October 20, 2008

Twilight vs. Quileute legends

In The Origin of Twilight's Werewolves, I posted a summary of the "Quileute legends" in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. Here's what Meyer has written about her version of the legends:The Quileute (Quill-yoot) legends Jacob tells Bella in chapter six of Twilight are all genuine Quileute stories that I learned when I was researching the tribe (which is a real tribe with a truly fascinating and mystical history). All actual Quileute legends, except for the vampire myth about the 'cold ones.'Unfortunately, her claim that she used "genuine" or "actual" Quileute legends is false. Let's compare her legends to some real Quileute legends.

Dark Destinations:  La Push, WashingtonNative American legend has it that the Quileutes are descended from wolves. According to Quileute mythology, K'wa'iti, the shape-shifting trickster, made the first Quileute out of a wolf he stumbled upon during his travels. Author Stephenie Meyer would later make use of the actual Quileute legends while creating her Twilight Saga.A Guide to the Indian Tribes of the Pacific Northwest by Robert H. RubyThe Quileutes believed that they had been created from wolves by Dokibatt the Changer, or Transformer, who looms large in Pacific Northwest coastal mythology. Among the Quileutes' myths, like those of other tribes of the region, was the story of the huge whale-snatching bird, Tistilal, whose flapping wings were thunder and whose yellow feathers were lightning. In early times there were six Quileute societies: for the fisherman, the elk hunter, the whale hunter, the weather predictor, the medicine man, and the warrior (the latter society performed the wolf dance).Comment:  Hmm. Meyer's story doesn't mention K'wa'iti, Dokibatt, or the "first Quileute." Her wolf transformation doesn't happen until the middle of Quileute history, after the "spirit warrior" phase. How is that possible if the legend says the first Quileute was transformed?

Nor does Meyer mention the six Quileute societies. While this isn't absolutely necessary when recounting the wolf story, it seems an odd omission. How do you tell a long story about Quileute "spirit warriors" without linking it to the Quileute warrior society? If the story is genuine, that is.

Meanwhile, the Quileute legends don't mention spirit warriors, Kaheleha, Taha Aki, or Utlapa. Nor do they mention Kamehameha, Waikiki, mahi mahi, ukulele, or any other Hawaiian-sounding name or phrase. In fact, they don't mention any aspect of Meyer's story.

To verify this point, I did the following search in Google:

"quileute kaheleha -twilight -meyer"

That should list all mentions of Quileute and Kaheleha that don't involve Twilight and Meyer. Result: Six hits, all of them Twilight related. Likely explanation: There's no genuine Quileute legend involving someone named Kaheleha.

Again, I'm getting the impression that Meyer made up her Quileute "legends." She read that Quileutes descended from wolves and thought, "Neat-o! Based on that tidbit, I'll fabricate a whole spiritual history of the Quileute people."

For more on the subject, see Quileute Werewolves in Twilight.

Below:  The first Quileute Indian?


dmarks said...

Very true. It would not have taken Meyer much more work at all to have made things more authentic. But for some reason, it did not happen.

Anonymous said...

You've done the research that I was going to ... thankyou! Yes, there are lots of inaccuracies in her portrayal of the legends and of her descriptions of the Olympic Peninsula. Of course we are talking about fiction here right? But, when you NAME locations, and you have to believe that maybe someone who actually lives in these locations will read what you've written, and you don't get it RIGHT. That's going to turn some people off. In my case, it was in her first book, Twilight, when Edward and Bella left Port Angeles on the FREEWAY??? Yikes, she's even been to Forks, so she knows that there are no freeways on the westside. She also aludes on her website to Port Angeles being boardered on the south by the CASCADE mountains. That is just plain dumb. Anyways, yes I did read all of the books, and I am a true Twilight addict even though I am way past being a young adult. Just thought I contribute. Thanks for the info!!

Anonymous said...

okay guy at the top of page go here.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quileute (go to beliefs).
this clearly says they were spiritual people"they went on quest to find there spiritual powers" and also it talks about shape shifting too.

Anonymous said...

not top of page but person who wrote article

Anonymous said...

I actually live on the Olympic Peninsula. Yes there are freeways/highways! HWY 101 is how you would go from P.A to Forks.
There are some distinct mistakes but it is a FICTION novel, it definately did not "turn me off". Actually I am addicted and past my young adult years.

