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Teller of Hawaiian Tales: Ancient and Colonial Hawaiian Stories

Updated on June 6, 2012

Before reading this book, I'd never heard of Eric Knudsen. However, after reading this, he sounds like an interesting guy. Unfortunately, the book itself wasn't that interesting.

The son of Valdemar Knudsen, one of the pioneers of Hawaii in the early days before it became a US territory, Eric Knudsen was a lawyer, politician, rancher, and folklorist in Hawaii until his death in 1957. This book is a collection of transcripts from a radio program he hosted during World War II, where he would tell stories both of Hawaii's mythical past as well as more current stories of the ranchers, plantation owners, and boat crews of Knudsen's lifetime. There are sixty such stories here.

Unfortunately, something was lost in translation. While the stories aren't bad, there just seems to be something missing in many of them. More often than not, the tale seems boring, pointless, or it just struck me as odd in some indefinable way. I'm not sure if it was the conversion from spoken storytelling to written storytelling, or the different cultural norms between ancient Hawaii and the modern day US, but more often than not the stories left me a bit cold.

Which is all rather sad. It is clear that Eric Knudsen very much respected the Hawaiian culture he grew up with, both in the ancient mythology he recounts and in the more modern stories, to an extent I was not expecting for a man of his position and era. But that didn't help make the stories any more entertaining for me.

All in all, this is a good infusion into Hawaiian culture, and it's interesting for that extent. However, in general I was somewhat disappointed, as it didn't really capture the power mythology and folklore can have. Eric Knudsen is interesting, but this book isn't anything special.


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