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Some Basic Definitions
When searching for Pacific legends and myths it is useful to keep the following definitions in mind. Librarians use these terms to categorize items in a particular even though in the every-day many people use come of these interchangeably:
- Folklore: A broad term used to refer to the traditional beliefs, myths, tales, and practices of a people, which have been passed down orally (or via other non-written means such as dance, theater and etc.).
- Myths / Mythology: The particular category of narrative deals with the point where the human world blends with the supernatural; the stories often feature interactions between gods and human beings. In oral cultures, these narratives often speak of the origin of things -- the creation of the world, the creation of the things in the world, the ways in which human beings came to live in specific places, the ways in which human beings came to possess technologies like fire. The main characters are often gods or demi-gods.
- Legends: A traditional narrative that is believed to have an historical basis.
- Fables: A story with a moral point. Often includes animals that speak or act as humans.
- Tales: The term "tales" is sometimes used interchangeably with "legend," "myth" or "folklore."
- Cosmogony: Theories specifically about the origins of the universe.
- Cosmology: Theories more generally about the universe, throughout its existence, rather than specifically about its origins.
- Origin: Having to do with ancestry based on scientific evidence of migration.
- Antiquities: Generally refers to scholarly works that discuss "pre-history" (the era before written histories of a place are available). Sometimes used to refer to things like archeological reports.
- Ethnology: A branch of anthropology that deals with the division of human beings into races and their origin, distribution, relations, and characteristics.
- Juvenile literature: Use this term to look for children's books. It is a style of writing often used to share folklore.
- Oral Tradition: Describes material that is based on spoken rather than written sources, which is how these stories were originally shared.
Illustrated myths and legends of the Pacific by
Call Number: GN670 .R33 2007
Publication Date: 2007
A collection of traditional stories from the Caroline Islands, the Chatham and Cook Islands, Fiji, Hawaiʻi, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Britain, New Guinea, New Zealand, Niue, Palau Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Tonga and Vanuatu. Suggested level: primary, intermediate, junior secondary.
Made in Taiwan: Genes, Culture, and the Peopling of the South Pacific
Call Number: Available online with UHM login
Publication Date: 2006
"Two young New Zealanders of Polynesian descent undergo DNA sampling, wrestle with the surprising results, and then embark on a journey of discovery, searching for their roots across the Pacific and into Asia." (From the film's online description.)
Ancient Chamorro Society by
Call Number: DU645 .C86 1992
Publication Date: 1992
See especially Chapter 10 ("Religion") and Chapter 11 ("Folklore").
Marshall Islands legends and stories by
Call Number: GR385.M34 M3 2003
Publication Date: 2003
Legends and stories from throughout the Marshall Islands. Each story includes a credit and biographical sketch for the person who provided the story to the book's compiler.
Stories from the Marshall Islands : Bwebwenato Jān Aelōn̄ Kein by
Call Number: GR385.M37 T63 2002
Publication Date: 2002
The author, Jack Tobin, was an anthropologist who spent most of his life in the Marshall Islands. The stories here are those that he collected from Marshall Islanders. Also included is a very useful introduction that talks about the history of the islands, their culture and society.
Voices of Pohnpei by
Publication Date: 1995
Produced by the Micronesian Seminar in Pohnpei, FSM, this documentary weaves origin stories from Pohnpei together with scientific theories on Pacific migration. Film is freely downloadable from the Micronesian Seminar website (http://www.micsem.org/), but requires a downloaded program (also free) to view.
Micronesian Legends by
Call Number: GR383 .F56 2002
Publication Date: 2002
Legends from the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, Palau, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands are interwoven with historical interludes and beautiful woodcut illustrations.
The Land Has Eyes [film] by
Call Number: Available online with UHM login.
Publication Date: 2006
Though it is set in modern Rotuma, the film is woven around an origin story. When you follow the link above, it will take you to the Voyager record for the film. Scroll down to the "holdings information" at the bottom of the page and click on the link for "UH Manoa Streaming VIdeo" and follow the instructions to watch online. Hint: Try searching either the name of the film or the name of the goddess, tafate'masian, in Google Scholar or in OneSearch -- you may find information on Rotuman life or history in the reviews of this film that were written in scholarly journals like The Contemporary Pacific.
Journal of the Polynesian Society
Call Number: GN2 .P7
Publication Date: 1892-
Available online here
Vol 1 (1892) - Vol 124 (2015) available to all.
Vol 121 (2012) - current available with UHM login.
The early issues of the Journal contain a rich repository of indigenous texts and traditions contributed by Pacific peoples, as well as by missionaries and other sojourners, often published in local languages with English translations. Among the scholars who have long contributed articles to the Journal are social/cultural anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, linguists and physical/biological anthropologists working in Micronesia and Melanesia, as well as Polynesia. More recently they have been joined by sociologists, political scientists, economists and other scholars.