talking story: ride any bus and listen to the people talking, eavesdrop over any park bench, listen to the conversations in supermarkets, and you soon realize that the art of the story, the impulse to transform life into art, is central to the inner life of Hawaii. But not necessarily in a written form.
So, pidgin being primarily an oral phenomenon, how can one establish and write for an audience in and beyond Hawaii using the actual, authentic dialect of the Islands' people? This is the issue with which Hawaiian writers (for both adults and children) have been excoriating themselves for years. Blinded by their isolation—psychological now, not physical—Hawaii's writers have forgotten that dialect is always an oral phenomenon, that the task of the writer is not to report, not to remain within the dialect exclusively, but to use the dialect evocatively and aesthetically to set the tenor of the work, its timbre and color. Most stories done entirely in dialect become regional artifacts, period pieces which one reviews with a sense of quaintness and distance; compare Joel Chandler Harris or Paul Laurence Dunbar with William Faulkner. The Uncle Remus stories seem reportorial, as if Harris were primarily concerned with transcribing what he heard around him, or, in a darker sense, with confirming and reinforcing the attitudes and stereotypes in place in his culture. But Yoknapatawpha County is alive and vital today because Faulkner's use of language is analytical, insightful, evocative. As Alan Garner has said, dialect must be used sparingly to create the illusion, not the reality, of demotic culture. The rhythms and intonations of the regional dialect should blend with standard English to evoke the culture, not to mirror it. At its worst, local dialect becomes phonetic transcription, mocking, trivializing, and parodying the truly vital linguistic culture of a given area. The regional dialect gives characters distinct identity and life—but the matrix of the story will be universal, will not need "translating." Thus, to go beyond the immediate regional audience, one must go beyond dialect. This is why, I believe, that such Hawaiian efforts to "Snow White and the Seven Meneheunes" or "Twelf' Night, o'Whatevahs" appear so ludicrous to me—what was universal and ac- cessible has become specialized and limited. These efforts go the wrong way: instead of trying to make the local reveal the universal, they try to ram the already universal knowledge of the fictions into a limited local context. It just doesn't fit. Snow White grows out of her own cultural traditions—to deracinate her from those traditions is to achieve bathos. It strikes me as culturally and geographically warped to "Hawaiianize" Snow White or the Three Little Pigs when Hawaii already has powerful stories about queens and magical "little people," and even fine traditional fictions about the mythical pig Kamapua'a. We just don't need Western European imports in ill-fitting hula skirts—such aesthetic tourism denigrates the traditions of both the host and guest cultures. We need them, instead, clothed in the language and styles of the cultures which gave them birth; we need them, as it were, naturally. From the naturalness of their ways and speech, expressed in a matrix of the standard dialect of the language, we will learn much about both their similarities to and differences from ourselves.
Given these issues, how does one go about writing in response to or about place? In Hawaii, as I have implied, to do so requires first a sense of the language, the patois, which comprises and defines the communicative texture of the area. To ignore this is first, to insult the quality of the spoken life of a region and second, to impose a false standard on that region. So the writing must, in some deep sense, be mimetic, must be alive to and reflective of the linguistic context in which it occurs. One cannot, as I have seen done, toss in a Hawaiian word here and there, sometimes even translated in parentheses or footnotes, and presume to have created a story which responds to the texture of the language. Consider Kate Chopin's use of Louisiana creole of Katherine Paterson's use of the Rass Islanders' speech in Jacob Have I Loved—no glosses, no apologies, are necessary, because the language is the story, is the character, indeed is inseparable from them. Yet it is not all of the story, for to keep an entire story in dialect is to verge on or achieve anecdote. The regional story, Hawaiian or Bostonian, responds to the linguistic context, uses it without exploiting it, enriches itself with the tenor of the language, thereby achieving both credibility and honesty.
And what subject, theme? If there were themes that were exclusively regional, then I suspect that the entire concept of literature would be invalid. What we feel and experience and value in one place becomes important not only for itself, but precisely for what its transformation into art can tell others about similar experiences in different contexts. If literature is a passport, then I suspect that there are no places to which the reader cannot travel, no places in which human experience is so alien, so remote, so foreign, that it cannot be made accessible through the art of the story or poem. Truisms, yes—but ones that regional writers sometimes tend to forget. Is the problem, then, that the quality of life and experience in the Hawaiian Islands is somehow impoverished, somehow less satisfactory than elsewhere? I doubt this. If anything, the amalgam of cultures in Hawaii offers the artist unique opportunities. For the sensitive reader, child or adult, it is the art of the fiction that determines its quality—and in part, at least, that is its ability at once to be grounded in and yet go beyond setting. And we should not forget the appeal of the exotic—to the child in Hawaii, a Maine winter is every bit as fabulous as a coral reef to a New Englander.
There is one situation in Hawaii which may be unique, but I rather doubt even that: this is the Stolen Thunder Syndrome, in which some outsider, in Hawaii's case James Michener writing for adults, tells one's tale better than one had been able to do one's self, thereby engendering a severe case of guilt and verbal paralysis. Michener's mammoth novel, Hawaii, first appeared in 1959 and has gone through thirty-three reprintings; it remains the standard popular version of the mythos and history of the Islands and remains responsible for shaping the conceptions of countless tourists and residents alike. Michener, with his infallible nose for a good story, spotted one and wrote it. There are problems with his book—factual inaccuracies, ethnic biases, and omissions—but in the end one must admire his ability to create and market the big story. Among Hawaii's writers, he is not so often admired; rather, he is sometimes reviled as a mercenary haole (caucasian) who insensitively portrayed a complex and proud history with an eye to profit, not art. Yet virtually no one has arisen to counter Michener's version of the Islands in the popular fiction trade; this is not to say that there are not good writers in Hawaii working with Hawaiian themes—there are. But how many of you have ever heard of, let alone read, the historical novels of Ozzie Bushnell, Marjorie Sinclair and John Dominis Holt, the pidgin stories of Darrell Lum and Milton Murayama, or Vivian Thompson's retelling of Hawaiian legends for children? By conceding the national and international field to Michener, Hawaii's young writers seemed to bind their imaginations, to stymie themselves. I think this anxiety indicates a major problem for the regional writer—the sense of closure that informs his or her work, of entrapment, of enclosed, restricted psychological space. "My story only works here, and no one else can understand it if they haven't lived here, if they have not been me." A strange thing to purport, if literature is indeed imaginative and vicarious experience, but a view that needs acknowledging and countermanding, I think.
This usurping of thunder occurs not only with adult writing, but also with juvenile materials. Recently, Dave Guard has published a handsome retelling of a Hawaiian legend titled Hale Mano; Guard, a former member of the Kingston Trio, lives in California. In June 1983 Cricket Magazine featured Hawaii and Polynesia; of the two pieces of historical fiction dealing with ancient Hawaii, one was done by an island resident and one by a person from Michigan. Locally produced titles, unfortunately, have lately run to the reductive European-tale-in-island-setting formula, giving our children such titles as The Three Little Hawaiian Pigs and the Magic Shark or Keaka and the Liliko'i Vine (Jack and the Beanstalk).
The true problem is not that someone else discovered one's story, or even the facile ease with which tales may be borrowed and superficially adapted to a new culture, but that Hawaii's writers for children—and adults—have not been able to find their own authentic ways to tell the stories that grow out of their experience. Literary scholars are not usually satisfied with one biography of an author or historians with one version of an event—why should our writers be blocked by a single rendering of their place or be satisfied with substituting mongooses for bears in "Goldilocks?" Gradually, Hawaii's writers are undergoing the kind of occupational therapy that should allow them to overcome their paralysis; several small literary magazines have appeared in the past four or five years, numerous conferences devoted to writing in Hawaii (including writing for children) have been held, and there is a growing sense that the terrible giant's grip on the market is not ironclad, after all.
Pride of place, I think, comes down ultimately to pride in self, in one's deeply known, deeply felt need to tell a story set in a locale familiar on both the inside and outside. That is what is wrong with Michener and many of the children's books about the Islands; his Hawaii is superficially true, but it does not often ring with the sense of place, the aloha aina (love for the land) with which a local writer might have imbued the narrative. Whether one is in harmony or conflict with place is of little absolute moment—what matters is that the story be honest. One could conceivably hate Hawaii as passionately as many love it—either impulse would result in the base for a good fiction, a "true" story. But not to care, not to be committed, not to take sustenance from the place and people about which you write, is to court failure, to remove the self from the empathy or antipathy which good writing, I believe, demands. You will find this vitality in all writers whose work goes beyond their geographic region—in Faulkner, in Momaday, in Chopin, in Service, in Steinbeck, in London, in Flannery O'Connor, in Malamud, in Virginia Hamilton, in Garner, in Paterson—and so on.
But is there anything ultimately wrong with addressing one's self to a local audience in the first place? No. In the end, there is only quality, and that alone—if the artist's vision, receptivity and creativity are profound enough, the local will serve as the basis of art. As William Stafford wrote, in response to the local issue in Hawaii, "All events and experiences are local, somewhere…. And paradoxically the more local the feeling in art, the more all people can share it; for that vivid encounter with the stuff of the world is our common ground." It is precisely the "vivid encounter with the stuff of the world" that defines the local writer. In this sense, Homer was a local writer, Shakespeare a local writer, Proust, Woolf, Joyce local writer all. The intensely felt real world is the material of art—and where can one better feel the real world than in one's local world, the world one presumably knows best, in the blood, in the heart? Hawaii's writers expend a great deal of their time and energy defending themselves as local writers or apologizing for being "local"—more the pity. If they could get over the hump of self-doubt and understand that to be local is to be human, and to be human is to harbor the potential for art, then the work of the artist, the creative interpretation of the world, might get on a bit more smoothly. But the Great On-Going Pidgin Debate goes on—should I write in pidgin; is it possible to write in pidgin; can a caucasian ever really speak pidgin, let alone try to translate it into a text; no one will understand Hawaii who doesn't live here, wasn't born here, isn't sansei, isn't "local"—and so on. We are all local, somewhere. If we could only overcome the apprehension that to be local is to be bounded, to be isolated, rather than to be unique and yet universal, what might we not be able to do!
Why has there been no major writer for children in Hawaii? In the end, I think two failures are to blame, the first a failure of the writer's apprehension and use of language, in which dialect becomes a self-limiting premise, a part of an impulse to exclude, to speak only to a known and restricted audience—a slang, in other words. The second, equally serious, failure has to do with imagination, as place becomes merely a setting for action, a backdrop rather than a foreground. When place becomes an excuse for action, rather than its reason or reflection, a deep vitality and profound causality have been lost. The real tragedy is that, by failing to write out of a clear sense of place, we not only miss opportunities to explore the world, we may also encourage others to be silent, to remain xenophobically bounded. "Da kine," the language and knowledge of place, deserves celebration, not denigration, whether it be in Hawaii or anywhere in the world.
Garner, Alan. "Achilles in Altjira," ChLA Quarterly 8, 4 (Winter 1983): 5-10.
Stafford, William. "On Being Local," Bamboo Ridge: The Hawaii Writers' Quarterly 9 (Dec. 1980-Feb. 1981): 71.
Brenda Freitas-Obregon (essay date 1996)
SOURCE: Freitas-Obregon, Brenda. "‘When I Was Your Age …’: The Importance of Elders in the Childhood Experience." In Literature and Hawaii's Children: Values and Traditions from Many Cultures: Children's Tales Told and Retold, edited by Suzanne Kosanke and Todd H. Sammons, pp. 173-76. Honolulu, Hawaii: Children's Literature Hawai'i, 1996.
[In the following essay, Freitas-Obregon discusses how the value of elders in Hawaiian culture is expressed through Hawaiian children's literature.]
Whether Native American, Native Hawaiian, Chinese, Irish, or Italian, grandparents tell stories that become our stories. In this session, I will introduce children's picture books that illustrate guardianship, recollection, and transmission of values and traditions: cultural, familial, and individual. Together, we will discuss values and traditions discovered in children's picture books and share memories which have been kept alive and enduring by our elders in photo albums, in memory boxes, or by knots on a counting rope.
In Knots on a Counting Rope, by Bill Martin and John Archambault and illustrated by Ted Rand, Grandfather and Boy recount the story of the stormy birth night that gave Boy his name: Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses. This is a strong name to help him grow strong, to help him cross the dark mountains of life. Boy learns to see through the dark curtain in front of his eyes. He feels, and he remembers. And to preserve the memory, Grandfather ties another knot on the counting rope, saying: "When the rope is filled with knots, you will know the story by heart and can tell it to yourself."
Using knots on a counting rope, Grandfather helps Boy remember the rainbows, sunsets, and dark mountains, giving readers an example of grandparents and other significant older adults who often become important partners in the lives of children. Grandparents and grandchildren can help each other to remember.
The counting rope, kaula hipu'u, also had a place in Hawaii. It was a tangible device used to guide the memories of elders who keep the values and traditions of their people alive and enduring. In Kristin Zambucka's biography of Kalakaua, you may read:
An eerie stillness hung over the tree-studded grounds of Iolani Palace. No bird sang, no leaf rustled as the molten sun slid silently down the Western sky. One by one the old men came. Some were bent like gnarled trees. Others showed astonishingly youthful faces, despite their advanced ages. Tall and erect they held themselves while their years were suspended. Most walked alone across the Palace's crisp green lawns. A few were accompanied. In many hands could be seen a kaula hipu'u, the treasured ball of olona cord, knotted at intervals and fingered as a memory device on which were preserved facts and knowledge handed down for generations by word of mouth.
They were the kahuna … and they came to Honolulu to keep a rendezvous with the reigning King … all … branches of this ancient order were summoned by Kalakaua to pool their knowledge while Hawaiian secretaries faithfully recorded every word.
Memories, values, and traditions are kept alive by the elders. They teach us by telling us about how they grew up, where they lived, why they did things, what their parents taught them. That moral and traditional heritage is shared in the oral tradition of storytelling and in everyday conversation, recorded in family genealogies, and illustrated and retold in picture books. While many fairy tales begin "Once upon a time," many children have heard a real tale begin with "When I was your age."
According to Thomas Lickona in Raising Good Children, "One of the most enjoyable ways for children to learn about values—and for you to foster them—is from the pages of a good book" (344). Appendix D contains an annotated list of "Books for Kids That Foster Moral Values" that are classic read-alouds and read-alones. Among the trends observed in publishing in the past six years is the increased amount of realistic fiction about older adults and children. A search of the on-line public access catalog of the Hawai'i State Public Library System reveals titles of over 100 picture books published since 1988 that have been evaluated and selected for the public libraries on these subjects. Picture books about family life allow children to discover the world within and beyond their home, family, friends, school, and municipality—a world where they meet children like and unlike themselves.
Picture books fill the needs of children. Grandfather filled many needs of Boy: the need to complete tasks, the need for health and happiness, the need to know, the need to love and be loved, the need to belong to a people, the need to work and play, the need to appreciate the magnificence and order of nature. Picture books can show through text and illustrations how elders teach children values.
Seventeen values (in bold type below) were explored during this workshop session.
Elders teach children to believe in themselves, because children who feel good about themselves will respect others. Elders teach children to achieve courage in order to face the adversities of life. Elders teach children to seek excellence in all they do. The motto of Queen Kapi'olani reinforces that value: "Kulia i ka nu'u. Strive to reach the highest" (Pukui 205).
Elders teach children to be fair through the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Elders teach children to cherish freedom as the cornerstone of American democracy. Elders teach children to have faith so that they may seek and find answers to the questions of our existence and destiny. Elders teach children to be humble. Hawaiian kupuna admonish children with "E noho iho i ke opu weuweu, mai ho'oki'eki'e. Remain among the clumps of grasses and do not elevate yourself. Do not put on airs, show off, or assume an attitude of superiority" (Pukui 44).
Elders teach children to seek happiness in life. Elders teach children to be honest because being honest is to be trusted. Elders teach children that to love and to be loved is a basic need. Elders teach children to desire learning. Three keys to success in learning are reading aloud to children ten minutes a day (as the Read-to-Me campaign advertises), making books and reading an important daily habit, and visiting the public library regularly.
Elders teach children to be patriotic and to love and respect their country. Elders teach respect: respect for oneself, respect for others, respect for life, and respect for elders. A Hawaiian adage states, "I pa'a i kona kupuna 'a'ole kakou e puka. Had our ancestors died in bearing our grandparent, we would not have come forth. Said to remind a member of the family to respect the senior line, because they came first" (Pukui 136).
Elders teach children to develop good sportsmanship. "Sports can build self-esteem, offer an experience in being a part of a team, and provide challenges that test and develop a youngster's self-discipline" (Lickona 339). Elders teach children to think. Children learn to ask about options, to consider the consequences, and to make the best decisions. Elders teach children to be understanding. A popular saying reminds everyone: "Never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes" (Lickona 342).
Elders teach children traditions: the cultural sayings, beliefs, legends, customs, recipes, and more that are handed down from generation to generation. Respect for cultural roots, for the importance of one's own roots, and for the significance of one's roots plants the seeds of all values in a person's life.
In conclusion, the picture books we have discussed and those listed in the bibliography that follows illustrate the guardianship, the recollection, and the transmission of values and traditions by our elders. We, too, can pass along thoughts and memories—our own or those found in books—to the younger generation. Just imagine the values and traditions that will grow!
Lickona, Thomas. Raising Good Children. New York: Bantam, 1983.
Martin, Bill, and John Archambault. Knots on a Counting Rope. New York: Holt, 1987.
Pukui, Mary Kawena. 'Olelo No'eau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings. Bernice P. Bishop Museum Special Pub. 71. Honolulu: Bishop Museum P, 1983.
Zambucka, Kristin. Kalakaua: Hawaii's Last King. Honolulu: Mana; Honolulu: Marvin/Richard, 1983.
Craig Howes (essay date 1987)
SOURCE: Howes, Craig. "Hawaii through Western Eyes: Orientalism and Historical Fiction for Children." Lion and the Unicorn 11, no. 1 (1987): 68-87.
[In the following essay, Howes argues that children's books about Hawaii often borrow heavily from stereotypes about the island state's native population, which are both inaccurate and the result of the Western trend of "Orientalism."]
At the New York World's Fair, Walt Disney unveiled a shrine to one version of the ideal relationship between children and their cultures. "It's a Small World" celebrates a universe of round-headed, button-eyed, cherry-cheeked children, identical except for skin shade and ethnic accessories—Mexican sombreros, Arab veils, Hawaiian leis. This sideshow subordinates a child's cultural identity to the cause of a higher humanism. In the small world, cultural peculiarities are intriguing, and even entertaining, but finally accidents of birth, and thus no essential part of the child's nature. Disney's little people are differently clothed versions of the same child.
This vision of the child as cultural innocent shapes a great many children's books, and such works have their merits, since they avoid the racism of many stories that portray minorities as ridiculous by nature. But many writers and critics have recognized that the small world's apparent relativism actually trivializes the history and cultural practices of any ethnic heritage other than the dominant white, male, Western Judeo-Christian one.1 Everyone starts out as ethnically neutral; unfortunately, some children are doomed to grow up into foreigners.
This paper has two purposes. By briefly examining a number of books, then concentrating on Peter Roop's The Cry of the Conch as my representative text, I'd first like to add Hawaiians to the long list of ethnic minorities victimized through the cultural stereotyping found so often in children's books. But second, I'd like to argue that racist assumptions pervade and undermine Roop's and many other writers' sincere attempts to create positive, sympathetic Hawaiian child heroes largely because Hawaii has suffered acutely from the effects of what Edward Said calls Orientalism. This second purpose has important implications for evaluating all children's books dealing with other cultures. By examining how Hawaii was described by its first visitors, and how these records, in turn, inform and direct subsequent writing, we can see how a historical understanding of intellectual and academic racism can help critics, scholars, and readers of children's literature protect themselves against the charges of impressionism, kneejerk liberalism, and aesthetic crudity so often levelled against those who describe a children's text as racist. Ideally, then, such an understanding can lead not only to better books, but also to more reliable ways of recognizing and evaluating the ethnocentric assumptions implicit within many works for children.
Hawaii's history as a setting or subject for children's books closely parallels its history as an object for Western scrutiny. At their most negligible, such fictions simply retell an old chestnut Hawaiian-style. Works like Wili Wai Kula and the Three Mongooses (Goldilocks and the Three Bears) or The Three Little Hawaiian Pigs and the Magic Shark do, I suppose, represent a mild sort of cultural bullying, but the total lack of concern with history or ethnicity places such books at roughly the same level as the inevitable Hawaiian Christmas cards portraying Santa Claus riding a surfboard.2 When children's books retell Hawaii's history, however, much more is at stake, since the writer must somehow deal with the "discovery," exploitation, annexation, and assimilation of a separate people. A look at how a few juvenile biographies and histories account for annexation and eventual statehood shows just how manipulative such works can be. The "revolution" (1893) which brought Hawaii under direct U.S. influence was carried out by white American businessmen, acting with the generous but unauthorized support of the U.S. military stationed in the islands at the time. The goal was to overthrow the Hawaiian monarchy, an institution which itself emerged after Western contact, but which had become troublesome due to its understandable desire for national self-determination. The monarch who suffered the indignity of being deposed was Queen Liliuokalani, whose fiery anger at her fate, and whose grim determination to regain both her throne and her nation's independence, would seem to make her an excellent subject for children's historical writing.
