Hawaiian Mythology
by Martha Beckwith 1940



One of the most popular figures in Hawaiian mythical narrative is the being, half man and half hog, who goes by the name of Kama-pua‘a (Hog-child). Tradition relates the immigration to the group of the Kamapua‘a family during the colonizing period. An extended and racy account of his adventures as a kupua on these islands or in Kahiki appears in one of the fictitious narratives (kaao) collected from Fornander informants. Local legends and nursery tales further embellish his story. As wooer of Pele he is drawn into the Pele cycle and, according to Kamakau, the child of Pele by Kamapua‘a becomes an "ancestor of chiefs and commoners" on these islands. In the genealogical chant of the Kumulipo there occurs, during the fifth period of the po, the birth of a being half hog, half god, of whom the chant says:

His snout was of great size and with it (he) dug the earth,
He dug until he raised a great mound,
He raised a hill for his gods,
A hill, a precipice in front,
For the offspring of a pig that was born.

The "mound" raised by the pig-god may perhaps be understood to refer to a powerful family of descendants.

The colonizing tradition represents Kamapua‘a as the grandson of the sorceress Kamaunua-niho (Ka-mau-nui) and connects the family first with the island of Maui, then with Oahu and Kauai, and finally extends the adventures of the hog-man to Hawaii and Kahiki, from which land the family originally migrated.


The chiefess Ka-maunu-a-niho comes from Kahiki with her husband Humu (Aumu) and the chief Kalana-nu‘u-nui-kua-mamao. They land at Kalahawai in Waihe‘e on Maui and live in the uplands of Waihe‘e, where Kamaunu takes Kalana for her husband and Humu retires to Kahiki. Her daughter Hina becomes the wife of Olopana, chief of the northern district of Oahu, and has a son who is named Kahiki-honua-kele (Kahiki the land that moved off) because of the family affiliation with Kahiki. Hina then takes Olopana's younger brother Kahiki-ula, chief of Kauai, as her husband and has two sons, named Kelekeleiaku(aiku?) and Kamapua‘a. 

As a kupua, Kamapua‘a is under the special protection of ancestral gods and himself godlike. As a man he is tall and handsome; "the big foreigner with sparkling eyes" (ka haole nui, maka olohilohi) he is called in chant. Some say that he has bristles down his back which he conceals under a cape. He is able to change himself not only into a hog but also into fishes and plants of various kinds. He is said to have escaped Pele's fire by changing himself into the tough-skinned little fish known as the humuhumu-nukunuku-a-pua‘a and when a pig is not available at a time of sacrifice this fish or some other of the hog-man's forms may be substituted, such as the coarse grass (panicum pruriens) called kukae-pua‘a (pig excrement), patches of which mark his wanderings over the islands. His plant bodies are enumerated in one of his name chants, and the story is that he overcomes Lono-of-the-eight-foreheads-of-stone by tangling each forehead (lae) in wild growth and the dog-man Ku-ilio-loa by stuffing himself in his weed bodies down the dog's throat and then cutting his way out. In these transformation fictions it is worth noting that the shape-shifting power to change into any given form also implies a duplication of such forms; he may himself take the form of a hog, but at his prayer the place is filled with hogs sent to his succor. He was occasionally worshiped as a god, if the report is correct that at Wainiha, Kauai, was a small paved heiau which had Kamapua‘a for its deity. 

The fictitious narrative of Kamapua‘a (Pua-pua‘a) is said to have taken sixteen hours in the recital. Most Hawaiians declare that he was born in Kahiki, but Westervelt tells of his birth on Oahu.

Kama-pua‘a is born as a foetus at Kalua-nui on the northern coast of Oahu. His older brother Kahiki-honua-kele tries to throw him away, but when his mother comes out of her bath of purification she finds him lying on her skirt in the form of a baby pig. The brother therefore takes the pig to his grandmother and Kamaunu recognizes her kupua grandson and rears him until he is grown. 

