PART I – LEGENDS
The Ghost Of Wahaula
Maluae And The
Shark-God Of Molokai
The Shark-Man Of
The Strange Banana
The Old Man Of The
How Milu Became The
King Of Ghosts
A Visit To The King
Maid Of The Golden Cloud
Puna And The Dragon
The Bride From The
PART II. –
The Deceiving Of Kewa
Homeless And Desolate
Aumakuas, Or Ancestor
The Dragon Ghost-Gods
Home Of The Ancestors
The advancement of a people is profoundly
influenced by three factors, namely: the source and quality of their
food supply; their contacts and associations with other peoples; and
their religious beliefs and activities.
It is, perhaps, the last factor that
influences people most in matters respecting their intellectual
development, especially when these beliefs and activities are laid out
along rational lines. As intelligence increases, knowledge is gained
concerning the various phenomena of life and the relation that man bears
to the forces of nature that have an influence over him. Until such a
state of intelligence is attained, the developing race conceives for
itself gods, ghosts, and other supernatural forms to give it the
connected relations between itself and the things and phenomena of
nature which cannot be understood. Through the instrumentality of these
supernatural forms, the imagination of a people is developed. Songs and
legends originate, blending accounts of the lives and exploits of the
living and dead with those of the supernatural beings, and in time these
form literature and develop arts of great value to the people.
The ethnology of the peoples of the
Pacific is an interesting and profitable field for study, and especially
is this true of the Hawaiians, for during the period within the
knowledge of man they have shown capacity for rapid intellectual
development. In the dawn of their history they had no written language,
but they were rich in songs and legends, not only of their own exploits,
but also of their relations with the superior influences that guided
their destinies. These were repeated at fireside and feast, until the
imagination of the people became directive and resourceful. So there
should be little wonder that they learned readily and that their
transformation under organized government and institutions was rapid.
The chapters that follow are replete with
the richness of the imagery peculiar to the Polynesian, and no doubt
none will appreciate this volume of legends more than the people of
Hawaii themselves. May it serve them as a light showing the path they
have trod in passing through the valley of superstition to the high
lands of truth and understanding.
The author is to be congratulated because
of the patience and persistence with which he has worked in this
little-known field of ethnology and also for the dearness and
completeness of his narrative. As this part of the world comes into the
full measure of its importance may this book of "Legends of Ghosts and
Ghost-gods" win wide appreciation as a contribution to our knowledge of
the Pacific Islands.
J. W. GILMORE,
Professor of Agronomy,
University of California
The legends of the Hawaiian Islands are
as diverse as those of any country in the world. They are also entirely
distinct in form and thought from the fairy-tales which excite the
interest and wonder of the English and German children. The mythology of
Hawaii follows the laws upon which all myths are constructed. The
Islanders have developed some beautiful nature-myths. Certain phenomena
have been observed and the imagination has fitted the story to the
interesting object which has attracted attention.
Now the Rainbow Maiden of Manoa, a valley
lying back of Honolulu, is the story of a princess whose continual death
and resurrection were invented to harmonize with the formation of a
series of exquisite rainbows which are born on the mountain-sides in the
upper end of the valley and die when the mist clouds reach the plain
into which the valley opens. Then there were the fish of the Hawaiian
Islands which vie with the butterflies of South America in their
multitudinous combinations of colors. These imaginative people wondered
how the fish were painted, so for a story a battle between two chiefs
was either invented or taken as a basis. The chiefs fought on the
mountain-sides until finally one was driven into the sea and compelled
to make the deep waters his continual abiding-place. Here he found a
unique and pleasant occupation in calling the various kinds of fish to
his submarine home and then painting them in gay hues according to the
dictates of his fancy. Thus we have a pure nature-myth developed from
the love of the beautiful, one of the highest emotions dwelling in the
hearts of the Hawaiians of the long ago.
So, again, Maui, a wonder-working hero
like the Hercules of Grecian mythology, heard the birds sing, and noted
their beautiful forms as they flitted from tree to tree and mingled
their bright plumage with the leaves of the fragrant blossoms.
No other one of those who lived in the
long ago could see what Maui saw. They heard the mysterious music, but
the songsters were invisible. Many were the fancies concerning these
strange creatures whom they could hear but could not see. Maui finally
pitied his friends and made the birds visible. Ever since, man has been
able to both hear the music and see the beauty of his forest neighbors.
Such nature-myths as these are well
worthy of preservation by the side of any European fairytale. In purity
of thought, vividness of imagination, and delicacy of coloring the
Hawaiian myths are to be given a high place in literature among the
stories of nature vivified by the imagination.
Another side of Hawaiian folk-lore is
just as worthy of comparison. Lovers of "Jack-the-Giant-Killer," and of
the many wonder-workers dwelling in the mist-lands of other nations,
would enjoy reading the marvelous record of Maui, the skilful demi-god
of Hawaii, who went fishing with a magic hook, and pulled up from the
depths of the ocean groups of islands. This story is told in a
matter-of-fact way, as if it were a fishing-excursion only a little out
of the ordinary course. Maui lived in a land where volcanic fires were
always burning in the mountains. Nevertheless it was a little
inconvenient to walk thirty or forty miles for a live coal after the
chill winds of the night had put out the fire which had been carefully
protected the day before. Thus, when he saw that some intelligent birds
knew the art of making a fire, he captured the leader and forced him to
tell the secret of rubbing certain sticks together until fire came.
Maui also made snares, captured the sun
and compelled it to journey regularly and slowly across the heavens.
