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Voices of Fire: Reweaving the Literary Lei of Pele and Hiʻiaka

Softcover, 312 pp.

Stories of the volcano goddess Pele and her youngest sister Hiʻiaka, patron of hula, are most familiar as a form of literary colonialism first translated by missionary descendants and others, then co-opted by Hollywood and the tourist industry. But far from quaint tales for amusement, the Pele and Hiʻiaka literature published between the 1860s and 1930 carried coded political meaning for the Hawaiian people at a time of great upheaval. Voices of Fire recovers the lost and often-suppressed significance of this literature, restoring it to its primary place in Hawaiian culture.

kuʻualoha hoʻomanawanui takes up moʻolelo (histories, stories, narratives), mele (poetry, songs), oli (chants), and hula (dances) as they were conveyed by dozens of authors over a tumultuous sixty-eight-year period characterized by population collapse, land alienation, economic exploitation, and military occupation. Her examination shows how the Pele and Hiʻiaka legends acted as a framework for a Native sense of community. Freeing the moʻolelo and mele from colonial stereotypes and misappropriations, Voices of Fire establishes a literary moʻokūʻauhau, or genealogy, that provides a view of the ancestral literature in its indigenous contexts.

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