The adventures of the hog-man thus born to Hina include, first, his strife with his stepfather Olopana on Oahu; second, strifes on Kauai, first with its chief Makali‘i and his own father who is ruling under Makali‘i, next with a rival chief in behalf of his father-in-law who has bestowed wives upon himself and his friend; third, strife in Kahiki with Lono-of-the-eight-foreheads-of-stone and his dog Ku-ilio-loa; fourth, strife as the wooer of Pele on Hawaii and Maui.


Kamapua‘a and Olopana. Kamapua‘a grows up strong and rough and is unpopular with his stepfather Olopana, ruling chief of Koolau at Kailua. Kamapua‘a lives in Kaliu-wa‘a valley (Leaky canoe) and is led on by the supernatural fowl Kawauhele-moa to rob Olopana's hen roost and commit other depredations. Four times the guards, eight hundred strong and each time increasing in number, capture him in his hog shape and tie him to a pole; four times his grandmother releases him with a chant. Finally all his captors are slain except Makali‘i, who escapes to bring the report. The whole district is aroused.

Kamapua‘a stretches his body as a bridge up which his house-hold escape out of the valley and he retreats to Wahiawa and engages in farming. Olopana consults a new prophet from Kauai and learns how Kamapua‘a may be rendered weak. Lonoaohi, the old prophet whom Olopana has disgraced for failure to capture Kamapua‘a, takes up the cause of the hog-man and when he is brought bound to the heiau for sacrifice, instructs his sons Black-hog and Spotted-hog to make a mere pretence of tying him. In the morning when Olopana and his men come for the sacrifice, Kamapua‘a springs up and kills the chief and all the men except Makali‘i. 

Kamapua‘a on Kauai. (a) Kamapua‘a repairs to Kauai where Makali‘i the ruling chief over the greater part of the island is fighting Kane-iki. With Lima-loa he courts Kane-iki's pretty daughters and takes up his father-in-law's cause against his uncle. With his war club Kahiki-kolo he kills the champions and wards off the spears thrown against him. Makali‘i hides between the knees of Kamaunuaniho and pacifies his nephew by reciting all the land's name chants, which the love god Lono-iki-aweawe-aloha teaches him out of compassion. Kamapua‘a allows him his choice of a place of banishment and he chooses to retreat to the mountains. Then come his father Kahiki-ula and his brother Kahiki-honua-kele to do battle. Questioned by Kamapua‘a, the father asserts that he has no other son, and the brother replies that both his brothers are dead; "one Pele slew and the other hung himself." At Hina's approach Kamapua‘a withdraws lest he slay his mother. Later he pays a visit to his parents at Kalalau and is so angry when they do not recognize him that only by chanting all his name songs and, as a last resort, by exposing herself naked can his mother pacify him. He finally goes away to Kahiki with Kowea.

(b) Kamapua‘a swims in fish form to Kipukai on the south-east coast of Kauai. Changing into a huge hog he roots up the growing crops. The bristles down his back which reveal, when in human form, his hog nature, he hides with a cape. While he is sleeping in hog form in the spring called today Wai-a-ka-pua‘a, Lima-loa rolls a stone down to crush him, but he reaches out and throws a stone which wedges the rock on the hillside. He and Lima-loa become friends and he helps Lima-loa to court the two lovely sisters of the ruling chief of the Puna side of Kauai from Kipukai to Anahola, whom the friends find combing their hair at the two rock basins called Ka-wai-o-ka-pakilokilo (The water of the reflected image) which they are using as looking glasses. After taking the girls as his wives, he fights for their brother against the Kona side of the island from Koloa to Mana. In hog form, with the hands of a man to wield the club, he kills the Kona chiefs in battle and takes their feather capes and helmets, which he hides under his bed. Only through a spear wound which he has received in his hand is he discovered to the Puna chief as the one who has kept for himself the chief's own share of the booty. For this act Kamapua‘a is banished. 