Her fate at the hands of some writers, however, has been similar to her treatment by the white-collar revolutionaries. Some simply turn their heads. In a book about Princess Kaiulani, the Queen's designated heir, Helen P. Hoyt blandly remarks that "It seems that Queen Liliuokalani lost her throne." Hoyt's ac- count of what follows is just as detailed; apparently without human intervention, "The kingdom first became a Republic and later asked the United States to protect them." The Queen's absent-mindedness and the Republic's request, however, both lead to a happy ending, at least for the little American reader, since "Princess Kaiulani at age eighteen became a private citizen like you and me." Biographies written close to the time of statehood go further. Though Shirlee Petkin Newman does say that Liliuokalani wanted Hawaii "to remain an independent kingdom, governed by the Hawaiian people themselves" (186), her biography ends with "the last Queen of Hawaii" raising Old Glory over her home during World War I:
All her bitterness and sorrow were gone. She felt only pride in her young countrymen who were fighting to protect their world.
She looked up at the flag fluttering in the wind. The stars and stripes looked beautiful against the deep blue of the Hawaiian sky.
"Now, truly, it is our flag, too," she thought.
This conclusion is as predictable as it is distorted—after all, Newman's biography is part of the "Childhood of Famous Americans" series—but it pales in comparison to Eloise Engle's The Princess of Paradise (1962), which suggests that before ascending the throne, Liliuokalani herself had felt but suppressed a desire for Hawaii to become an American state:
"HOIST THE COLORS!"
Now her legs, her feet, her scalp even, tingled with the sight of the American flag, with its thirty-one stars, climbing slowly to the top of the mast. The sailors saluted, and for a brief instant, she nearly did so too.
Why should she feel this thrill for the United States? Why? Why? Could it be possible that her kingdom would be another star on that flag?
She does answer these questions "No, of course not," but Engle's speculations about the young princess suggest to young readers that in her best moments Liliuokalani knew that statehood was in her kingdom's interest.
Nor is this kind of Hawaiian-history-as-American-Manifest-Destiny confined to children's books celebrating statehood. Annexation itself had its own juvenile apologists, and they are of particular interest because they so often lay bare the cultural assumptions of superiority lying hidden behind what masquerades as history. Some early works are almost perversely refreshing in their lack of self-consciousness. "‘Oh, Mumzie, look at all the people—they are almost brown,’" cries out Don, one of Lillian Elizabeth Roy's Five Little Starrs, when he first sees the "motley assemblage of natives, Mongolians, and other foreigners" who apparently inhabit Honolulu in 1919. Sentimentality for native ways is excluded from the Starr family on principle; when Mumzie finds it "a pity" that the Hawaiian language is dying away, her husband firmly corrects her: "‘Such is civilization, my dear! The quaint and interesting customs of untrained peoples give way to the accepted forms of things of the dominant nations,’ said Daddum, seriously" (66).
Here, then, is one version of the well-worn "civilized" Hawaiian: a happy, incompetent child, regardless of chronological age, whose former savagery resulted from superstition and evil chiefs, and whose current prosperity is therefore directly attributable to the loving but firm guidance of American missionaries and white employers. This portrait should be familiar: it is one of the common turn-of-the-century pictures of all Native Americans and indigenous peoples residing in American possessions and spheres of influence. "The Little Cousin Series" (1902) provided young Americans with a gallery of such pictures, as Mary Hazelton Wade introduced us to our little Hawaiian, Cuban, Phillippine, Porto Rican [sic], Japanese, Russian, African, Indian, Eskimo, and Brown [sic] relatives. The Chicago Evening Post sums up Wade's intentions perfectly: "Boys and girls, reading the tales of these little cousins in different parts of the world, will gain considerable knowledge of geography and the queer customs that are followed among strange people." The "strangeness" of Auwae, our little Hawaiian cousin, however, is all in the past: "How glad I am that I live now instead of a hundred years ago" (41). This little girl is truly a fitting representative for the "brown, childlike people" who not only welcomed the missionaries gladly, but eventually "asked the greatest of the American nations, our United States, to receive them into her family; for they saw that they could not govern themselves as wisely alone as with her help" (vi). American domination thus allows Hawaiians to fulfill their highest aspiration—remaining children, as Wade's description of Auwae's mother reveals:
She, a grown woman, is idly making wreaths in company with her neighbours, instead of cooking and sweeping, dusting and sewing for the family! Think of it and wonder. But then, you say, this is a holiday; why should they not be idle and gay? The fact is, all days are like this to the Hawaiian mother, who lives the life of a grown-up child. The world does not seem so serious as some people think. It is a happy dream, and mother and child and neighbour dance and sing, swim and ride, in sunshine and in rain alike.
Auwae does have some concerns—like William Blake's little Black boy, for instance, she grieves for a time about not being white—but Christ and annexation have saved her from the hell of pre-contact Hawaii. "Think of it! less than a hundred years ago not only animals, but human beings, little children even, were sacrificed to hideous wooden and stone idols" (41), Wade exclaims, but she lets the little cousins themselves feel the gratitude for today's Hawaii:
… both children are still for a moment as they think lovingly of the good missionaries who came to their land just as their own people had given up idols. The good men and women came to tell them something better than they had ever known—something to drive fear from their hearts, to destroy the cruel power of the priests, and to bring freedom of mind and body. What was it? The love of God!
Of course a fundamental contradiction runs through such meditations: Hawaiians are childlike, happy, and gentle people, but their former native leaders—the priests and the chiefs—were somehow evil, cunning, and powerful. This opposition is in fact a paradigm for the Western understanding of the alien or other. Always lurking behind the little child, or even the civilized Hawaiian adult, is the diabolical spectre of the savage. Outside domination therefore attempts to split these two elements temporally, keeping the savage in the past, and the obedient child in the present. Nor should Wade's conceits seem in any way foreign to students of other peoples, for her words are the common vocabulary of both the European and American recorders whose accounts of their contacts with a land's inhabitants make up a huge percentage of all our written knowledge about "discovered" people of the Americas and elsewhere.
A large and impressive body of literature has fairly recently exposed and explored the tropes and narratives projected onto America's indigenous peoples by their first visitors, and many of the gross caricatures found in children's books about ethnic minorities can be traced back to such presumptions and myths. Richard Slotkin's Regeneration through Violence and Richard Drinnon's Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire-Building both reveal how native Americans have been and continue to be jammed into pre-existing narratives about the white American's responsibility to civilize a wilderness, and Tzvetan Todorov's The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other has provided the same kind of history for the contemporary European accounts of the exploration and exploitation conducted by figures ranging from Columbus to Cortez. These traditions of distortion are often the guiding principles of our history books and our encyclopedias; they are therefore often the unacknowledged or even unrecognized authors of much that appears in the most well-intentioned of children's books.
In the following discussion, I will take Peter Roop's The Cry of the Conch as my representative case of a children's text utterly contaminated by a reliance on such sources and accounts. This book is a particularly apt example, because its many factual mistakes and cultural distortions result precisely from a desire for authenticity which apparently drove Roop right into the arms of the formidably racist, or what Edward Said calls orientalist documentary histories which ostensibly record pre-contact Hawaii. In addition, The Cry of the Conch focuses on precisely those cultural practices and institutions which have drawn the greatest attention, not only from Hawaii's first Western visitors, but from the host of children's writers, historians, anthropologists, and hack novelists who followed in their wake. My reading is primarily intended to suggest some strategies for responsibly evaluating portraits of Hawaiians in children's literature, but I hope that the wealth of writing by writers like Drinnon, Slotkin, Todorov, and particularly Said, when coupled with the immense amount of cultural data produced by the "discoverers" of the West, should by analogy provide a guide for similar studies of historical fiction about America's other ethnic minorities.
The Cry of the Conch was first published in Cricket; extensively expanded, revised, and reillustrated, it then appeared as a volume in Press Pacifica's "Treasury of Children's Hawaiian Stories." As the story opens, Kekoa is preparing for a diving contest at the Pool of Wakea, unaware that Malo, the High Priest, and Hepu, his son and Kekoa's major competition, are watching. To insure Hepu's victory, Malo places the dreaded kapu (taboo) stick at the pond's edge. Kekoa takes a different path home so he doesn't see the stick, but when he gets there, his sister Lehua tells him that Malo and Hepu went toward the pool with a kapu stick, but came back without it.
Kekoa is upset. If the kapu stick was there, then he's violated the sanctity of the waters, and Malo now has the right "to sacrifice him at the feast for the High Chief." Kekoa decides to run to the pu'uhonua, "the place of refuge, of sacred earth." Lehua brings him some poi; just as he finishes eating, Malo and two warriors arrive, and the chase is on. As he runs by the pool, Kekoa looks longingly at the ledge he would have jumped from in the competition, but the cry of the conch, a rallying sound for the pursuing warriors, spurs him on.
Bursting out of the woods, he finds himself at the edge of an ocean cliff. The warriors come running and Kekoa leaps, falling forever until he hits the water. This is of course the highest jump anyone has ever made. When he surfaces, he's grazed by a spear from above, so he dives again. Once out of range, he swims to the pu'uhonua in the distance, where a kindly kahuna (priest) brushes his body with a leaf and says "Come, son. You are safe now." Kekoa wonders aloud about the splash he made, and the kahuna reminds him that he can ask the warriors tomorrow. Pau.3
So many things are wrong with this story that it's hard to know where to begin, but I'l start with the most basic factual errors. Some of Roop's own revisions suggest how tenuous a hold he has on his material. For instance, in the Cricket version "Kekoa slid into the water as easily as a sharp knife slices a ripe mango," while in the book he enters "as easily as a sharp stone knife slices a cooked taro." Clearly, Roop has learned that pre-contact Hawaiians had neither metal knives nor mangoes. He has also picked up a bit about social structure: the king in Cricket turns into a "High Chief." But Roop's revisions create problems as well. In the book version Kekoa talks to an i'iwi bird, "pecking at an ohelo berry on the ledge." I'iwi birds don't eat berries (Berger 153-57).
These errors are particularly annoying because only the Hawaiian setting distinguishes Roop's narrative from thousands of similar stories. A heroic child figure runs from adults seeking to harm him for violating some senseless law or custom. This narrative informs Huckleberry Finn and Frankenstein; it also forces the childlike E.T. to run from those menacing, polished adult shoes. Unfortunately, this storyline frequently takes advantage of cultural stereotypes, and thus perpetuates them. Injun Joe from Tom Sawyer might be an example, and so are the Arabs who chase Michael J. Fox back to a time when gas was cheap. The Cry of the Conch hangs a few Hawaiian ornaments on this basic narrative. Kekoa could just as easily be a Native American boy threatened by an evil medicine man, or a young Italian lad fleeing the clutches of a Jesuit.
Like so many exploitative works of fiction, then, Roop's hackneyed story uses Hawaii exclusively as a source for exotic details. The culture itself has no effect whatever on the essentials of plot and character. And yet, a curious kind of cultural condescension develops in the very act of writing, because superimposing such a narrative upon an alien culture inevitably condemns the setting in the act of exploiting it. The chase narrative requires adults who are evil or barbaric, but when the action takes place entirely within an alien culture, these adults become evidence of an evil at the center of the alien society itself. The child Kekoa in Roop's story is a positive figure, and the kahuna at the pu'uhonua is admirable if unearthly. The other adult Hawaiians, however, are Malo, a cunning and senselessly cruel figure, and the warriors, whose spears and mindless obedience clearly make them Pacific relatives of the barefoot natives chasing Tarzan through the jungle.
The history lesson implied by such distortion is obvious enough. While American statesmen were signing the Declaration of Independence, while Voltaire, Rousseau, and Goethe were writing their masterpieces, adult Hawaiians were slaughtering children to fix diving competitions. But the cultural implications are even more disturbing. Portraying anyone's ancestors as ignorant, irrational, and vicious is seldom a productive activity, but it's even more suspect when we recognize that writers hardly ever use this kind of narrative when discussing their own cultures. An example from mid-America can make this point best. Despite its many similarities to The Cry of the Conch—the official sanction for senseless cruelty, for instance—we know the following tale would never appear in a Treasury of Children's Missouri Stories:
Once upon a time there was a boy named Sardius Smith. When Governor Boggs issued his exterminating order, your great-great-grandfather and some other Missouri militiamen surprised Sardius and his Mormon family at Haun's Mill. The family ran into the blacksmith's shop, but the holes in the walls let your great-great-grandfather and his friends shoot the Mormons like cattle in a pen.
Sardius had hidden behind the bellows, but when your great-great-grandfather came in to finish off the wounded, he found him. One militiaman said "Don't shoot, it's just a boy." But your great-great-grandfather replied "it's best to hive them when we can. Nits will make lice." Then he blew Sardius's brains out.4
A story like this one may have a legitimate place in children's literature, but if such historical narratives are to serve any function other than illustrating human depravity, they clearly must appear within some larger interpretive framework. And Roop's vision of young Kekoa as a potential centerpiece for the High Chief's luau lacks precisely this framework.
Or does it? What exactly does Roop's book imply about pre-contact Hawaii—to Western readers, and to Hawaiian children themselves? Answering these questions takes us beyond children's fiction, and confronts us with the problems of historical and cultural understanding itself. Like so many other books, The Cry of the Conch inherits more problems than it creates, because its version of pre-contact Hawaii relies so heavily upon the accounts of the Westerners who first observed and recorded it.
Orientalism is Edward Said's collective term for those cultural practices and institutions which have determined the way that the West has recognized and described that which is not Western. Led by scholars, whose investigations into Eastern languages, religions, and cultures made comparative studies possible, "a very large mass of poets, novelists, philosophers, political theorists, economists, and imperialist administrators" have over the years written billions of words articulating the "essential" differences between East and West. Said's meticulously-documented thesis is quite straightforward: Orientalism is "a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient" (3).
Europe had always been engaged in the task of creating its own Orient, but since the late eighteenth century the West has also wielded the power necessary to insure at least outward conformity. What it saw—and often continues to see—when it looked Eastward was an inverted mirror image: "European culture gained in strength and identity by setting itself off against the Orient as a sort of surrogate and even underground self" (3). The results of this practice are predictable. Westerners are rational, responsible, and adult, while Orientals are irrational, untrustworthy, and childlike. Western culture illuminates, explores, moves forward; the East's greatness lies in the past, and its present culture is dead. Christianity, that humane religion of intellect, charity, and civilization, differs markedly from the druglike stupors of Eastern mystics, the militant, fanatic practices of Islam, or the primitive, bestial rituals of savages worldwide. Said reveals how these all-too-familiar comparisons, whether found in ethnic jokes or in Henry Kissinger's description of the Third World as "pre-Newtonian" (46-47), are the historical fruit of Orientalism, "the enormously systematic discipline by which European culture was able to manage—and even produce—the Orient politically, sociologically, militarily, ideologically, scientifically, and imaginatively during the post-Enlightenment period" (3).
Merchants and missionaries had been intervening into alien cultures for centuries, but for the most part their motives were transparent, and their actions overt. Western eyes first saw Hawaii, however, at precisely the moment when Orientalism was assuming the trappings of a science. The Sandwich Islands held a special attraction for those post-Enlightenment visitors who added an interest in language affinities, social formations, and founding myths and theologies to the traditional activities of exploiting bodies and saving souls. Here was a pristine, highly-structured society that could settle once and for all what a culture lacking the benefits of Western reason, leadership, technology, and theology would look like. Not surprisingly, then, Hawaii was an eagerly-read text from the instant when Cook's scientific expedition first began to record her.
Despite their interest in such "objective" recording, most Western visitors to Hawaii still arrived at Orientalist conclusions: that the Hawaiians were an exotic, irrational, childish, and ignorant people. Nor should this be unexpected. Though they diligently collected and translated an incredible amount of ethnographic, anthropological, and cultural information, the Christian missionaries had their own agenda for Hawaii—"teaching it, settling it, ruling it" (3)—and like most imperialistic powers, they found personal uses for the materials they gathered. For instance, Orientalist assumptions pervade virtually all recorded accounts of the two central institutions in The Cry of the Conch—the kapu system, and the pu'uhonua. As a result, like many other writers, Roop almost unavoidably inherits and perpetuates the racism pervading his sources.
As Marshall Sahlins and Valerio Valeri have both noted, the first Western visitors to Hawaii recognized immediately that the kapu system blocked the path to trade, Christianity, and sovereignty.5 The earliest accounts celebrate Hawaiians who defied the chiefs and priests by trading with Westerners, and many Cap- tains took a self-righteous delight in violating kapus with Hawaiians watching. It was the missionaries, however, who earnestly studied and recorded cultural practices and history as part of what Hiram Bingham, leader of the First Company of Missionaries (1820), called the "Operations Connected with the Introduction and Progress of Christianity and Civilization Among the Hawaiian People."
Bingham's summary of the kapu system can stand as the credo of Christian Orientalism in Hawaii: "the whole policy of Satan there, seemed to be, to make that to be sin which is no sin, and that to be no sin which is sin" (21). The perverse circularity of this conclusion is a common feature of Orientalist accounts; so is Bingham's pseudo-scholarly rejection of all Hawaiian descriptions of themselves. Without writing, a people cannot have history: only "obscure oral traditions, national or party songs, rude narratives of the successions of kings, wars, victories, exploits of gods, heroes, priests, sorcerers, the giants of iniquity and antiquity, embracing conjecture, romance, and the general absurdities of Polytheism." As a result, the student of Hawaiian culture must not only be "thoroughly acquainted with the people, and friendly to the truth," but also possess "all the advantages of the pen and press, of science and Christianity" (17-18). Only Westerners can record those of the East, or as Marx puts it, in what Said quotes as the fundamental Orientalist assumption: "They cannot represent themselves; they must be represented" (xiii).
This imperialist approach to history leads to some truly remarkable evaluations of that matrix of Hawaiian social and cultural practices called the kapu system. Throughout Bingham's account we find two fundamentally linked conclusions: that this system is a clever plot for extortion and fraud benefitting only the priests and chiefs; and that Westerners must free Hawaiian people from their ignorant and damnable adherence to these laws. In good ethnographic fashion, Bingham supports his claims by tracing the first kapu back to a chief's desire to commit incest with his daughter. The chief consults his priest, who devises the segregated-eating kapu as a method for keeping the chief's wife out of the way. Thus, "the object of this first rule was the indulgence, unobserved, of a wicked passion." Over time, such self-serving kapus came together in a "bloody system of violence and pollution suited to the lust, pride and malice of the priests," who acted as "wholesale butchers of their fellow-men—the licensed murderers of numerous victims whom they put to death." General obedience to the kapu system must therefore "debase the public mind, cherish the vilest passions, banish domestic happiness, and shield priests and kings in their indulgences and oppression" (20-22). This state of affairs also sets the missionaries' own agenda. As civilized and perceptive people, it is their Western, Christian duty to alienate the poor Hawaiians from their priests, their chiefs, and their culture.
Though set in the time before Western contact, The Cry of the Conch is pervasively Orientalist in its handling of the kapu system and its officials. Malo, for instance, clearly belongs to the great family of evil priests who people Protestant literature, a lineage whose members include subtle Jesuits, mysterious Mohammedan warrior priests, and the corrupt scribes and Pharisees lusting for Christ's blood. That high chief lurking in the background also spells trouble: Malo's desire to impress this secular figure proves that Hawaiian priests render to Caesar what is rightfully God's—the hallmark of all satanic religions. Finally, when Malo willfully imposes a kapu upon the pond, he reveals just how irrational and self-serving this institution must be. Such a system is Kekoa's cultural legacy. Like his Western predecessors, Roop presents Hawaiian culture itself as the villain of his tale.
Kekoa's heroism thus must come at his society's expense. An individual suffering in a world lacking separation between Church and State, he is a being in search of excellence, intent on boldly going where no boy has gone before—in this case, off the highest ledge at the pond. Pleasing the chief has nothing to do with his diving. As he runs from his pursuers, his greatest regret seems to be losing his chance to compete; he gets his reward, however, when he is forced to make the biggest leap of all time, one that "made his lu'u at the Pool of Wakea seem like a baby's play puddle-splashing jump." This impulse toward achievement also apparently separates Kekoa from the general stupidity of those Hawaiians who believe in the system. Guilt, shame, and anxiety are the responses of fools: when Kekoa realizes he has broken a kapu, he knows instantly that he's being set up. "Malo wishes to sacrifice me," he says: the gods have nothing to do with it. Most astonishing of all is his complete lack of awareness that in taking the food offered to him by Lehua, he is violating the most powerful kapu of all: the one barring men and women from eating together.6
And yet, for an Orientalist, this obliviousness is Kekoa's road to salvation. Western civilization can save two kinds of people. The first type sees how corrupt the prevailing social and religious institutions are, and longs for an alternative; the second type has never fully understood and therefore never fully embraced them. The first sees the kapu system as a conspiracy; the second, as something akin to bad luck—unavoidable, arbitrary, and unrelated to action. As someone embodying both, Kekoa is the perfect Orientalist hero. His penetrating insights into the evil strategies of Malo are matched only by his unbelievable lack of awareness or concern about the system itself.
