Our Own Legends

Ancient peoples created legends around the geographical features of their lands. You can, too!

Many ancient peoples have mythical stories about their homelands and how they were formed. Without scientific knowledge, the people looked at their land, its rivers, plants, and animals and used their imagination to create stories to explain how their land had developed this way.that

In Hawaii, volcanoes are seen as the home of Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of Fire (described as “She-Who-Shapes-The-Sacred-Land”) in ancient Hawaiian chants. She was a hot-tempered girl, who was quick to start a fight and whose essence was fire. Pele’s father, the ancient earth god Haumea, exiled Pele in order to keep the peace. She journeyed to the island of Hawaii, the Big Island, where she made a giant fire pit, Halema`uma`u Crater. Halema`uma`u Crater is in the summit of Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano.

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An Artist’s rendition of Pele

Still hot-tempered today, she despises those who steal from her home. Visitors to the Big Island are said to experience terrible luck if they take away lava rocks from the island. Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park receives numerous packages with lava rocks that were secreted off the island . . . and later returned in the hope of reversing the curse.

Think about the unpredictable nature and catastrophic effects of volcanic eruptions. We can see how easily Pele is angered! Volcanic activity has given rise to expressions such as “it’s okay to let off steam” (it’s okay to get angry sometimes), “go with the flow” (just let matters take their course), and “don’t blow your top” (don’t get angry).

As an exercise, take a landform or geographical landmark that you like and make up a story about how it came into existence. This exercise not only feeds your imagination and helps you to increase your use of adjectives; it also enables you to appreciate your natural surroundings. Take Hong Kong for example. How did the lion get atop Lion Rock? Now there’s a story!

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