Legends of Hula; How Hula Was Born

There are multiple Hawaiian legends of how hula came to exist.

One Hawaiian legend claims Laka, goddess of the hula, as well as fertility and reproduction, gave birth to the hula dance on the island of Molokaʻi, at a sacred place in Kaʻana. After Laka died, her remains were hidden beneath the hill Puʻu Nana. Laka is more prominently associated with hula and was symbolized in the halau (hula school) as a block of lama wood placed on an altar and swathed in yellow kapa.

Tūtū Pele is the goddess of fire and the volcanoes, but she is also regarded as the goddess of the hula in another hula legend. Pele begged her sisters to dance, sing, and perform for her. Hi’iaka was the only sister to step forward and perform for Pele. She danced using movements she had been practicing, thereupon hula was born. This story locates the source of hula at Hāʻena, Puna District, Island of Hawaiʻi.

Another story is when Pele was trying to find a home for herself running away from her sister Namaka (goddess of the oceans) when she finally found an island where she couldn’t be touched by the waves. There at the Volcano Chain of Craters on the island of Hawai’i she danced the first dance of hula signifying that she finally won.

A variant of this story, is that Pele asked Laka to amuse her because Pele was bored. So right away Laka got up and began dancing, moving gracefully. Pele was fascinated by Laka’s performance, thus hula was born.

There are connections and relation with each of the legends. Perhaps each of the mythic tales, somehow, someway they all have part in how hula was born.