Royal Figures as Nation Builders - King Kamehamaha and Charlemagne: Myth Formation in the European Early Middle Ages and in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Polynesian Hawai'i

  • Albrecht Classen


Historical examples make it possible for us today to understand current issues and phenomena. Kingship has always been associated with charisma and hence with a myth-forming process surrounding the king. The myth of Emperor Charlemagne (d. 814) is well known and was thoroughly examined especially in 2014, the twelfth-hundred anniversary of his death. The myth of King Kamehameha I of Hawai’i (d. 1819) is well present in Hawai’i today, as documented by numerous public sculptures, street and school names, etc. Through a comparative analysis, this paper demonstrates that medieval European history can serve well to explain modern myths and vice versa, especially because Kamehameha’s charisma continues to permeate contemporary Hawaiian society. In this regard, we discover that through a structural-historical and anthropological-political analysis we can identify meaningful and significantly shared elements connecting early medieval Europe even with modern-day Polynesia.