Moʻolelo (Stories)

Moʻolelo are stories, myths, legends, and part of the cultural fabric of Hawaiʻi. The word moʻolelo itself is a combination of the word moʻo, meaning a series or succession, and ʻōlelo, meaning words. Originally an oral tradition, moʻolelo can be entertaining, but also relay important lessons about the values, norms, and traditions of the Hawaiian people.

The stories listed below are merely abbreviated summaries of important tales that have been passed from one generation to the next. Having been shared by many Hawaiians over long periods of time, different versions of moʻolelo may vary, in some cases significantly.

Molten lava

Pelehonuamea, the Hawaiian volcano deity and creator of volcanic landscapes

A crack in rock with molten lava shining through
Pele & Lonomakua

How Lonomakua, the uncle of the volcanic deity, taught her to govern fire

Image half out of tropical waters with coral and a seal underneath
Holo Mai Pele (The Journey of Pele)

The journey of Pele mirrors the geological formation of the Hawaiian Islands

Aerial image of a volcanic crater
Pele & Hiʻiaka

The saga of Hiʻiakaikapoliopele describes the journey of the favorite sister of Pele and an epic battle at the summit of Kīlauea

Red blossom of ʻōhiʻa lehua

Many Hawaiian moʻolelo involve the ʻōhia tree and its bright, fiery flowers.

Two black pigs standing in green grass

Oral history tells us of the unique birth of a child named Kamapuaʻa or the “hog-child”

Fluttering koaʻe kea bird

The kinolau (body form) of Oʻahu chief Punaʻaikoaʻe can be seen as the koaʻe kea flying over Kīlauea

Petroglyphs in a lava field with a distant rainbow in the back

The story of the little brown shark of Puʻuloa

A gourd hanging in a garden
The Legend of The Gourd

How twin girls became the ancestresses of the people of Kamāʻoa in Kaʻū

Clouds surround Mauna Loa beyond a lava field
The Despotic Chiefs of Kaʻū

There were once three despotic chiefs who lived in Kaʻū, on the southern portion of the Island of Hawaiʻi.

An oceanic coastline with palm trees in a distance.
Pīkoiakaʻalalā and the Giant Rat

Pīkoi challenges the locals' disbelief in a large rat near Puʻumanawaleʻa, successfully shooting it in a wager with a chief.

Last updated: December 8, 2023

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