Wisdom and innocence: the cult of the child is in full force here. And at precisely this point, Orientalism stops describing and starts intervening. To quote Bingham, "The process by which children, born of heathen parents, come to possess a character so odious, and so fearfully at variance with the laws of their Moral Governor, and with the design of man's creation, deserves our attention and care, especially if it be possible for us to arrest it" (23). The danger is clear: though born with the potential for salvation, Oriental children are doomed to grow up into Arabs, Chinese, and Hawaiians unless a civilizing force rescues them from their heritage. Hawaiians are not born, but made; and Orientalist accounts of Hawaiian history record the culture as the first step in the process of undermining it. As Bingham says, "Perhaps nothing is more difficult and at the same time indispensable in a missionary journal or narrative, than to convey to its readers just ideas of the heathenism, which is now to be met and removed among our deluded contemporaries, who by the Divine arrangement have a high claim on our sympathy and beneficence" (19). By following his sources in their descriptions of the kapu system, therefore, Roop has created a positive but unmistakably Orientalist child hero. Kekoa's flight is admirable because he flees the terrible alternatives of becoming a victim or a member of his own culture.
Kekoa's destination stands as an emblem for Orientalism's impact upon Hawaii's recorded history, and thus upon countless works like Roop's which draw upon this legacy for their own unwitting contributions to it. I suspect that the inspiration for Roop's story came from a visit to Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, the best preserved and documented "place of refuge, of sacred earth" in Hawaii. The missionary William Ellis was the first observer to suggest in print a parallel between Pu'uhonua o Honaunau and the Hebrew "Cities of Refuge" found in Deuteronomy, and his detailed description of an early 1820s visit "is our basic document to which we have been able to add little" (Emory 30):
These puhonuas were the Hawaiian cities of refuge, and afforded an inviolable sanctuary to the guilty fugitive who, when flying from the avenging spear, was so favoured as to enter their precincts…. Hither the manslayer, the man who had broken a tabu, or failed in the observance of its rigid requirements, the thief, and even the murderer, fled from his incensed pursuers, and was secure…. [A]fter a certain period … [such refugees] were dismissed by the priests, and returned unmolested to their dwellings and families; no one venturing to injure those who, when they fled to the gods had been by them protected.
Ellis was a careful observer, and his descriptive passages usually aim for some sort of objectivity, but he is certainly an Orientalist, pointing the Western moral when such pointing seems necessary. Here is his evaluation of the pu'uhonua as an institution:
We have often passed over the ruins of deserted heathen temples, and the vestiges of demolished altars … but the feelings excited on these occasions had always been those of deep melancholy and horror, at the human immolations and shocking cruelties which they had so often exhibited. Here, however, idolatry appeared at least in the form of clemency, and the sacred enclosure presented a scene unique among the ruins of paganism, which we contemplated with unusual interest.
In retrospect, of course, Ellis's interest doesn't seem unusual at all. What fascinates this Christian missionary is the apparent existence of a proto-Christian anomaly in pre-contact Hawaii, a sacred place that dispensed clemency and forgiveness in the midst of heathen superstition and barbarity. On the next page, Ellis makes both this analogy and Hawaii's Christian destiny explicit: gazing at the pu'uhonua, he "could not but rejoice that its abolition [following the fall of the kapu system in 1819] was so soon succeeded by the revelation of a refuge more secure,—that the white flag ceased not to wave till another banner was ready to be unfurled, on which was inscribed, ‘Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth’" (167-70).
I have quoted Ellis at length because the move he makes from "Polynesian Researches" to cultural and religious imperialism lies hidden in virtually any account of Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, or for that matter, of Hawaii itself. The battle between Heathen and Christian, between East and West, allows for no shades or confusions. In Bingham's assured, prophetic words, "Darkness covered the earth and gross darkness the people. This, for ages, was emphatically applicable to the isles of the great Pacific Ocean. But the voice divine said, ‘Let there be light’" (17). A great deal of this light has washed over the pu'uhonua. After Ellis, those describing it were less informative, but often far more evaluative, reaching an apotheosis of bigotry in Jarves's "history" of Hawaii:
The only feature in the religious system, which can be regarded with a degree of satisfaction, and that only partially, was the Pahonua, or city of refuge, which stands amid rapidly increasing darkness, like the last faint ray of a setting sun.
With a single stroke, Jarves then forges Orientalism and Polynesian studies together, as Hebrew and Hawaiian stand exposed as blood-thirsty barbarians:
These structures are somewhat analogous to the Israelitish cities of refuge, and originated, doubtless, from the barbarous and sanguinary customs, common to both nations, which required a safeguard from the effects of evil passions, constantly kept in excitement by the universal prevalence of the law of retaliation, and the bloody character of their warfare.
The City of Refuge thus stands apart from, and in opposition to, the political and religious powers of Hawaiian society. Its presence within pre-contact culture gives Western viewers something to identify with, since the pu'uhonua apparently carried on a number of activities that the Protestants saw as part of their own task in a corrupt world.
By presenting the kapu system as arbitrary and despotic, and the pu'uhonua as a refuge from Hawaiian culture itself, Roop stands as an Orientalist heir of Hawaii's first Western visitors. A "historical context" statement he appends to both versions of his story points out this opposition between despotism and forgiveness, and the Cricket version even presents the struggle as one between the Secular and the Sacred: "The ancient tabus were commands either to do or not to do certain things, and they were given by political leaders or priests," but at the pu'uhonua, "a kahuna or priest offered protection and forgiveness for disobeying the tabu" (25). What Roop's hero Kekoa runs from is the irrationality, the evil, the heathenish and hypocritical self-interest of Hawaiian culture which even his parents, conveniently left sleeping, can't save him from. His alternatives become simple when he breaks the kapu: salvation at the City of Refuge, or a future as a flayed luncheon centerpiece. His arrival at the pu'uhonua enacts the triumph that a place of forgiveness will always have over barbarism. Kekoa and the ministering kahuna laugh at the warrior's futile efforts. Like his predecessors, then, Roop identifies three things as somehow unimplicated within the nightmare that was precontact Hawaii: Kekoa, his unfairly victimized boy hero; the pu'uhonua, the single place of compassion in an irrational world; and most important, the power of salvation and forgiveness, even when not offered in Christ's name. Kekoa's triumph is not only his own, but also West's over East, and Christ's over kapu.
Anything more than cursory research reveals two major difficulties with this narrative.7 First, as an institution the pu'uhonua hardly stands ethically opposed to Hawaiian society. The protection offered extends to all actions, including those which a true proto-Christian oasis would condemn. To put it bluntly, Kekoa would have found refuge even if he had thrown Lehua off the diving cliff, or bludgeoned Malo to death with his own kapu stick. Second, and far more important, Kekoa is not escaping his culture by running to the pu'uhonua, but heading toward an institution heavily implicated within it. To understand the pu'uhonua's actual status, we must look for a minute at that shady figure lurking on the fringes of Roop's story: the High Chief. As Marion Kelly has remarked, "The key to understanding the theory of these places of asylum in Hawaii is to be found in the relationship between the chief and his people" (86). The chief's political authority guarantees the pu'uhonua's effectiveness; or rather, I should say his pu'uhonua's effectiveness. A pu'uhonua testifies to the chief's power; he is strong enough to offer the guarantee of safety to the kapu breaker, to his enemy, to the entire community. So entwined were the chief's and the pu'uhonua's power that the chief himself was often designated a pu'uhonua.8 Various chiefs on various islands designated scores of places as pu'uhonua, and many of these places fell into disuse when their supporting chiefs fell from power.
This material begins to suggest just how involved the pu'uhonua was in precisely that union between political power and true religious observance that Roop and his predecessors try to drive a wedge between. In his letter to the Reader, Roop says we can visit Pu'uhonua-o-Honaunau, "and see the broad, thick stone walls which offered safety to so many Hawaiians." What he fails to recognize is that these walls are primarily a testimony to the power and con- tinuity of the chiefs of Kona; in fact, the many generations of ali'i preserved and deified at Hale o Keawe at Honaunau represented perhaps the strongest sustained chiefly tradition in Hawaii, one so powerful that it protected the place from Western vandalism for a number of years after the fall of the kapu system. The priest who threatens Kekoa's life, and the chief he will be sacrificed before, are therefore also representatives of the power that saves him.
True to its Orientalist nature, The Cry of the Conch thus creates a positive image of a young pre-contact Hawaiian by alienating the boy from the most fundamental structures and imperatives within his society. Kekoa is a little proto-Western, a Hawaiian who's made good, and what is most deeply depressing about his story is that there's no place for such a person in Roop's pre-contact Hawaii. Innocent Kekoa is doomed to grow up into a Hawaiian—unless of course he is lucky enough to survive to the point of contact, when Westerners can explain his culture to him, and save him from his own heritage. Like so many children's books dealing with other cultures, then, an overtly sympathetic story actually operates comfortably within the Western tradition of ethnocentrism and racism, simply because that tradition itself hands down a legacy of distorted, misrepresentative, and polemical descriptions.
The task for writers and critics of children's historical fiction is never an easy one, and it becomes doubly difficult when the story takes place in a culture not our own. Consciously racist texts are not nearly so common as they once were, although Indiana Jones's fun-filled formula for Third World genocide is only one of many relapses in the past few years. And yet, as I hope I've shown, the "sympathetic" book often confronts us with problems that take us to the center of our own cultural assumptions.
Historical research of the encyclopedia kind is clearly not the answer. Instead, writers and critics must follow the example of writers like Edward Said, and extend their study into the motives and assumptions guiding that research itself. The results of such an investigation are often anger and frustration; they may even lead to abandoning the project entirely. But the alternative is a return to the Small World, that coproduction of Walt Disney and the Bank of America which invites us to share a vision of the world's people as children, forever in that golden imagined time when different languages, customs, colors, and costumes present no obstacles to understanding—before that tragic day when little foreign children grow up into Russians, Libyans, Iranians—or Hawaiians.
1. This observation has become a critical commonplace—and not just for children's literature. See the various publications issued by the Council on Interracial Books for Children; the volume listed under Works Cited provides an index. Of course, virtually any work on ethnicity and children's literature must deal with Western cultural dominance.
2. For a more extensive discussion of such works, see Canham.
3. Since I'm using this story as a representative instance, any discussion of specific sources is immaterial to my main argument. The similarities between Roop's narrative and the following passage from Our Little Hawaiian Cousin should however be noted, if only to show that nothing has changed:
… tales are told of the old days of war and bloodshed; when the word of the chief was law to his people; when no life was safe from the power of the priests and chiefs. Then, indeed, were surely needed the cities of refuge still standing on this island.
"It is at least a hundred years ago," says old Hiko, "that my grandfather fled to the Pahonua, that strong old city whose walls have sheltered many an innocent man and helpless woman. He was accused of breaking the ‘tabu’ the chief of his village had laid upon a certain spring of water." (Of course, as you know, "tabu" means sacred, and so the water of that spring must not be used by any one except the chief himself.)
"My grandfather was then a young man, gay and happy. He would never have dared to break the tabu, but an enemy accused him of so doing, and the chief sent armed men to kill him. A good friend heard of it in time to warn him, and he fled over the mountains on his trusty horse.
"His pursuers were in full view when he reached the entrance to the city of refuge. Here they believed he was under the protection of the gods, so they turned back. Drawing a long breath of relief, he entered the city. He lived for some days in one of the houses built inside its massive walls. Then he came home again without fear, for he could never more be harmed for the deed of which he had been accused."
4. For the historical account of this story, see Brodie 237.
5. These two writers have dealt extensively with the issue of Hawaiian-Western contact; Valeri's introductory essay also provides an excellent assessment of the various historical materials available to the researcher. See also Kelly, "Some Problems with Early Descriptions of Hawaiian Culture."
6. For further information on this particular kapu, and its place with pre- and post-contact Hawaii, see Sahlins; see also Levin. It's fairly clear that Roop wasn't aware of this kapu, but since I'm arguing that Kekoa is essentially a proto-Christian anomaly, he can legitimately be granted the same lack of awareness.
7. In the following account I am relying extensively on Barrere, Emory, and Kelly, "The Concept of Asylum." All three come from the best single source on Pu'uhonua o Honaunau: the Bishop Museum manuscript preliminary report on Honaunau as a suitable site for a National Park.
8. See Barrere and Kelly; see also Pukui, II, 216. Kamakau (17-18) has the most extended early description of both the large number of pu'uhonua, and also the chief's personal status as pu'uhonua.
Barrere, Dorothy. "A Reconstruction of the History and Function of the Pu'uhonua and the Hale o Keawe at Honaunau." The Natural and Cultural History of Honaunau, Kona, Hawaii. Honolulu: Bernice P. Bishop Museum, 1957. 2: 38-80.
Berger, Andrew J. Hawaiian Birdlife. 2nd ed. Honolulu: U of Hawaii P, 1981.
Bingham, Hiram. A Residence of Twenty-One Years in the Sandwich Islands: Or the Civil, Religious, and Political History of Those Islands. 3rd ed. rev. Hartford: Hezekiah Huntington, 1849. Rpt. Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1981.
Brodie, Fawn M. No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, The Mormon Prophet. 2nd ed. New York: Knopf, 1971.
Browne, George Waldo. Two American Boys in Hawaii. Boston: D. Estes, 1899.
Canham, Stephen. "‘Da Kine’: Writing for Children in Hawaii—and Elsewhere." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 9:1 (Spring 1984): 174-76.
Council on Interracial Books for Children. Human—and Anti-Human—Values in Children's Books: A Content Rating Instrument for Educators and Concerned Parents. New York: Racism and Sexism Resource Center for Educators, 1976.
Drinnon, Richard. Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire Building. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1980.
Ellis, William. Polynesian Researches During a Residence of Nearly Eight Years in the Society and Sandwich Islands. Rev. ed. IV. London: Fisher and Jackson, 1842. Rpt. Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1969.
Emory, Kenneth. Introduction to Volume II of The Natural and Cultural History of Honaunau, Kona, Hawaii. Honolulu: Bernice P. Bishop Museum, 1957. 1-38.
Engle, Eloise. Princess of Paradise. The Daughters of Valor Series, Erick Berry, Gen. Ed. New York: John Day, 1962.
Hoyt, Helen P. The Princess Kaiulani. Norfolk Island, Australia: Island Heritage, 1974.
Jarves, James Jackson. History of the Hawaiian or Sandwich Islands…. Boston: Tappan and Bennet, 1843.
Kamakau, Samuel Manaiakalani. Ka Po'e Kahiko: The People of Old. Trans. Mary Kawena Pukui. BPBM Special Publications 51. Honolulu: Bishop Museum P, 1964.
Kelly, Marion. "The Concept of Asylum" in The Natural and Cultural History of Honaunau, Kona, Hawaii. Honolulu: Bernice P. Bishop Museum, 1957. 2: 81-112.
———. "Some Problems with Early Descriptions of Hawaiian Culture" in Polynesian Culture History: Essays in Honor of Kenneth P. Emory. Ed. Genevieve A. Highland et al. BPBM Special Publications 56. Honolulu: Bishop Museum P, 1967. 399-410.
Laird, Donivee. The Three Hawaiian Little Pigs and the Magic Shark. Honolulu: Barnaby Books, 1981.
———. Wili Wai Kula and the Three Mongooses. Honolulu: Barnaby Books, 1983.
Levin, Stephanie Seto. "The Overthrow of the Kapu System in Hawaii." Journal of the Polynesian Society 77 (1968): 402-30.
Newman, Shirlee Petkin. Liliuokalani: Young Hawaiian Queen. Childhood of Famous Americans Series. Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill, 1960.
Pukui, Mary Kawena, E. W. Haertig, and Catherine A. Lee. Nana I. Ke Kumu: Look to the Source. II. Honolulu: Hui Hanai, 1979.
Roop, Peter. The Cry of the Conch. Treasury of Children's Hawaiian Stories. Taiwan: Press Pacifica, 1984.
———. "The Cry of the Conch." Cricket 10:10 (June 1983): 25-30.
Roy, Lillian Elizabeth. Five Little Starrs in Hawaii. New York: Nourse, 1919.
Sahlins, Marshall. Historical Metaphors and Mythical Realities: Structure in the Early History of the Sandwich Islands Kingdom. ASAO Special Publications No. 1. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1981.
Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Vintage, 1978.
Slotkin, Richard. Regeneration through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860. Middleton, CT: Wesleyan UP, 1973.
Stratemeyer, Edward [Captain Ralph Bonehill]. Off for Hawaii, or The Mystery of a Great Volcano. The Flag of Freedom Series. New York: Mershon, 1899.
Todorov, Tzvetan. The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Harper and Row, 1984.
Valeri, Valerio. Kingship and Sacrifice: Ritual and Society in Ancient Hawaii. Trans. Paula Wissing. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1985.
Wade, Mary Hazelton. Our Little Hawaiian Cousin. The Little Cousin Series. Boston: L. C. Page, 1902.
Young, Lucien. The Real Hawaii: Its History and Present Condition. New York: Doubleday & McClure, 1899. Rpt. Arno Press and the New York Times, 1970, in American Imperialism collection.
Janet E. Benton (essay date winter 1996)
SOURCE: Benton, Janet E. "Voices of Hawaii in Literature for Adolescents: Getting Past Pineapples and Paradise." ALAN Review 23, no. 2 (winter 1996): 35-9.
[In the following essay, Benton presents her own criteria for defining multiculturally-sensitive Hawaiian children's literature and lists several young adult works which she regards as prime examples of the genre.]
Throughout my career as a language arts teacher on both the high-school and university levels, I have been concerned with providing multicultural literature experiences for my students. It has been my premise that, if public schools in the United States are composed of a variety of cultural perspectives, then classroom literature selections should reflect that richness of diversity, too. Currently, I teach students preparing to become middle- and secondary-school language arts teachers, and together we explore how adolescent and adult fiction can enhance literacy development while also immersing the reader in a wide array of cultural viewpoints.
My students and I discuss works by and about various cultural groups, mindful always of including those who have been historically omitted from the traditional Western canon. I thought I had been at least moderately successful in familiarizing my students with literature from different racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, sexual-preference, and gender-related perspectives; in fact, I had gotten to the point of patting myself on the back over what a good job I was doing. However, a trip to Hawaii made me realize I had not included all of the voices in the American cultural fabric.
This was my first trip to Hawaii, and I stayed on Oahu, where I was overwhelmed by the natural beauty but amazed by how little I actually knew about the cultural history of Hawaii. Prior to this visit, my mental images of Hawaii had been restricted to the resort hotels on Oahu and the golf courses on Maui, but even that knowledge was pitifully slim. As an educator with a commitment to issues of cultural diversity, I was personally and professionally disturbed by my ignorance. When my trip ended, I flew out of Honolulu International with souvenir tee-shirts, Kona coffee, and a goal—to include literature about Hawaiian experiences in my future language arts courses.
Searching for the Voices of Hawaii
Hauling back bags of coffee and stacks of tee-shirts proved to be much easier than the task of identifying titles by and about those who live in Hawaii. As a bedazzled tourist, I first saw the Hawaiian Islands as a faerieland paradise, complete with surfing, pineapples, and perfect weather. But when I looked past this highly romanticized and obviously incomplete picture, I saw instead a broader society intricately woven with many threads—some distinct, some blending, others broken and then retied. Further research back home helped me learn more about the key players in the sociocultural history of Hawaii.
To better determine what I meant by "the voices of Hawaii," I sketched for myself a brief outline of the major cultural groups who have become part of Hawaii. They include the Native Hawaiians, whose Polynesian ancestors were the first residents; then, in the late eighteenth through twentieth centuries, people from Britain, Europe, China, Japan, Portugal, Korea, Puerto Rico, Samoa, the Philippines, and the Mainland United States (first European Americans and later African Americans) came to these islands. Not only is there a wealth of cultural perspectives in Hawaii, but these perspectives have been communicated through a variety of linguistic codes: Hawaiian and English first interacted to form a pidgin, and subsequent social contact with speakers of other languages resulted in the emergence of Hawaiian pidgin/creole, a separate linguistic code still prevalent today, which has sometimes (but not always) displaced the use of the parent native languages.