Thus the day was regulated to meet the wants of mankind. He lifted the
heavens after they had rested so long upon all the plants that their
leaves were flat.
There was a ledge of rock in one of the
rivers, so Maui uprooted a tree and pushed it through, making an easy
passage for both water and man. He invented many helpful articles for
the use of mankind, but meanwhile frequently filled the days of his
friends with trouble on account of the mischievous pranks which he
played on them.
Fairies and gnomes dwelt in the woodland,
coming forth at night to build temples, or massive walls, to fashion
canoes, or whisper warnings. The birds and the fishes were capable and
intelligent guardians over the households which had adopted them as
protecting deities. Birds of brilliant plumage and sweet song were
always faithful attendants on the chiefs, and able to converse with
those over whom they kept watch. Sharks and other mighty fish of the
deep waters were reliable messengers for those who rendered them
sacrifices, often carrying their devotees from island to island and
protecting them from many dangers.
Sometimes the gruesome and horrible
creeps into Hawaiian folk-lore. A poison tree figures in the legends and
finally becomes one of the most feared of all the gods of Hawaii. A
cannibal dog, cannibal ghosts, and even a cannibal chief are prominent
among the noted characters of the past.
Then the power of praying a person to
death with the aid of departed spirits was used, and is believed in, at
the present time.
Almost every valley of the island has its
peculiar and interesting myth. Often there is a historical foundation
which has been dealt with fancifully and enlarged into miraculous
proportions. There are hidden caves, which can be entered only by diving
under the great breakers or into the deep waters of inland pools, around
which cluster tales of love and adventure.
There are many mythological characters
whose journeys extend to all the islands of the group. The Maui stories
are not limited to the large island Hawaii and a part of the adjoining
island which bears the name of Maui, but these stories are told in a
garbled form on all the islands. So Pele, the fire-goddess, who dwelt in
the hottest regions of the most active volcanoes, belongs to all, and
also Kamapuaa, who is sometimes her husband, but more frequently her
enemy. The conflicts between the two are often suggested by destructive
lava flows checked by storms or ocean waves. It cannot be suspected that
the ancient Hawaiian had the least idea of deifying fire and water--and
yet the continual conflict between man and woman is like the eternal
enmity between the two antagonistic elements of nature.
When the borders of mist-land are
crossed, a rich store of folk-lore with a historical foundation is
discovered. Chiefs and gods mingle together as in the days of the
Nibelungen Lied. Voyages are made to many distant islands of the Pacific
Ocean, whose names are frequently mentioned in the songs and tales of
the wandering heroes. A chief from Samoa establishes a royal family on
the largest of the Hawaiian Islands, and a chief from the Hawaiian group
becomes a ruler in Tahiti.
Indeed the rovers of the Pacific have
tales of seafaring which equal the accounts of the voyages of the
The legends of the Hawaiian Islands are
valuable in themselves, in that they reveal an understanding of the
phenomena of nature and unveil their early history with its mythological
setting. They are also valuable for comparison with the legends of the
other Pacific islands, and they are exceedingly interesting when
contrasted with the folk-lore of other nations.
The following legends treat of the
worship of the lesser gods of Hawaii and of the domestic life of the
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"A syllable in Hawaiian may consist of a
single vowel, of a consonant united with a vowel or at most of a
consonant and two vowels, never of more than one consonant. The accent
of five-sixths of the words is on the penult, and a few proper names
accent the first syllable.
In Hawaiian every syllable ends in a
vowel and no syllable can have more than three letters, generally not
more than two and a large number of syllables consist of single
letters-vowels. Hence the vowel sounds greatly predominate over the
consonant. The language may therefore appear monotonous to one
unacquainted with its force.
In Hawaiian there is a great lack of
generic terms, as is the case with all uncultivated languages. No people
have use for generic terms until they begin to reason and the language
shows that they were better warriors and poets than philosophers and
statesmen. Their language, however, richly abounds in specific names and
The general rule, then, is that the
accent falls on the penult; but there are many exceptions and some words
which look the same to the eye take on entirely different meanings by
different tones, accents, or inflections.
The study of these kaaos or legends would
demonstrate that the Hawaiians possessed a language not only adapted to
their former necessities but capable of being used in introducing the
arts of civilized society and especially of pure morals, of law, and the
religion of the Bible."
The above quotations are from Lorrin
Andrew's Dictionary of the Hawaiian Language, containing some 15,500
Hawaiian words, printed in Honolulu in 1865.
is sounded as in father
as in they
as in marine
as in note
as in rule or as oo in moon
when sounded as a diphthong resembles English
when sounded as a diphthong resembles ou as in loud
The consonants are h, k,
l, m, n, p, and w. No distinction is
made between k and t or l and r, and w
sounds like v between the penult and final syllable of a word.
Back to Contents
Hawaiian temples were never
works of art. Broken lava was always near the site. Unhewn stones were
piled into massive walls and laid in terraces for altar and floors.
