Rev. C. M. Hyde, D.D.
In the first volume of Judge Fornander’s elaborate work on “The Polynesian Race” he has given some old Hawaiian legends which closely resemble the Old Testament history. How shall we account for such coincidences?
Take, for instance, the Hawaiian account of the Creation. The Kane, Ku and Lono: or, Sunlight, Substance, and Sound,—these constituted a triad named Ku-Kaua-Kahi, or the Fundamental Supreme Unity. In worship the reverence due was expressed by such epithets as Hi-ka-po-loa, Oi-e, Most Excellent, etc. “These gods existed from eternity, from and before chaos, or, as the Hawaiian term expressed it, ‘mai ka po mia’ (from the time of night, darkness, chaos). By an act of their will these gods dissipated or broke into pieces the existing, surrounding, all-containing po, night, or chaos. By this act light entered into space. They then created the heavens, three in number, as a place to dwell in; and the earth to be their footstool, he keehina honua a Kane. Next they created the sun, moon, stars, and a host of angels, or spirits—i kini akua—to minister to them. Last of all they created man as the model, or in the likeness of Kane. The body of the first man was made of red earth—lepo ula, or alaea—and the spittle of the gods—wai nao. His head was made of a whitish clay—palolo—which was brought from the four ends of the world by Lono. When the earth-image of Kane was ready, the three gods breathed into its nose, and called on it to rise, and it became a living being. Afterwards the first woman was created from one of the ribs—lalo puhaka—of the man while asleep, and these two were the progenitors of all mankind. They are called in the chants and in various legends by a large number of different names; but the most common for the man was Kumuhonua, and for the woman Keolakuhonua [or Lalahonua].
“Of the creation of animals these chants are silent; but from the pure tradition it may be inferred that the earth at the time of its creation or emergence from the watery chaos was stocked with vegetable and animal. The animals specially mentioned in the tradition as having been created by Kane were hogs (puaa), dogs (ilio), lizards or reptiles (moo).
“Another legend of the series, that of Wela-ahi-lani, states that after Kane had destroyed the world by fire, on account of the wickedness of the people then living, he organized it as it now is, and created the first man and the first woman, with the assistance of Ku and Lono, nearly in the same manner as narrated in the former legend of Kumuhonua. In this legend the man is called Wela-ahi-lani, and the woman is called Owe.”
Of the primeval home, the original ancestral seat of mankind, Hawaiian traditions speak in highest praise. “It had a number of names of various meanings, though the most generally occurring, and said to be the oldest, was Kalana-i-hau-ola (Kalana with the life-giving dew). It was situated in a large country, or continent, variously called in the legends Kahiki-honua-kele, Kahiki-ku, Kapa-kapa-ua-a-Kane, Molo-lani. Among other names for the primary homestead, or paradise, are Pali-uli (the blue mountain), Aina-i-ka-kaupo-o-Kane (the land in the heart of Kane), Aina-wai-akua-a-Kane (the land of the divine water of Kane). The tradition says of Pali-uli, that it was a sacred, tabooed land; that a man must be righteous to attain it; if faulty or sinful he will not get there; if he looks behind he will not get there; if he prefers his family he will not enter Pali-uli.” “Among other adornments of the Polynesian Paradise, the Kalana-i-hau-ola, there grew the Ulu kapu a Kane, the breadfruit tabooed for Kane, and the ohia hemolele, the sacred apple-tree. The priests of the olden time are said to have held that the tabooed fruits of these trees were in some manner connected with the trouble and death of Kumuhonua and Lalahonua, the first man and the first woman. Hence in the ancient chants he is called Kane-laa-uli, Kumu-uli, Kulu-ipo, the fallen chief, he who fell on account of the tree, or names of similar import.”