The arrival of Calvinist missionaries from New England in the early nineteenth century marks the beginning of considerable cultural and economic changes in the social and political structure of the islands. Religious conversion may have been their primary intent, but the acquisition of Native Hawaiian lands was the ultimate outcome; some of the missionaries themselves, and to a greater extent their descendants, took possession of Native lands, introduced their own concept of private ownership, and prospered through the plantation systems and related businesses such as shipping. The Hawaiian government was overthrown in 1893 by a group of men involved with these business interests, and this act of political conspiracy was officially recognized one-hundred years later when President Clinton signed into law in 1993 a congressional joint resolution acknowledging the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
Politically, ties to the West were strengthened in 1898 when the Hawaiian Islands became territorial property of the United States, and American business and military involvement increased, especially on Oahu. The bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 is significant in both American and Hawaiian history because of the destruction of property, deaths of military personnel, and the resulting effects on the lives of many Japanese-American residents of Hawaii. Statehood in 1959 and the burgeoning tourist industry brought more changes, and real estate development and economic shifts of the past twenty years have all but made extinct the mass production of plantation crops like sugar cane and pineapple. Added in recent years to the overall economic, social, and political climate is the growing Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement, seeking to revive and celebrate traditional Hawaiian beliefs, practices, and autonomy.
Voices of Hawaii in Young Adult Literature
Faced with this multiplicity of voices and these intricacies of social interaction, I wondered how I would begin my search for the voices of Hawaii in adolescent literature. Because I did not believe I had the expertise or the right to determine cultural identity or legitimacy, I decided on my first selection criterion: I would look for fiction about Hawaii written by authors who lived in Hawaii; in doing so, I hoped to include rather than restrict cultural perspectives. Additionally, I chose to look for representations of life in Hawaii specifically in adolescent literature. I selected this second criterion because of the needs of my own university students. My students come from a strong English-department preparation where adolescent literature, if not outright devalued, is for the most part ignored, and I hoped that they might come to recognize, as Beach and Marshall assert, "that many young-adult novels are substantive enough to be ‘teachable’" (p. 349).
A third selection criterion was what I called the "no-grass-huts" rule. By this I meant that I wanted to find adolescent literature that did not perpetuate stereotypes of any of the ethnic groups in Hawaii; books containing biased representations, such as the Hollywood image of Hawaiians living in "grass huts," would not be acceptable. I hope that my students, and consequently their students, will read literature with a critical stance. Hanna explains that "learning about one's own culture tends to give one a sense of identity, roots, and self-understanding. Learning about other cultures stretches the mind and can help dissolve prejudice" (p. 67). Literature presenting stereotypes is counterproductive to these ends.
With a clear idea of what I wanted, I then embarked on my search for titles. I first went to sources that had served me well in past examinations of literature from non-Western perspectives for middle-and secondary-school readers. Redefining American Literary History (1990), Social Issues in the English Classroom (1992), Teaching Literature in the Secondary School (1991), Teaching Multicultural Literature in Grades K-8 (1992), and Understanding Others: Cultural and Cross-Cultural Studies and the Teaching of Literature (1992) are helpful texts that present titles and approaches to incorporating culturally diverse literature into classroom literacy experiences. While these immensely useful resources refer to ethnic groups who have come to be part of Hawaii's cultural make-up, none examines adolescent literature representing the lives of these people as they were interwoven, and subsequently trans- muted, into strands of the broader Hawaiian society. Furthermore, none of these books mentions any works, either adult or adolescent, by and/or about Native Hawaiians.
I had what I considered to be well-defined selection criteria, but still no titles. If I were ever to stop treading water and get somewhere in my quest, I needed more knowledgeable assistance; and, on a second trip to Hawaii, I received such help at the Hawaii State Library. I introduced myself to a librarian in the Young Adult Section and explained my difficulties in finding adolescent literature about life in Hawaii written by authors who lived in Hawaii. As we talked, I stressed that my purpose was not to conduct an exhaustive search but to familiarize myself with several titles that I could later suggest to my university students. I followed her to the shelves as she pulled books she thought might fit my criteria, and she briefly explained the content of each while also telling me about the authors.
She pointed out several possibilities and highly recommended three titles: One Paddle, Two Paddle … Hawaiian Teenage Mystery and Suspense Stories (1983) by Miriam E. Rappolt, Blue Skin of the Sea (1992) by Graham Salisbury, and The Speed of Darkness (1988) by Rodney Morales. A fourth book, The Haole Substitute (1994) by Walt Novak, was a new acquisition which she showed me with reservation, explaining that she did not care for it because the author "made fun of the characters who speak pidgin." After later reading all four, I discovered that I shared the librarian's reactions to these books. Blue Skin of the Sea, The Speed of Darkness, and One Paddle, Two Paddle are all titles I would enthusiastically suggest to my students; however, The Haole Substitute, as the librarian told me, does indeed ridicule speakers of Hawaiian pidgin/creole. Furthermore, I thought that it demeaned everyone who was not Caucasian, elevating as the hero a young Caucasian surfer working as a substitute teacher in Oahu's public schools.
The Haole Substitute
I devote space in this article to The Haole Substitute only because I am astounded that in 1994 a book so irredeemably replete with cultural stereotypes was published. Judging from the cover notes about Walt Novak, the author, this novel is to a great extent autobiographical. Paul Kodak, the novel's protagonist, is a twenty-three-year-old champion surfer who came to Oahu to ride the big waves on island's North Shore and major in English at the University of Hawaii. To support his wife and son, he is employed as a substitute teacher. Kodak also frequently reminds the readers that he is blond and haole, a word originally meaning "foreigner" in Hawaiian, now used across ethnic groups to mean "Caucasian."
Race never seems to be far from the forefront of Kodak's narrative; and, had Novak/Kodak explored the context and social interactions that brought his own racial identity to a conscious level, this book might have provided unique cultural insights. Instead, Novak/Kodak presents a me-against-them scenario, where members of the working class, Japanese Americans, African Americans, Chinese Americans, Portuguese Americans, Native Hawaiians, Tahitians, and women (of all ethnic groups represented in the book) are denigrated. Actually, no character in this book escapes Novak's predilection toward stereotyping, not even the protagonist.
Kodak himself is a stereotype—the powerful, indomitable, superior European-American male whose job it is to conquer all who challenge him by proving he is physically and intellectually more powerful. In a scene where Kodak is speaking to a Native Hawaiian eighth grader, Tansio Kaana, their discussion moves from surfing to the Hawaiian ali'i (royalty). Tansio asks Kodak, "The Hawaiian ali'is were very tall. So are you. Are you part Hawaiian, Mr. Kodak?" (p. 60). Kodak informs Tansio, along with all of the other students sitting in the class, that he is "pure Hawaiian albino. Kodakalani is my full name but we were defeated in the Kalakaua and Liliuokalani era. Our royal name was chopped in half for humiliation and we were banished from these islands" (p. 61). Kodak goes on to tell Tansio and the entire class a story of how the "albino Hawaiians" were banished to the Mainland United States; at no point does Kodak admit to the students that this is all untrue.
I found this scene significant for two reasons. First, not one student questions Kodak about the sheer absurdity of this story, a story Kodak says that Tansio believes completely. Kodak describes this school as situated in a community with a large Native Hawaiian population; are readers to believe that not one student in this class recognizes that this story is total fabrication? Admittedly, traditional Hawaiian beliefs and history have been deemphasized through Western interference; yet, does Kodak so trust his own superiority as to think he can pass off such a ridiculous lie as truth? Inherent in this scene is the underlying message that the Native Hawaiian students are sufficiently ignorant and gullible to accept this preposterous fabrication.
This book clearly violates my "no-grass-huts" selection criterion, denigrating not only Native Hawaiians but also every other character who is not haole. It is an exercise in cross-cultural insensitivity, as is illustrated through Novak's reliance on stereotypical characters. While Novak places race center stage throughout the novel, he does not explore the complexities of inter-racial relations; instead, he offers one-dimensional caricatures. This book is worthy of examination only because it illustrates that, while the number of cultural stereotypes in the pages of novels and text books published today may be declining, they have certainly not disappeared.
The other three books I will examine present more fully dimensionalized pictures of life in Hawaii.
One Paddle, Two Paddle … Hawaiian Teenage Mystery and Suspense Stories
In One Paddle, Two Paddle … Hawaiian Teenage Mystery and Suspense Stories, Miriam E. Rappolt uses traditional Hawaiian beliefs and history as a backdrop for her stories. In the preface, Rappolt writes that "after several years of teaching English in both public and private secondary schools" she began searching for "a collection of short stories which all readers could enjoy—both fast and reluctant students"; also, she wanted to find stories that appealed to her students "living on an island thousands of miles from the Mainland" (p. vii). Rappolt began by asking her own students "to write spooky stories from personal experiences—or they could relate one told to them by an older relative" (p. vii). As a model for her students' writing, Rappolt shared with them a story she had written, "Lauhala Lady." This story was well-received by her students and later in a Honolulu writing contest; so she was encouraged to write her own collection of stories.
Rappolt's stories, set in Oahu, Kauai, Hawaii, and Maui with adolescents as the main characters, draw heavily from Hawaiian beliefs; in nine of the eleven stories, elements of Hawaiian culture underlie the plots. As the title of the book indicates, these are mystery and suspense stories; the collection should not be taken as a definitive, comprehensive account of traditional Hawaiian beliefs, folklore, or practices. (Included at the end of this article are addresses for the Hawaii and Pacific Section of the Hawaii State Library and the Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii; both can provide students and teachers with primary sources about Hawaiian history and culture.)
To familiarize the readers with the Hawaiian beliefs and traditions inherent in the stories, Rappolt prefaces each story with a brief explanation. Before beginning "Lauhala Lady," a story about the mysterious disappearance of camera film, Rappolt informs the readers that "traditionally, only Hawaiians of the ali'i rank, or those of high birth allowed themselves to be photographed" (p. 2). Anyone breaking this taboo often suffered some misfortune or found the negatives destroyed. We are also told that Madame Pele, goddess of volcanoes, "is said to appear almost anywhere, in any form … she makes no secret of her unhappiness about being photographed" (p. 2). This information is important to understand what happens to Eddie on the Big Island of Hawaii when he goes on an outing with his aunt and uncle.
Eddie's uncle is an avid photographer and cannot resist taking a picture of someone they encounter, a lovely, white-haired Hawaiian woman who is weaving lauhala bags. He snaps a shot of the quiet, beautiful woman before she can protest, but when he tries to take a second photo, she becomes upset, pulling "at the brim of her hat until her eyes were almost completely hidden" (p. 5). The next morning Eddie's uncle cannot find the film. Eddie helps his uncle search, but at the exact spot where it was placed the night before, he finds not the film but a lauhala bag, green and freshly woven—just like the ones the lovely woman had been making.
The other stories follow a similar format. Hawaiian beliefs serve as the foundation for plots involving topics oriented to adolescents: riding around and socializing with friends, visiting a cemetery after dark, driving an automobile alone for the first time, participating in school sports, quarreling with friends and family, and defying adult authority. In "Makua Cave," David challenges authority and asserts his individuality by doing something many adolescents do—he gets a tattoo. The only problem here is that David gets a tattoo of a shark, his family's aumakua. Rappolt explains that in the Hawaiian belief system the aumakua is "the traditional family spirit, the aumakua assumes a form such as a plover, an owl, or a shark, and also serves as a ‘guardian angel’ to protect a particular family from evil" (p. 63). How David's family reacts to his tattoo and how it is finally removed make this an especially engaging story.
Blue Skin of the Sea
Blue Skin of the Sea by Graham Salisbury is another collection of short stories through which the author sensitively traces the coming-of-age experiences of the protagonist, Sonny Mendoza, on the Big Island in the 1950s and 1960s. Salisbury grew up on the Big Island and on Oahu and is described in the notes about the author as "a descendent of the Thurston and Andrews families, some of the first missionaries to arrive in the Hawaiian Islands"; he worked on the islands as "the skipper of a glass-bottom boat, as a deckhand on a deep-sea fishing boat, as a musician … and has also taught elementary school" (p. 216). The subjects of family, friends, the sea, fishing, tourism, and cultural identity are threaded into the stories about Sonny's transition from young boy to young man.
The stories are presented chronologically, and readers follow Sonny from 1953 to 1966, the year he is a high school senior. Sonny's mother died when he was a baby, and he went to live with his Aunty Pearl, Uncle Harley, and cousin Keo Mendoza. Through early exposition we learn that cultural boundaries are permeable, blending ethnicities within family units; in a description of his cousin, Sonny explains that Keo is Portuguese and Hawaiian "because his mother, Aunty Pearl, had Hawaiian blood. I was Portuguese-French" (p. 3). For Sonny, the concerns of culture, identity, and family are closely intertwined:
It always made Aunty Pearl cry when she thought of my mother. "She was one of my best friends," she'd often tell me. And though some people made a big deal out of what race you were, Aunty Pearl never cared that my mother was Caucasian, a haole. Aunty Pearl had a gentleness, something that came up and hugged you.
At the age of six, Sonny returns to his father's house to live; he and his father become a family, but Sonny remains an integral part of his cousin's household.
As Sonny and Keo grow up, we get a glimpse of what life was like for them on the Big Island during those two decades. Their experiences include facing school bullies, devising ways to earn spending money, resolving conflicts with friends and family, struggling through first loves, watching their island begin to change as the tourist business grows, and witnessing death and destruction when a series of tidal waves devastates the coastal areas of Hilo. Like the story about the tidal waves, another story, "The Old Man," is based on actual events that occurred on the Big Island during this time period. "The Old Man" is set in 1957 and begins with Sonny and Keo watching in muted disgust as a movie crew anchored offshore uses prop rather than real sharks to film scenes of an old fisherman fighting to bring home his catch. They think the reactions that the old actor has to these prop sharks will make the movie look "fake."
The boys decide this would be remedied if the old actor could see how a real shark behaves, so they hook a live shark and send this note to the film's star: "Dear old man, We are Keo and Sonny. We have a shark for you. Look for us at 5:30 in the night after you work. We will be standing by the fish scale" (p. 44). The boys manage to get this message to the actor; however, he doesn't have time to see them until days later. When they meet, Keo and Sonny tell him they had to let the shark go before it died, but Keo, undaunted, proceeds to offer some advice about how to act around sharks. Spencer Tracy listens patiently to these directions then replies, "You boys are okay…. Thanks for the tips, I'l give what you told me some thought" (p. 47). The boys return to their places on the dock and watch Tracy in the final scenes of "The Old Man and the Sea."
The Speed of Darkness
The Speed of Darkness by Rodney Morales is also a collection of short stories. All of the stories except one are set in Oahu, where Morales was born and raised and where he taught in Oahu's public schools and at the University of Hawaii. The stories represent a variety of ethnic groups and their experiences on Oahu, and although some stories are about younger adolescents, there are also stories focusing on characters in their late teens and early adult years. For example, the first story, "Ship of Dreams," centers on nineteen-year-old Takeshi, who has deferred his own dream of becoming a lawyer to work in his father's grocery store. The story is set in 1922, a time when "the glories of the Hawaiian monarchy were dimming" and when American democracy promised the "children of the plantations" that "the world, the century, was theirs to conquer" (p. 15). Takeshi's family is Japanese but his Honolulu neighborhood is multi-ethnic, and he must consider crossing cultural borders when he falls in love with a Puerto Rican girl.
Takeshi and his friends often go to a social hall on Saturday nights to watch the dancing and listen to the music from their vantage points in mango trees outside the building. Inside, "music thumped from the social hall on School Street where the Puerto Ricans congregated, along with some Portuguese, Hawaiians, a smattering of whites and Filipinos" (p. 17). Also inside the social hall is Linda, a girl Takeshi recognizes as a former classmate from McKinley High, but who now has a different effect on him. From a distance, Takeshi worries not only about whether she might reciprocate his love but also how both sets of parents would react if he and Linda dated:
Takeshi did not know the customs of Puerto Ricans, how they went about such things. But he understood one thing, one thing that cut through all beliefs and customs: What he felt had to be dealt with. He could not keep his feelings hidden for long. He felt as if love had carved its way into his chest, and his entire being trembled from the feeling.
At the end of the story, Takeshi's presence in the mango tree is discovered by Manny, a Puerto Rican boy. Takeshi prepares himself for a fight with Manny; instead, Manny invites him to come into the social hall. As Takeshi enters and looks for Linda, he realizes "he had broken through some godawful barrier—within himself" (p. 24).
"Daybreak Over Haleakala/Heartbreak Memories (A Two-Sided Hit)" is the only story not set exclusively in Oahu. The story begins in Oahu but takes place primarily on Kahoolawe, the Hawaiian island used by the United States military for bombing target practice. Three friends from the University of Hawaii plan a trip to Kahoolawe, and their experiences are told by the story's narrator. His friends, Bud and Kaeo, are both football players, and Kaeo, a member of Protect Kahoolawe Ohana, a Hawaiian activist group, convinces them to join some others going on a camping trip to Kahoolawe. Bud is described as an "obsessive body surfer … a Hawaii-born haole who had hard blue eyes and dark brown, slightly wavy hair"; the narrator explains that "Kaeo was part-Hawaiian yet full-on into the culture" (p. 88). After midterm exams, the three decide to take the trip but eventually realize that this journey involves much more than they had anticipated.
The story illustrates how it is not always possible to compartmentalize a person by a single ethnic identity and introduces the implications of addressing multiple cultures and histories. While walking through the remains of a Hawaiian burial ground on Kahoolawe, Bud "‘flipped out’ and had to be medevac'd to Maui" (p. 96). The narrator does not understand why Bud suffered an emotional breakdown and asks Kaeo if he has any ideas. Kaeo tells him something not many people know about Bud: "His grandfather was pure Hawaiian … his great-grandfather was one of the Royalists who tried to put Queen Liliuokalani back on the throne" (p. 96). Bud had previously disregarded his Hawaiian heritage but confronted a part of his cultural history in this burial ground; there the group discovers human bones, surrounded by gun shells and apparently used for target practice, bones that crumbled in Bud's hands when he tried to hold them. The three young men, each in his own way, are left "wondering where being Hawaiian started and being American left off and how the two blended and why they mixed like water and oil sometimes" (p. 103).
Rappolt, Salisbury, and Morales skillfully explore the multi-dimensional nature of cultural identity and social interaction while incorporating themes cutting across all cultural groups. As Rudman explains, multiculturalism "consists of more than valuing diversity. It also brings with it the obligation to reject stereotyping. A study that highlights differences without helping people see commonalities is insufficient if the aim is to help people create unity from diversity" (p. 114). One Paddle, Two Paddle, Blue Skin of the Sea, and The Speed of Darkness succeed in rejecting stereotypes, but The Haole Substitute fails.
I have recounted my search not merely to share a traveler's log but to illustrate the difficulties involved with finding the voices of Hawaii in adolescent literature. Until I began looking for titles, I did not fully appreciate the degree to which experiences on the Hawaiian Islands, particularly those of Native Hawaiians, have been largely invisible in examinations of multicultural literature. This search, although not exhaustive, was profitable: One Paddle, Two Paddle, Blue Skin of the Sea, and The Speed of Darkness let me immerse myself in the lives of the characters—and get past the images of pineapples and paradise on the glossy covers of tourist guidebooks. Nelms and Nelms maintain that "adolescent novels provide vicarious experience of diverse ethnic, geographical, and historical life styles and serious consideration of recurring moral dilemmas" (pp. 221-222). As many of us have discovered, books like these can provide the means for such vicarious travel.
Beach, Richard, and James Marshall. Teaching Literature in the Secondary School. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991.
Hanna, Judith Lynne. "Issues in Supporting School Diversity: Academics, Social Relations, and the Arts," Anthropology & Education Quarterly, March, 1994, p. 66.
Harris, Violet J., ed. Teaching Multicultural Literature in Grades K-8. Christopher-Gordon Publishers, 1992.
Hurlbert, C. Mark, and Samuel Totten, eds. Social Issues in the English Classroom. NCTE, 1992.
Morales, Rodney. The Speed of Darkness. Bamboo Ridge Press, 1988.
Nelms, Elizabeth D., and Ben F. Nelms. "From Response to Responsibility: Recent Adolescent Novels in the Classroom" in Literature in the Classroom: Readers, Texts, and Contexts, Ben F. Nelms, ed. NCTE, 1988, pp. 213-234.
Novak, Walt. The Haole Substitute. Cypress House, 1994.
Rappolt, Miriam E. One Paddle, Two Paddle … Hawaiian Teenage Mystery and Suspense Stories. Press Pacifica, 1983.
Rudman, Masha Kabakow. "Multicultural Children's Literature: The Search for Universals" in Children's Literature: Resource for the Classroom. Masha Kabakow Rudman, ed. Christopher-Gordon Publishers, 1993, pp. 113-145.
Ruoff, A. LaVonne Brown, and Jerry W. Ward, Jr., eds. Redefining American Literary History. Modern Language Association of America, 1990.
Salisbury, Graham. Blue Skin of the Sea. Delacorte Press, 1992.
Trimmer, Joseph, and Tilly Warnock, eds. Understanding Others: Cultural and Cross-Cultural Studies and the Teaching of Literature. NCTE, 1992.
Nancy Alpert-Mower (essay date 2000)
SOURCE: Alpert-Mower, Nancy. "Who Is the Other?: That Is the Question: Orientalism Revisited." In Replacing America: Conversations and Contestations: Selected Essays, edited by Ruth Hsu, Cynthia Franklin, and Suzanne Kosanke, pp. 122-30. Honolulu, Hawaii: College of Languages, Linguistics, and Literature, University of Hawai'i and the East-West Center, 2000.