Kamapua‘a and Lono-ka-eho. Kamapua‘a flees from Kauai and goes away to Kahiki, where rival chiefs, Lonokaeho and Kowea, are at war. Kowea gives Kamapua‘a his daughters as wives in order to win his championship. Kamapua‘a calls upon his plant bodies to entangle the eight stone foreheads of Lonokaeho as they strike down upon him, and when he has killed his foe he calls upon his hog bodies to "eat up" Lono and all his men. He then meets the dog-man Ku-ilio-loa and, stuffing his weed bodies into the warrior's open jaws, kills him from within. 

Kamapua‘a and Pele. Kamapua‘a comes to the crater of Halema‘uma‘u (Fern house) and, appearing upon the point sacred to Pele, woos the goddess in the form of a handsome man. Her sisters attract her attention to him. She refuses him with insult, calling him "a pig and the son of a pig." His love songs change to taunts and the two engage in a contest of insulting words. He attempts to approach her, but she sends her flames over him. Each summons his gods. Pele's brothers encompass him "above and below" and would have smothered him had not his love-making god lured them away at sight of a woman.

Kamapua‘a threatens to put out the fires of the pit with deluges of water, but Pele's uncles, brothers, and the fire tender Lono-makua keep them burning and again the hog-man's life is in danger. His sister, chiefess of Makahanaloa, comes to his aid with fog and rain. Hogs run all over the place. The pit fills with water. The love-making god sees that if Pele is destroyed Kamapua‘a will be the loser. The fires are all out, only the fire sticks remain. These the god saves, Pele yields, and Kamapua‘a has his way with her. They divide the districts between them, Pele taking Puna, Ka-u, and Kona (districts periodically overrun with lava flows) and Kamapua‘a ruling Kohala, Hamakua, Hilo (the windward districts, always moist with rain). 

The two have a child named Opelu-nui-kauhaalilo who becomes ancestor of chiefs and commoners on Hawaii (Kamakau).

Kamapua‘a leaves Hawaii and draws up a new home from the ocean depths where he establishes a family. Pele, who now loves him, tries in vain to draw him back with a love chant (Westervelt).

According to Kalakaua, the Pele myth is built up out of an actual occurrence, in which a family of immigrants take refuge in a mountain cavern from the unwelcome advances of the hog-man and are overwhelmed by a stream of fiery lava which pursues the attacking party down the mountain. The supposition is that the flames from the burning lava are the transformed bodies of the submerged family, who live today in the volcano and manifest themselves in its activities. It is, however, more than probable that the story is a rationalized invention influenced by the popular aumakua conceptions of Kalakaua's period.

Kalakaua version. About 1175, while the usurper Kam(a)iole is ruling the island of Hawaii, a family of chiefs and priests from a southern group, led by a kahuna named Moho, land at Honoapu on the Ka-u coast and, proceeding along the coast to Puna, settle in the foothills back of Keauhou. With Moho come his sisters Pele and Ulolu and his humpbacked brother Kamakaua. Kamapua‘a has fled to Hawaii from Oahu and, hearing of Pele's beauty, he comes to court her. She refuses him with insult, calling him "a pig and the son of a pig." He and his followers raid the settlement and kill all but the immediate family, who take refuge in an underground cavern in a cleft of the mountain. Kamapua‘a's band push on, when there suddenly bursts forth a stream of lava, submerging the cavern and driving the besieging party to take refuge in the sea. 