Anonymous said...

my name is nohealani which in hawaiian means "lovely heaven". i'm a young 14 year old female and i to have been researching and i am also a twilight fanatic. and im a "hawaiian" myself, born and raised and currently still here in hawaii and i know for a fact anything and everything about the twilight saga said nothing, had nothing to do with kamehameha who was our great king; or waikiki which is a beach-tourist attraction; or ukulele which we use as an instrument in music; or mahimahi which is a fish that is eaten all over not only in hawaii. but hopefully one day using the legends ive been raised with it will all evolve into a magical fictional story such as twilight, using it to show the world what hawaii is really about and what we've grown to learn, love, and respect. with that said even if stephenie meyer twisted the true legends it was quite generous of her to use a true tribe in her fictional story and bring forth its legends, bringing some of the true legends alive and letting the legends live through her story as long as it will be remembered.

Anonymous said...

I think the issue here is artistic license. It's a work of fiction and, therefore, doesn't really need to be entirely factual with regards to its retelling of legends.

Anonymous said...

There is a difference between artistic license and appropriation. Meyer is passing off her version of the myths as *true*, when they are largely inaccurate. To change so much but claim she has not is not only disrespectful but dishonest.

I'm not saying not to like Meyer. I'm saying we do our chosen storytellers, be they Meyer or whomever, a great disservice by not holding them to standards and telling them "You can and should do better." If you liked her books as they are, imagine how much better they could only be with more research and respect.

al said...

We are not talking about a history book-this is a FICTIONAL novel about werewolves and vampires. Meyer has no obligation to accuracies and every right to stretch the truth and use her imagination. I had no idea Forks or Quileutes existed until today and personally, I am very pleased that her stories are BASED on reality. In additon, what about all those "based on a true story" books and films? The writers take an interesting story and imagine more details, characters, ect...there is nothing wrong with that.

Rob said...

Re "I think the issue here is artistic license": No, the issue here is artistic integrity.

Did you read the part where Meyer said, "The Quileute (Quill-yoot) legends Jacob tells Bella in chapter six of Twilight are all genuine Quileute stories"? She made this claim outside the Twilight books to sell the books to gullible readers. "Artistic license" isn't an issue when we're talking about how honest her promotional efforts are.

As I've demonstrated in this posting, Meyer's "genuine" claim is false. If you don't like the fact that she lied to readers, I suggest you take it up with her. Ask her why she said the stories are genuine when they're not.

Anonymous said...

The legends that Meyer claimed to be true were was not the story of the spirit warriors. Chapter 6 of twiglight mentions
- Tying a canoe to the top th tallest trees on a mountain to survive the flood
- That they were descended from wolves, it's against tribal law to kill them
Try actually picking up a book before claiming the author is dishonest. The myth you refered to with Taha Aki was in a later book with no such claim of authenticity

Anonymous said...

hey nice reasearch! i'm a greek, 16-year old girl and crazy for twilight. however i' ve learnt not to believe everything that the writers write. and look! as i was seeking in the net for smth about these legends i found your wonderfull article. thank you! i adore the book. but us the others say it is just o commercial fiction story. so read it with pleasure and continue your researches! excellent job!

Anonymous said...

Honestly?? The person above was right. Stephenie said CHAPTER SIX of TWILIGHT when JACOB told Bella. Not when Billy or Quil Ataera told the werewolves. Don't go jumping down her throat. She never claimed her "spirit warriors" or Taha Aki was real. (even though the spirit warriors were. check wikipedia or www.quileutenation.com -the boys go off on salmon missions, etc.) For all the "research" you did you didn't do it well.

Rob said...

My research continues to be good enough, thanks.

The "descended from wolves" legends are the same ones in Twilight and Eclipse. Meyer refers to them briefly in the first book and discusses them at length in the third book.

The excerpt below makes it clear that Meyer is talking about the same thing in both cases. The legend of "descended from wolves" is the legend of "how we came to be." The first part of "how we came to be ... descended from wolves" is "the story of the spirit warrior."

Nowhere in or out of the books has Meyer claimed that some of her legends are true and others are false. Her only claim is that the legends are "all actual Quileute legends."

Twilight reader DMarks responds further:

The very detailed part (Taha Aki, etc.) is from book 3, Eclipse.

Jacob prefaces the Taha Aki/"spirit warrior" material thusly: "This is technically a council meeting. It's Quil's first time, and he hasn't heard the stories yet. Well, he's heard them, but this will be the first time he knows they're true. That tends to make a guy pay closer attention. Kim and Seth and Leah are all first-timers, too."


Jacob scooted back beside me, where I rested against a low ridge of rock. He put his arm over my shoulder and spoke even lower into my ear.