[In the following essay, Alpert-Mower asserts that alterations of classic Hawaiian myths and inaccurate cultural representations of Hawaiians in children's literature indicate a lack of respect for the Hawaiian people.]
Publishers of children's books in the United States frequently state that they are looking for multicultural material, by which they seem to imply books about people of non-Western European ancestry and their customs or cultures. Books that fit this "multi-cultural" rubric are at times about Hawai'i and Hawaiians. Some of these have been published in Hawai'i; many more have been published in the continental United States.
These books are often a child's first introduction to another culture. Because children are very impressionable, a story that a young child hears or reads can strongly influence the child's attitude toward the culture and its people. Writers, illustrators, and publishers of books for children, therefore, have an obligation to present that culture and its people as accurately as possible. When producing a book about a culture that is not one's own, it is easy to slip, perhaps unintentionally, into an attitude of Orientalism.
In his 1978 study, Orientalism, Edward Said discusses the Orient, as seen through the eyes of Europeans, who according to Said looked at these lands as places of romance, exotic beings, and haunting memories. The exotic beings were not only different from Europeans, they were also inferior and therefore in a position to be conquered and ruled over. Orientalism can be discussed as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.
Although Said uses the term "Orient" to refer to the Near East and Middle East, Orientalism can also be applied to an attitude toward Hawai'i. Craig Howes says that most Western visitors to Hawai'i in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries "arrived at Orientalist conclusions … that the Hawaiians were an exotic, irrational, childish and ignorant people" (23). One often sees similar conclusions in books for children about Hawai'i.
In their overview of children's books about Hawai'i from the nineteenth century to the present, Stephen Canham and Susan Halas point out that the few available books in the nineteenth century were almost exclusively didactic or religious treatises. In the early twentieth century following "the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy by armed American forces … and the subsequent development of Hawaii as both an economic and military colony of the United States, books for children … began to appear with some frequency" (160). The authors state that until the late 1960s most of these books presented a stereotypical and condescending view of Hawaiians and their culture, a view which implied that ancient Hawaiian women "looked very much like Betty Grable with dark hair" (160) and Hawaiians "spend most of their time topless under waterfalls" (160). Although Canham and Halas don't use the term "Orientalism," this stereotyping of the culture could lead readers to conclude that Hawaiians are beautiful but lazy and seem to have very little intelligence. They are, therefore, inferior beings, and because they are inferior, one is justified in colonizing and dominating them.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, according to Canham and Halas, children's books about Hawai'i became more culturally and historically accurate. The trend was possibly a result of a growing Hawaiian activism during this period. It may also have been influenced by the civil rights movement in the continental U.S. It is significant that during this period the University of Hawai'i Press began publishing more books for children, and a few of the small presses in Hawai'i also increased their children's book lists. Most children's books about Hawai'i at that time, however, whether published in Hawai'i or the mainland, were still being written by non-Hawaiians.
In spite of early stirrings of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, the 1980s brought somewhat of a backlash against both activism in Hawai'i and the civil rights movement on the mainland. In some children's books of the eighties one can see evidence of this shifting back from earlier attempts at cultural and historical accuracy. An example of this shift can be seen in The Cry of the Conch, published in Honolulu by Press Pacifica in 1984. The book was written by Peter Roop, a Caucasian who lives in Wisconsin but has traveled in Hawai'i. Howes points out that The Cry of the Conch is pervasively Orientalist and that the book creates the impression that Western tradition and custom are superior to Polynesian culture. Howes says that Kekoa, the story's young hero, "is a little proto-Western, a Hawaiian who's made good" (28).
This Orientalism was probably unintentional on the part of the book's producers. Shortly after the publication of Howes's article, I discussed its thesis with Press Pacifica's editor (a Caucasian who was publishing some of my own children's books about Hawai'i at the time), and she was genuinely shocked. In choosing to publish Roop's book, she was trying to show a significant aspect of Hawaiian culture, the sanctuary provided by the Cities of Refuge, and was not at all aware of the Orientalist nature of the book.
If a publisher who has lived many years in Hawai'i can make the serious errors that Howes points out in his discussion of The Cry of the Conch, how much easier it is for publishers in the continental U.S. who have never lived in Hawai'i to perpetuate this attitude of Orientalism. And although we see more children's books being written in Hawai'i in the nineties than we saw earlier, probably as a result of the growth of both the sovereignty movement and the Hawaiian immersion schools, there are still only a handful of publishing houses in the state that produce books for children, and most of these books are still written by non-Hawaiians. At this same time, children's books about Hawai'i are frequently published in the continental United States, possibly because of the "multi-cultural" trend referred to above. And many unfortunately, albeit probably unintentionally, show a strong tendency toward Orientalism.
Two such books, recently written, illustrated and published on the mainland, are retellings of ancient Hawaiian legends. Punia and the King of the Sharks, adapted by Lee Wardlaw and illustrated by Felipe Davalos, was published by Dial Press in 1997. The Woman in the Moon: A Story of Hawaii, written by Jama Kim Rattigan and illustrated by Carla Golembe, was published by Little, Brown in 1996.
Punia and the King of the Sharks was a Junior Library Guild Selection. Wardlaw, who adapted this Hawaiian folktale, lives in Santa Barbara, California. Davalos was born and raised in Mexico but now also lives in California. This is a typical trickster tale in which a young person, through the use of his or her wits, defeats a powerful creature or monster. Trickster tales are found in folklore all over the world. In this story, the boy Punia tricks the King of the Sharks who had eaten Punia's father while he was diving for lobster. The Shark King, with the nine sharks he rules, guards the cave, so the villagers no longer dare to dive for lobster. Punia, due to his cleverness, is able to bring lobster to his mother to cook and to fool the sharks into killing one another until only the Shark King himself is left.
According to the original legend, as told by both nineteenth-century Hawaiian scholar Abraham Fornander and twentieth-century scholar Martha Beckwith, Punia is ultimately swallowed by the Shark King and lives in its belly for nine days, surviving by eating flesh which he scrapes from the shark's stomach. Eventually he tricks the creature into swimming onto a sandy beach and hence to its death. Villagers rush upon the large animal to kill it for food, and Punia calls to them to be careful not to kill him too. When he comes out of the shark, he then must defeat a number of ghosts but is triumphant in the end.
Up to the point at which Punia is swallowed by the shark, Wardlaw sticks fairly closely to the tale as told by Beckwith and Fornander. But for some reason, she feels compelled to change the ending. In her version Punia doesn't get swallowed but merely stays in the shark's mouth, which he wedges open with a stalk from a banana tree. When the creature beaches himself upon the sand, Punia crawls out, and the villagers come to laugh at the Shark King who has now been humbled. But they do not kill him. Punia takes pity on the shark and helps him back into the water, on condition that he will swim far out to sea and vow never to return.
Hawaiians have always had a great deal of respect for the shark. In ancient Hawai'i some sharks were 'aumakua—not precisely a god, but rather an ancestor who after death is transformed into a particular creature, such as a shark or lizard, which will then offer protection to the living members of its family. Hawaiians may have killed a beached shark for food. But to say that they came to laugh at the humbled Shark King shows Wardlaw's own Western cultural assumptions and her lack of knowledge about Hawaiian culture. Hawaiian respect for sharks is a part of their respect for nature in general. Children reading the Dial Press version of this legend will have no concept of this Hawaiian attitude toward nature. While this in itself might not be considered Orientalism, it is based on the same lack of awareness of the culture as that exhibited by Roop in The Cry of the Conch. And this lack of awareness of important aspects of another's culture can eventually lead to one's feeling a sense of justification in restructuring and dominating that culture.
Wardlaw ends her book by stating that the villagers give Punia a grand lū'au, or feast, where women dance a hula which tells the tale of his courageous deeds, and they "crowned him with a wreath of maile leaves" (n.pag.). Although not part of the original legend, inserting this feast into her story does show some awareness of Hawaiian culture, for it was and still is customary to hold a lū'au to honor a particular person or event. In the days of the original legend, however, probably only men, and not women, would have danced the hula. Crowning Punia with a maile lei would have been appropriate at that time, as it would be today. While the presentation of a lei is a significant part of the culture, the maile is reserved for special occasions and given to show respect and honor to important people. In Davalos's illustration, however, the lei around Punia's neck bears no resemblance to maile. Maile, which grows on the uplands of the Hawaiian islands, is a plant of dark green leaves. Layers of leaves are woven together to make a lei, which is draped over the recipient's shoulders and hangs down the front of the person often to the waist or below. A maile lei is never sewn in a complete circle as is the one in Davalos's illustration, and the leaves that she has drawn do not look at all like those from the maile plant.
In a book for children the illustrations are as important as the words. Children often pay more attention to the pictures than they do to the text, and it is frequently pictures that mold a child's concepts of another culture. It is, therefore, incumbent upon the illustrator as well as the writer to portray the culture as accurately as possible. Davalos has not done this with Punia's lei.
The legend of Punia was also retold for children by Vivian Thompson, a Caucasian who has lived in Hawai'i for many years. Thompson began writing Hawaiian children's stories in the mid-1960s because she felt that children, both Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian, should be introduced to Hawaiian legends. She diligently researched the works of nineteenth-century Hawaiian scholars such as Abraham Fornander, David Malo, Samuel M. Kamakau, and John Papa Ii and tried to remain faithful to their versions and to portray an accurate picture of the Hawaiian culture. Her retelling of the Punia tale, entitled "King of the Restless Sea," is found in her Hawaiian Legends of Tricksters and Riddlers, first published by Holiday House in 1969 and republished in 1990 by University of Hawai'i Press. In this version Punia spends seven days in the shark's 'ōpū (Hawaiian for stomach), and at the end the villagers kill, but do not laugh at, the shark.
Thompson does not mention a feast given to honor Punia. She does, however, like Wardlaw, omit the ghosts that Punia has to fight in the original legend. Hawaiian legends grew out of an oral tradition. Often one tale would be narrated for many hours or perhaps over a period of several days. At that time there was no concept of "a story for children." Tales were told to everyone in the village, and children were simply part of the audience. Non-Hawaiian writers and publishers in reshaping these stories into books for children fall victim to the Western cultural assumption that each story must have a tight unity—a beginning, middle and end. And it's true that the Western parents, teachers and librarians who make up the largest share of the book's customers will expect this tight unity. The decision to leave the ghosts out of the retelling of the Punia legend, therefore, was probably based on a Western cultural assumption with an economic basis. Even so, young readers have a right to know that they are not being given the complete story. Indicating on the title page that the book is an abridged version of the Hawaiian legend could help to avoid a misinterpretation of the culture.
The way in which non-Hawaiians define Hawaiian terms can also lead to readers' misinterpreting the culture and hence eventually to Orientalism. In the front of Punia and the King of the Sharks is a Glossary of Hawaiian Terms. Many of these definitions are inaccurate or only partially true, and some are definitely in error. "Hula," for example, is defined as "a traditional Hawaiian dance performed by women whose graceful hand movements tell stories of famous Hawaiians and their great feats" (n. pag.). According to the book jacket, Wardlaw "has traveled extensively throughout Hawaii, where she enjoys bodysurfing, hiking and eating lobster." In spite of her extensive travel, she apparently does not realize that there is much more to hula than just hand movements. Nor is she aware that men also dance hula, and that in ancient days it was exclusively the dance of men, a sacred dance at one time forbidden to women.
The hula is still a significant part of Hawaiian culture. Students spend years learning the proper movements, not just of hands, but also of feet, hips, eyes, indeed of the entire body, in order to correctly interpret the stories being purveyed by the dance. Specific musical instruments, chanting by master chanters, rhythm and beat are all important aspects of hula, as are the outfits the dancers wear, including the flower lei around necks, wrists and ankles. Some dances do tell stories of famous Hawaiians and their great feats, but others retell aspects of Hawaiian history, or show respect for the gods, or tell the story of a particular site in the islands. Wardlaw's definition tends to trivialize a very serious art form.
She also trivializes the term kahuna, which she defines as "a sorcerer, priest, or medicine man." Then she adds, "Also, an expert in any profession" (n. pag.). It's unfortunate that she didn't put the second part of her definition first. The kahuna were (and still are) the professionals of Hawaiian society—the master canoe builders, the master navigators who without compasses, sextants or computers, could (and still can) find their way across thousands of miles of open ocean because of their extensive knowledge of stars, winds and ocean swells. And some kahuna—the kahuna lapa'au—are the doctors of the society, who can treat wounds and heal the sick. To refer to them as "sorcerers" or "medicine men" is to perpetuate the stereotype of a primitive and uneducated people. This stereotype in turn leads to the attitude purveyed in Orientalism, the belief that these people will benefit when colonized by a less primitive and better educated race.
Wardlaw continues this stereotyping in the Glossary in her discussion of the word manō, which she correctly defines as "Hawaiian word for shark." But she goes on to say, "The early islanders had 400,000 gods, including several shark gods" (n. pag.). Sharks, as discussed above, were 'aumakua, so to speak of them as gods is not precisely accurate. And 400,000 gods?
It is true that the early Hawaiians had numerous gods. They were a pantheistic society, who felt close to nature and found their deities throughout the natural world. In Hawaiian Antiquities David Malo gives the names of seventy-two gods, but he also tells us that sometimes the same deity was called by different names in different locations. And John Papa Ii, in Fragments of Hawaiian History, discusses the names of twenty-two gods. To state that a religion has 400,000 gods without providing a source for that figure is to trivialize the religion. It implies that the religion was frivolous, and does not indicate that like all religions the Hawaiian religion is complex. It gives no notion of the profound philosophical, ethical and moral thought that are part of a religion.
If one looks upon the ancient Hawaiians as the exotic "other," perhaps one doesn't feel the need to portray the more profound aspects of their religion and culture. It's unfortunate that Wardlaw, who apparently has not given extensive study to the ancient Hawaiians, should trivialize their art, their education and their religion in a book for children.
The stereotyping and trivializing seen in Punia and the King of the Sharks is also evident in The Woman in the Moon, another retelling of an ancient Hawaiian legend. Jama Kim Rattigan, author of the 1996 retelling of this legend, is of Korean ethnicity. She was born and raised in Hawai'i but now lives in Virginia. The illustrator, Carla Golembe, lives in Massachusetts.
The story is of the goddess Hina, trapped in an unhappy marriage, who escapes by climbing a rainbow to the moon, where she can be seen to this day. Martha Beckwith, quoting from earlier sources, presents several versions of this story in which Hina is pursued by her husband, who cuts off her foot (or her leg) before she reaches the moon (242). Just as the shark is not killed in Wardlaw's retelling of the Punia legend, in Rattigan's retelling of the Hina legend, there is no mention of Hina's losing a portion of her lower limb. This distorting or changing a story that is not of one's own culture is not in itself Orientalism, but it indicates a certain lack of respect for the culture, which can lead eventually to an arrogance, a sense of superiority, and a mindset that can justify colonialism.
In retelling Hina's story, one has to decide which Hina to present. For there are numerous Hinas in early Hawaiian legends. According to Beckwith, Kū and Hina, male and female, were the earliest gods of the people of Hawai'i (11). His Majesty, King David Kalakaua, in his Legends and Myths of Hawaii (1988), tells of an enticing Hina of the twelfth century, "the most beautiful woman in all Hawaii" (78), who reminiscent of The Iliad is abducted by the chief of Hā'upu and not rescued and returned to her husband until after eighteen years and a bloody war. Indeed Kalakaua calls his story "Hina, the Helen of Hawaii."
David Malo speaks of Hina-hele as "a female deity worshiped both by women and fishermen" (82). Yet another Hina (or perhaps the same one) was the mother of the mythical hero Maui (Malo 84) who fished up the Hawaiian islands, learned the art of making fire, and performed many other wondrous deeds.
Rattigan's Hina is none of these, although she does list five creditable sources for her legend. These include Martha Beckwith, Mary Kawena Pukui, and Vivian Thompson, who herself retold the legend of the Goddess of the Moon in her Hawaiian Myths of Earth, Sea and Sky (1966). Thompson's Hina is the mother of Maui. The Maui legends have been retold in recent years and are well known to children in Hawai'i. Since Rattigan grew up in Hawai'i, one would assume that she is aware of this, and one wonders why she doesn't add this link to a familiar legend. Perhaps Rattigan is not writing for a Hawai'i audience and does not feel it necessary to provide links to earlier versions of the legend. To make the link, however, would be a way in which Rattigan could, as Thompson does, acknowledge her respect for the original legend. Thompson gives at least lip service to the violence from earlier legends. Her Hina does not have her leg or foot cut off, but as she climbs the misty rainbow that shimmers in the light of the moon, her husband catches her ankle and twists it. And according to Thompson, Hina still sits in the moon, "her twisted foot stretched out before her, her tapa board and beater at her side" (80).
Beckwith tells us that in some versions of the legend the work Hina does before she escapes from earth is tapa making (220). Rattigan focuses on this and brings into her story some of the art and culture of creating tapa. According to the jacket, Golembe, the illustrator, spent several months in Hawai'i to work on this book and researched tapa making at the Kaua'i Museum. Some of the illustrations do show interesting tapa designs. One wishes, however, that Golembe had come out of the museum for a while and taken a look around her. Judging from her illustrations, it's hard to believe that she has ever really looked at a person of Hawaiian ancestry. All her characters appear exactly alike. Every one has the same shaped head, the same eyes, the same nose, and the same mouth. And none looks like a Hawaiian. It's as though the illustrator created a stamp and then stamped it onto each page of the book where she needed to portray Hawaiians.
One could say that Golembe, and by extension the publishing house, Little, Brown, is guilty of Orientalism. The Hawaiians (the other) are interesting for their exotic talent (the art of tapa making), but the people themselves are so insignificant that we can't be bothered to distinguish one from another. Refusing to show people as individuals implies that they are not important and therefore not deserving of respect. Making such an implication about a people is as serious as trivializing their culture and can in itself lead to an arrogance that can justify colonialism.
Sadly it seems that Orientalism is still alive and well in books for children. While these two books of the nineties are not as overtly condescending as The Cry of the Conch, one still sees areas where the writers, illustrators and publishers seem to be saying, "Because we are portraying exotic characters in a foreign and hence exotic location, it's not necessary to be accurate as to culture, religion, or physical characteristics of the people." There is a sense that because these are stories of "the other," accuracy is not important.
But those of us who live in Hawai'i could say that these mainland storytellers and publishers are "the other." And because they are "other," they are incapable of getting it right. It's not that simple, of course. Some Hawaiians feel the danger of colonialism and of being "othered" by those Caucasians who live in Hawai'i.
As a non-Hawaiian who lives in Hawai'i and writes books for children about Hawaii's history, culture and people, I'm very much aware of the dangers. I feel it necessary to learn all I can about the people, their culture, and their history, to refer diligently to the nineteenth century Hawaiian scholars, and to have my manuscripts checked by contemporary Hawaiian scholars, particularly those who speak the Hawaiian language. Even then, I've made some errors. But I hope that my respect for the culture comes through. For I feel that a person who writes of "the other" has a special obligation to remember that the one doing the writing is in reality "the other." And the same holds true for illustrators and publishers.
We'e not all the same. Each ethnic group has its own unique characteristics, customs and culture. But if we are going to have a truly multiethnic society, we need to show respect and sensitivity for the differences in one another's culture. And it is particularly important to portray this respect and sensitivity in books for children in order to avoid even a hint of Orientalism.
Beckwith, Martha. Hawaiian Mythology. Honolulu: U of Hawai'i P, 1971.
Canham, Stephen and Susan Halas. "Images of the Pacific for Children: Japan and Hawaii." [1990 Proceedings] Literature and Hawaii's Children: Spirit, Land, and Storytelling: The Heritage of Childhood. Ed. Stephen Canham. Honolulu: Literature and Hawaii's Children, 1992.
Fornander, Abraham. Selections from Fornander's Hawaiian Antiquities and Folk-Lore. Ed. Samuel H. Elbert. Illus. Jean Charlot. Honolulu: U of Hawai'i P, 1982.
Howes, Craig. "Hawaii through Western Eyes: Orientalism and Historical Fiction for Children." [1986 Proceedings] Literature and Hawaii's Children: Imagination: A Bridge to Magic Realms in the Humanities. Eds. Steven Curry and Cristina Bacchilega. Honolulu: Literature and Hawaii's Children, 1988.
Ii, John Papa. Fragments of Hawaiian History. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1983.
Kalakaua, His Hawaiian Majesty King David. The Legends and Myths of Hawaii: The Fables and Folk-Lore of a Strange People. Rutland: Tuttle, 1988.
Kamakau, Samuel M. Ka Po'e Kahiko: The People of Old. Honolulu: Bishop Museum P, 1987.
———. Na Hana a ka Po'e Kahiko: The Works of the People of Old. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1987.
Malo, David. Hawaiian Antiquities: Moolelo Hawaii. Trans. Dr. Nathaniel B. Emerson, 1898. Special Publication 2, 2nd ed. Honolulu: Bernice P. Bishop Museum, 1987.
