A haiku penned by Tori Rice and posted to the OutriggerHawaii.com Facebook page reminded me about one of Hawaii's most famous stories--that of Pele, her lover Lohiau and her favorite sister Hiiaka.
Intertwine in paradise
Why is your ex here?
You have to see it from his point of view. He was a highly respected chief of Kauai who had probably had his choice of pretty women his entire life, so when she showed up out of nowhere, seeming to form from the very smoke of a beach bonfire, and made all the other local women wilt by comparison—in beauty, intelligence, power, passion and dance—he was smitten. The setting couldn’t have been more romantic, Kee Beach, the end of what today is a paved road, a scenic lookout with sunset views of unfolding green cliffs fading into the background. The area would later become known for a classic Hollywood movie, the place where another beauty would wash a man out of her hair.
Their affair was intense. He fell hard and fast, dropping to his knee, one could imagine, and proposing marriage, no matter how little he knew about her, an exotic woman with no family, who first said she was from Kauai, then from Hawaii, the Big Island. He was in love, perhaps, for the first time in his life.
Shortly after lying under the kapa marriage cloth, as was his people’s tradition, he woke one morning to hear words that could have come straight from a Dear John letter. Lohiau, she said, I have to go. It’s not you. It’s me. He was distraught, no matter how much she cried and claimed to send her younger sister for him. Her sister? Now she had a sister? Why would she send her sister?
And with that, she—his one, true love—disappeared into vapors, his breath and life extinguishing with her, because he simply couldn’t live without her.
After days, weeks, some say even months, the great, high chief woke one day, brought back to life by an equally beautiful woman, a woman, he learned, who had risked her own life on multiple occasions, across an archipelago of islands, slaying dragons to save him, and he realized then that the other woman, the one who had broken his heart and left him to die, had cast a spell over him. He’d been in a trance their whole time together, which wasn’t really all that long of a time, eight, maybe nine days of dancing by a fire, singing love songs, making love under the kapa.
But here was a woman who smote dragons for him. If he had fallen headlong over that other woman, he fell in an instant for the one who raised him from the dead, confessing his newfound love, proposing marriage. Unfortunately, the other woman, his first but not last true love, turned out to be Pele, the fire goddess. And this one, the new love, was Pele’s sister. Her name was Hiiaka.
In return for retrieving Lohiau to Hawaii Island, Hiiaka had made Pele promise to protect Hiiaka’s precious forests of ohia lehua trees and ferns and, most especially, her best friend Hopoe.
Ever the good, little sister, Hiiaka thwarted all of Lohiau’s advances and escorted him to Hawaii Island. Unfortunately, vanquishing dragons and resuscitating a dead man took longer than the 40 days Pele had given Hiiaka for her journey, and the fire goddess, known for her temper, got angry, and in her anger, she unleashed a torrent of lava on Hiiaka’s forests and—entirely unforgiveable—she turned Hiiaka’s BFF Hopoe into stone.
When Hiiaka saw the charred remains of the things and person she cherished, she’d, finally, had enough and turned to Lohiau and gave him the kiss of a lifetime. In full view of Pele. It didn’t take long for the jilted lover—the ex—to retaliate. Pele is a fiery one, after all. In her jealousy, she killed Lohiau, and he found himself dead. Again.
After some time, the sisters, as sisters tend to do, made up, and Hiiaka brought Lohiau back to life. Again. After which, they returned to Kauai and lived happily ever after.
*The re-telling of this famous Hawaiian story comes from William D. Westervelt’s Hawaiian Legends of Volcanoes
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