According to those legends of Kumuhonua and Wela-ahi-lani, “at the time when the gods created the stars, they also created a multitude of angels, or spirits (i kini akua), who were not created like men, but made from the spittle of the gods (i kuhaia), to be their servants or messengers. These spirits, or a number of them, disobeyed and revolted, because they were denied the awa; which means that they were not permitted to be worshipped, awa being a sacrificial offering and sign of worship. These evil spirits did not prevail, however, but were conquered by Kane, and thrust down into uttermost darkness (ilalo loa i ka po). The chief of these spirits was called by some Kanaloa, by others Milu, the ruler of Po; Akua ino; Kupu ino, the evil spirit. Other legends, however, state that the veritable and primordial lord of the Hawaiian inferno was called Manua. The inferno itself bore a number of names, such as Po-pau-ole, Po-kua-kini, Po-kini-kini, Po-papa-ia-owa, Po-ia-milu. Milu, according to those other legends, was a chief of superior wickedness on earth who was thrust down into Po, but who was really both inferior and posterior to Manua. This inferno, this Po, with many names, one of which remarkably enough was Ke-po-lua-ahi, the pit of fire, was not an entirely dark place. There was light of some kind and there was fire. The legends further tell us that when Kane, Ku, and Lono were creating the first man from the earth, Kanaloa was present, and in imitation of Kane, attempted to make another man out of the earth. When his clay model was ready, he called to it to become alive, but no life came to it. Then Kanaloa became very angry, and said to Kane, ‘I will take your man, and he shall die,’ and so it happened. Hence the first man got his other name Kumu-uli, which means a fallen chief, he ’lii kahuli…. With the Hawaiians, Kanaloa is the personified spirit of evil, the origin of death, the prince of Po, or chaos, and yet a revolted, disobedient spirit, who was conquered and punished by Kane. The introduction and worship of Kanaloa, as one of the great gods in the Hawaiian group, can be traced back only to the time of the immigration from the southern groups, some eight hundred years ago. In the more ancient chants he is never mentioned in conjunction with Kane, Ku, and Lono, and even in later Hawaiian mythology he never took precedence of Kane. The Hawaiian legend states that the oldest son of Kumuhonua, the first man, was called Laka, and that the next was called Ahu, and that Laka was a bad man; he killed his brother Ahu.
“There are these different Hawaiian genealogies, going back with more or less agreement among themselves to the first created man. The genealogy of Kumuhonua gives thirteen generations inclusive to Nuu, or Kahinalii, or the line of Laka, the oldest son of Kumuhonua. (The line of Seth from Adam to Noah counts ten generations.) The second genealogy, called that of Kumu-uli, was of greatest authority among the highest chiefs down to the latest times, and it was taboo to teach it to the common people. This genealogy counts fourteen generations from Huli-houna, the first man, to Nuu, or Nana-nuu, but inclusive, on the line of Laka. The third genealogy, which, properly speaking, is that of Paao, the high-priest who came with Pili from Tahiti, about twenty-five generations ago, and was a reformer of the Hawaiian priesthood, and among whose descendants it has been preserved, counts only twelve generations from Kumuhonua to Nuu, on the line of Kapili, youngest son of Kumuhonua.”
“In the Hawaiian group there are several legends of the Flood. One legend relates that in the time of Nuu, or Nana-nuu (also pronounced lana, that is, floating), the flood, Kaiakahinalii, came upon the earth, and destroyed all living beings; that Nuu, by command of his god, built a large vessel with a house on top of it, which was called and is referred to in chants as ‘He waa halau Alii o ka Moku,’ the royal vessel, in which he and his family, consisting of his wife, Lilinoe, his three sons and their wives, were saved. When the flood subsided, Kane, Ku, and Lono entered the waa halau of Nuu, and told him to go out. He did so, and found himself on the top of Mauna Kea (the highest mountain on the island of Hawaii). He called a cave there after the name of his wife, and the cave remains there to this day—as the legend says in testimony of the fact. Other versions of the legend say that Nuu landed and dwelt in Kahiki-honua-kele, a large and extensive country.” … “Nuu left the vessel in the evening of the day and took with him a pig, cocoanuts, and awa as an offering to the god Kane. As he looked up he saw the moon in the sky. He thought it was the god, saying to himself, ‘You are Kane, no doubt, though you have transformed yourself to my sight.’ So he worshipped the moon, and offered his offerings. Then Kane descended on the rainbow and spoke reprovingly to Nuu, but on account of the mistake Nuu escaped punishment, having asked pardon of Kane.” … “Nuu’s three sons were Nalu-akea, Nalu-hoo-hua, and Nalu-mana-mana. In the tenth generation from Nuu arose Lua-nuu, or the second Nuu, known also in the legend as Kane-hoa-lani, Kupule, and other names. The legend adds that by command of his god he was the first to introduce circumcision to be practised among his descendants. He left his native home and moved a long way off until he reached a land called Honua-ilalo, ‘the southern country.’ Hence he got the name Lalo-kona, and his wife was called Honua-po-ilalo. He was the father of Ku-nawao by his slave-woman Ahu (O-ahu) and of Kalani-menehune by his wife, Mee-hewa. Another says that the god Kane ordered Lua-nuu to go up on a mountain and perform a sacrifice there. Lua-nuu looked among the mountains of Kahiki-ku, but none of them appeared suitable for the purpose. Then Lua-nuu inquired of God where he might find a proper place. God replied to him: ‘Go travel to the eastward, and where you find a sharp-peaked hill projecting precipitously into the ocean, that is the hill for the sacrifice.’ Then Lua-nuu and his son, Kupulu-pulu-a-Nuu, and his servant, Pili-lua-nuu, started off in their boat to the eastward. In remembrance of this event the Hawaiians called the back of Kualoa Koo-lau; Oahu (after one of Lua-nuu’s names), Kane-hoa-lani; and the smaller hills in front of it were named Kupu-pulu and Pili-lua-nuu. Lua-nuu is the tenth descendant from Nuu by both the oldest and the youngest of Nuu’s sons. This oldest son is represented to have been the progenitor of the Kanaka-maoli, the people living on the mainland of Kane (Aina kumupuaa a Kane): the youngest was the progenitor of the white people (ka poe keo keo maoli). This Lua-nuu (like Abraham, the tenth from Noah, also like Abraham), through his grandson, Kini-lau-a-mano, became the ancestor of the twelve children of the latter, and the original founder of the Menehune people, from whom this legend makes the Polynesian family descend.”
The Rev. Sheldon Dibble, in his history of the Sandwich Islands, published at Lahainaluna, in 1843, gives a tradition which very much resembles the history of Joseph. “Waikelenuiaiku was one of ten brethren who had one sister. They were all the children of one father, whose name was Waiku. Waikelenuiaiku was much beloved by his father, but his brethren hated him. On account of their hatred they carried him and cast him into a pit belonging to Holonaeole. The oldest brother had pity on him, and gave charge to Holonaeole to take good care of him. Waikelenuiaiku escaped and fled to a country over which reigned a king whose name was Kamohoalii. There he was thrown into a dark place, a pit under ground, in which many persons were confined for various crimes. Whilst confined in this dark place he told his companions to dream dreams and tell them to him. The night following four of the prisoners had dreams. The first dreamed that he saw a ripe ohia (native apple), and his spirit ate it; the second dreamed that he saw a ripe banana, and his spirit ate it; the third dreamed that he saw a hog, and his spirit ate it; and the fourth dreamed that he saw awa, pressed out the juice, and his spirit drank it. The first three dreams, pertaining to food, Waikelenuiaiku interpreted unfavorably, and told the dreamers they must prepare to die. The fourth dream, pertaining to drink, he interpreted to signify deliverance and life. The first three dreamers were slain according to the interpretation, and the fourth was delivered and saved. Afterward this last dreamer told Kamohoalii, the king of the land, how wonderful was the skill of Waikelenuiaiku in interpreting dreams, and the king sent and delivered him from prison and made him a principal chief in his kingdom.”