Punia and the King of the Sharks: A Hawaiian Folktale. Adapted by Lee Wardlaw. Illus. Felipe Davalos. NY: Dial, 1997.
Rattigan, Jama Kim. The Woman in the Moon: A Story of Hawaii. Illus. Carla Golembe. Boston: Little, Brown, 1996.
Roop, Peter. The Cry of the Conch. Illus. Patric. Honolulu: Press Pacifica, 1984.
Said, Edward. Orientalism. NY: Vintage, 1978.
Thompson, Vivian L. Hawaiian Legends of Tricksters and Riddlers. Illus. Patricia A. Wozniak. Honolulu: U of Hawai'i P, 1990.
———. Hawaiian Myths of Earth, Sea, and Sky. Illus. Leonard Weisgard. NY: Holiday House, 1966.
Stephen Canham (essay date 1986)
SOURCE: Canham, Stephen. "Mythic Consciousness and Hawaiian Children's Literature." In Triumphs of the Spirit in Children's Literature, edited by Francelia Butler and Richard Rotert, pp. 127-36. Hamden, Conn.: Library Professional Publications, 1986.
[In the following essay, Canham examines how non-Hawaiian children's writers both effectively and ineffectively utilize Hawaiian myths as a basis for their stories.]
The first thing to understand is that "mythic consciousness" is a Western concept, implying the existence or at least the possibility of other types of consciousness distinct from those which are called "mythic"—say, perhaps, artistic, historical, ethical, or even technological. But to the ancient Hawaiians (i.e., people living in Hawaii prior to 1778), no such adjectives were necessary, or, I suspect, even conceivable. The supernatural and the natural were united in the actual; what was noumenal was every bit as epistemologically valid as what was physically concrete—in fact, the two partook of each other, were indivisible. All things were imbued with greater or lesser qualities of mana, a spiritual power analagous to that of "the Force" in the Star Wars serial. I intend no trivialization by the analogy, but rather an attempt to show how strongly we in the West seek the clarity and wholeness that the culture of the Hawaiians presented and which is still reflected in some of the best books for children on Hawaiian themes.
Mana is the power that links past to present through ancestors, all the way back to the gods themselves and first causes, as depicted in the great Hawaiian creation chant, the Kumulipo. Mana is sacred, potent, immanent; it can be constructive or destructive. It is the power which allows efficacy, whether in battle or in fishing; it is not unlike the concepts of quality and virtu rolled into one, and it is to be found in inanimate as well as animate matter. So, for the ancient Hawaiians, when Captain James Cook "discovered" the Sandwich Isles in 1778 (a good thousand years after the Polynesians, of course), during a festival on the island of Hawaii dedicated to the god Lono, it seemed clear that Cook was Lono—not an emissary or avatar, but the god itself. It was only a few days, however, before Cook and his men revealed their decidedly clay feet. Or, consider that the triggerfish with the wonderful name of humuhumunukunukuapuaa seen swimming off a coral reef might well be the great pig god Kamapuaa in his fish form—not an iconographic emblem of the god, but the god itself. Interestingly, in late 1984 the people of Hawaii voted the humuhumunukunukuapuaa to be the state's official fish. Somewhere, Kamapuaa must be grinning.
In Hawaii, the power, grandeur, and vitality of ancient spiritual concerns are still visible today, despite the commercial development and technological changes occurring throughout the islands. At the head of a trail or by a mountain pool, you might see a fresh green ti leaf carefully wrapped around a stone and placed inconspicuously near other leaves, now brown and withered after months in the rain and sun. Ti, which grows wild but is also cultivated as a yard plant, is sacred and the leaves are offered as propitiation to the local dieties (aumakua) which still inhabit and guard specific locations on all the islands. Aloha Airlines, one of the three primary inter-island carriers, boasts proudly that "the spirit moves us," with a play on "spirit" as the "aloha spirit" familiar to tourists (itself a powerful concept) and spirit as mana. An "easy-listening" Honolulu FM radio station sports the call letters KUMU; in Hawaiian, kumu means "source, foundation, master, teacher." Tourists go home with polymer lava tiki dolls replete with fake sapphire eyes glittering in shallow parody of the ike, or power of understanding and insight of the Hawaiian gods and kings. But even today in Hawaii one avoids looking directly into another's eyes, not only out of Oriental deference and politeness, but because to glare at a person can be construed as a serious personal affront. In ancient Hawaii, to look into the eyes of a king or queen was a violation of kapu (tabu or taboo), punishable by death for a commoner.
But what does all this have to do with children's literature? One more example. Recently I watched a group of 12 to 14 year-old local (i.e., part Hawaiian, non-Caucasian) youths arrive on the beach at Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Oahu for a day of bodysurfing in the 7 to 8 foot winter swells. They traveled light—bodysurfing fins and towels, but two boys had Walkman-type radios, eminently stealable while they bodysurfed. "Ho, consider dem gone," one boy said loudly enough for me to hear. Then, quietly, another boy, complete with baggy "surfah" shorts, peroxided punk tail and digital watch, simply walked up and stuck the ti stalk he had been carrying into the sand in the middle of their pile of belongings. "Nobody going boddah dem now," he announced, and the troupe hit the waves. He was right, nobody did bother their things—the power of myth, of matters spiritual and sacred, is sometimes very close to the surface of life in modern Hawaii.
At the same time that a fourth-grader is learning the rudiments of volcanology, he or she is also learning in school the stories of Pele, the fire goddess who is as responsible for recent eruptions on the Big Island of Hawaii as is plate tectonics: alternate ways to truth. You realize their prevalence and intuitiveness in Hawaii when the announcer on the evening news opens the broadcast by saying that "Madame Pele put on a spectacular display last night, as fountaining on the east rift of Kīlauea Volcano reached one thousand feet. Geologists at the National Park predict…." As Joseph Campbell notes, if we are to maintain our sense of wholeness, it is imperative that a dialogue between the old symbolic forms and the newer empirical forms of consciousness be achieved.1 In Hawaii, old and new ways of knowing and perceiving seek continual accommodation, and it is in part through children's books that this process of evaluation and renewal occurs.
The primary means of transmission of the old ways and stories in Hawaii remains, as it does throughout Polynesia, the oral tradition in all its forms. These range from traditional genealogical and historical chants to the mele (songs) which accompany various types of hula, from popular Hawaiian music, to the ever-present capacity of the people to "talk story," or swap gossip and tales with one another. Formal Hawaiian studies programs in the schools and universities are also responsible for a great deal of the preservation and reinvigoration of Hawaiian culture, especially during what has been termed the "Hawaiian renaissance" of the 1970s and 1980s. But I would suggest that Hawaiian children's books are a sub- strate for this reinvigoration and that, perhaps unacknowledged, they have quietly provided children of all backgrounds with written texts of key concepts and stories for generations. A written text widens its audience beyond that of the oral reciter, and with this expansion come a number of key issues and questions.
Children's fiction based on Hawaiian materials falls roughly into two categories: those books whose purpose is to convey traditional myths, legends, and stories without major reference to the present and those which involve the present with the past, usually by means of a child protagonist. Into the first rudimentary grouping fall translations, retellings, adaptations, transcriptions of oral materials, and historical fiction; these works are often informed by a deeply felt desire to preserve and perpetuate the stories and ways of the past "as they used to be." Many of the works in this mode belong to an entire culture, not an individual authorial mind; their very existence derives not from the imaginative ability of a single person or consciousness but from the evolving needs and desires of an entire people. Thus, their continuance becomes an imperative if the culture from which they developed is to be considered still viable. That such tales shift in Hawaii from the oral to the written—and illustrated—tradition reveals a fundamental historical and aesthetic change. Prior to the arrival of the Caucasian missionaries in the early nineteenth century, Hawaiians had no written language, and, despite a few sporadic printings of Hawaiian language primers, texts, and story collections, it was not until the 1930s that books for children dealing with Hawaiian themes began to appear in any number, and these were in English.
Despite the slowness of the West to recognize it, the greatest Hawaiian legends and stories—those of the gods and heroes Maui, Pele, Hiiāka, Umi, for instance—touch, in Campbell's phrase, "themes of the imagination,"2 nonhistorical renderings of absolutely fundamental matters and principles such as birth, procreation, death, courage, loyalty, love, jealousy, and greed. But even the best of the modern retellers sometimes cannot resist the temptation to shape their material to fit narrative patterns other than those of the ancient Hawaiians. As Martha Beckwith noted in her classic study, Hawaiian Mythology, Hawaiian romances typically ended in estrangement, and "stories which end with a happy married life must be suspect as a foreign innovation."3 And sure enough, in 1981 Dave Guard, in the generally well retold and handsomely illustrated story of Hale-Mano, seemingly could not resist the Western lure of the happily-ever-after closure, and grants his lovers a very atypical fairy tale ending. Is this "bad"? No, just untraditional, although from one point of view, such tampering dilutes the authority of the traditional material. In addition to Guard, names to look for among the best of the retellers and adapters for children (and adults) include Marcia Brown, Guy Buffet, Mary Kawena Pukui, and Vivian Thompson.
In the retellings of traditional material the usual critical and aesthetic criteria apply: grasp of concept/material by author, accuracy of data, including linguistic features, stylistic grace, appropriateness of material for a given audience, and so on. Such criteria are familiar and have nothing exclusively to do with Hawaiian children's literature. But in evaluating the second grouping, those stories which engage the past and the present, a new criterion begins to become evident and appropriate: the quality of the mediation between the old and the new and frequently between one culture and another. When I look at children's books about Hawaii, I notice that most of the names of the authors and editors are Haole (Caucasian): Berkey, Thompson, Guard, Buffet, Tabrah, Doyle, Myhre, Brown—these are not Hawaiian names. Even the various "Tutu Nenes," the Hawaiian translation of "Mother Goose," seem to be Haole in disguise. Surnames of course are not necessarily accurate indicators of ethnicity, particularly in Hawaii, but my own research suggests that the clear majority of fictional works for children written on Hawaiian themes has been done by non-Hawaiians. Why? In part because of the oral tradition and the educational oppression of the native Hawaiians in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the fact that the printed English word, and especially the book form, was clearly and to some extent remains, the province of the non-Hawaiian.
During the nineteenth century a number of Hawaiians did adopt Western literary forms, and Hawaiian language newspapers from the last century are rich in as yet mostly untranslated folklore and fictional material, but this energy seems to have waned by the early part of the twentieth century. In the West the continuing importance of the printed word is unquestioned, and is even raised to the power of myth (consider the recent redemonstration of the power of Logos in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" [of the Covenant]), but such traditions simply do not exist in much of Polynesia; in ancient Hawaii, the arts of oral poetry and epic/saga were highly refined, but not the art of preserving them through transcription.
Mircea Eliade in 1952 identified what he called an "Oceanian paradise," a "dream of islands" in the historian Gavan Daws's later phrase, which has dominated the imaginations of many in the West: "for the last hundred and fifty years," Eliade wrote, "all the great European literatures have vied with each other in exalting the paradisiac islands of the Pacific Ocean, havens of happiness, although the reality was very different."4 The archetypal desire for an earthly paradise I think accounts for a good deal of the interest of "outsiders" in the mythology and the mythographizing of Hawaiian materials. The outsider finds in the old stories not simply charming or quaint narratives of unusual customs or shocking behavior, but rather occasional glimpses of the unity, the centeredness, the wholeness, of culture and life itself which has long been lost in the West. Nostalgia, then, may well inform many of the children's books about Hawaii—and this is not all bad. When nostalgia is based on informed appreciation for its subject, the result can be a kind of reachievement, a temporary, conditional, aesthetic and imaginative "return" to modes of inner life now difficult to sustain; and the subject, the Hawaiian material, is strengthened for its renewed interpretation and transmission. But when the nostalgia is governed by what could be called literary tourism or aesthetic carpetbagging, in which the perception of the subject as quaint, curious, or marketable informs the fiction, then the subject becomes, almost inevitably, denigrated. When "Jack and the Beanstalk" becomes "Keaka and the Lilikoi Vine," or when the three little pigs are joined feebly with a Hawaiian shark (no wolf being available), as they recently have been, trivialization occurs. What was archetypal in one culture becomes merely cute or clever in the other.
More difficult to achieve is the story which results from a sensitive, informed grasp of the culture—be it inherited or learned. Consider, for instance, Ruth Tabrah's use of traditional Hawaiian belief and legend in The Red Shark (1970). In this novel for young teenagers, Tabrah uses Hawaiian concepts of guardian deities (aumakua) to craft a story of the lingering powers of the old ways. Like his ancestors before him, old Isaac Kaimana (his surname translates roughly to "spiritual power of the sea") has quietly served a shark god, marked by a sacred rock, which inhabits a shoreline pool, but when the god reveals itself to the young outsider Stanley Sasaki, old Isaac decides it is time to pass the responsibility on. As he slowly, spellbindingly relates the old stories of how the high prince could take both human and shark forms and of how dangerous it is for young women to swim in his pool, Isaac gradually crafts an elegy to Hawaiian culture and the waning of the old ways which his life has striven to perpetuate. "When I was six years old, [my grandmother] showed me the stone, she told me this story. No secret. Only people don't like to talk about such things…. They don't like to think about such things could be…. The islands, they coming different. Honolulu—Kona—Hilo—everyplace but here, they forget how to live. They cut down the old trees. They block off the beaches with big hotels. They hide the mountains from your eyes with tall buildings…. Not much left of the old island feeling, the true spirit."5 Stanley, Isaac has come to believe, possesses "the feeling for this place," what in Hawaiian is called "aloha āina," or "love of the land," in which John Charlot has noted a "seamless joining of physical description and symbolic meaning," an integrity of self and all the dimensions of the sensed world often alien to the West.6
Tabrah's treatment of not only the traditional materials but also the potentially volatile political dimensions of change is both respectful and insightful. And, clearly, one primary aspect of "the old island feeling" is the dimension of life we call mythic, the unity of self and physical and spiritual contexts. For many of us, myth has become an academic subject, or a quaint, slightly exotic indulgence, rather than a living, vital element of being, for, as Carl Jung noted,
You can know all about the saints, sages, prophets, and other godly men and all the great mothers of the world. But if they are mere images whose numinosity you have never experienced, it will be as if you were talking in a dream, for you will not know what you are talking about. The mere words you use will be empty and valueless. They gain life and meaning only when you try to take into account their numinosity—i.e. their relationship to the living individual. Only then do you begin to understand that their names mean very little, whereas the way they are related to you is all-important.7
The contemporary storyteller Jane Yolen concurs: "Mythology, legend, the lore of the folk, those tales that were once as real to their believers as a sunrise, hardly exist today even as reference points. In our haste to update educational standards, we have done away with the older gods, so that now all that we have left are names without faces, mnemonics without meaning."8
Yet we still seem to need contact with the old ways, and Eliade speculates further that nostalgias "are sometimes charged with meanings that concern man's actual situation,"9 instead of representing a desire for the past per se, for, as Jung says, "in former times men did not reflect upon their symbols; they lived them and were unconsciously animated by their meaning."10 It is this "unconscious animation" of the archetype that I think attracts so many writers to Hawaiian materials, but not all are successful in dealing with it. Take two examples which treat the same motif, that of the penetration of an ancient Hawaiian burial cave by a Caucasian. In the first, The Secret Cave of Kamanawa by Helen Lamar Berkey (1968), young Llewelyn "Boy" McFarlane, having recently moved to Hawaii with his family, hears of a nearby secret burial cave of Hawaiian royalty (alii) from an old Hawaiian neighbor (the eccentric but kind Cat Woman), and sets out with his dog to discover it. He does, of course, against all odds—or, more accurately, his dog discovers it. "Boy" breaks the highest of the ancient kapu, formerly punishable with instant death, by penetrating the cave and desecrating it by taking a finger bone and other souvenirs to prove to Cat Woman that he has actually found the cave. Cat Woman is deeply distressed to learn that the bones of her ancestors have been discovered and disturbed, but she decides to safeguard the remains of the cave by donating them to the [Bishop] Museum. When "Boy" and a young anthropologist are unable to relocate the entrance to the cave after a remarkable four days of rain and tropical growth, Cat Woman is relieved and "Boy" chagrined. But for all of his encounter with things of great mana, "Boy" learns virtually nothing about either ancient Hawaii or himself; he seems capable only of drinking lemonade with the anthropologist and picking burrs out of his dog's coat, rather than realizing the experience he has undergone. This is clearly a superficial, "outsider's" story, and Ray Lanterman's dramatic, carefully accurate illustrations overshadow the text.
In another book by Ruth Tabrah, however, the penetration of an ancient cave is made to serve higher concepts of cultural awareness and self-realization. In Hawaiian Heart (1964), newly-arrived twelve-year-old Emily Fergus is urged from the outset to keep her "heart and eyes open" in order to truly understand her new experiences.11 Emily meets a field archaeologist from the Bishop Museum who leads her family on an exploration of known burial caves in the Kohala area of the Big Island. Tabrah introduces the "superstition" of a mysterious "cave sickness" which can result from the removing of artifacts from a sacred cave. This belief has a corollary in the widespread notion that to remove rocks from the Hawaiian Islands is bad luck. Each year, the U.S. Postal Service in Honolulu receives dozens of packages of rocks from former tourists now willing to believe that the possession of Madame Pele's rocks caused their unusual bad luck. Mana, remember, is everywhere, even in the lava.
When Emily's younger brother sneaks a leg bone out of a cave and becomes suddenly and seriously ill, Emily, who fears caves to begin with, is called upon to surreptitiously return the bone to its rightful place. Her redescent into the cave marks a shift in the direction of her life, for Emily comes to grips with death as a process: "Emily poised the leg bone over the scattered bones at the rear of the alcove. Now she actually was here so close to the reality of all these ‘old ones,’ she was no longer afraid. Here was death as it came to everyone."12 Emily has felt the power of the "old ones," and has learned to treat the dead, as well as the living, with respect. More importantly, by the end of the novel her encounters with the ways of ancient Hawaii have revealed her own place: "I'm a haole, Emily thought. The word no longer offended her…. She was a haole, as Alix was part-Hawaiian, as Dorothy was of Japanese descent, as Noelani was Hawaiian-Chinese, as Mrs. Dacuycuy at Hōnaunau was Filipino…. These names were only labels that told other people what part of the world you were proud to have your ancestors from."13 Like various sister-heroes of European folktales, indeed like all archetypal heroes, Emily must descend into the world of the dead in order to better understand the world of the living; in her selfless act of saving her brother from cave sickness, Emily comes to terms with key aspects of her humanity—and it is ancient Hawaiian myth which shows the outsider the way.
Yolen speaks profoundly in Touch Magic of the power of the old stories and of our continued need for them: "Storytelling is our oldest form of remembering the promises we have made to one another and to our various gods, and the promises given in return; it is a way of recording our human emotions and desires and taboos."14 Like all great stories, Hawaiian legends and myths can remind us of these promises. No matter that the outward trappings may be unfamiliar—the point is to make them familiar, to discover the numinosity that Jung speaks of. Modern Hawaii prides itself on being a meeting point, a place where peoples and cultures merge and learn from one another. In our haste to learn of the technology and business skills of others, we—adult and child alike—should not forget the old wisdom embodied in the ancient Hawaiian tales, wisdom still accessible through the best of Hawaiian "children's" literature.
1. Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By (New York: Viking, 1972), 5.
2. Ibid., 26.
3. Martha Beckwith, Hawaiian Mythology (Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, 1970), 525.
4. Mircea Eliade, Images and Symbols: Studies in Religious Symbolism, trans. Philip Mairet (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1961), 11; Gavan Daws, A Dream of Islands (New York: Norton, 1980).
5. Ruth M. Tabrah, The Red Shark (Chicago: Follett, 1970), 77-78.
6. John Charlot, Chanting the Universe: Hawaiian Religious Culture (Honolulu: Emphasis International Limited, 1983), 62.
7. Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols (New York: Doubleday, 1964), 98 (emphasis Jung's).
8. Jane Yolen, Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie, and Folklore in the Literature of Childhood (New York: Philomel Books, 1981), 14.
9. Eliade, Images and Symbols, 17.
10. Jung, Man and His Symbols, 81.
11. Ruth M. Tabrah, Hawaiian Heart (Chicago: Follett, 1964), 14.
12. Ibid., 170.
13. Ibid., 180-81.
14. Yolen, Touch Magic, 25.
Marcia Brown, Backbone of the King: The Story of Pakaa and His Son Ku, illust. Marcia Brown (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1966; repr. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1984).
Guy and Pam Buffet, Adventures of Kamapuaa, ed. Ruth Tabrah, illust. Guy Buffet (Norfolk Island, Australia: Island Heritage Limited, 1972).
Guy Buffet, Kahala: Where the Rainbow Ends, ed. Ruth Tabrah, illust. Guy Buffet (Norfolk Island, Australia: Island Heritage Limited, 1973).
Padraic Colum, The Bright Islands: The Tales and Legends of Hawaii, vol. 2, illust. Juliette May Fraser (New Haven: Yale University Press for the Hawaiian Legnd and Folklore Commission, 1925).