Other Pele connections occur in the Kamapua‘a legend. The same land from which Kamaunu and her brothers migrate is that which Aukele visits to seek Namakaokaha‘i, older sister of Pele, and it is at least plausible to conclude that Aukelenuiaiku is to be identified with the brother Kelekeleiaku and possibly Kamapua‘a with Namaka's brother Kane-apua of that romance. The names of three sisters said to have been born to Hina, the mother of Kamapua‘a, are listed in chant among the plant gods of the hog-man and two of them, Hau-nu‘u and Hau-lani, are names of wives of Haumea's grandsons for whom she made herself young again to take them as husbands. The Kamaunu and Pele families are represented in myth as hostile, although in some way related. Malaehaa-koa (or hoa), called the kahu of Hi‘iaka, who recites to her the hymn chanting the deeds and mysteries of Pele since the beginning of her rule, a hymn which also names Niheu-the-mischievous and Nuakea wife of Keoloewa of Molokai, is the same who tells Olopana how to get control of Kamapua‘a by offering as a sacrifice objects in which the letters l-a-u occur. If Kamapua‘a is equivalent to Kane-pua‘a (Kaneapua), who is worshiped as a god of agriculture to bring rain and abundance to the crops, he would be, like her older sister Namakaokaha‘i, naturally pitted against Pele the fire-goddess and consumer of vegetation. 

The device of using springing plants to entangle a contestant or effect an escape is common in kupua stories. Hi‘iaka uses it to overcome an evil mo‘o; Kaulana-poki‘i when she avenges the murder of her brothers; Makani-keoe to protect his protégé; Kauakahi's sister to obstruct the path of her brother's sweetheart or, as in the Green version, to hide him away in a tree. Most famous of all such tree concealments is that of Haumea when she enters a tree with her husband in order to save him from his captors. In the Marquesas, Ono-the-resurrected enters a temanu tree as a god and lives on air. In New Zealand, Tu-te-koro-pango conjures up plants to obstruct the path to his home. 

The Olopana at Kailua on Oahu who is Kamapua‘a's "uncle" is not to be confused with Moikeha's brother Olopana, although it is impossible not to suspect a confusion between Hina's desertion of her older husband for his younger brother and Lu‘ukia's of Olopana for Moikeha. Nor is the Lonokaeho with the foreheads of stone generally identified with the chief of the same name at Kahiki whom Paao calls upon to come and rule Hawaii. The coupling with his name of the great dog Ku-ilio-loa justifies a connection with the Lono-ka-ehu (Lono the blond) who comes to the group from Kahiki with his great dog of that name in search of his brother. Hawaiians called "ehu," with lighter skin, brown eyes, and curly brown hair in contrast to the darker-skinned Hawaiians with straight black hair, are associated in native belief with the Pele family. Outlying villages show a number of such brown-haired persons, said to be of pure native stock.

Fiction, however, plays with these names for its own purposes and it would be unsafe to draw any historical conclusions from the use made by story tellers of such local associations. In Thrum's Kana legend Lonokaeho is the fourth man of fame to whom Hakalanileo of Hawaii appeals in vain for help to regain his wife. He is represented as the wooer of Maui's mother Hina in her cave on the Wailuku river in Hilo, Hawaii, while Maui is away snaring the sun. The rock (eho) into which he was changed still stands to attest the truth of the story.

The attack upon Lonokaeho in Kahiki is transferred in the Kaulu legend to Kailua, and that upon his companion to Kualoa on Oahu, the district from which comes Lonokaeho's daughter, who marries La‘a-mai-kahiki in the Moikeha tradition and becomes mother of La‘a's son Lauli-a-La‘a. The "foreheads" of stone of Lonokaeho are alluded to in chant:

He mau lani pohaku na Lonokaeho,
No lani ka lae i ponia i ka wai niu,
I haua i ka pua‘a hiwa a Kane,
I ka pua‘a hiwa, puawa hiwa a Lono.

"Lono-ka-eho had foreheads of stone,
Lono's was a forehead annointed with coconut milk [i.e., Lono belonged to the highest class of chiefs],
He was worshiped [?] with the black pig of Kane,
The black pig, the bundle of black awa of Lono." 

The "foreheads" perhaps refer to eight lines of chiefs from whom the heavenly one (lani) counts descent. Pio-ke-anuenue (Curve of the rainbow) he is elsewhere called in allusion to the pio rank to which he is born.

