[From the Preface of “Hawaiian Legends by William Hyde Rice”]
The collection of Hawaiian legends of which a translation is given in the following pages represents the work of many years by William Hyde Rice of Kauai. However, it is only within the last few years that Mr. Rice has translated the legends from his Hawaiian manuscripts. He has tried to make his version as literal as possible, preserving at the same time the spirit of the original Hawaiian, its flavor, rhythm, and phrasing. He has avoided adding modern embroidery of fancy, as well as figures of speech foreign to the Hawaiian language and to its thought and expression.
Mr. Rice has been exceptionally well prepared for this work, as he has been familiar with the Hawaiian language from his earliest childhood. In fact until he was twenty, he never thought in English but always in Hawaiian, translating mentally into his mother tongue. In 1870 when he became a member of the House of Representatives, during the reign of Kamehameha V, Governor Paul Kanoa and S. M. Kamakau, the historian, both well-known Hawaiian scholars, gave Mr. Rice much help with his Hawaiian, especially teaching him the proper use of various complicated grammatical constructions, and explaining obscure variations in pronunciation and meaning.
The sources of the legends in this collection are varied. A number of the stories Mr. Rice remembers having heard as a child, and now rare ones were gathered in later years. Many are from more than one source, but have corresponded even in details, and almost word for word. The legend of Kamapuaa, for instance, is one of the first which Mr. Rice remembers hearing. When a boy, the places mentioned in this story were pointed out to him: the spot where the demi-god landed, where he found the hidden spring, and where he rooted up the natives’ sugar-cane and sweet potatoes. The story of “The Small Wise Boy and the Little Fool” he has also been familiar with since childhood. The places mentioned in this tale can likewise be pointed out.
Most of the legends are from Kauai sources, but a number have been gathered from the other islands of the group. Whenever Mr. Rice heard of an old Hawaiian who knew any legends, he went to him, sometimes going to several to trace a special story, as for instance, the “Jonah and the Whale” story, “Makuakaumana”, which after a long search he finally procured from Mr. Westervelt. This curious story seem to be more modern than the others of the collection. While hunting for a reliable version of this story, Mr. Rice incidentally heard the story of “Manuwahi” at Heeia from an old Hawaiian.
“The Bird Man”, “Holuamanu”, “The Destruction of Niihau’s Akua”, and “The Girl and the Mo-o”, were obtained from Mr. Francis Gay, who is one of the best living scholars of the Hawaiian language. The Niihau legend was heard from several other sources as well. Mr. Gay also gave the legends of the “Rainbow Princess” and the “Shrimp’s Eyes”; the ti plants mentioned in the latter legend can still be pointed out, growing at the mouth of a little valley near Holuamanu. The Hawaiian manuscript of part of the Menehune story was obtained from J. A. Akina, while the story of the “Rain Heiau” was told to him in 1912 by a man named Naialau, who has since died at Kalaupapa. “How Lizards Came to Molokai” and Paakaa and Ku-a-paakaa” were told Mr. Rice by a man from Hawaii named Wiu, while the Rev. S. K. Kaulili, who is still living at Koloa, Kauai, gave him the most complete version of the “Rolling Island”.
During Mr. George Carter’s term as Governor, a reception was given in his honor, at Hanalei, where Mr. Rice was much interested in the very fine oli (chanting) of an old Hawaiian, named Kaululua. From him he obtained a number of legends, including that of “Ulukaa” from corresponding versions of other already in his collection. Other legends have been lost forever on account of ill-timed ridiculing by some chance companion, for Mr. Rice has found that the old people who know the legends are very sensitive, and when they find an unsympathetic auditor, refuse to continue their stories.
[It is often just as important to read the front matter and the back matter of a book than simply heading straight to the main text itself. Many times you can learn a lot of important information.
The stories credited to W. H. Rice found in the Hoku o Hawaii are probably the ones Rice collected over the years.]
(Rice, William Hyde. “Hawaiian Legends. Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 3.” Honolulu: The Museum, 1923.)
Hawaiian Legends by William Hyde Rice