Short Stories about Hawaii

A hapa-haole lady dressed in coconut bras and a grass skirt serving pineapple to a Caucasian couple. The catchy Hapa-Haole music by Tin Pan Alley including “I Lost My Heart in Honolulu” and “On the Beach at Waikiki.” These and other representations of Hawaii have captured American Mainlanders’ imaginations since Hawaii started marketing tourism in the early 1900s.

Fiction writers captured Hawaii’s allure in their short stories and novels:

  • Herman Melville wrote Typee and Moby Dick.
  • Jack London wrote short stories including The House of Pride, On the Makaloa Mat, and Hawaiian folklore.
  • London was working on (but did not complete) his last book–a novel set in Hawaii–right before his death.
  • W. Somerset Maugham and Charles Warren Stoddard wrote short stories about the Pacific.
  • London and Stoddard told Hawaiian folklore.

Some of these authors’ literary works were adapted to movies decades later.

Short stories ran in American newspapers, and themes included romance in exotic Hawaii (usually white American man and Native Hawaiian woman) and Native Hawaiian boy saving the day with his swimming, such as the following:

  • Mr. Balfour and Kulamea, a daughter of a wealthy Hawaiian, fall in love in Honolulu. The story was published in 1893, right after the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, and the story’s dialogue featured Pidgin and used local terms including “pau,” “luna,” and “pilikia.”
  • Kanaka Jack was found cast away on the western coast of Australia. Hired as a cabin boy for a ship, the native Hawaiian boy could remain underwater for more than a minute and swam into marine caves and through seaweeds. Kanaka Jack swam to rescue people.
  • In 1852, a captain’s young son fell overboard at a Guatemalan harbor, and a shark, which already killed another shipman three days ago, was swimming nearby. Kala, a Native Hawaiian working on a ship far from his homeland, jumped into the water to kill the shark.

– Alice Kim

Related Topic Guides
Charlie Chan | Jack London | Mark Twain | Charles Warren Stoddard

More about Kanaka Jack:

Short Stories on Chronicling America

“Hermit of the Death Cave: A Story of Skeletons”
Austin’s Hawaiian weekly, October 7, 1899, Page 4

“The Chosen Boy and the Rescue”
Warren sheaf, November 15, 1894, Image 4

“For Love of Her Mother: The Self-Sacrifice of Kaomouna, the Hawaiian Flower Girl”
Republican news item, December 1, 1898, Image 6

“Nine Mariners Flee the Booze”
Hawaiian gazette, May 17, 1907, Page 7

“Kala Kills Sharks: A Sandwich Islander’s Dexterity with His Knife”
The Hazel Green herald, November 25, 1892, Image 6

“Kulamea: A Little Romance of Honolulu”
Fort Worth gazette, April 2, 1893, Page 18

“Two Gentlemen of Hawaii” by Seward W. Hopkins, Newspaper: The County Record

Chapters I-II
September 12, 1901, Image 9

Chapters II-III
September 19, 1901, Image 8

Chapters III-V
September 26, 1901, Image 8

Chapters V-VI
October 3, 1901, Image 8

Chapters VI-VII
October 10, 1901, Image 6

Chapters VII-IX
October 17, 1901, Image 7

Chapters IX-X
October 24, 1901, Image 3

Chapters X-XII
October 31, 1901, Image 7

Chapter XIII
November 7, 1901, Image 7

Chapters XIII-XV
November 14, 1901, Image 5

Chapters XV, XVI
November 21, 1901, Image 6

Chapters XVI, XVII
November 28, 1901, Image 6

Chapters XVII, XVIII
December 5, 1901, Image 2

Chapter XVIII
December 12, 1901, Image 6

Chapters XIX, XX
December 26, 1901, Image 6