The "eight foreheads of stone" have interesting connections with the south. For central Polynesia and westward the number eight has special significance in sacred matters. In the Tahitian group, Ra‘iatea has eight stones set up at the national marae to represent eight kings who have ruled in the past and the names of these kings are given to the eight sacred symbols of investiture of royal chiefs at Taputapuatea. Borabora (called Vavau) and "first-born" after Ra‘iatea is divided into eight districts. Mo‘orea (called Aimo‘o) is so divided into eight arms by the natural ridges of the mountains as to carry the name of "the octopus" (fee). The god Maui is called "Maui of the eight heads." Eight directions of the cardinal points are known to mariners. In the Tuamotu group eight islands west of Fakarava (Havai‘i) represent independent chieftainships. In Samoa the heavens where the gods dwell are "eight-fold." An eight-spiked club is described by Buck. Moso-a-le-alofi slays the Tagaloa-of-the-eight-livers. Eight is a sacred number in Fiji. A Fijian giant, Thanga-walu, came into the world two months after conception and rapidly grew to a height of sixty feet with a forehead "eight spans high." Another giant deity has eight eyes, another eight arms. In Tonga, Alai-aloo (Eight foreheads) is a god frequently consulted for the cure of the sick; the number eight is a favorite to associate with mounds; Lolo-ma-tokelau's compound has a fence of eight crosspieces. On Easter island immigrants from Mangareva have made eight enclosures. 

On San Cristoval the number eight "seems to be connected with magical powers." In the story of the snake spirit named "Eight fathoms," when the snake is killed she comes to life again after "eight days" of rain. She makes her house of "eight leaves." She is cut into "eight pieces" and comes to life after "eight showers of rain." She submerges a village with "eight waves," a feat also performed by the hero Rapuanante. To work magic a woman takes eight each of dracena leaves, coconuts, and dog's teeth. There is a story of "eight dwarves." In Japan the princess bestows eight treasures, called "eight deities of Idzushi." In Hawaii a sorcerer's prayer addressed to Kane and other gods begins, "To you who are the breath of the eighth night." A famous Maui chief is named Child-of-eight-branches (Kama-lala-walu).

Some connect Kama-pua‘a with the god Lono, and Lono names certainly occur in his story. He wars with Kowea (Koea) against Lono-ka-eho in Kahiki. His foster father's priest Lono-aohi, whose sons are named Black-hog and Spotted-hog, becomes his ally. Lono-iki-aweawe-aloha is his love-making god. Signs and prophecies in the clouds are alluded to in his chants. A name chant runs:

He miki he miki
A i hanau mai oe, e Hina,
Ka maka o ka pua‘a,
E lele ana i ke lani,
E lele ana i ke kuahiwi,
Ewalu maka o ke keiki pua‘a a Hina,
Na Hina oe,
Na Kahikiula,
Na Kahikilei,
O Lonoiki oe,
O Lononui oe,
O kuu maka, o kuu aloha, e Lono e,
Haina a moe i kuahu a Olopana;
A ko kakou ali‘i,
Kou inoa, e o mai.

"Take care, take care,
When you give birth, Hina,
The eyes of the hog
They glance to the heavens,
And glance to the mountain,
The son of Hina is a hog with eight eyes,
By Hina art thou,
By Kahikiula,
By Kahikilei,
Thou art little Lono,
Thou art great Lono,
My eye, my love, O Lono!
Follow until thou liest on the altar of Olopana,
The altar of our chief,
This is your name, make answer." 