Judge Fornander alludes to this legend, giving the name, however, Aukelenui-a-Iku, and adding to it the account of the hero’s journey to the place where the water of life was kept (ka-wai-ola-loa-a-Kane), his obtaining it and therewith resuscitating his brothers, who had been killed by drowning some years before. Another striking similarity is that furnished to Judge Fornander in the legend of Ke-alii-waha-nui: “He was king of the country called Honua-i-lalo. He oppressed the Menehune people. Their god Kane sent Kane-apua and Kaneloa, his elder brother, to bring the people away, and take them to the land which Kane had given them, and which was called Ka aina momona a Kane, or Ka one lauena a Kane, and also Ka aina i ka haupo a Kane. The people were then told to observe the four Ku days in the beginning of the month as Kapu-hoano (sacred or holy days), in remembrance of this event, because they thus arose (Ku) to depart from that land. Their offerings on the occasion were swine and goats.” The narrator of the legend explains that formerly there were goats without horns, called malailua, on the slopes of Mauna Loa on Hawaii, and that they were found there up to the time of Kamehameha I. The legend further relates that after leaving the land of Honualalo, the people came to the Kai-ula-a-Kane (the Red Sea of Kane); that they were pursued by Ke-alii-waha-nui; that Kane-apua and Kanaloa prayed to Lono, and finally reached the Aina lauena a Kane.
“In the famous Hawaiian legend of Hiiaka-i-ka-poli-o-Pele, it is said that when Hiiaka went to the island of Kauai to recover and restore to life the body of Lohiau, the lover of her sister, Pele, she arrived at the foot of the Kalalau Mountain shortly before sunset. Being told by her friends at Haena that there would not be daylight sufficient to climb the pali (precipice) and get the body out of the cave in which it was hidden, she prayed to her gods to keep the sun stationary (i ka muli o Hea) over the brook Hea, until she had accomplished her object. The prayer was heard, the mountain was climbed, the guardians of the cave vanquished, and the body recovered.”
A story of retarding the sun and making the day longer to accomplish his purpose is told of Maui-a-kalana, according to Dibble’s history.
Judge Fornander alludes to one other legend with incidents similar to the Old Testament history wherein “Na-ula-a-Mainea, an Oahu prophet, left Oahu for Kauai, was upset in his canoe, was swallowed by a whale, and thrown up alive on the beach at Wailua, Kauai.”
Judge Fornander says that, when he first heard the legend of the two brother prophets delivering the Menehune people, “he was inclined to doubt its genuineness and to consider it as a paraphrase or adaptation of the Biblical account by some semi-civilized or semi-Christianized Hawaiian, after the discovery of the group by Captain Cook. But a larger and better acquaintance with Hawaiian folk-lore has shown that though the details of the legend, as interpreted by the Christian Hawaiian from whom it was received, may possibly in some degree, and unconsciously to him, perhaps, have received a Biblical coloring, yet the main facts of the legend, with the identical names of persons and places, are referred to more or less distinctly in other legends of undoubted antiquity.” And the Rev. Mr. Dibble, in his history, says of these Hawaiian legends, that “they were told to the missionaries before the Bible was translated into the Hawaiian tongue, and before the people knew much of sacred history. The native who acted as assistant in translating the history of Joseph was forcibly struck with its similarity to their ancient tradition. Neither is there the least room for supposing that the songs referred to are recent inventions. They can all be traced back for generations, and are known by various persons residing on different islands who have had no communication with each other. Some of them have their date in the reign of some ancient king, and others have existed time out of mind. It may also be added, that both their narrations and songs are known the best by the very oldest of the people, and those who never learned to read; whose education and training were under the ancient system of heathenism.”
“Two hypotheses,” says Judge Fornander, “may with some plausibility be suggested to account for this remarkable resemblance of folk-lore. One is, that during the time of the Spanish galleon trade, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, between the Spanish Main and Manila, some shipwrecked people, Spaniards and Portuguese, had obtained sufficient influence to introduce these scraps of Bible history into the legendary lore of this people…. On this fact hypothesis I remark that, if the shipwrecked foreigners were educated men, or only possessed of such Scriptural knowledge as was then imparted to the commonality of laymen, it is morally impossible to conceive that a Spaniard of the sixteenth century should confine his instruction to some of the leading events of the Old Testament, and be totally silent upon the Christian dispensation, and the cruciolatry, mariolatry, and hagiolatry of that day. And it is equally impossible to conceive that the Hawaiian listeners, chiefs, priests, or commoners, should have retained and incorporated so much of the former in their own folk-lore, and yet have utterly forgotten every item bearing upon the latter.
