Hawaiian Mythology
by Martha Beckwith 1940



The story of Wahieloa (Wahieroa), son of Kaha‘i (Tawhaki) duplicates that of Hema, and the story of his famous son Laka (Rata) corresponds with the journey made by Kaha‘i to restore his father or his father's bones to his native land. In the Pele legend Wahieloa (Wahialoa, Wahioloa) is named as one of the husbands of Pele while she is living with her parents at Hapakuela, "a place unknown." Laka and Menehune are their children. The husband is "snatched away" by Pele-kumu-lani and Pele migrates to Hawaii in search of him. Wahieloa's wife Hina-hawea may be the Hina-kawea drawn out of the sea by Wakea. Her other name, Koolau (north Kahiki), corresponds with South Sea versions, where she is a chiefess of North Tahiti.


Wahieloa is son of Kaha‘i and Hina-ulu-ohia, born at Wailau, Ninole, in Ka-u district on the island of Hawaii. He lives as chief in Kipahulu at Kalaikoi and has by his wife Hina-hawea, daughter of Hina-howana, a son Laka. Wahieloa sails to the home of the child's grandmother on Hawaii after the birth gift (Alakoi-ula-a-Kane), lands at Punalu‘u, Ka-u, and is seized and sacrificed. His bones are guarded in the cave of Kaualehu (at Koloa by Old-woman-Kaikapu. His son brings back his bones to Maui and deposits them in Papa-ulu-ana at Alae, Kaumakani, Kipahulu. 

Maori. Wahie-roa (Long piece of firewood) is so named from a great log of wood which his father Tawhaki has brought into camp where his wife is living with her people. His mother is called Hine-nui-a-to-kawa or Maikuku-makaha or Hapai-nui-a-maunga. His wife is Matoka-rau-tawhiri, Kura, Hawea, or Hine-tu-a-haka. He is killed by alien people across the sea led by Matuku. The story varies. Matoka-rau-tawhiri has a pregnancy craving for parson birds (tui) and Wahieroa traps them in the preserves of Matuku and is caught and killed. Or he goes to war with Pou-a-hao-kai and Matuku and is killed. Or he is attacked and murdered by Matuku and Whiti, and his wife taken prisoner. Or a party of travelers led by Whakarau arrive at Whiti-a-naunau, home of Wahieroa, wearing bird plumes which they say come from Pariroa on the seacoast belonging to Pou-haa-kai, Matuku-tangotango, and Hina-komahi, daughter of Tu-rongo-nui. These people go naked and are wild and roving in habit. The chief Manu-korihi leads an expedition of a thousand men to Pari-roa after feathers, a four months' journey from Whiti-kau in Whiti-roa. The expedition is successful, but Wahieroa is slain. 

Tahiti. Vahieroa is son of Tafa‘i and his wife Hina and is born at his father's home in the Ta-pahi hills of Mahina in North Tahiti. He weds Maemae-a-rohi, sister of the ruling chief Tumu-nui. King Tu-i-hiti of Hiti-au-revareva [said to be Pitcairn island] takes to wife Hau-vana‘a, daughter of Tumu-nui, the ruling chief of North Tahiti. She at first has rejected him, but when he prepares to leave her, love awakens and she insists upon accompanying him. They sail in the boat Are-mata-ro-roa. He invokes monsters who guard the way to let him pass but to attack Tumu-nui should he attempt to follow. When therefore that chief sails in the boat Matie-roa and the canoe Matie-poto in an attempt to recover his daughter, the entire party are swallowed up by the great clam. His younger brother Iore-roa (Big rat) and his brother-in-law Vahie-roa go to seek him and are swallowed in their turn. The younger rat brothers are also lost. Vahieroa's wife Maemae-a-rohi, sister to Tumu-nui, who has been left as regent, rears her son Rata and herself sails with Tumu-nui's wife, leaving her son as regent in her place, and on her return is drawn in by the clam just as her son arrives to rescue her and restore the bones of the other voyagers. 

