Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ancient Hawaii

Researching ancient Hawaii for my next novel has been a fascinating journey, and I thought I'd share a few interesting tidbits of information. Most of these gems are taken from the book, Mo'olelo Hawai'i or Hawaiian Antiquities. The book was written in the 1830's by a Hawaiian scholar named David Malo.

The history of the islands was an oral history, handed down for generations. The "art of letters," formulated by the Protestant missions had only brought the Hawaiian language onto paper, six or seven years prior to the writing of Mr. Malo's text.

In his words:

"The ancients left no records of the lands of their birth, of what people drove them out, who were their guides and leaders, of the canoes that transported them, what lands they visited in their wanderings, and what gods they worshipped. Certain oral traditions do, however, give us the names of the idols of our ancestors."

"Memory was the only means possessed by our ancestors of preserving historical knowledge; it served them in place of books and chronicles."

"The great chiefs were entirely exclusive, being hedged about with many kapus, and a large number of people were slain for breaking or infringing upon, these kapus. The kapus that hedged about an alii were exceedingly strick and severe...if the shadow of a man fell upon the house of a kapu chief, that man must be put to death, and so with any one whose shadow fell upon the back of the chief, or upon his robe or malo, or upon anything that belonged to the chief."
"The canoe with its furniture was considered a valuable possession, of service both to the people and to the chiefs. By means of it they could go on trading voyages to other lands, engage in fishing, and perform many other errands."

"There were many different methods of fishing: with nets; with hook and line; with the pa, or troll hook; with the leho, or cowry; with the hinai, or basket; with the method called koi; and with the hand thrust into holes in the rocks."

As a writer of historical fiction, I'm indebted to historians, such as David Malo who wrote the practical aspects, as well as the wonder and mystery of his culture.

1 comment:

Cheri J. Crane said...

I'm excited to read this book about Hawaii. One of my favorite great aunts has close ties to this realm. Her father, Frank Call, served as a missionary in the Hawaiian Islands from May of 1908 to October of 1911. He later married a woman from the Islands. My aunt was among their children.