"The histories we always thought were legends," he said. "The stories of how we came to be. The first is the story of the spirit warriors."

DMarks continues:

Anonymous Twihard saying "The legends that Meyer claimed to be true were was not the story of the spirit warriors" does not fit with the above quote of Jacob telling everyone how important and "true" (his word) the spirit warrior origin tale is. Also, it is not contradicted by anything or anyone in the stories. So there is no reason for any Twilight reader to question any of it.

Rob said...

If y'all don't want to address the question of whether Meyer fibbed, feel free to address the broader point I made in The Problem with Quileute Werewolves. Namely:

Non-Natives have a long history of borrowing Native legends, stories, concepts, beliefs, and practices. And then simplifying them, changing them, sometimes bastardizing them beyond recognition. The result is a mishmash of mistakes and stereotypes amid nuggets of actual information.

No wonder people don't understand Indians. Their primary source is popular media such as the Twilight books. Which are based on "genuine Quileute stories," according to Meyer.

Anonymous said...


nadia said...

Rob, why did you put so much effort in this? Did you wanted to show people the real Quileutes-legend or did you just wanted Meyer to look dishonest and bad? I think most people understand that Twilight is a fictional novel. And I know Stpehenie Meyer said the legends were true except for the "cold ones", but who cares ? I wanted to know something more about the legend, so I searched on Google. I didn't wanted to know whether Meyer was lying or dishonest. If you want real facts, you shouldn't read a fictional book. Read a boring informing book. Twilight is a great book, and if you wanted to make Stephenie Meyer look bad, then you just should say it directly. And don't make up stupid reasons to make her look stupid. No offence though. this is just the way I see it. By the way, I'm 14 years old and from Holland, so you shouldn't take this too seriously.

Anonymous said...

It was a dark night just like this, with the wind whispering in the trees. Each step away from the firelight was a step further and further into the darkness. Each step, each snap of a twig, each brush of...what was that? BOO!! Really guys, you are arguing about a campfire story. I for one like acuracy even in fiction because it gives credibility to the story. But the best way ruin a great campfire story is to argue about it. Clarify the facts, yes. But don't overdo it.

Anonymous said...


Rob said...

Re "Did you wanted to show people the real Quileutes-legend or did you just wanted Meyer to look dishonest and bad?"

I wanted to expose a particular falsehood and state the truth about Indians, Nadia. Just as I've done a thousand other times with a thousand other mistakes and stereotypes.

Apparently you're unaware of my work on Native stereotypes. Read it and then tell us whether I'm out to get Meyer for some nefarious reason.

Re "I didn't want to know whether Meyer was lying or dishonest": What you want doesn't concern me. If you don't like my postings, don't read them.

Besides, I didn't know of your existence when I posted this item. So it's pointless to suggest I should've taken your wishes into account.

Re "If you want real facts, you shouldn't read a fictional book":

Really? It's just fiction? Wow, I didn't know that. Thanks for filling me in.

Actually, I've written about this subject literally hundreds of times. Which is more than you've thought about it, I'm guessing.

You're being silly if you think fiction doesn't influence our perception of things. Most of our ideas about Indians come from old Western movies and other forms of fiction.

Here's some reading for you so you can educate yourself on the subject. Feel free to write again when you understand it better.

"It's Just a [Fill in the Blank]"The Harm of Native Stereotyping:  Facts and EvidenceThe Influence of Movies

Anonymous said...

The point is, its a FICTION book, Stephenie can say or twist it as much as she wants, because its FICTION, NOT TRUE. I dont think you should bother about her lying. I like that she based it on a real place and twsited it little bit, the books were amazing. Even if everything in them weren't all real.

Anonymous said...

Ok, Im going to keep this short. it's a fake story. It doesnt have to be real. Its alright to say ' this is what actually happened.' but dont take it too far or too serious. And don't be smart when you answer back to them. They were explaining their opinions nicely. Overall the stories and movie was good.

Meyer said...

Quileute Legands, Legends have been passed down from generation to generation if you explore more you'll find that the folklore is much darker than what the movie twilight would dare to present to its readers. (http://www.quileutes.com/native-americanlegends/quileute-indian-legends.html) such as Duskeah used to tattoo children. She would drive the bone needle clear through the arm or chest, and so kill them.

Anonymous said...

I know this is really, really late and probably nobody will see it, and I apologize.