Water-worn pebbles were carried from the beach and strewn over the
floor, making a smooth place for the naked feet of the temple dwellers
to pass without injury from the sharp-edged lava. Rude grass huts built
on terraces were the abodes of the priests and high chiefs who visited
the places of sacrifice. Elevated, flat-topped piles of stones were
built at one end of the temple for the chief idols and the sacrifices
placed before them. Simplicity of detail marked every step of temple
No hewn pillars or arched
gateways of even the most primitive designs can be found in any of the
temples whether of recent date or belonging to remote antiquity. There
was no attempt at ornamentation even in the images of the great gods
which they worshipped. Crude and hideous were the images before which
they offered sacrifice and prayer. In themselves the heiaus, or temples,
of the Hawaiian Islands have but little attraction. To-day they seem
more like massive walled cattle-pens than places which have been used
for worship. On the southeast coast of Hawaii near Kalapana is one of
the largest, oldest, and best preserved heiaus. It is worthy the name of
temple only as it is intimately associated with the religious customs of
the Hawaiians. Its walls are several feet thick and in places ten to
twelve feet high. It is divided into rooms or pens, in one of which
still lies the huge sacrificial stone upon which victims--sometimes
human--were slain before the bodies were placed as offerings in front of
the hideous idols leaning against the stone walls.
This heiau is now called
Wahaula (red-mouth). In ancient times it was known as Ahaula (the red
assembly), possibly denoting that at times the priests and their
attendants wore red mantles in their processions or during some part of
their sacred ceremonies.
This temple is said to be
the oldest of all the Hawaiian heiaus--except possibly the heiau at
Kohala on the northern coast of the same island. These two heiaus date
back in tradition to the time of Paao, the priest from Upolu, Samoa, who
was said to have built them. He was the traditional father of the
priestly line which ran parallel to the royal genealogy of the
Kamehamehas during several centuries until the last high priest,
Hewahewa, became a follower of Jesus Christ--the Saviour of the world.
This was the last heiau destroyed when the ancient tabus and ceremonial
rites were overthrown by the chiefs just before the coming of Christian
missionaries. At that time the grass houses of the priests were burned
and in these raging flames were thrown the wooden idols back of the
altars and the bamboo huts of the soothsayers and the rude images on the
walls, with everything combustible which belonged to the ancient order
of worship. Only the walls and rough stone floors were left in the
In the outer temple court
was the most noted sacred grave in all the islands. Earth had been
carried from the mountain-sides inland. Leaves and decaying trees added
to the permanency of the soil. Here in a most unlikely place it was said
that all the varieties of trees then found in the islands had been
gathered by the priests--
the descendants of Paao. To
this day the grave stands by the temple walls, an object of
superstitious awe among the natives. Many of the varieties of trees
planted there have died, leaving only those which were more hardy and
needed less priestly care than they received a hundred years or more
The temple is built near the
coast on the rough, sharp, broken rocks of an ancient lava flow. In many
places in and around the temple the lava was dug out, making holes three
or four feet across and from one to two feet deep. These in the days of
the priesthood had been filled with earth brought in baskets from the
mountains. Here they raised sweet potatoes and taro and bananas. Now the
rains have washed the soil away and to the unknowing there is no sign of
previous agriculture. Near these depressions and along the paths leading
to Wahaula other holes were sometimes cut out of the hard fine-grained
lava. When heavy rains fell, little grooves carried the drops of water
to these holes and they became small cisterns. Here the thirsty
messengers running from one priestly clan to another, or the traveller
or worshippers coming to the sacred place, could almost always find a
few drops of water to quench their thirst.
Usually these water-holes
were covered with a large flat stone under which the water ran into the
cistern. To this day these small water-places border the path across the
pahoehoe lava field which lies adjacent to the broken a-a lava
upon which the Wahaula heiau is built. Many of them are still covered as
in the days of the long ago.
It is not strange that
legends have developed through the mists of the centuries around this
rude old temple.
Wahaula was a tabu temple of
the very highest rank. The native chants said,
"No keia heiau oia ke
("Concerning this heiau is the burning tabu.")
"Enaena" means "burning with
a red hot rage." The heiau was so thoroughly "tabu," or "kapu," that the
smoke of its fires falling upon any of the people or even upon any one
of the chiefs was sufficient cause for punishment by death, with the
body as a sacrifice to the gods of the temple.
These gods were of the very
highest rank among the Hawaiian deities. Certain days were tabu to
Lono--or Rongo, as he was known in other island groups of the Pacific
Ocean. Other days belonged to Ku--who was also worshipped from New
Zealand to Tahiti. At other times Kane, known as Tane by many
Polynesians, was held supreme. Then again Kanaloa, or Tanaroa, sometimes
worshipped in Samoa and other island groups as the greatest of all their
gods--had his days especially set apart for sacrifice and chant.
The Mu, or "body-catcher,"
of this heiau with his assistants seems to have been continually on the
watch for human victims, and woe to the unfortunate man who carelessly
or ignorantly walked where the winds blew the smoke from the temple
fires. No one dared rescue him from the hands of the hunter of men--for
then the wrath of all the gods was sure to follow him all the days of
The people of the districts
around Wahaula always watched the course of the winds with great
anxiety, carefully noting the direction taken by the smoke. This smoke
was the shadow cast by the deity worshipped, and was far more sacred
than the shadow of the highest chief or king in all the islands.
It was always sufficient
cause for death if a common man allowed his shadow to fall upon any tabu
chief, i.e., a chief of especially high rank; but in this
"burning tabu," if any man permitted the smoke or shadow of the god who
was being worshipped in this temple to come near to him or overshadow
him, it was a mark of such great disrespect that the god was supposed to
be enaena, or red hot with rage.
Many ages ago a young chief
whom we shall know by the name Kahele determined to take an especial
journey around the island visiting all the noted and sacred places and
becoming acquainted with the alii, or chiefs, of the other districts.
