Book Reviews

Book Review- Madame Pele, curated by Rick Carroll


My sister purchased this book on a trip to Hawai’i and I borrowed it to read.


Madame Pele is a collection of stories, curated by Rick Carroll, that tell of encounters with the fiery goddess of the Hawaiian isles. Some encounters are benign, some are helpful, some akin to tales of phantom hitchhikers. Then there are the less merciful tales, the ones depicting the Lady’s wrath when stones, lava, or sand are taken. The stories are broken into four distinct sections. The first talks of encounters with Pele on the big island. The second section is of experiences on other islands. The third records tales of the hitchhiking goddess, and the last are stories regarding Pele’s treasured rocks.


Some of my favourite tales include The White Dog of Mauna Loa, about a white dog that appears before a volcanic eruption. The dog showed up around the observatory, and could be seen for days or weeks, always looking well-fed despite the lack of hunting opportunities. The first sightings were in 1959 and they continued til 1966. All attempts to befriend the dog or capture it failed. Was the dog merely a timely stray? Given the disappearance after 1966, one might assume so. However, a white dog is said to be one of Pele’s companions.


A Red Jacket for Honey Girl is one of the hitchhiker tales. Eric and Pudge pick up a father and daughter traveling to Hilo. (Eric and Pudge had had a series of mishaps that led them to be driving to Hilo). The girl had a stylish red jacket that she kept mentioning how much she liked. Eric and Pudge left the pair at a gas station, as requested. After they left, they happened to notice the red jacket had been left behind. They went back to the gas station- they weren’t far away, and there was no way the pair could have been picked up by friends yet- only to find the father and daughter had vanished. They continued on and met up with their own companions, only to find that the jacket was just the colour and style that the daughter of a local friend had been wanting. And it was a perfect fit! A present from Pele, something to be treasured indeed.


Next Time Listen to Uncle is one of those lessons against taking what’s Pele’s. Snickers, a student visiting Hawai’i, decided to take some of the beautiful olivine sand from the Green Sand Beach. This set off a whole series of unfortunate events ranging from injuries to an explosion of negative emotions to an ATV accident. Snickers returned the green sand to its proper place.


I was already a believer in the power of the goddess. Reading these tales of chance meetings with the Lady of Fire and Stone, and the recounting of misfortunes by removing what rightfully belongs to Pele only reaffirmed my own feelings. I treasure tales of the ‘old’ gods, and the knowledge that they are still vibrant presences for those with the heart to see. Some, like the Lady of Fire, can reach even the doubters, and protect the land claimed as their own.


???? Recommended for any interested in Hawaiian lore, Pele, goddess encounters, and the supernatural.

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