Anyway, I just wanted to add that I'm not surprised at all by these inaccuracies, based on everything else Meyer got wrong in her series. There are many other (entirely unrelated) factual errors, including glaring mistakes in history, geography, science, and contradiction of her own canon. For example, Rosalie, a character who grew up in Brooklyn during the Great Depression, had economic stability because of her father's secure job in a bank.

Anonymous said...

Why can't people leave Stephenie alone. It's just a novel. Yet she did put Forks out there. I'm way beyond my teen years and i truly enjoyed her books. Infact i really can't wait and i pray that she will publish the novel that had been leaked. If we all started taking fiction novels seriously i think we'd be goin crazy. Leave the woman alone and let her enjoy her profession.

kupfergruen said...

First, I´m not a native english speaker, or writer, so - sorry, for mistakes and errors - or enjoy it, however ;-).

I googled "native americans vs twilight" very early in the morning and was very surprised: what is so wrong to use only a part of legends? I serging and googled: no original native americans as the "Wolfpack". Okay, I thought: that’s not nice, but this should´nt be a problem, as long they look alike?
And then I found many entries about this and thought about it: it woud´nt be a problem, when this world were perfect. If never people were killed for beeing what they are, if never racism colored everithing the most white people know about, think is right about Native American. And now: actors, who are not native americans, color the way, people all other the world will think, native americans look!!!! Horrible!!!!
So, yes it isn´t ridicoulus to camplain about. It is very necessary to camplain and to protest. It´s the only chance to get human rights and equity for all people, no matter which ancestors color your skin.
Sorry for the "dramatic writing" ;-)

Wolfboy said...

The decended from wolves story is true. Their is a story like that of "the cold ones". Stephanie may have made a few alterations to spice it up, but that is to keep the readers attention and make it more exhilirating rather than being like some boring history expose' in a museum that you would lull off to sleep listening too. Its a FICTION STORY. Of course she'll change things up a bit. Hell your lucky she used the Quileute at all. It just put Forks, La Push, and the Quileute back on the map is all it did. The legend just set forth an interesting foundation for a much broader story: TWILIGHT. The legend was actually "Fighting Ground of the Monsters", or something along those lines(not sure of true name for the legend).
""According to Quileute Legends, two monsters met on occasion in massive battle at the boundary between Elwha and Quileute territory. Equally matched, they devastated a huge area and wounded one another grievously, but neither ever killed the other. After the last such fight, both monsters hobbled home to caves, walled themselves in, and cried over their injuries. The steaming hot tears of both have run off of their dens and amassed to make the Sol Duc and Olympic hot springs. The Quileutes named the monster whose tears make the Sol Duc Hot Springs a’lakil “the monster who cries in the woods”."" This is the fabled battle between the wolves and vampires. I ,myself, am 17 years old, I am a Quileute tribe descendant, my family moved away from the tribes becuase my father feared the folklore and wanted me to have no part of it. I would love to know all about it.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure I ran across this many months after this was posted, but Wolfboy, as a mostly white descendant of the Apache tribe I know that you need to learn to embrace the REAL culture and history of your people. Your tribe's culture was hijacked and revised for someone's profit. Your people were portrayed as stupid plot devices who don't deserve the same rights to live the "human experiences" and in the end were doomed to isolation to protect the freak show secret of monsters who she felt were more worthy (really white "vampires"). I don't understand why more people can't see that it is racist.
As for her inaccuracies, what do you expect from a Mormon princess who spent her life reading Harlequin Romances and doing internet research instead of experiencing life for real?

Anonymous said...

I think that SM's interpretation of the Quileute tribe did have a few contradictions in it, but I did not no anything about Forks, La Push or indeed the Quileutes, but I am researching the Quileutes out of interest and I think that if you want to know about the Quileute's folklore and tales, you would look them up on the internet (I followed Bella's example from the movie and typed in the exact same thing)and just take SM's portrayal ofthe tribes, as you can't expect her to write an entire history book (as the spirit story is v. long and she shortened and edited it) just to make a few pedantic (sorry) people happy

Anonymous said...

Vampires and werewolfs are real if you go to google and type in Cold One and not click on the stuff with Twight then you will find the things about the Vampires and Werewolfs and The Cold One and the Apotamkin. Oh one more thing Jacob Black is so HOTT with his eight pack.Jacob if your reading this i love you, you are so hott and you have a great body its so hot. Oh Twilight the book isnt that good but NEW MOON is a great book when i picked it up i couldn't put it down thats how good it was.I LOVE you JACOB BLACK.

Anonymous said...

Get a live...