He passed from place to
place, taking part with the chiefs who entertained him sometimes in the
use of the papa-hee, or surf-board, riding the white-capped surf as it
majestically swept shoreward--sometimes spending night after night in
the innumerable gambling contests which passed under the name pili
waiwai--and sometimes riding the narrow sled, or holua, with which
Hawaiian chiefs raced down the steep grassed lanes. Then again, with a
deep sense of the solemnity of sacred things, he visited the most noted
of the heiaus and made contributions to the offerings before the gods.
Thus the days passed, and the slow journey was very pleasant to Kahele.
In time he came to Puna, the
district in which was located the temple Wahaula.
But alas! in the midst of
the many stories of the past which he had heard, and the many pleasures
he had enjoyed while on his journey, Kahele forgot the peculiar power of
the tabu of the smoke of Wahaula. The fierce winds of the south were
blowing and changing from point to point. The young man saw the sacred
grove in the edge of which the temple walls could be discerned. Thin
wreaths of smoke were tossed here and there from the temple fires.
Kahele hastened toward the
temple. The Mu was watching his coming and joyfully marking him as a
victim. The altars of the gods were desolate, and if but a particle of
smoke fell upon the young man no one could keep him from the hands of
The perilous moment came.
The warm breath of one of the fires touched the young chief's cheek.
Soon a blow from the club of the Mu laid him senseless on the rough
stones of the outer court of the temple. The smoke of the wrath of the
gods had fallen upon him, and it was well that he should lie as a
sacrifice upon their altars.
Soon the body with the life
still in it was thrown across the sacrificial stone. Sharp knives made
from the strong wood of the bamboo let his life-blood flow down the
depressions across the face of the stone. Quickly the body was
dismembered and offered as a sacrifice.
For some reason the priests,
after the flesh had decayed, set apart the bones for some special
purpose. The legends imply that the bones were to be treated
dishonorably. It may have been that the bones were folded together and
known as unihipili, bones, folded and laid away for purposes of
incantation. Such bundles of bones were put through a process of prayers
and charms until at last it was thought a new spirit was created which
dwelt in that bundle and gave the possessor a peculiar power in deeds of
The spirit of Kahele
rebelled against this disposition of all that remained of his body. He
wanted to be back in his native district, that he might enjoy the
pleasures of the Under-world with his own chosen companions. Restlessly
the spirit haunted the dark corners of the temple, watching the priests
as they handled his bones.
Helplessly the ghost fumed
and fretted against its condition. It did all that a disembodied spirit
could do to attract the attention of the priests.
At last the spirit fled by
night from this place of torment to the home which he had so joyfully
left a short time before.
Kahele's father was the high
chief of Kau. Surrounded by retainers, he passed his days in quietness
and peace waiting for the return of his son.
One night a strange dream
came to him. He heard a voice calling from the mysterious confines of
the spirit-land. As he listened, a spirit form stood by his side. The
ghost was that of his son Kahele.
By means of the dream the
ghost revealed to the father that he had been put to death and that his
bones were in great danger of dishonorable treatment.
The father awoke benumbed
with fear, realizing that his son was calling upon him for immediate
help. At once he left his people and journeyed from place to place
secretly, not knowing where or when Kahele had died, but fully sure that
the spirit of his vision was that of his son. It was not difficult to
trace the young man. He had left his footprints openly all along the
way. There was nothing of shame or dishonor--and the father's heart
filled with pride as he hastened on.
From time to time, however,
he heard the spirit voice calling him to save the bones of the body of
his dead son. At last he felt that his journey was nearly done. He had
followed the footsteps of Kahele almost entirely around the island, and
had come to Puna--the last district before his own land of Kau would
welcome his return.
The spirit voice could be
heard now in the dream which nightly came to him. Warnings and
directions were frequently given.
Then the chief came to the
lava fields of Wahaula and lay down to rest. The ghost came to him again
in a dream, telling him that great personal danger was near at hand. The
chief was a very strong man, excelling in athletic and brave deeds, but
in obedience to the spirit voice he rose early in the morning, secured
oily nuts from a kukui-tree, beat out the oil, and anointed himself
Walking along carelessly as
if to avoid suspicion, he drew near to the lands of the temple Wahaula.
Soon a man came out to meet him. This man was an Olohe, a beardless man
belonging to a lawless robber clan which infested the district, possibly
assisting the man-hunters of the temple in securing victims for the
temple altars. This Olohe was very strong and self-confident, and
thought he would have but little difficulty in destroying this stranger
who journeyed alone through Puna.
Almost all day the battle
raged between the two men. Back and forth they forced each other over
the lava beds. The chief's well-oiled body was very difficult for the
Olohe to grasp. Bruised and bleeding from repeated falls on the rough
lava, both of the combatants were becoming very weary. Then the chief
made a new attack, forcing the Olohe into a narrow place from which
there was no escape, and at last seizing him, breaking his bones, and
then killing him.
As the shadows of night
rested over the temple and its sacred grave the chief crept closer to
the dreaded tabu walls. Concealing himself he waited for the ghost to
reveal to him the best plan for action. The ghost came, but was
compelled to bid the father wait patiently for a fit time when the
secret place in which the bones were hidden could be safely visited.
For several days and nights
the chief hid himself near the temple. He secretly uttered the prayers
and incantations needed to secure the protection of his family gods.
One night the darkness was
very great, and the priests and watchmen of the temple felt sure that no
one would attempt to enter the sacred precincts. Deep sleep rested upon
all the temple-dwellers.
Then the ghost of Kahele
hastened to the place where the father was sleeping and aroused him for
the dangerous task before him.
