Travel Series: Hi’iaka


Hello all! Amanda here. I was one of the curators of Special Collection Research Center’s summer exhibition “Around the World in (Almost) 80 Days,” which although now closed, lingers on in this last Travel Series post. During the curation and building of this exhibit, my co-curator Brittney Falter and I wanted as much representation from various parts of the world as possible. I have long been fascinated by the various cultures of Oceania, and specifically its sub-region Polynesia, and it was a goal of mine to represent this region in the exhibit. Polynesian cultures are wide-ranging and unique unto themselves, which is no surprise considering that Polynesia itself contains over 1,000 islands scattered across the Central and South Pacific. These islands include many nations, states, and territories, such as Hawaii, New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, French Polynesia, and the Cook Islands, among many others.

Hi’iaka fights a shark.

One book from our exhibit stands out as an exciting representation of Hawaiian culture. This book, titled “Hi’iaka” which is short for “Ka mo’olelo o hi’iakaikapoliopele” or “The Epic Tale of Hi‘iakaikapoliopele,” was a main inspiration for the summer exhibition.* This remarkable book tells the ancient Hawaiian saga of Hi‘iakaikapoliopele (Hi’iaka for short), the younger sister of the Hawaiian goddess Pele, who goes on a quest “to find the handsome Lohi‘auipo, and bring him back to their crater home. Graced with a magical skirt and wielding supernatural powers, Hi‘iaka and her companions make their way through dangers and ordeals, facing spectral foes and worldly wiles.”**

The volumes’ slipcase.

The slipcase’s spine.

This particular edition of the saga is unique in many ways. Not only does it contain many beautiful and vivid illustrations by Solomon Enos, it is available in two volumes – one in English, and one in the saga’s native Hawaiian. Moreover, this translation was originally published in the Hawaiian-language newspaper Ka Na’i Aupuni from 1905 – 1906. The daily series was written by the beloved Hawaiian storyteller Ho‘oulumahiehie, who was known for his “profound cultural knowledge and engaging style.” Published as the “Centennial Edition, ” SCRC’s copy of this edition of “Hi’iaka” is one of just three hundred copies ever published. 

A double-page illustration of a part of Hi’iaka’s journey.

*Ho’oulumahiehie, Hi’iaka, full title Ka mo’olelo o hi’iakaikapoliopele GR110.H38 H66 2006b, Special Collections Research Center. 

**Source on this edition and Hi’iaka’s saga –

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