Although tradition sometimes lays the scene of Kamapua‘a's birth in Kahiki, to which place his father's name Kahiki-ula is said to belong, and legends of his exploits in the Hawaiian group are told also of Kahiki, and he is said not to have died in Hawaii but to have retired to Kahiki and married a chiefess there, nevertheless local legends abound all over Hawaii which connect his name with various places now held sacred because of their connection with the hog-child. The valley of Kaliu-wa‘a (The leaky canoe) which cuts into the Koolau range of Oahu must be approached with reverence. Leaf offerings are made at the entrance to the valley; women at their monthly periods must wear a protection of ti leaves about their necks. Near the head of the valley a smooth furrow worn by water falling over the cliff is explained as the groove cut when he made a ladder of his virile member for his followers to escape their pursuers. A small hollow in a rock near the entrance to the valley is the place where he hid, and an upright slab on the cliff above is the transformed body of the man who pointed out his hiding place to his enemies. 

Most local stories, however, concern themselves with his amorous adventures. At Kamoiliili he sees two pretty women and pursues them. They are goddesses and disappear in the earth. When he digs for them, two springs of water burst forth known as the "springs of Kamapua‘a." 

Other women whom he pursues turn into springs, their male defenders into stone, and gashes in the earth are made by his snout. At a place near the coast in Puna called Lua-o-Pele, where the earth is torn up as if there had been a struggle, he is said to have overtaken the reluctant Pele and forced the fire goddess to submit to his embraces. They say that this is why today the sacred lehua trees "grow right down to the shore at this place alone." Pele's sister Kapo, aware of Pele's peril, sends her own wandering vagina (kohe-lele) to light upon a tree and attract Kamapua‘a from her sister. He follows it to Oahu, where its impression may be seen today on the Makapu‘u side of Koko head where it rested before Kapo withdrew it and hid it in Kalihi valley. A Maui legend tells how, when Kapo is living at Wailua-iki with her husband Kuo‘u, Kamapua‘a comes to that island in his fish form and sees a rainbow resting over Kapo's house. Her husband is out fishing and she is beating tapa when the handsome stranger enters. Two men on the cliff signal to her husband and he comes running and gives Kamapua‘a a whack with his paddle. The kupua sends the husband flying over the cliff, called to-day Kuo‘u, and he falls in the shape of a huge stone pointed out today by the roadside. The gap between Wailua and Wailua-iki through which today runs a steep trail, still traveled by the mailman to the valley, was torn out at the time of this struggle. Kapo's house may also be seen and the mark of her vagina against the cliff. Similar stories of Kamapua‘a's attack upon Pele are among the popular stories told in this vicinity. In the pursuit Kamapua‘a loses his hair at a point called Huluhulu-nui (Many bristles), runs against the cliff at Pua‘aho‘oku‘i, and finally overcomes Pele at the hill called Kaiwi-o-Pele (The bones of Pele). Such episodes are related with a keen relish for particular detail and rhythmical repetition, punning on place names and etiological references playing a determining part in the story.




Source: http://www.sacred-texts.com


1. Coming of the Gods
2. Ku Gods
3. The God Lono
4. The Kane Worship
5. Kane and Kanaloa
6. Mythical Lands of the Gods
7. Lesser Gods
8. Sorcery Gods
9. Guardian Gods
10. The Soul after Death
11. The Pele Myth
12. The Pele Sisters
13. Pele Legends

14. Kamapua`a
15. Hina Myths
16. Maui The Trickster
17. Aikanaka-Kaha`iI
18. Wahieloa-Laka
19.  Haumea
20. Papa and Wakea
21. Genealogies
22. Era of Overturning
23. Mu and Menehune
24. Runners, Man-Eaters, Dog Men
25. Moikeha-la`a Migration
26. Hawaiiloa and Paao
27. Ruling Chiefs
28. Usurping Chiefs
29. Kapua Stories
30. Trickster Stories
31. Voyage to the Land of the Gods
32. Riddling Contests
33. The Kana Legends
34. The Stretching-Tree Kupua
35. Romance of the Swimmer
36. Romance of the Island of Virgins
37. Romances of Match-Making
38. Romances of the Dance
39. Wooing Romances
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