Tamatoa VI, the chief of the Bora Borans, whose name means “the warrior.” In his thirties, he is a burly and serious man. He leads his people during a time in which the gods are changing; he recognizes that he must change himself if his people are to be saved. He devises a plan, with his brother Teroro, to migrate with his people to a land in the north known only through myth and legend. Although he is following a dream, he is very practical about organizing the supplies for the trip. He successfully leads his people and their traditional gods to the northern land, Hawaii, in an arduous sea voyage that shakes his self-confidence.
Teroro, the navigator of the ceremonial canoe used to transport the Bora Borans to Hawaii. Handsome and impetuous, he takes revenge against the priests of the new gods despite objections from his brother. It is Teroro who discovers the meaning of the new fixed star that appears after the canoe crosses the equator. Using the star for navigation, he returns to Bora Bora for his wife and additional settlers.
Marama, Teroro’s wife. She cannot accompany him on his northern journey because she is thought to be barren and, therefore, not useful to the new settlement; however, she conceives his child the night before he leaves. She is stately, resourceful, wise, and compassionate. As a priest’s daughter, she sees the essentials of a situation and always gives good advice. When she returns with Teroro to the new colony, she brings flower seeds and plants with her for cultivation there. She becomes the seeress for the new settlement.
Malama Kanakoa, the ruler of Maui when the missionaries arrive. She is a large woman and very progressive. She recognizes that the white men have more power than the Hawaiians and equates Christian conversion with this power. She learns English and establishes a new civil code of laws to match the tenets of Christianity that she finds beneficial to her people. She pretends to accept more of Christianity than she really does as a means of placating the missionaries. On her deathbed, she asks her husband, Kelolo, to bury her according to traditional and ancient ceremonies.
Kelolo Kanakoa, Malama’s husband, who never accepts Christianity despite the missionaries’ efforts. He is devoted to Malama. When he establishes a police force, he becomes its chief. He welcomes his son Keoki’s reversion to the ancient gods. As keeper of his family’s history, he recognizes that the coming of the missionaries is the end of his way of life. After the death of his son and his wife, he takes his gods with him in a canoe for a trip to Bora Bora, knowing that he will never return.
Keoki Kanakoa, the son of Malama and Kelolo who converted to Christianity in the United States. Educated at Yale, he is a powerful speaker and convinces many missionaries to travel to his pagan homeland to take the word of Christ there. He has a simple and direct faith in the goodness of Jesus. He is hurt by Abner Hale’s refusal to ordain him as a full minister and reverts to the ancient beliefs of his family. He marries his sister, Noelani, in the traditional rites. He contracts measles and dies without reconciling with the Christian faith.
Noelani Kanakoa, the daughter of Malama who is groomed to be the next ruler of Maui. Although she is not interested in the Christian faith, she is very interested in the power and money of the white men. She knows that the royal Hawaiian families have lost their power. After Keoki dies, she marries Rafer Hoxworth because she believes that he is the kind of strong man who will shape her country’s history.
Kelly Kanakoa, an attractive Hawaiian beach boy and nightclub singer. Kelly makes his living by squiring American divorcées around Hawaii. Although he is a descendant of the royal Hawaiians Malama and Kelolo, he owns no land and has no money. He marries Judy Kee despite objections that he is not good enough to marry into a prominent Chinese family.
Abner Hale, a thin, sallow, and unattractive man who becomes the leader of the first group of missionaries to go to Hawaii. He is a strict Calvinist from a pious and penurious New England family. He has not known any...