Dave Guard, Hale-Mano: A Legend of Hawaii, illust. Caridad Sumile (Millbrae, Ca.: Celestial Arts/Dawne-Leigh, 1981).
Helen P. Hoyt, The Night Marchers: A Tale of the Huakai Po, illust. Susan Carter-Smith (Norfolk Island, Australia: Island Heritage Limited, 1976).
Ku'ulei Ihara and 'I. Johnson, The Eight Rainbows of Umi, illust. Marcia Morse (Honolulu: Topgallant Publishing Company, 1976).
Herb Kawainui Kane, Voyage: The Discovery of Hawaii, illust. Herb Kawainui Kane (Norfolk Island, Australia: Island Heritage Limited, 1976).
Eric A. Knudsen, Spooky Stuffs: Hawaiian Ghost Stories, ed. Sally Kaye, illust. Guy Buffet (Norfolk Island, Australia: Island Heritage Limited, 1974).
Mary Kawena Puku'i, comp., Hawaiian Folk Tales, trans. Laura Green, 3rd series (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.: Vassar College, 1933).
Mary Kawena Puku'i, comp., Pikoi and Other Legends of the Island of Hawaii, retold by Caroline Curtis, illust. Robert Lee Eskridge (Honolulu: The Kamehameha Schools Press, 1949; repr. 1971).
Mary Kawena Puku'i, comp., Tales of the Menehune and Other Short Legends of the Hawaiian Islands, illust. Richard Goings (Honolulu: The Kamehameha Schools Press, 1960; repr. Honolulu: Bess Press, 1983).
Mary Kawena Puku'i, comp., The Water of Kane and Other Legends of the Hawaiian Islands, retold by Caroline Curtis, illust. Richard Goings (Honolulu: The Kamehameha Schools Press, 1951).
Pilipo Springer, Makaha: The Legend of the Broken Promise, adapted by Robert B. Goodman and Robert A. Spicer, illust. Guy Buffet (Norfolk Island, Australia: Island Heritage Limited, 1974).
Vivian L. Thompson, Hawaiian Legends of Tricksters and Riddlers, illust. Sylvie Selig (New York: Holiday House, 1969).
Vivian L. Thompson, Hawaiian Myths of Earth, Sea, and Sky, illust. Leonard Weisgard (New York: Holiday House, 1966).
Vivian L. Thompson, Maui-Full-of-Tricks: A Legend of Old Hawaii, illust. Earl Thollander (Chicago: Children's Press, 1970).
Vivian L. Thompson, Hawaiian Tales of Heroes and Champions, illust. Herb Kawainui Kane (New York: Holiday House, 1971).
Margaret Titcomb, The Voyage of the Flying Bird, illust. Joseph Feher (Rutland, Vt.: Charles E. Tuttle, 1970).
Jay Williams, The Surprising Things Maui Did, illust. Charles Mikolaycak (New York: Four Winds Press, 1979).
Cristina Bacchilega (essay date December 1988)
SOURCE: Bacchilega, Cristina. "Adapting the Fairy Tale for Hawaii's Children." Lion and the Unicorn 12, no. 2 (December 1988): 121-34.
[In the following essay, Bacchilega studies the effectiveness of several authors' attempts to reimagine classical Western children's stories within Hawaiian frameworks, settings, and culture.]
How many people today live in a language that is not their own? Or no longer, or not yet, even know their own and know poorly the major language that they are forced to serve? This is the problem of immigrants, and especially of their children, the problem of minorities, the problem of a minor literature, but also a problem for all of us: how to tear a minority literature away from its own language, allowing it to challenge the language and making it follow a sober revolutionary path?
(Deleuze & Guattari)
Among other things, the following poem written by John Ayau (Kalakaua Intermediate School, Grade 9) during an April 1988 Poets-in-the-Schools workshop points to the problematic status of classic fairy tales in modern Hawaii:
Once upon a time was 3 bears
Mommy Bear, Papa Bear and the
little self absorb stink rotten
bear. They were walking in the
forest very happily and they came
upon the national park. There
they saw the Japanese tourist
with about 500 cameras and they
said "Bear could we take your picture"
and the Papa Bear said you can
take my picture and the Mama Bear
said you can take my picture
and the baby bear said
you can take my picture. Then
the tourist said "You know we
only need 2 bears lets get rid
of the baby bear." After their
tremendous photo session they
went back to their little hut
and the Papa Bear notice that
his little bear was gone. He
was so happy because he's been
trying to lose the Baby Bear
before he even had it and so
they had a very big party.
They brought Bambi over and
she got drunk running through
the forest yelling Fire! And
the Three Blind Mice came and
they got drunk running all over
the place and got their tails
cut off with the carving knife
and the party went on for days.
A door poof out of the sky and
the Papa Bear open the door and
guess who's waiting there
CLINT EASTWOOD. He killed everyone
with his gun then shot himself
in the head and everyone was dead
and was lying on the ground.
Tales like "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" are as "alien" to Hawaii's lore as Japanese tourists, Walt Disney's characters, and macho movie stars are; nevertheless, mostly because of multi-national, media-strengthened capitalism, they are all part of Hawaii's present reality. Or as the poet Juliet S. Kono puts it in "Gang Rape: A Fairy Tale?" (a retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood"): "Even far off / as in sleepy / territorial Hilo town. / isolated by miles of ocean, / we were not immune / to the effects of Walt Disney, / of fairy tales, / which quickened / our young girls' hearts." What part do Western fairy tales play in Hawaii's multi-ethnic culture? And, more specifically, what do Hawaii's children learn from them? How are these tales presented to them? And to what purposes and effects? To help answer these questions, I will not rely on nationally distributed versions of fairy tales, be they available through the media or published by the larger children's literature industry, but on local adaptations of fairy tales in order to identify their specific strategies and concerns as applied to Hawaii's communities and children.
While the fairy tale is only relatively a newcomer to Hawaii (translations of the Grimms into Hawaiian appeared as early as 1861; see Schweizer, who does a close reading of some of them published in Ka Nupepa Ku'oko'a (by a mysterious J. W.), there are remarkably few Hawaiian adaptations of these tales and only some of them are specifically for children. This should come as no surprise given, on the one hand, the power of the national book and media industry and, on the other hand, Hawaii's own rich and fascinating body of lore, which would seem to coun- teract the homogenizing force of Western classics. And, to some extent, when Hawaiian myths and legends are being presented to children in simplified versions at school and through books, they act in significant opposition to the context in which our ninth grader thinks of "The Three Bears." The inside cover of Kamapua'a [Hog-child, a Hawaiian demi-god], for example, reads: "No Three Little Pigs, or Mickey Mouse, or Donald Duck here…. Kamapua'a is the story of nature as the Hawaiians respect it, undomesticated, wild, and free" (Buffet). It is true, these books and many others provide an alternative to the Disneyfication of nature and magic, but only from the perspective of Hawaiian culture, one of several minority cultures in modern Hawaii, where paradoxically many children learn "Hawaiiana" in the schools.2
In contrast, local adaptations of classic Western fairy tales acknowledge both Hawaii's participation in the broader English-speaking, media-oriented American cultural discourse and Hawaii's own multiple and hyper-territorialized cultures. Since their strategies and effects range widely, I wish to identify two types of adaptations by focusing on representative texts from each category, rather than attempting a survey. The two types are: stories in Standard English meant for children and adapted to Hawaii's setting; and Pidgin English stories for the entertainment of children and adults alike.
Donivee Martin Laird's first book, Three Little Hawaiian Pigs, was published in 1981 and followed by three more volumes: Keaka and the Liliko'i Vine (1982), Wili Wai Kula and the Three Mongooses (1983), and 'Ula Li'i and the Magic Shark (1985). All four books, written for pre-schoolers and elementary school children, were colorfully illustrated by Carol Jossem and published in Hawaii. Wili Wai Kula ["wili" meaning "twisting lock of hair" and "wai kula" "gold-colored," as Laird explains in the glossary] is a curious child who is in the "habit of doing the very thing she was told not to do." Defying her mother's warning, this Goldilocks ventures into the forest where she sees a little mongoose house. Papa Mongoose, Mama Mongoose, and baby Mongoose have gone for a walk leaving their breakfast—rice and Portuguese sausage—to cool. Having tasted the food on the biggest plate (too hot) and on the medium-sized plate (too cold), Wili Wai Kula eats all of the Baby Mongoose's meal. Then she tries the three koa rocking chairs and breaks the smallest. Finally she tries the three pūne'e in the bedroom and falls asleep in the littlest. When the mongooses return, they notice that someone has been eating their food and sitting on their chairs; the Baby Mongoose starts to cry: "and the Baby Mongoose said, in his high, squeaky voice, ‘Somebody wen seet on top my rock-a and da bugga wen bus 'em all up.’" Wili Wai Kula, who wakes up to "three mongooses with angry faces and sharp teeth," runs all the way homes and learns two lessons from her adventure: even though she still gets into mischief, she is "much better about minding her mother and father," and she knows that one should "Never, never go into a mongoose's house without first being invited."
Wili Wai Kula has a strongly didactic bent which develops in at least two directions. The child learns a lesson, which is appropriate to this particular literary fairy tale. But Laird also uses this well-known tale to teach children a lesson in "Hawaiiana": the glossary lists and illustrates the Hawaiian words used in the story (e.g., hale, 'ono, pau, mea'ai, etc.) as well as animals, objects, foods, and plants found in Hawaii (e.g., pūne'e, kukui tree, guava, etc.) This same strategy organizes the other books as well, and makes them useful in classroom situations both in Hawaii and on the mainland during "Hawaiiana" units. As Laird pointed out during a personal interview I conducted with her, she began her writing project because: "There was a real need for something about Hawaii for that age group. I've lived here all of my life and have a real feeling for Hawaii. I thought: this will be a way of bringing information about Hawaii to young children."3 Several teachers have written to her from other states to express their satisfaction with her tales which seem to be quite popular and have also been made into school-plays in Hawaii.
The limitations of Laird's books stem from the same source as their strength, i.e., their didactic nature in addressing such a young audience. On the other hand, changes in the story lines are mostly made to give the tales some local color and eliminate details which are not appropriate to the Hawaii setting. The bears become mongooses, the wolf in "Little Red Riding Hood" becomes a shark, the beanstalk in "Jack and the Beanstalk" is a liliko'i vine. Because these transformations are purely functional (i.e., dictated by the setting) and the children are encouraged to recognize them as such, the mythic dimension of the tales as imaginative stories of initiation is unfortunately reduced: transformations do not seem to symbolize the inner journey through which we learn to know and use our strength, to produce "magic." It comes as no surprise, then, that the magic shark in The Three Little Hawaiian Pigs and 'Ula Li'i is—as Laird told me— the children's favorite character. His disguises are not only appropriate to Hawaii; they are amusing and indicative of his strong and then weaker powers as a villain. To trick the pigs and Red Riding Hood, the hungry shark is able to change himself into a lei seller, a shave ice man, or a malasada man. But his final forced transformations into what appears to be, in one story, a folded beach mat and, in the other, a bundle of folded sugar cane clearly mark his defeat.
On the other hand, given the young age of the audience, the treatment of "Hawaiiana," which is these adaptations' moving force, can only be somewhat superficial. Children that young have a short attention span and must be able to recognize the greater part of the story—which cannot, therefore, be changed—in order to focus on the new learning material. For instance, all of the books are suggestive in both text and illustrations of Hawaii's ethnic diversity: 'Ula Li'i and Keaka seem to have some Hawaiian blood in them; the mongooses speak Pidgin; and the giant's wife in the "Jack and the Beanstalk" story looks either Philippino or Portuguese. These stereotypical characters cannot, however, do more than alert us to Hawaii's ethnic mix because they only interact within the set limits of the traditional story lines.4 The only involuntary "message" about ethnic interaction occurs at the end of the "Goldilocks" story when the blond (but local) little girl learns to respect the Pidgin-speaking mongooses' property. Furthermore, Laird's use of many Hawaiian words encourages some otherwise inappropriate parallels between these tales and Hawaiian mythology. I am referring in particular to the magic shark, who is a scary villain in these stories, but was worshipped as an 'aumakua, an ancestral god and protector by the Hawaiians (Beckwith 128-43). Laird's books make no pretenses to shedding light on ancient Hawaiian customs, hence the parallel is inappropriate; however, should one use Hawaiian words, as common as they may be, in isolation of their cultural context? Laird herself, of course, would not wish to do so if we were referring to the broader cultural context of modern Hawaii.5
Precisely because it is the most strongly rooted in local values as well as specific landscapes, Keaka and the Liliko'i Vine—which addresses a slightly older audience (children six to eleven)—is the most successful of Laird's books. A widow and her son Keaka live in a village in "a hot dry place called the Ka'u Desert" on the island of Hawaii. In this desert of "lava flows, dried grasses, and twisted kiawe trees," everyone is poor, but Keaka and his mother are even poorer. During a drought, they decide to sell their only asset, a handsome black and white goat. On his way to town with the goat, Keaka meets a thin man dressed in red and wearing "a narrow lei of feathers around his hat"; in a magical voice, the man persuades the boy to trade his goat for four magic black seeds wrapped in red cloth. The enchanted Keaka proudly shows his magic seeds to his mother, but she throws the "‘worthless liliko'i seeds’" out of the window [liliko'i = passion fruit]. Naturally, the magic vine grows during the night and in the morning Keaka climbs it to a "bright sunny world" with fantastic shapes "made of white clouds." Hidden behind the skirt of "the largest woman [he] had ever seen," Keaka observes her husband, a big ugly giant, while he eats laulau,6 counts his money, and threatens to eat the boy he smells; then from another hiding place, the child sees the giant relaxing with his two magic objects: a nēnē goose and an 'ukulele.
Keaka remembered the ha'i mo'olelo chanting a mele about a nēnē goose who could lay golden eggs and a magic 'ukulele that played by itself. For years they had been the prized possessions of Keaka's village. Long ago, during a fierce battle, a giant carrying a large club had taken them away.
"It isn't just a story," thought Keaka in excitement. "The giant must have kept my village's treasures all these years."
The rest of the story goes as we already know it with three significant exceptions. Keaka takes the nēnē goose and the magic 'ukulele, but not the giant's money; the giant makes a large hole in the ground when he falls from the vine and disappears never to be "heard from again" while his wife lives happily in the "white world above the earth" and stops saying "‘Oh dear.’" Most importantly, Keaka and his mother share their riches with others:
The money from the golden eggs made it possible for them and all the people in the village to eat, buy new boats, and live a better life. The magic 'ukulele was passed from family to family. Its music was so cheerful, the villagers couldn't help but live happily ever after.
By allowing for less superficial transformations of the traditional tale and addressing an older audience, Keaka and the Liliko'i Vine preserves its magic and effectively suggests some sense of Hawaiian community values. This shows, I believe, that the limitations I pointed out above do not reflect on Laird's skills and other books themselves—which seem to me useful and amusing, given their objectives—so much as they serve to raise questions about this type of adaptation of well-known stories.
In the early 1950s, Emery Nemethy, a gentleman of Hungarian origin who lived in Hawaii for a few years, tried his hand at adapting Western classic fairy tales to Hawaii in a different way. He published several Pidgin versions of fairy tales in the magazine Paradise of the Pacific and collected five of them in a slim volume Da Kine Pidgin Stories (1954). His "Cinderalla" (co-authored with Leslie Vincent) introduces us to "one ono-looking young wahine who wuz kine, an' gentle like onen dove" [ono = good; wahine = woman]. She has to work as a maid for a mean woman and her "two ugly, pilau, stuck-up daughters" [pilau = dirty] who sleep in "haole kine" [haole = foreign, Caucasian] beds from Sears & Roebuck. Cinderalla, who has "more betta' high class taste," generously helps the two sisters get dressed for the King's big party and then goes to cry in the kitchen. Her "fairy godmoddah" comes to her rescue: she transforms a large papaya into "one fancy old-time wagon," six mice into big horses, a rat into a driver, six lizards into "six footmans wit' green suits trim wit' gold lace," and Cinderalla's dirty clothes into a beautiful "holokū " [dress] and "pretty glass shoes—da most small kine in da world." Cinderalla has a great time at the party, dancing with the Prince and eating at the luau "really letting go her blouse" [putting it in]; at midnight she runs off leaving one of her shoes behind. The story ends as we would expect it to. The two sisters become Cinderalla's "lady-in-waitings" taking care of bathrooms and ironing her 365 dresses, while she and the Prince "live together happily ever after—which is more than can be said for many of us!"
Nemethy's renditions of other classic fairy tales present similar features. First, retold in Pidgin English, they are followed by a glossary of Hawaiian and less common Pidgin words, and accompanied by stylized drawings. Second, most of the stories depart from the well-known tales only to add local color: in "Leedle Rad Riding Hood," for example, the protagonist wears a red coat and a yellow feather meant to bring good luck; in her basket she carries "pipikaula, lomi-lomi salmon, pork, laulau, feesh, poi, an' ono-kine limu—an' one mango"; and the wolf, having swallowed the tutu [grandmother], puts on her nightcap and her "sleeping muumuu." Third, the tales include humorous details and sometimes satirical comments. Red Riding Hood's folks are "poor, but dishonest." The surviving pig in "Da Tree Leedle Peegs" exclaims in the end: "‘Gee, lucky ting I come Hawaii, yeh?’"7 The two crooks in "Da Chief's New Cape" ("The Emperor's New Clothes") are malihinis [newcomers, strangers], "coast haoles from Los Angeles," and the evil Queen in "Snow White and da' Seven Menehunes" gets so sick at the wedding "an' green wit' da kine envy, dat in one week she been drop dead." Nemethy's tales are definitely entertaining and refreshing, but lack the verbal inventiveness of later Pidgin versions told by locals who grew up speaking the language and are truly familiar with its social uses.
Kent Bowman's recording of Pidgin English Children's Stories is a case in point. Bowman composed the first tale, Little Lei Puahi, when he was in California during World War II and wanted, together with other Hawaii friends, "to teach Pidgin to [his] haole friends through stories they knew." This remarkably versatile Hawaii businessman and comedian did not write down his version of "Little Red Riding Hood" until he recorded it with five other tales in 1961 for Hula Records. Even then, as a true storyteller would, he followed the script only as a guide. Bowman's choice of media (oral rather than written, but within a commercial setting) marks his performance as both traditional and modern. And with a little music in the background, his powerful voice makes well-known characters take on new forms and come alive in our imaginations: here is Goldie, the malihini from California coming to take Summer courses at the University of Hawaii; there are the fearless Little Lei and her Philippino rescuers; and the bad wolf becomes a wild pua'a [pig] in one story and Mano-the-Shark in another. While his audience was originally an adult and non-Hawaii-based one, his album is presented as a collection of "children's stories": once again in the tradition of good storytelling, Bowman now claims his stories are for a local audience of children "from five to sixty five" (Bowman, Interview).8
In these Pidgin renditions of fairy tales, Bowman makes three different kinds of changes which affect plot, language, and function. His Cinderalla begins:
Many years ago, dere wuz living in Honoka'a, one poh-key [porky, shapely] tita named Cinderalla. She wuz one real good fun wahine weighin' couple t'ee hundred pounds, an' she like play music, sing, an' dance. When she laugh, auwé! she shake j'ike one bowl ful haupia [coconut cream pudding].
Cinderalla's weight and good nature stand in opposition to her stepsisters' skinny bodies and nasty disposition. Having helped Manga Nose and Aku Face get dressed for the ali'i's [chief's] party, our heroine is about to cry when her personal akua [goddess] appears. Cinderalla goes to the party in a red holokū complete with "tabis and Japanese fiber glass slippers"; there she dances the hula and plays the 'ukulele attracting the ali'i to her. When she loses her slipper, we find out it is size 16, "fo' luau feet" [big feet], and when she finally tries the slipper on, the prince is delighted to marry her because of her large feet which enable her—he says—to walk on the water:
"Come live with me and be my love …
An' walk on da wata an' harvest my taro patch, while I go take 'em eazy an' eat plenty poi till I make you fella weight!"
While some of Bowman's changes simply emphasize local color and setting (e.g., a calabash bowl, six 'iole [mice], and a pōpoki [cat], and an old piece of tapa are transformed into Cinderalla's carriage horses, chauffeur, and dress by her personal akua "making spooky stuffs"), several other plot transformations are more imaginative and make this Cinderella unmistakably different from Perrault's, Disney's, and Nemethy's. In Bowman's version, her resilience, good humor, and size are Cinderalla's assets, and the Prince is glad to marry her not simply because he enjoyed her dancing and playing music, but because he is aware of her potential economic value as a good worker. He will become as heavy as she is and they will have plenty of taro and children, Bowman tells us in the end. The tale balances magic with practical considerations and does not espouse modern Western standards of femininity.