As the father arose he saw
this ghost outlined in the darkness, beckoning him to follow. Step by
step he felt his way cautiously over the rough path and along the temple
walls until he saw the ghost standing near a great rock pointing at a
part of the wall.
The father seized a stone
which seemed to be the one most directly in the line of the ghost's
pointing. To his surprise it was removed very easily from the wall. Back
of it was a hollow place in which lay a bundle of folded bones.
The ghost urged the chief to
take these bones and depart quickly.
The father obeyed, and
followed the spirit guide until safely away from the temple of the
burning wrath of the gods. He carried the bones to Kau and placed them
in his own secret family burial cave.
Images of Gods at the Heiau
The ghost of Wahaula went
down to the spirit world in great joy. Death had come. The life of the
young chief had been taken for temple service and yet there had at last
been nothing dishonorable connected with the destruction of the body and
the passing away of the spirit. Back to
MALUAE AND THE
His is a story from Manoa
Valley, back of Honolulu. In the upper end of the valley, at the foot of
the highest mountains on the island Oahu, lived Maluae. He was a farmer,
and had chosen this land because rain fell abundantly on the mountains,
and the streams brought down fine soil from the decaying forests and
disintegrating rocks, fertilizing his plants.
Here he cultivated bananas
and taro and sweet potatoes. His bananas grew rapidly by the sides of
the brooks, and yielded large bunches of fruit from their tree-like
stems; his taro filled small walled-in pools, growing in the water like
water-lilies, until the roots were matured, when the plants were pulled
up and the roots boiled and prepared for food; his sweet potatoes--a
vegetable known among the ancient New Zealanders as ku-maru, and
supposed to have come from Hawaii-were planted on the drier uplands.
Thus he had plenty of food
continually growing, and ripening from time to time. Whenever he
gathered any of his food products he brought a part to his family temple
and placed it on an altar before the gods Kane and Kanaloa, then he took
the rest to his home for his family to eat.
He had a boy whom he dearly
loved, whose name was Kaa-lii (rolling chief). This boy was a careless,
One day the boy was tired
and hungry. He passed by the temple of the gods and saw bananas, ripe
and sweet, on the little platform before the gods. He took these bananas
and ate them all.
The gods looked down on the
altar expecting to find food, but it was all gone and there was nothing
for them. They were very angry, and ran out after the boy. They caught
him eating the bananas, and killed him. The body they left lying under
the trees, and taking out his ghost threw it into the Under-world.
The father toiled hour after
hour cultivating his food plants, and when wearied returned to his home.
On the way he met the two gods. They told him how his boy had robbed
them of their sacrifices and how they had punished him. They said, "We
have sent his ghost body to the lowest regions of the Under-world."
The father was very
sorrowful and heavyhearted as he went on his way to his desolate home.
He searched for the body of his boy, and at last found it. He saw too
that the story of the gods was true, for partly eaten bananas filled the
mouth, which was set in death.
He wrapped the body very
carefully in kapa cloth made from the bark of trees. He carried it into
his rest-house and laid it on the sleeping-mat. After a time he lay down
beside the body, refusing all food, and planning to die with his boy. He
thought if he could escape from his own body he would be able to go down
where the ghost of his boy had been sent. If he could find that ghost he
hoped to take it to the other part of the Under-world, where they could
be happy together.
He placed no offerings on
the altar of the gods. No prayers were chanted. The afternoon and
evening passed slowly. The gods waited for their worshipper, but he came
not. They looked down on the altar of sacrifice, but there was nothing
The night passed and the
following day. The father lay by the side of his son, neither eating nor
drinking, and longing only for death. The house was tightly closed.
Then the gods talked
together, and Kane said: "Maluae eats no food, he prepares no awa to
drink, and there is no water by him. He is near the door of the
Under-world. If he should die, we would be to blame."
Kanaloa said: "He has been a
good man, but now we do not hear any prayers. We are losing our
worshipper. We in quick anger killed his son. Was this the right reward?
He has called us morning and evening in his worship. He has provided
fish and fruits and vegetables for our altars. He has always prepared
away from the juice of the yellow awa root for us to drink. We have not
paid him well for his care."
Then they decided to go and
give life to the father, and permit him to take his ghost body and go
down into Po, the dark land, to bring back the ghost of the boy. So they
went to Maluae and told him they were sorry for what they had done.
The father was very weak
from hunger, and longing for death, and could scarcely listen to them.
When Kane said, "Have you
love for your child?" the father whispered: "Yes. My love is without
end." "Can you go down into the dark land and get that spirit and put it
back in the body which lies here?"
"No," the father said, "no,
I can only die and go to live with him and make him happier by taking
him to a better place."
Then the gods said, "We will
give you the power to go after your boy and we will help you to escape
the dangers of the land of ghosts."
Then the father, stirred by
hope, rose up and took food and drink. Soon he was strong enough to go
on his journey.
The gods gave him a ghost
body and also prepared a hollow stick like bamboo, in which they put
food, battle-weapons, and a piece of burning lava for fire.
Not far from Honolulu is a
beautiful modern estate with fine roads, lakes, running brooks, and
interesting valleys extending back into the mountain range. This is
called by the very ancient name Moanalua (two lakes). Near the seacoast
of this estate was one of the most noted ghost localities of the
islands. The ghosts after wandering over the island Oahu would come to
this place to find a way into their real home, the Under-world or Po.
Here was a ghostly
breadfruit-tree named Lei-walo, possibly meaning "the eight wreaths" or
" the eighth wreath"--the last wreath of leaves from the land of the
living which would meet the eyes of the dying.
