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The Kumulipo

By Will Kyselka

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Book Id: WPLBN0002096888
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File Size: 22.63 MB
Reproduction Date: 5/27/2011

Title: The Kumulipo  
Author: Will Kyselka
Language: English
Subject: Non Fiction, History of the Americas (Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, etc.), Hawaiian History
Collections: Education, Authors Community, Astronomy, Anthropology, Music, Religion, Sociology, Finance, Political Sociology, Literature, Naval Science, Social Sciences, Most Popular Books in China, History, Language, Political Science
Publication Date:
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Member Page: Hale Kuamoʻo Hawaiian Language Center


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Kyselka, B. W. (1951). The Kumulipo. Retrieved from

The Kumulipo (“Beginning-in-deep-darkness”) is the sacred creation chant of a family of Hawaiian alii, or ruling chiefs. Composed and transmitted entirely in the oral tradition, its two thousand lines provide an extended genealogy proving the family’s divine origin and tracing the family history from the begging of the world. This chant remains as an authentic work or primitive literature. Moreover, it is one of the principal sources of information on Hawaiian mythology, early culture, political structure, and way of life. The original text of the Kumulipo was first printed in Honolulu in 1889 from a manuscript copy in the possession of King Kalakaua. Several translations were made later, including one by Queen Liliuokalani, published in 1897. However, none was available in English when Martha Beckwith completed her own translation and detailed study, first published in 1951 by the University of Chicago Press. “Not only does Beckwith’s book provide students of pre-European Hawaii with the most authoritative text and translation of the Kumulipo, it also brings to anyone interested in Polynesia a profound glimpse into the creative depths of the pre-European Hawaiian mind.”

Twenty years have passed since the publication of Martha Warren Beckwith?s translation and extended annotation of the Kumulipo, a Hawaiian cosmogonic and genealogical chant. When it appeared in 1951 she was celebrating her eightieth birthday. Except for one or two brief notes published during the remaining eight years of her life, the book about the Kumulipo was her last publication. It was the crown of over forty-five years of intensive research in the folklore of many parts of the world, but particularly of the Hawaiian Islands where she had grown up. The preparation of the book occupied most of her time after her retirement from Vassar College in 1938. There she had spent eighteen years as research professor in the Folklore Foundation established for her by her childhood friend, Annie M. Alexander, to whom the translation of the Kumulipo is dedicated. However, she had begun research on the chant before 1938. She was perhaps already studying it twenty years earlier when she began planning another major work, Hawaiian Mythology, which was published in 1940 (reissued in 1970 by the University of Hawaii Press). In that book she refers several times to the Kumulipo, and gives translations of parts of it as worked out with specific Hawaiian informants who also assisted in the final translation published in 1951. Hawaiian Mythology should be consulted in relation to the later book, for it thoroughly investigates in both the Hawaiian and a wider Polynesian setting many gods, goddesses, and cosmic personifications who also appear in the Kumulipo genealogy. To keep the poem in proper focus the later book usually describes them only tersely.

Table of Contents
I.The Prose Note. 7 --Ii. Rank In Hawaii. 11 -- Iii. The First-Born Son And The Taboo. 15 -- Iv. Lono Of The Makahiki. 18 --V. Captain Cook As Lono. 22 --Vi. Two Dynasties. 25vii. The Master Of Song. 35 -- Viii. Prologue To The Night World. 42 -- Ix. The Refrain Of Generation. 50 --X. Birth Of Sea And Land Life. 55 -- Xi. The World Of Infancy. 61 --Xii. Winged Life. 68 --. Xiii. The Crawlers. 75 --. Xiv. The Night-Digger. 80 --Xv. The Nibblers. . 85 --. Xvi. The Dog Child 89 -- Xvii. The Dawn Of Day. . 94 --Xviii. The Woman Who Sat Sideways99 --Xix. The Flood . 107 -- Xx. The Woman Who Bore Children Through The Brain. 110 --Xxi. Papa And Wakea. 117 --Xxii. Maui The Usurper128 -- Xxiii. The Dedication. 137 -- Xxiv. The Genealogies 140 Xxv. Hawaiian Accounts Of Creation. 153 --Xxvi. Other Polynesian Accounts Of Creation. 160 -- Xxvii. Ceremonial Birth Chants In Polynesia. 175 -- Conclusion. 181 --


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