The widely spread Kanaka or Maori people have a rich and remarkably homogeneous mythology: the same divine beings figure in stories told in most of the islands of the Pacific Ocean. "We find," writes Miss Martha Warren Beckwith, "the same story told in New Zealand and Hawaii, scarcely changed, even in name. 20 " In one sense, practically all Polynesian stories are mythological, for, to quote Miss Beckwith again:
Gods and men are, in fact, to the Polynesian mind, one family under different forms, the gods having superior control over certain phenomena . . . the supernatural blends with the natural exactly the same way as to the Polynesian mind gods relate themselves to men, facts about one being regarded as, even though removed to the heavens, quite as objective as those which belong to the other, and being employed to explain social customs and physical appearances in actual experience.
The Polynesians, like the ancient Egyptians, thought of the soul as being double: a part of it could go wandering and be brought back, or be taken away and restored by spells of sorcerers.
The most direct and significant statement of Polynesian myth is "Pele and Hiiaka" by N. B. Emerson. In this narrative we have the mythical history of the Hawaiian Fire Goddess taken down from the lips of people for whom it was still a belief by a man who knew the people and understood their traditions. Only a bare outline of it is given here: as published it extends to over 200 pages; 170 mele, or dramatic poems, are given in the course of the narrative. 21 When we read this myth we realize how separate Polynesian culture is. The Polynesian Creation Myth is from New Zealand, and is given by Sir George Grey in his "Polynesian Mythology." The story of Maui's attempt to win immortality for men is from the same work. The other story about Maui is in part from New Zealand and in part from Hawaii: it is told in my own "At the Gateways of the Day," 22 but is ultimately based on stories given by Mr. W. D. Westervelt in his
[paragraph continues] "Maui the Demi-god." Maui is a pan-Polynesian hero, and stories about him are told upon nearly all the islands which the Kanaka-Maori people reached.
xxiii:20 The Hawaiian Romance of Laieikawai: Thirty-third Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology.
xxiii:21 Pele and Hiiaka, a Myth from Hawaii, by N. B. Emerson: Honolulu, 1915.
xxiii:22 Published by the Yale University Press.