The ghosts would leap or fly
or climb into the branches of this tree, trying to find a rotten branch
upon which they could sit until it broke and threw them into the dark
Maluae climbed up the
breadfruit-tree. He found a branch where ghosts were sitting waiting for
it to fall. His weight was so much greater than theirs that the branch
broke at once, and down they all fell into the land of Po.
He needed merely to taste
the food in his hollow cane to have new life and strength. This he had
done when he climbed the tree; thus he had been able to push past the
fabled guardians of the pathway of the ghosts in the Upper-world. As he
entered the Under-world he again tasted the food of the gods and he felt
himself growing stronger and stronger.
He took a magic war-club and
a spear out of the cane given by the gods. Ghostly warriors tried to
hinder his entrance into the different districts of the dark land. The
spirits of dead chiefs challenged him when he passed their homes. Battle
after battle was fought. His magic club struck the warriors down, and
his spear tossed them aside.
Sometimes he was warmly
greeted and aided by ghosts of kindly spirit. Thus he went from place to
place, searching for his boy, finding him at last, as the Hawaiians
quaintly expressed it, "down in the papa-ku" (the established foundation
of Po), choking and suffocating from the bananas of ghost-land which he
was compelled to continually force into his mouth.
The father caught the spirit
of the boy and started back toward the Upper-world, but the ghosts
surrounded him. They tried to catch him and take the spirit away from
him. Again the father partook of the food of the gods. Once more he
wielded his war-club, but the hosts of enemies were too great.
Multitudes arose or, all sides, crushing him by their overwhelming
At last he raised his magic
hollow cane and took the last portion of food. Then he poured out the
portion of burning lava which the gods had placed inside. It fell upon
the dry floor of the Under-world. The flames dashed into the trees and
the shrubs of ghost-land. Fire-holes opened and streams of lava burst
Backward fled the multitudes
of spirits. The father thrust the spirit of the boy quickly into the
empty magic cane and rushed swiftly up to his home-land. He brought the
spirit to the body lying in the rest-house and forced it to find again
its living home.
Afterward the father and the
boy took food to the altars of the gods, and chanted the accustomed
prayers heartily and loyally all the rest of their lives.
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A point of land on the
northwestern coast of the island Oahu is called Kalae-o-Kaena which
means "The Cape of Kaena."
A short distance from this
cape lies a large rock which bears the name Pohaku-o-Kauai, or rock of
Kauai, a large island northwest of Oahu. This rock is as large as a
There is an interesting
legend told on the island of Oahu which explains why these names have
for generations been fastened to the cape and to the rock. A long time
ago there lived on Kauai a man of wonderful power, Hau-pu. When he was
born, the signs of a demi-god were over the house of his birth.
Lightning flashed through the skies, and thunder reverberated--a rare
event in the Hawaiian Islands, and supposed to be connected with the
birth or death or some very unusual occurrence in the life of a chief.
Mighty floods of rain fell
and poured in torrents down the mountain-sides, carrying the red iron
soil into the valleys in such quantities that the rapids and the
waterfalls became the color of blood, and the natives called this a
During the storm, and even
after sunshine filled the valley, a beautiful rainbow rested over the
house in which the young chief was born. This rainbow was thought to
come from the miraculous powers of the new-born child shining out from
him instead of from the sunlight around him. Many chiefs throughout the
centuries of Hawaiian legends were said to have had this rainbow around
them all their lives.
Hau-pu while a child was
very powerful, and after he grew up was widely known as a great warrior.
He would attack and defeat armies of his enemies without aid from any
person. His spear was like a mighty weapon, sometimes piercing a host of
enemies, and sometimes putting aside all opposition when he thrust it
into the ranks of his opponents.
If he had thrown his spear
and if fighting with his bare hands did not vanquish his foes, he would
leap to the hillside, tear up a great tree, and with it sweep away all
before him as if he were wielding a huge broom. He was known and feared
throughout all the Hawaiian Islands. He became angry quickly and used
his great powers very rashly.
One night he lay sleeping in
his royal rest-house on the side of a mountain which faced the
neighboring island of Oahu. Between the two islands lay a broad channel
about thirty miles wide. When clouds were on the face of the sea, these
islands were hidden from each other; but when they lifted, the rugged
valleys of the mountains on one island could be clearly seen from the
other. Even by moonlight the shadowy lines would appear.
This night the strong man
stirred in his sleep. Indistinct noises seemed to surround his house. He
turned over and dropped off into slumber again.
Soon he was aroused a second
time, and he was awake enough to hear shouts of men far, far away.
Louder rose the noise mixed with the roar of the great surf waves, so he
realized that it came from the sea, and he then forced himself to rise
and stumble to the door.
He looked out toward Oahu. A
multitude of lights were flashing on the sea before his sleepy eyes. A
low murmur of many voices came from the place where the dancing lights
seemed to be. His confused thoughts made it appear to him that a great
fleet of warriors was coming from Oahu to attack his people.
He blindly rushed out to the
edge of a high precipice which overlooked the channel. Evidently many
boats and many people were out in the sea below.
He laughed, and stooped down
and tore a huge rock from its place. This he swung back and forth, back
and forth, back and forth, until he gave it great impetus which added to
his own miraculous power sent it far out over the sea. Like a great
cloud it rose in the heavens and, as if blown by swift winds, sped on
Over on the shores of Oahu a
chief whose name was Kaena had called his people out for a night's
fishing. Canoes large and small came from all along the coast. Torches
without number had been made and placed in the canoes. The largest
fish-nets had been brought.
