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Just For Fun 25

Reasons that dragons don’t celebrate Christmas.
#2 – Dragons don’t like snowy weather and prefer to stay in a warm lair.

Just For Fun 24

I will be out Christmas shopping, like all patriotic Americans, but here’s a giggle for you.

Reasons that dragons don’t celebrate Christmas:
#3 – They don’t understand the part about giving things to others.

Mo’o, Part 3

My final post in this thread concerns the most important mo’o of all. More revered than Mo’o Inanea, founder of the dragon clan. More famous than the adventuring heroine, Hi’iaka. This is Kihawahine.

Unlike the average mo’o, Kihawahine did not keep watch over just one fishing pond. Her reputed domiciles include sites on Hawai’i, Moloka’i, Kauai’i, and three locations on the island of Mau’i. Although Kihawahine’s influence extended throughout the islands, her principal residence was at Moku’ula, in the Lahaina region. This was the home of Mau’i’s royal family and the spiritual heart of ancient Hawai’i.

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this thread, native Hawai’ians believed that a person of great enough wisdom could be elevated into a mo’o by sacred rituals after death. Kihawahine was one of these. Princess Kala’aiheana had been born into the Mau’i royal family during the 1500s. She must have been a remarkable person to be so widely respected that several islands wanted to claim an attachment to her.  As Kihawahine, she watched over the Pi’ilani royal line for generations. Even into the early 1800s, King Kamehameha I conquered all the islands in the name of Kihawahine. He later married another princess of the Pi’ilani line, to complete his connection with this powerful mo’o.

Kamehameha I achieved his victories in part to due alliances with Western traders and colonists, who provided guns and training to use them. Alas, the native Hawai’ian traditions began to erode after Kamehameha I’s death in 1819. As Western influences took over, the past was forgotten. The royal complex at Moku’ula eventually was buried, including Kihawahine’s fishing pond.

This would seem like a sad ending, but Hawai’ian native traditions were never destroyed as thoroughly as those of Native American tribes elsewhere. Through the 20th Century and into the 21st, activists have worked to locate and restore heritage sites across the islands. One of these is Moku’ula, where archaeology shows that the historic structures are intact under the ground. With luck, and a lot of fund-raising, descendants of the native peoples may once again honor Kihawahine in her pond at Moku’ula.

Mo’o, Part 2

One of the most famous mo’o is Hi’iaka, a character who appears in several legends. I found the most references to one known as “Hi’iaka and Lohi’au.” Hi’iaka is the younger sister of the volcano goddess, Pele. Pele and her family live in Kilauea Crater, on the island of Hawai’i. The goddess learns that her lover, Lohi’au, is being held captive by three other mo’o women on the island of Kaua’i. She sends her sister to the rescue. Hi’iaka sets off with a human companion, Wahine-oma’o.

Like many of the great sagas, this is a lengthy journey without a strict sequence of events and with many sections told as independent stories. For instance, the mo’o and companion cross O’ahu during the rainy season and shelter with relatives at Ko’olau. Hi’iaka sings a song of complaint about the miserable weather, which has become a standard in hula performance.

In another episode, the mo’o and her attendant travel by to a fishing pond called Kawainui. There they see two lovely women seating by the stream. Hi’iaka warns that these are not women, but mo’o in human guise. Wahine-oma’o is dubious. To prove it, Hi’iaka chants a riddle: “Kailua is like hair tousled by the Malanai wind/ The leaves of the uki are flattened down/ You are startled as though by the voice of a bird/ You think they are human, but they are not.” Upon hearing this, the two women vanish in dismay. They are indeed a mo’o on the banks of her home pond and a neighboring mo’o who had come to visit.

In the final sequence. the wanderers come to a deep canyon on the slopes of Moloka’i. As they try to decide how they can cross, a narrow bridge suddenly appears. Wahine-oma’o steps out confidently, but Hi’iaka leaps ahead to stop her. This “bridge” is the tongue of Mo’o Kikipua — a man-eater! The two mo’o battle until Kikipua’s death.

Ultimately, Hi’iaka does succeed in rescuing Lohi’au, who becomes Pele’s husband. It’s interesting to me that this character uses wit as much as force in accomplishing her task.

Next week, I’ll explore another aspect of Hawai’i’s legendary mo’o dragons.

Did you know Hawai’ian mythology includes dragons? Until a few days ago, I didn’t either!

Native Hawai’ian people are part of an extended cultural family generally known as Polynesians, who explored and colonized all over the South Pacific from New Zealand to Rapa Nui (a.k.a. Eastern Island) and of course to Hawai’i. It’s believed that Polynesian culture spread from somewhere in Southeast Asia, possibly around Malaysia, and so the Hawai’ian dragons share some features with other Asian dragons. Yet they also have their own unique origins.

Mo’o are great water spirits who can change form between that of a water dragon and a human woman. There are male mo’o, but the majority are female. They dwelt in pools and ponds as well as in caves. Mo’o had power over weather and dangerous waves (tsunami), and other magical powers as well. They are described as twenty to thirty feet long, jet black, and shining in the water.

Because fresh water is one of the most precious resources in the island environment, the mo’o who guarded these pools were worshipped along with the other nature deities of Hawai’ian lore. Every pond capable of providing fish had its own altar dedicated to the mo’o who defended it. Local people burned fires and made offerings of awa (a drink made from the kava plant) in the belief that a mo’o who was well cared for would provide plenty of clean water and fish to the community. Likewise a neglected mo’o could become vicious and spiteful.

