Hula was danced for social enjoyment but its chants also preserved epic tales, myths, history and philosophy. A dancer’s rigorous training and performance were taken seriously with dancers paid and materially supported by the ruling ali`i.
History & Legendary Origins of Hula
There are various legends surrounding the origins of hula. Multiple stories describe the mythic beginnings of how hula was created.
One such legend is that of Pele and her sister Hi`iaka. In this rendering, the first hula was born when Pele, the volcano goddess begged her sisters to dance and sing for her. Only Hi`iaka stepped forward to appease her fiery sister. This story locates the source of the hula on the island of Hawaiʻi, in the Puna district at the Hāʻena shoreline near Kea’au. The ancient hula & chant Ke Haʻa Ala Puna describes this event.
Another story which takes place on the island of Hawaiʻi is when Pele, the goddess of fire was trying to find a home for herself running away from her sister Namakaokaha’i, the goddess of the oceans when she finally found an island where she couldn’t be touched by the waves. There at chain of craters on the island of Hawai’i she danced the first dance of hula signifying that she finally won.
According to one Hawaiian legend, Laka, goddess of the hula, gave birth to the dance on the island of Molokaʻi, at a sacred place in Kaʻana. After Laka died, her remains were hidden beneath the hill Puʻu Nana.
Another legend implies that the origin of hula goes as far back as what the kanaka maoli, people of Hawai’i call the Kumulipo, or creation account of how the world was made first and foremost through the god of life and water, Kane. When Kane and the other gods of our creation, Lono, Kū, and Kanaloa created the earth, the man, and the woman, they recited enchantments while using hand and leg movements to enhance their chants.