There was no need of
silence. Nets had been set in the best places. Fish of all kinds were to
be aroused and frightened into the nets. Flashing lights, splashing
paddles, and clamor from hundreds of voices resounded all around the
Gradually the canoes came
nearer and nearer the centre. The shouting increased. Great joy ruled
the tumult which drowned the roar of the waves.
Across the channel and up
the mountain-sides of Kauai swept the shouts of the fishing-party. Into
the ears of drowsy Hau-pu the noise forced itself. Little dreamed the
excited fishermen of the effect of this on far-away Kauai.
Suddenly something like a
bird as large as a mountain seemed to be above, and then with a mighty
sound like the roar of winds it descended upon them.
Smashed and submerged were
the canoes when the huge boulder thrown by Hau-pu hurled itself upon
The chief Kaena and his
canoe were in the centre of this terrible mass of wreckage, and he and
many of his people lost their lives.
The waves swept sand upon
the shore until in time a long point of land was formed. The remaining
followers of the dead chief named this cape "Kaena."
The rock thrown by Hau-pu
embedded itself in the depths of the ocean, but its head rose far above
the water, even when raging storms dashed turbulent waves against it. To
this death-dealing rock the natives gave the name "Rock of Kauai."
Thus for generations has the
deed of the man of giant force been remembered on Oahu, and so have a
cape and a rock received their names.
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From a Taro Patch
A myth is a purely
imaginative story. A legend is a story with some foundation in fact. A
fable tacks on a moral. A tradition is a myth or legend or fact handed
down from generation to generation.
The old Hawaiians were
frequently mythmakers. They imagined many a fairy-story for the
different localities of the islands, and these are very interesting. The
myth of the two taro plants belongs to South Kona, Hawaii, and affords
an excellent illustration of Hawaiian imagination. The story is told in
different ways, and came to the writer in the present form:
A chief lived on the
mountain-side above Hookena. There his people cultivated taro, made kapa
cloth, and prepared the trunks of koa-trees for canoes. He had a very
fine taro patch. The plants prided themselves upon their rapid and
In one part of the taro
pond, side by side, grew two taro plants--finer, stronger, and more
beautiful than the others. The leaf stalks bent over in more perfect
curves: the leaves developed in graceful proportions. Mutual admiration
filled the hearts of the two taro plants and resulted in pledges of
One day the chief was
talking to his servants about the food to be made ready for a feast. He
ordered the two especially fine taro plants to be pulled up. One of the
servants came to the home of the two lovers and told them that they were
to be taken by the chief.
Because of their great
affection for each other they determined to cling to life as long as
possible, and therefore moved to another part of the taro patch, leaving
their neighbors to be pulled up instead of themselves.
But the chief soon saw them
in their new home and again ordered their destruction. Again they fled.
This happened from time to time until the angry chief determined that
they should be taken, no matter what part of the pond they might be in.
The two taro plants thought
best to flee, therefore took to themselves wings and made a short flight
to a neighboring taro patch. Here again their enemy found them. A second
flight was made to another part of South Kona, and then to still
another, until all Kona was interested in the perpetual pursuit and the
perpetual escape. At last there was no part of Kona in which they could
be concealed. A friend of the angry chief would reveal their
hiding-place, whileone of their own friends would give warning of the
coming of their pursuer. At last they leaped into the air and flew on
and on until they were utterly weary and fell into a taro patch near
Waiohinu. But their chief had ordered the imu (cooking-place) to be made
ready for them, and had hastened along the way on foot, trying to
capture them if at any time they should try to alight. However, their
wings moved more swiftly than his feet, so they had a little rest before
he came near to their new home. Then again they lifted themselves into
the sky. Favoring winds carried them along and they flew a great
distance away from South Kona into the neighboring district of Kau. Here
they found a new home under a kindly chief. Here they settled down and
lived many years under the name of Kalo-eke-eke, or "The Timid Taro." A
large family grew up about them and a happy old age blessed their
It is possible that this
beautiful little story may have grown out of the ancient Hawaiian
unwritten law which sometimes permitted the subjects of a chief to move
away from their home and transfer their allegiance to some neighboring
ruler. Back to Contents
Some of the Hawaiian trees
have beautifully grained wood, and at the present time are very valuable
for furniture and interior decoration. The koa is probably the best of
the trees of this class. It is known as the Hawaiian mahogany. The grain
is very fine and curly and wavy, and is capable of a very high polish.
The koa still grows luxuriantly on the steep sides and along the ridges
of the high mountains of all the islands of the Hawaiian group. It has
great powers of endurance. It is not easily worn by the pebbles and sand
of the beach, nor is it readily split or broken by the tempestuous waves
of the ocean, therefore from time immemorial the koa has been the tree
for the canoe and surf-board of the Hawaiians. Long and large have been
the canoes hewn from the massive tree trunks by the aid of the
koi-pohaku, the cutting stone, or adze, of ancient Hawaii. Sometimes
these canoes were given miraculous powers of motion so that they swept
through the seas more rapidly than the swiftest shark. Often the god of
the winds, who had special care over some one of the high chiefs, would
carry him from island to island in a canoe which never rested when calms
prevailed or stopped when fierce waves wrenched, but bore the chief
swiftly and unfailingly to the desired haven.