Legend holds that all mo’o were from a single clan, led by Mo’o Inanea. Mo’o Inanea (Self-Reliant Dragon) plays a part in many Hawai’ian myths. It’s said that she led her people to Hawai’i from the Hidden Land of Kane at the same time the other gods arrived. They all lived in a place called Waolani, up the valley from modern day Honolulu. But the dragons thrived and became so numerous that Inanea led them away. She set up a new residence at Pu’unui, farther down the Nu’uanu Valley, then directed her clan to spread out and dwell all over the Hawai’ian islands. As late as 1825, Western mariners could see a pair of stones in Nu’uanu where the local people made offerings to a pair of mo’o.

What makes mo’o lore especially interesting is that some of them may once have been real people. This fascinating article details that the most revered priestesses could actually be transformed into mo’o. After their death, the body would lie in state surrounded by articles of the royal color, yellow. Female attendants chanted a spell for several days, while the kahuna (priest) meditated in hopes of receiving a vision. If their plea was successful, Mo’o Inanea would accept the departed soul into her clan and the new mo’o would reveal her sacred name. Thereafter, her family could call upon her in a similar way to how Christians might pray to a specific saint.

Check back in a couple of days for more about mo’o.

Levine, author of the Newberry Honor book, Ella Enchanted, brings us a middle grade fantasy full of mystery, magic, and a few tart observations of human nature. For those of you who think she’s strictly a light-weight author, think again!

There’s a classic fairy-tale feel as Elodie, a country girl, sets off to seek her fortune. She heads to the big city, Two Castles, where her parents want her to apprentice as a weaver. Elodie has her own ideas. She wants to be a mansioner (an actress). Almost from the start, fate goes against her. Her money is stolen, and the mansioner doesn’t need any more apprentices. However, someone else has their own ideas about Elodie’s future.

That someone is Meenore, the dragon whose lair is set on the outskirts of Two Castles. Levine gives us an unique, inscrutable dragon here, yet with all the fun touches you’d expect from this author. For example, Elodie doesn’t know if her new “masteress” is a male or female dragon. This information is too personal to be bandied about, so all dragons are referred to as IT. Meenore is shrewd, exacting, fastidious, yet also generous. Relatively young and friendless, IT too has ambitions that have been denied. While Meenore spends ITs days in menial chores such as toasting cheese sandwiches and lighting blacksmith’s forges, ITs dream is to use ITs intellect and become a famous detective.

To say more would give away too much, so let me turn to the setting. Two Castles is so named, because there are two castles. One, in town, belongs to the despicable King Grenville and his daughter, Princess Renn. The other is home to an ogre, Jonty Um. Despite his fearsome reputation, Jonty Um is well mannered and his servants are devoted, while the locals barely hide their hatred for “Greedy Grenny.” Here, to me, was one of the most telling contrast, that the “normal” people in Two Castles are wary, thieving, deceptive, while the so-called monster is honorable and kind to all.

The story features a host of other interesting characters and draws on several traditional fairy tales, most notably “Puss in Boots.” Through it all, Elodie grows confident enough to choose her own path of loyalty and danger. In terms of subject matter, this book is solidly for middle grades (grades 4-6), with all violence occurring off-stage and only a hint of romance. However, I think kids up to 15 can enjoy this book with its fresh ideas and sense of humor. A Tale of Two Castles is highly recommended.

Last weekend my husband and I watched the live-action rendition of Space Battleship Yamato. Don’t recognize the name? Hmm, how about Captain Avatar. Wave motion gun? Well, trust me. It was an important anime series created in Japan during the late 1970s under the award-winning director, Leiji Matsumoto. This was translated in America as Star Blazers during the early 1980s. For many fans, it was our first introduction to anime with long story lines and complicated characters.

So how was the movie? It’s been a good 20 years since I watched Space Battleship Yamato, but the basic scenario and characters seemed faithful. The creative team stuck with much of the original design and sound effects, which I enjoyed hearing. Funny how a particular noise can really take you back!

The major update was adding a few female characters, both in speaking roles and as extras. Particularly, the sake-swilling Dr. Sado became a woman in the live action. I know this will bother purists, but gender parity really is not optional in today’s world.

The previous character of Yuki Mora was strengthened considerably. She is now a fighter pilot rather than a nurse, and speaks her mind quite a bit where in the original Yuki mostly stood in the background worrying about her boyfriend, Kodai. There are a few unfortunate lapses near the end, though. Midway through, one of the men, Saito, is possessed by an alien entity and remains fully clothed, though levitating. When Yuki is possessed by an alien, her uniform is blown off and she then goes around in a tank top and sweat pants for quite some time. She also apparently forgets all about being a  soldier and lets Kodai drag her around by the hand instead of grabbing one of the weapons that are lying on the ground. (But, to be fair, Kodai also ignores these weapons in favor of his cute stun ray.)

But what does this have to do with Godzilla, King of the Monsters?

Well, the setup for Yamato is that aliens are bombarding the earth with “meteor bombs” that irradiate the surface, destroying all life and forcing humans to live in squalid underground cities. In real life, during the 1950s, Japan actually had endured radioactive fallout from nuclear testing in the South Pacific. The incident of Number Five Lucky Dragon and its enduring legacy made a deep impression. The opening scenes of Godzilla directly relate to nuclear testing. It appears the same experience again found expression in the setting for Space Battleship Yamato.

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