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Hawaiian Legends of Volcanoes by W. D.…

Hawaiian Legends of Volcanoes

by W. D. Westervelt

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When Hawaiian Legends of Volcanoes was first published in 1916, William Drake Westervelt introduced stories of the volcano goddess Pele to an English speaking audience. His timeless storytelling is combined with full color and block print artwork by Dietrich Varez to create a stunning picture of Pelehonuamea; Pele of the sacred land. Pele's voyage to find a new home echoes a cultural history of migration. She is accompanied by her family, including her shark-god brother, K√§mohoali'i and her youngest, most beloved sister, Hi'iakaikapoliopele. Conflicts with her sisters and rivals -- Namakaokaha'i, the sea goddess, and Poli'ahu, the snow goddess -- offer explanations for natural events framed in glorious battles. Kamapua'a, her demi-god lover and rival, features prominently in stories displaying her explosive jealousy. Interspersed in the doings of gods are Pele's encounters with mortals, who often emerge the worse for the experience. Republication of this iconic work celebrates the 100th anniversary of its original printing, as well as the concurrent centennial celebrations of the United States National Park Service and the creation of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Of Westervelt's original book, only the legends are included in this volume. The text, orthography and scientific names reflect the original publication, and no changes have been made to Westervelt's prose. This timeless collection preserves many of the best loved tales of Pele - her adventures, her family and her volcanic home - and presents them for a new generation to embrace.… (more)
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I have read numerous books on Hawaii mythology and history from the turn of the last century, and I've become jaded to the biased viewpoints of the time. I was delighted and surprised to find this book, available as a free download from the New York Public Library, was well-written, articulate, and academic in its approach to traditional Hawaiian stories and the science of geology. Indeed, the forward was written by T.A. Jaggar Jr, who the Volcanoes National Park museum is now named for. That raised my esteem right from the start.

The book keeps a tight focus on Pele, stories about Hawaiian volcanoes, and the actual scientific research then beginning on Kilauea. (At the time of the book's publication, MIT's volcano observatory had been in operation for five years.) This is a book written for a more discerning audience than the usual early 20th century mythology books with their trite references to 'poor primitives'; this book keeps a respectful tone throughout, and I get the sense that Westervelt was as fascinated by the land and its legends as I have been. The ad copy at the back even noted that Westerveldt's previous books had been reviewed in major newspapers like the New York Times. ( )
  ladycato | Feb 8, 2017 |
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