There is a delightful little
story about a chief who visited the most northerly island, Kauai. He
found the natives of that island feasting and revelling in all the
abandon of savage life. Sports and games innumerable were enjoyed. Thus
day and night passed until, as the morning of a new day dawned, an
unwonted stir along the beach made manifest some event of very great
importance. The new chief apparently cared but little for all the
excitement. The king of the island had sent one of his royal ornaments
to a small island some miles distant from the Kauai shores. He was
blessed with a daughter so beautiful that all the available chiefs
desired her for wife. The father, hoping to avoid the complications
which threatened to involve his household with the households of the
jealous suitors, announced that he would give his daughter to the man
who secured the ornament from the far-away island. It was to be a canoe
race with a wife for the prize.
The young chiefs waited for
the hour appointed. Their well-polished koa canoes lined the beach. The
stranger chief made no preparation, Quietly he enjoyed the gibes and
taunts hurled from one to another by the young chiefs. Laughingly he
requested permission to join in the contest, receiving as the reward for
his request a look of approbation from the handsome chiefess.
The word was given. The
well-manned canoes were pushed from the shore and forced out through the
inrolling surf. In the rush some of the boats were interlocked with
others, some filled with water, while others safely broke away from the
rest and passed out of sight toward the coveted island. Still the
stranger seemed to be in no haste to win the prize. The face of the
chiefess grew dark with disappointment.
At last the stranger
launched his finely polished canoe and called one of his followers to
sail with him. It seemed to be utterly impossible for him to even dream
of securing the prize, but the canoe began to move as if it had the
wings of a swift bird or the fins of fleetest fish. He had taken for his
companion in his magic canoe one of the gods controlling the ocean
winds. He was first to reach the island. Then he came swiftly back for
his bride. He made his home among his new friends.
The Hawaiians had many
interesting ceremonies in connection with the process of securing the
tree and fashioning it into a canoe.
David Malo, a Hawaiian
writer of about the year 1840, says, "The building of a canoe was a
religious matter." When a man found a fine koa tree he went to the
priest whose province was canoe-making and said, "I have found a koa-tree,
a fine large tree." On receiving this information the priest went at
night to sleep before his shrine. If in his sleep he had a vision of
some one standing naked before him, he knew that the koa-tree was
rotten, and would not go up into the woods to cut that tree. If another
tree was found and he dreamed of a handsome well-dressed man or woman
standing before him, when he awoke he felt sure that the tree would make
a good canoe. Preparations were made accordingly to go into the
mountains and hew the koa into a canoe. They took with them as offerings
a pig, coconuts, red fish, and awa. Having come to the place they rested
for the night, sacrificing these things to the gods.
Sometimes, when a royal
canoe was to be prepared, it seems as if human beings were also brought
and slain at the root of the tree. There is no record of cannibalism
connected with these sacrifices, and yet when the pig and fish had been
offered before the tree, usually a hole was dug close to the tree and an
oven prepared in which the meat and vegetables were cooked for the
morning feast of the canoe-makers. The tree was carefully examined and
the signs and portents noted. The song of a little bird would frequently
cause an entire change in the enterprise.
When the time came to cut
down the tree the priest would take his stone axe and offer prayer to
the male and female deities who were supposed to be the special patrons
of canoe-building, showing them the axe, and saying: "Listen now to the
axe. This is the axe which is to cut down the tree for the canoe."
David Malo says: "When the
tree began to crack, ready to fall, they lowered their voices and
allowed no one to make a disturbance. When the tree had fallen, the head
priest mounted the trunk and called out, 'Smite with the axe, and hollow
the canoe.' This was repeated again and again as he walked along the
fallen tree, marking the full length of the desired canoe."
Dr. Emerson gives the
following as one of the prayers sometimes used by the priest when
passing along the trunk of the tree:
"Grant a canoe which shall be swift as a fish
To sail in stormy seas
When the storm tosses on all sides."
After the canoe had been
roughly shaped, the ends pointed, the bottom rounded, and perhaps a
portion of the inside of the log removed, the people fastened lines to
the canoe to haul it down to the beach. When they were ready for the
work the priest again prayed: "Oh, canoe gods, look you after this
canoe. Guard it from stem to stern, until it is placed in the
Then the canoe was hauled by
the people in front, or held back by those who were in the rear, until
it had passed all the hard and steep places along the mountain-side and
been put in place for the finishing touches. When completed, pig and
fish and fruits were again offered to the gods. Sometimes human beings
were again a part of the sacrifice.
Prayers and incantations
were part of the ceremony. There was to be no disturbance or noise, or
else it would be dangerous for its owner to go out in his new canoe. If
all the people except the priest had been quiet, the canoe was
It is said that the ceremony
of lashing the outrigger to the canoe was of very great solemnity,
probably because the ability to pass through the high surf waves
depended so much upon the outrigger as a balance which kept the canoe
from being overturned.
The story of Laka and the
fairies is told to illustrate the difficulties surrounding canoe-making.
Laka desired to make a fine canoe, and sought through the forests for
the best tree available. Taking his stone axe he toiled all day until
the tree was felled. Then he went home to rest. On the morrow he could
not find the log. The trees of the forest had been apparently
undisturbed. Again he cut a tree, and once more could not find the log.
At last he cut a tree and watched in the night. Then he saw in the night
shadows a host of the little people who toil with miraculous powers to
support them. They raised the tree and set it in its place and restored
it to its wonted appearance among its fellows. But Laka caught the king
of the gnomes and from him learned how to gain the aid rather than the
opposition of the little people. By their help his canoe was taken to
the shore and fashioned into beautiful shape for wonderful and
successful voyages. Back to Contents