Hi’iaka is a Hawaiian goddess. She was the favorite of her sister Pele, the goddess of ﬁre, the family healer, and the person most likely to be able to reason with Pele.
Hi’iaka’s full name is Hi’iaka-i-ka-poli-’oPele , which means “Hi’iaka in the bosom of Pele.” Her name refers to the fact that she was given to Pele to raise. Some accounts say Hi’iaka was born as an egg that Pele literally tucked into her bosom until it hatched, producing a beautiful girl.
Hi’iaka and Pele had several sisters, all of whom shared the name Hi’iaka followed by a different description. The other sisters always used their full names unless grouped together, as in “the Hi’iaka sisters.” Only Hi’iaka-i-kapoli-’o-Pele individually shortened her name to Hi’iaka.
Hi’iaka lived with her sisters and brothers in the crater of the Kilauea volcano. Hi’iaka became more important after Pele and their family settled in Kilauea caldera. She sometimes tried to soften Pele’s anger, usually with limited success.
There also are a few legends in which Hi’iaka takes the central role. Hi’iaka volunteered when Pele wanted someone to bring Lohiau, a young, handsome chief of Kauai, to her home in Kilauea to be Pele’s lover or husband. Before she left on her journey, Hi’iaka made Pele swear that she would protect her sacred grove and its inhabitants.
The journey to Kauai and back proved quite perilous. Hi’iaka had to overcome many monsters, demons, ghosts, and other dangers both on land and at sea along the way. But she persevered. She let nothing stop her, not even Lohiau’s death—when she found him dead she resurrected him. She brought Lohiau back to Pele, resisting his amorous advances along the way. When Hi’iaka and Lohiau ﬁnally returned to Kilauea, they found that Pele, angry over their slow return, had killed one or more of the women she had promised Hi’iaka that she would protect.
One of the women destroyed by Pele was Hi’iaka’s friend Hopoe, the dancer who ﬁrst taught Hi’iaka the hula. Pele had sent lava ﬂows to destroy parts of Puna, including where Hopoe was staying. Pele turned Hopoe into a stone that still “danced,” shifting easily with the wind and human touch. The magic Pele used prevented Hi’iaka from resurrecting her friend. The stone stayed where it was, shifting and swaying, until eventually an earthquake knocked it over.
When Hi’iaka discovered her sister’s betrayal, she accepted Lohiau’s embraces. Pele saw this and killed Lohiau. Hi’iaka resurrected him and as many of the dead women as she could save.
In the end, Hi’iaka married Lohiau. Some say she lived with him on Kauai until he died, shunning her sister all the while because she could not forgive Pele for killing Lohiau and her friends.