As a matter of fact, most of the female characters in Bowman's retellings are "poh-key" which allows, especially in the case of the "Little Red Riding Hood" story, for a delightful playfulness with words and sounds. "Poh-key" Little Le Puaha [lei = garland; pua = flowers; ahi = fiery] must confront the "wil' pua'a" [wild pig]. Notice how the alliteration—Puahi/pua'a/poh-key—marks the tie between the girl and her assailant, while the meaning of the words sets them apart. This tension and Bowman's skillful use of voice emphasize the sexual nature of the threat posed by the "wild pig":
Shee, when he spock her [spotted], his maka [eyes] almost pop ou'side from his head: Boing! Some poh-key wahine! So he tell, "Hui (whooee!), tita, hele mai [come here]." One time she put on da brakes, (eerr), an' she spock da wil' pua'a. "Aloha Sir," she said. "Hey, howzit?" he tell an' he look her sharp up an' down, "Wea you going?"
Bowman enjoys playing with various languages and their sounds to create double entendres and word games which he knows the local audience will look for and appreciate.9 His use of Pidgin, furthermore, is not dictated by necessity—he is perfectly bilingual and believes in speaking Pidgin by choice—or desire to bring in some local color. Rather it is a function of social communication which reinforces a sense of community and yet operates side by side with Standard English whenever the occasion calls for it. For example, Bowman has the ali'i in Cinderalla repeat Christopher Marlowe's famous line from "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" and, at the end of Rumple-da-kine-skin, he switches to Standard English to say that the Princess and her family live happily ever after because "they invest their money at 4% compound interest."
While Bowman's well-crafted narratives are clearly told for entertainment, they also have other social functions which distinguish them from nationally distributed commercial versions of fairy tales. I have already mentioned their phatic function within Hawaii's multi-ethnic community, provided by the tales' playful bilingualism (if one can call it that since Pidgin is part of the English language). Another significant transformation occurs when the whole story of the three little pigs serves to explain how the very first shark fin soup was made; far more than the materials with which the pigs' houses are built ("pre-fab pili grass," kiawe sticks and lantana, and pōhaku [stone]), it is this fictional explanation which makes the tale "work" in its Hawaii setting. The popular, homogenized story is put to very specific uses, the way a legend, more than a fairy tale, operates. And, finally, like John Ayau's poem, Bowman's stories portray characters participating in different worlds. Keaka's mother in this version of "Jack and the Beanstalk" decides to sell their old cow in order to make her television payments; similarly, after the giant falls off the magic maile vine, Keaka chains him, takes him to the circus, and uses him to appear in popular TV shows. The effects of this fairy tale/television "contamination" are hilarious, but they also encourage the audience's own participation in several worlds, that of business as well as that of the imagination, that of Standard English as well as that of Pidgin English.
Bowman's Pidgin renditions of Western classic fairy tales thereby function in very specific ways in Hawaii, closely resembling what Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari call "minor literature," which "doesn't come from a minor language; it is rather that which a minority constructs within a major language" (16). The German used by Prague Jewish writers like Kafka and the English used by Blacks in the U.S.—Deleuze and Guattari's examples—are not very dif- ferent from Hawaii writers' use of Pidgin English or Bowman's appropriation of the standard discourse of the fairy tale. All of these examples point to the impossibility of doing without a major language while, at the same time, challenging it and transforming it by putting it to "strange and minor uses" (Deleuze and Guattari 17). This appropriation brings with it several effects, which I have already noted in Bowman's tales: "minor literature" makes an intensified use of language and takes on a "political," "collective value" (Deleuze and Guattari 17-19). A remark on "political" and "collective": The word "political" may seem too strong when applied to Bowman's light-hearted and funny tales, but I think it is appropriate when we think of the linguistic and cultural issues raised by Bowman's transformations as well as the already inevitably ideological nature of the fairy tale. As for "collective," Bowman's one-man-show grounds itself in Hawaii's community's concerns and forms of entertainment the way a storyteller's art or Gramsci's "organic" intellectual's ideas finds nourishment in her/his community.10
"Local" renditions of fairy tales, as of any other "majority" discourse, are a truly adequate response to the problematic status of that discourse for a "minority" when they move in the direction of "minor literature." And in the case of Hawaii, this condition is not fulfilled through the use of Hawaiian words (a minority language), local color or simply Pidgin English. In other words, in "minor literature" the tension between "majority" and "minority" discourses is intensified—rather than relaxed, as in Laird's and Nemethy's tales—in order to increase our awareness of the differences between those languages and, at the same time, encourage our use of their multiple possibilities. What children would learn from this kind of literature would not be to neatly separate categories and people such as local/non-local (which is the involuntary effect, e.g., of calling 'Ula Li'i and the Magic Shark "Hawaii's own version of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’"; see book cover) or to erase the difference between them (which is what Nemethy's Pidgin versions do indirectly), but to play with the possibilities opened up by the challenging confrontation of those categories and people. Something similar has happened with feminist versions of fairy tales, and I hope that other "minorities" will follow in that direction. If so, perhaps—going back to John Ayau's poem—the spoiled but rejected Baby Bear will not be the only survivor in the world of fairy tales.
1. Eric Chock, Director of Poets in the Schools, received this poem in response to some Russell Edwon and W. S. Merwin poems he had read to the class. I want to thank Eric Chock, who made the poem available to me and helped me transcribe excerpts from Bowman's recordings, and Edgar Knowlton, who helped me obtain some information on Emery Nemethy.
2. Other Island Heritage books in this series are Puapua Lenalena and the Magic Kiha-pu (1972) and Kahala: Where the Rainbow Ends (1973). For a useful list of Hawaiian legends which can be used to teach Hawaiiana, see Brenda Freitas-Obregon and Nyla Fujii's compilation in the Literature and Hawaii's Children 1986 Proceedings, edited by Steven Curry and Cristina Bacchilega, Honolulu: Literature and Hawaii's Children, 1988. For a discussion of place in relation to literature for children in Hawaii see Stephen Canham, "‘Da Kine’: Writing for Children in Hawaii—and Elsewhere," Children's Literature Association Quarterly 9 (Winter 1984-85): 174-76 and Craig Howes, "Hawaii through Western Eyes: Orientalism and Historical Fiction for Children," The Lion and the Unicorn: A Critical Journal of Children's Literature 11 (1987): 68-87.
3. Donivee Martin Laird also mentioned that young children do not respond well to Hawaiian myths and legends because they involve such complex plots and, especially, relationships; this was one of the reasons she gave for using simpler classic fairy tales to teach "Hawaiiana" and it is, of course, a debatable justification.
4. Laird, who grew up in Hawaii and is sensitive to its cultural diversity, ascribes this limitation—as I do—to the nature of her project. In having the mongooses speak Pidgin English, for instance, she states in the beginning of Wili Wai Kula that she "has no wish to offend anyone, but only to share the special flavor Pidgin English adds to Hawaii." She has received no complaints.
5. Laird shows her concern for the image projected by the Hawaiian language by researching her projects thoroughly, consulting with Hawaiian language specialists, and paying attention to details. During our interview, for instance, she said she chose the word 'elemu [buttocks] over the much more common 'okole to educate her young readers to the less vulgar word.
6. Laulau are "packages of ti or banana leaves containing pork, beef, salted fish, or taro tops, baked in the ground oven, steamed or broiled." Like this one, most of my translations of Hawaiian words come from the Pukui and Elbert Hawaiian Dictionary. In some of the passages I quoted, Hawaiian words are not in italics because they were not in the original texts; in other Pidgin English passages, the glottal stop is missing from Hawaiian words (e.g., 'ono becomes "ono").
7. "Da Tree Leedle Peegs" varies from the more popular and standard versions to a larger degree than Nemethy's other adaptations. Two of the three pigs are eaten by the wolf and the surviving one outsmarts the wolf three times before cooking him in a pot of boiling water. Overall, Nemethy is more well-known for his Christmas Stories in Pidgin English than for these fairy tales. He published several more tales than the ones I list—including "Jack and da Kind Beanstalk," "Lokenani (Sleeping Beauty)," and "Ili Mimino (Rumpled Skin)"—in the Paradise of the Pacific from 1951 to 1954.
8. This impressive and warm Hawaiian-Irish-English-Scotsman was born in Hilo, on the island of Hawaii. During the interview, he related how he started telling Little Lei Puahi at parties in California during the 1940s. He also explained the process by which he came to retelling the other five stories when in 1961 he recorded the album for Hula Records. A friend would read him the classic fairy tales (he does not remember which edition), one passage at a time; Bowman would tape his adaptation of them and then have them transcribed. He would still add and change his versions after that. While this process is indicative of Bowman's storytelling skills, it also points to a weakness in his renditions of the tales: his knowledge of fairy tales is not as thorough as one might expect. He considers these tales "fun" and does not worry, for instance, about forgetting the grandmother altogether after Little Red Riding Hood is saved. In order to quote from the album, I transcribed parts of it with Eric Chock's help, and then checked the transcribed passages with Mr. Bowman. Another interesting Pidgin version of fairy tales is the television skit "Sistarella" with comedian Frank DeLima.
9. Much of Hawaiian mythology thrives on puns and word games. While there is no necessary connection with this, it is true that audiences in Hawaii today are particularly sensitive to word play. As for Bowman's word games, young children may very well not understand them, but, as nursery rhymes show, they still do enjoy playing with language.
10. In the 1960s, Kent Bowman went on to create a character, Ka'umanua, to impersonate local politicians, and his satirical skits have made him famous in Hawaii. His album of Pidgin English Children's Stories was reissued in 1982 and has been selling for the last 27 years. For more information on Kent Bowman, see the detailed interview with him published in Honolulu Magazine, October 1987.
Ayau, John. "Three Bears." Unpublished poem. Poets-in-the-Schools Workshop, Kalakaua Intermediate School, Honolulu, April 1988.
Beckwith, Martha. Hawaiian Mythology. 1940. Introd. Katharine Luomala. Honolulu: U of Hawaii, 1970.
Bowman, Kent. Personal Interview. 23 May 1988.
———. Pidgin English Children's Stories. Hula Records, Inc., 1982.
Buffet, Guy, and Pam Buffet. Kamapua'a. Honolulu: Island Heritage, 1972.
Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. Trans. Dana Polan. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1986.
Kono, Juliet S. "Gang Rape: A Fairy Tale?" Unpublished poem written during a "Myth and Legend Retold" course. University of Hawaii-Manoa, Honolulu, Fall 1987.
Laird, Donivee Martin. Personal Interview. 20 May 1988.
———. Keaka and the Liliko'i Vine. Honolulu: Barnaby Books, 1982. N.p.
———. The Three Little Hawaiian Pigs and the Magic Shark. Honolulu: Barnaby Books, 1981. N.p.
———. 'Ula Li'i and the Magic Shark. Honolulu: Barnaby Books, 1985. N.p.
———. Wili Wai Kula and the Three Mongooses. Honolulu: Barnaby Books, 1983. N.p.
Nemethy, Emery, and Leslie Vincent. "Island Tale: Cinderalla." Paradise of the Pacific 63 (June 1951): 39-52.
Nemethy, Emery. "Da Chief's New Cape." Paradise of the Pacific 64 (Sept. 1952): 19-36.
———. Da Kine Pidgin Stories. Honolulu: Harlo Dillingham, 1954.
———, and Leslie Fullard-Leo. "Leedle Rad Riding Hood." Paradise of the Pacific 63 (April 1951): 37-40.
———. "Snow White and da' Seven Menehunes." Paradise of the Pacific 63 (Nov. 1951): 33-40.
Pukui, Mary Kawena, and Samuel H. Elbert. Hawaiian Dictionary. Rev. edition. Honolulu: U of Hawaii, 1986.
Schweizer, Niklaus R. "German Literature in Hawai'i: ‘Die Zwörf Brüder’ by the Brothers Grimm." Literary History East and West: An International Conference. Honolulu, 28-30 April 1988.
Chicko Tachihata (essay date 1996)
SOURCE: Tachihata, Chicko. "Kamapua'a: Library Resources for This Retold Tale." In Literature and Hawaii's Children: Values and Traditions from Many Cultures: Children's Tales Told and Retold, edited by Suzanne Kosanke and Todd H. Sammons, pp. 202-05. Honolulu, Hawaii: Children's Literature Hawai'i, 1996.
[In the following essay, Tachihata presents a brief introduction to Hawaiian mythology and legend and how those cultural fables are reflected in Hawaiian children's literature.]
This paper explores the library resources concerning Kamapua'a. It will also touch on the ethics related to the retelling of this legend. Ethics is concerned with proper conduct, with what is right or wrong, or whether there is a right or wrong. A retelling indicates that changes were made in the story—some that are substantive and some that are minor alteration of details. Readers who are familiar with, for example, the tales of the Brothers Grimm are aware that their retellings include changes to make them more suitable for the younger reader, i.e., some kinds of violence and immorality are omitted.
In the Hawaiian legends, the menehune, Pele, and Māui (the trickster) are characters familiar to Hawaii's readers, in part because there are numerous retellings of these stories. The menehune and Māui stories are often told to children, and Pele is on our minds these days because of the current volcanic activity on the Big Island of Hawai'i. Less well-known are the mo'o, lizard like creatures who appear in many stories, usually playing a minor role. They are sometimes "bad" creatures who challenge travelers on land or while crossing streams, or they may be benevolent guardians of a water area such as Kawainui Marsh on O'ahu.
Another character less familiar to us today but well known to the Hawaiians, was the pig-god, Kamapua' a, whose stories provide an example of the ethics of retelling. According to a "Glossary of Hawaiian gods, demigods, family heroes and a few heroes" in the 1971 edition of the Hawaiian Dictionary, Kamapua'a was
the pig demi-god whose rootings created valleys and springs. He leaned against the cliffs at Kā-liu-wa'a, Oahu [O'ahu] (where a troughlike depression is still visible) to allow his family to climb up his body and escape Chief 'Olopana. He had many affairs and is a symbol of lechery. He exchanged ribald taunts with Pele and then called on his plant forms … to block her advancing fires, which they did…. He finally mated with Pele, taking for himself Hilo, Hāmākua, and Kohala, and allotting Ka'ū, Puna, and Kona to Pele. When he fought the dog Kū-ilio-loa he called on his kukui … [and other] forms to hold the dog's mouth open…. Other forms include a handsome man, kukae-pua'a grass, clouds, the humuhumu-nukunuku-a-pua'a fish, and the god Lono. Lit., hog-man.
(This section, which relied heavily upon Rubellite Johnson, was omitted from the current edition for lack of space.)
These characters—Pele, Māui, and Kamapua'a—were real to the Hawaiian people just as the Greek and Roman gods and mythological figures were real to the ancient Greeks and Romans. The Hawaiian word for legends is mo'olelo, i.e., stories which were "real," in contrast to the word, ka'ao, which refers to made-up stories. In this paper, the word "legend" will be used as the equivalent of mo'olelo.
Before we discuss Kamapua'a further, a number of basic books and reference sources on Hawaiian legends should be mentioned. The "classic" work, in which she discusses the major entities of Hawaiian mythology and legend, is Martha Beckwith's Hawaiian Mythology. In spite of its title, it is also a book about Hawaiian religion, and it places legends in the context of Hawaiian religion. The characters in the legends often have a direct or indirect relationship to the four major gods—Kū, Lono, Kāne, and Kanaloa and the numerous manifestations of these gods.
Amos Leib and A. Grove Day, former English professors at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, compiled a comprehensive bibliography on Hawaiian leg- ends entitled Hawaiian Legends in English: An Annotated Bibliography. This book is in two parts, consisting of a basic list and a supplement. It was published in 1979, and although there have been other writings of and about legends since that date, it is still a most useful book. This bibliography lacked an index, and recently DeEtta Wilson, the librarian at Windward Community College, compiled an index as a sabbatical project which I helped to edit.
The Hawaiian Legends Index was compiled on a volunteer basis by members of the Hawai'i Library Association in 1989. A revised edition was recently issued by the Hawai'i State Library. This multi-volume set is most useful in finding specific legends in anthologies of legends. For example, there are twenty-eight entries under "Kamapua'a (Hog God)."
Numerous retellings have been published, but the earliest published version of many legends appears in the Fornander Collection of Hawaiian Antiquities and Folklore, the Hawaiian Account of the Formation of Their Island and Origin of Their Race with the Traditions of Their Migrations, etc., as Gathered from Original Sources. Abraham Fornander, who had married a Hawaiian ali'i from Moloka'i, was responsible for collecting these stories in the nineteenth century. He and others, such as the future historian, Samuel Kamakau, went into the community and conducted oral histories and wrote down the stories as told to them in the Hawaiian language. About forty years later, the multi-volume set was issued by the Bishop Museum between 1916 and 1920. The text is in Hawaiian with an English translation.
Some of these stories are included in Selections from Fornander's Hawaiian Antiquities and Folklore published by the University of Hawai'i in 1959, also with the text in Hawaiian and English.
The story of Kamapua'a appears in both the complete set of the Fornander legends and in the Selections. Part of the story has been published as a juvenile book, Adventures of Kamapua'a, by Guy and Pam Buffet, illustrated by Guy Buffet and edited by Ruth Tabrah. The story is about Kamapua'a's adventures as he escapes from chief 'Olopana on his way to Kaliuwa'a, known today as Sacred Falls. The two editions of the book, one in English and the other in Hawaiian, with identical illustrations are an infrequent type of publication.
One example that illustrates the ethics of retelling tells of Kamapua'a when he is forced into a mountain range, there appearing to be no escape. But Kamapua' a uses his body to provide a means for his mother to climb over the mountain. He leans against the mountain and his body forms a groove to create the waterfall, Sacred Falls. In the Fornander version, the mother uses Kamapua'a's teats (waiū) to climb over (Selections 202-203). In the Buffet versions, the mother climbs using Kamapua'a's bristles (Adventures 50-54 and Na Hana 50-54). Probably, Buffet considered references to Kamapua'a's teats inappropriate for today's children.
For more information about Kamapua'a, there is John Charlot's study Kamapua'a: The Classical Traditions of the Hawaiian Pig God as a Body of Literature, published in 1987. The author quotes Papa Kalā—Gregory Kalāhikiola Nāli'ielua, a kapuna—who, when meeting with Hawaiian language students at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, sometimes told ribald stories about the adventures of Kamapua'a. I had the pleasure of meeting Papa Kalā and, with his passing, another oral source for Hawaiian culture is now gone.
Note: Esther Mookini next spoke briefly on Kamapua' a and focused on Pāka'a and Kū-a-Pāka'a in the Wind Gourd of La'amaomao, which she has edited in the English and Hawaiian versions. Part of this story has been retold for younger readers in the book Backbone of the King by the nationally known author, Marcia Brown.
Beckwith, Martha. Hawaiian Mythology. Honolulu: U of Hawai'i P, 1970. With a new introduction by Katharine Luomala. Originally published in 1940.
Brown, Marcia. Backbone of the King: The Story of Paka'a and His Son Ku. Honolulu: U of Hawai'i P, 1984. Reprint of 1966 edition. Originally published by Scribner in 1966.
Buffet, Guy, and Pam Buffet. Adventures of Kamapua'a. Illus. Guy Buffet. Ed. Ruth Tabrah. Norfolk Island, Australia: Island Heritage, 1972.
———. Nā Hana Wiwo'ole ō Kamapua'a. Honolulu: Island Heritage, 1972. Hawaiian language edition of Adventures of Kamapua'a.
Charlot, John. Kamapua'a Literature: The Classical Traditions of the Hawaiian Pig God as a Body of Literature. Lā'ie, Hawai'i: Institute for Polynesian Studies, 1987.
Fornander, Abraham. Fornander Collection of Hawaiian Antiquities and Folklore, the Hawaiians' Account of the Formation of Their Islands and Originof Their Race, with the Traditions of Their Migrations, etc., as Gathered from Original Sources. Vol. 4-6. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1916-1920. Text in Hawaiian with English translation.
———. Selections from Fornander's Hawaiian Antiquities and Folk-lore. Honolulu: U of Hawai'i P, 1959. Reprinted from volumes 4 and 5 of the above collection. Text in Hawaiian with English translation.
Hawaiian Legends Index. 3 vols. Honolulu: Hawai'i State Public Library System, 1989.
Leib Amos P., and A. Grove Day. Hawaiian Legends in English: An Annotated Bibliography. 2nd ed. Honolulu: U of Hawai'i P, 1979. In two parts. Separate index prepared by DeEtta Wilson, 1990.
Mo'olelo Hawai'i o Pāka'a a me Kū-a-Pāka'a. 3 vols. Honolulu: Kalamakū Press, 1991. Originally published in 1902.
Pukui, Mary Kawena, and Samuel H. Elbert. Hawaiian Dictionary. Honolulu: U of Hawai'i P, 1971.
Wind Gourd of La'amaomao: the Hawaiian Story of Pāka'a and Kū-a-Pāka'a, Personal Attendants of Keawenuiaumi, Ruling Chief of Hawai'i and Descendants of La'amaomao. Honolulu: Kalamakū Press, 1990. Collected, edited and expanded by Moses K. Nakuina. Translated by Esther T. Mookini and Sarah Nākoa. English language translation of Mo'olelo Hawai'i o Pāka'a a me Kū-a-Pāka'a.