Help me, o Internets; I don’t know where to start.

So I know you all are still waiting for The Tropic of Serpents to come out, but backstage, we’re already ramping up for the third book of the series. And you know what that means: research!

. . . on a topic I don’t know at all. A large portion of the third book, you see, will take place in an area based on the Polynesian Islands. My knowledge of Polynesian culture pretty much consists of “tourism in Hawai’i,” which, y’know. Not so much. The sole book in my library on the topic is Pacific Mythology, which is an encyclopedia-style overview of the entire Pacific, Polynesian and otherwise.

So where do I start? Does anybody out there have recommendations for good early histories (pre-European contact, though not necessarily pre-other-people contact), “daily life in ancient Hawai’i” type books, local mythology 101, etc?

I also could use recommendations of appropriate music. I make heavy use of playlists to set my brain in the right gear, but I have zilch in the way of stuff from that particular milieu. I don’t even know what it sounds like, beyond “stereotypical hula tunes.” Traditional folk music, movie scores that draw on that kind of sound, all of those things are good.

Help me, o Internets. I’m dead in the water here.

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0 Responses to “Help me, o Internets; I don’t know where to start.”

  1. sartorias

    Start with Lilo and Stitch. I found some fantastic Hawai’an music by beginning with the soundtrack of that.

  2. madwriter

    I enjoyed Bronislaw Malinowski’s Argonauts of the Western Pacific.

  3. martianmooncrab

    in my own book collection, I have a few, but my focus really wasnt on Hawaii per se.

    Daws, Gavan Shoal of Time A History of the Hawaiian Islands (1989) kinda dry, but has a good timeline for the islands

    McDermott, John F. People and Culutres of Hawaii A Psychocultural Profile (1980) this one is more modern dealing with social conditions and culture in a more modern culture, but it has bibliographies.

    James Michener’s Hawaii… well, the first half of the book where he takes you from the geology of how the islands formed up to the arrival of white people.

    Oliver, Douglas L. Native Cultures of the Pacific Islands (1989) (an abridgement of Oliver’s Oceania: The Native Cultures of Australia and the Pacific Islands is intended for college level courses on precontact anthropology, history, economy and politics of the Pacific, Including Australia)
    Pacific Islands (1975) published by the University of Hawaii Press … you should go to their online catalog and check out the more current offerings from UofH.

    Heyerdahl, Thor Aku-Aku, Fatu-Hiva, Kon-Tiki, and the Maldive Mystery. Sea faring at its most basic.

    most of my other books on the islands of the Pacific are all WW2 stuff, and of course, the woowoo factor of David Childress Lost Cities .. sunken continents..

    Cambell, Joseph Historial Atlas of World Mythology
    The Masks of God

  4. kateelliott

    I’ll email you.

    One needs to be cautious about using older works by white academics, although there are some that are considered good.

    The Bishop Museum Press is going to become your very good friend. Join the museum and you get a discount which you will need, I promise you.

    • kateelliott

      Also if there is a the slightest chance you can visit, I would.

    • kateelliott

      See if you can find broadcasts of the Merrie Monarch Festival. You would want hula kahiko not hula auana (although that is great too but is more modern), and understanding that all of this is to some degree reconstructed regardless.

      Any Hula Kahiko (even if not at Merrie Monarch, that’s just a fabulous showcase) is useful.

      • kateelliott

        And I’ll just throw in a strong recommendation for Kaumakaiwa Kanakaole’s music (he has two albums I know of, Kaumakaiwa and Ha’i Kupuna), a mix of modern and traditional. He comes from one of the old families that has kept the traditions and he has an amazing voice. I’ve seen him in concert twice. I will go again next chance I have.

  5. difrancis

    As for music, this is from a friend of mine in Hawaii: Try Kohala for adult contemporary with a hawaiian flavor, Keola Beamer for mellowness with roots, and Hui Ohana, Makaha sons, or Kahanu Lake trio for extreme polynesian paralysis. Taken with a dose of poi … “absolute bliss”. AM 940 streams on the web, good nostalgia for old timers (the station most businesses had playing in the background last century).

  6. martianmooncrab

    well, I dont have that much on Hawai’i in my Library, but I do have a few.

    For music, a friend of mine had watched the videos of the yearly competitions for Hula and other native music forms. I forget what the thing is called though.

  7. kateelliott

    We are doing some repair/remodeling so I can’t access all my books but here are some to get started.

    Vaka Moana (ed by KR Howe) is a fabulous book on Polynesian Voyaging.

    I can’t find my other two great books on that subject (in boxes). Anything about Nainoa Thompson and Mau Piailug. Follow the Polynesian Voyaging Society (great stuff happening!)

    Anything compiled by Mary Kawena Pukui.Like Hawaiian Island Legends. The Water of Kane and other legends. Etc. etc. (check out Kamehameha Schools Press)

    Herb Kawaihui Kane both wrote and illustrated. His “Ancient Hawaii” is great, if you can find it.

    Ku Kanaka Stand Tall: A Search for Hawaiian Values by George Hu’eu Sanford Kanahele was published in 1986 and I believe really important and well worth reading. UH Press.

    Again, Bishop Museum has tons of stuff, the most important of which for your purposes will be translations of old material. The Hawaiians themselves did a ton of writing as soon as they got an alphabet.


    Hawaiian Antiquities (Mo’olelo Hawaii), David Malo (translated by Nathanial B Emerson).

    Native Planters in Old Hawaii: Their Life, Lore & Environment
    ES Craighill Handy and Elizabeth Green Handy, with the collaboration of Mary Kawena Pukui

    For music: I love the music here. It’s phenomenal. For your purposes you will want chant, not modern sounds & blends however awesome they are. Again find performances of Hula Kahiko on You Tube to hear the sound and see the various instruments used to accompany the voice and dance.
    And the book or two I have on hula is buried in boxes with the other voyaging material.

    Hope this is useful.

  8. Anonymous

    I can probably help with the smattering of Maori lore and mythology that I picked up in NZ, but I’m definitely a “secondary source”…

  9. alecaustin

    Ditto Kate Elliot re: Bishop Museum and privileging sources on Nainoa Thompson and Mau Pialug over Heyerdahl on Polynesian voyaging and navigation. (Pialug could apparently perform amazing – as in, westerners who hadn’t seen him do them would claim they were flat-out impossible without compass and sextant – feats of navigation by memorizing star positions and gauging wind and water currents, as well as observing flotsam and seabirds.)My mother used to work at Bishop Museum, so when I get a moment, I can ask her about further sources beyond the ones people have mentioned you should look at, and/or nuances to the scholarship that didn’t make it to the page.

  10. Anonymous

    That sounds like fun!

    It makes me a little bit sad that neither of the two gyms I’m a member of has a pool. (Planet Granite should totally put in a pool – they could make you climb to reach it!)

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