“The other hypothesis is, that at some remote period either a body of the scattered Israelites had arrived at these islands direct, or in Malaysia, before the exodus of ‘the Polynesian family,’ and thus imparted a knowledge of their doctrines, of the early life of their ancestors, and of some of their peculiar customs, and that having been absorbed by the people among whom they found a refuge, this is all that remains to attest their presence—intellectual tombstones over a lost and forgotten race, yet sufficient after twenty-six centuries of silence to solve in some measure the ethnic puzzle of the lost tribes of Israel. In regard to this second hypothesis, it is certainly more plausible and cannot be so curtly disposed of as the Spanish theory…. So far from being copied one from the other, they are in fact independent and original versions of a once common legend, or series of legends, held alike by Cushite, Semite, Turanian, and Aryan, up to a certain time, when the divergencies of national life and other causes brought other subjects peculiar to each other prominently in the foreground; and that as these divergencies hardened into system and creed, that grand old heirloom of a common past became overlaid and colored by the peculiar social and religious atmosphere through which it has passed up to the surface of the present time. But besides this general reason for refusing to adopt the Israelitish theory, that the Polynesian legends were introduced by fugitive or emigrant Hebrews from the subverted kingdoms of Israel or Judah, there is the more special reason to be added that the organization and splendor of Solomon’s empire, his temple, and his wisdom became proverbial among the nations of the East subsequent to his time; on all these, the Polynesian legends are absolutely silent.”
In commenting on the legend of Hiiaka-i-ka-poli-o-Pele, Judge Fornander says: “If the Hebrew legend of Joshua or a Cushite version give rise to it, it only brings down the community of legends a little later in time. And so would the legend of Naulu-a-Mahea,… unless the legend of Jonah, with which it corresponds in a measure, as well as the previous legend of Joshua and the sun, were Hebrew anachronisms compiled and adapted in later times from long antecedent materials, of which the Polynesian references are but broken and distorted echoes, bits of legendary mosaics, displaced from their original surroundings and made to fit with later associations.”
In regard to the account of the Creation, he remarks that “the Hebrew legend infers that the god Elohim existed contemporaneously with and apart from the chaos. The Hawaiian legend makes the three great gods, Kane, Ku, and Lono, evolve themselves out of chaos…. The order of creation, according to Hawaiian folk-lore, was that after Heaven and earth had been separated, and the ocean had been stocked with its animals, the stars were created, then the moon, then the sun.” Alluding to the fact that the account in Genesis is truer to nature, Judge Fornander nevertheless propounds the inquiry whether this fact may not “indicate that the Hebrew text is a later emendation of an older but once common tradition”?
Highest antiquity is claimed for Hawaiian traditions in regard to events subsequent to the creation of man. “In one of the sacrificial hymns of the Marquesans, when human victims were offered, frequent allusions were made to ‘the red apples eaten in Naoau,’ … and to the ‘tabooed apples of Atea,’ as the cause of death, wars, pestilence, famine, and other calamities, only to be averted or atoned for by the sacrifice of human victims. The close connection between the Hawaiian and the Marquesan legends indicates a common origin, and that origin can be no other than that from which the Chaldean and Hebrew legends of sacred trees, disobedience, and fall also sprang.” In comparison of “the Hawaiian myth of Kanaloa as a fallen angel antagonistic to the great gods, as the spirit of evil and death in the world, the Hebrew legends are more vague and indefinite as to the existence of an evil principle. The serpent of Genesis, the Satan of Job, the Hillel of Isaiah, the dragon of the Apocalypse—all point, however, to the same underlying idea that the first cause of sin, death, evil, and calamities, was to be found in disobedience and revolt from God. They appear as disconnected scenes of a once grand drama that in olden times riveted the attention of mankind, and of which, strange to say, the clearest synopsis and the most coherent recollection are, so far, to be found in Polynesian traditions. It is probably in vain to inquire with whom the legend of an evil spirit and his operations in Heaven and on earth had its origin. Notwithstanding the apparent unity of design and remarkable coincidence in many points, yet the differences in coloring, detail, and presentation are too great to suppose the legend borrowed by one from either of the others. It probably descended to the Chaldeans, Polynesians, and Hebrews alike, from a source or people anterior to themselves, of whom history now is silent.”