Tuamotus. (a) Vahieroa weds Matamata-taua or Tahiti To‘erau (North Tahiti) and on the night of their son Rata's birth the parents go fishing and are snatched away by the demon bird of Puna king of Hiti-marama, "an island north of Pitcairn and Elizabeth but long since swallowed in the sea." The bird Matatata‘ota‘o bites off the chief's head and swallows it whole. The wife is placed head downward as a food holder in the house of Puna's wife Te-vahine-hua-rei. 

(b) Vahi-vero is the son of Kui, a demigod of Hawaiki, and a goblin woman named Rima-roa. Kui plants food trees and vegetables and is also a great fisherman. The goblin woman Rima-roa robs his garden; he lies in wait and seizes her and she bears him the son Vahi-vero. Vahi-vero visits a pool from which the beautiful Tahiti-tokerau daily emerges. Kui teaches him how to lie in wait and seize her and never let her go until she pronounces his name. Having mastered her, he finds that Puna, king of Vavau, is his rival. He goes by way of the pool to the place where Puna guards the girl in a house with round ends, and brings her back with him, leaving her sister Huarehu in her place. Tahiti-tokerau bears to him the boy Rata. Puna comes in shark form to avenge himself, kills Vahi-vero and takes his wife back and makes of her eyes lights for her sister to do sennit work by and of her feet supports for the sister's work basket 

Compare the legend of Mamo and Rigorigo from the same locality, where eyes are plucked out and used as lamps and the body as a post to support the house. 

Rarotonga. Vaieroa is the son of Taaki and Ina-uru-o-runga and they live in Avaiki. Vaieroa's wife Tairiiri-tokerau has a pregnancy longing for eels and the eels Pupu and Kavei are, in spite of their sister's warning, caught, cooked, and eaten, hence a rash comes on the child and as the parents seek a kind of sea-weed to cure it they are swept out to sea and Vaieroa is swallowed by the sons of Puna (octopus, clam, etc.) and the mother's eyes are scooped out and given to Te-vaine-uarei on Motu-ta‘ota‘o. 

Aitutaki. Vaiaroa and Tairi-tokerau, parents of Nganaoa, are lost in the land of moonlight, Iti-te-marama, and Nganaoa joins Rata's sailing expedition to that land under promise to slay all the monsters that endanger them on the way. The parents are found braiding sennit inside a monster whale that has swallowed them whole.  

Marquesas. Vehie-oa has by his first wife four sons and two daughters. He lives with Tahi‘i-tokoau (North Tahiti). His plants are stolen and he is spirited away by Tui-vae-mona. Tahi‘i-tokoau goes down to Hawaiki to live with Teiki-o-te-po whose wife is Vehie-oa's sister. At the advice of the two old wives, each day of her journey to Hawaiki she gives a pig, until on the tenth day she reaches the place. She has left tokens along the way, a broken leaf, spittle, and tears, and her husband follows her with birds, a cock, and a drum with which to summon the day to the realm of night. He sends the birds ahead, the cock crows five times, the drum sounds, and it is day.

Samoa. Fafieloa is the son of Tafa‘i and his second wife Hine-piripiri. Tula is his wife and Lata their son.  

The story of Laka, son of Wahieloa, is told today in Hana district and the sites are pointed out of his canoe shed, Ku-ohalau, his tree-cutting in the forest, with the rock table where he "greased the mouths" of the forest deities who helped him build the canoe, and the place where he launched his canoe, together with the rocks into which his two sisters were transformed who swam after him.


(a) Laka is the son of Wahieloa and Hina-hawea (Koolau-kahili or -kahiki) and is brought up by his grandmother Hina-howana in Kipahulu district on the island of Maui. As the time of his birth approaches, his father sails after a birth gift for his son and, landing at Punalu‘u in Ka-u district on Hawaii, is killed and his bones are thrown into the cave of Kaualehu guarded by old woman Kaikapu (or at the cave Makili and Makula at the cliff of Kupinai). When the boys jeer at Laka because he is fatherless he determines to seek his father's bones.

The tree cut down one day for the canoe, he finds restored to its place the next morning. Instructed by his grandmother, he first hides and seizes the leaders of the little gods of the forest who are doing the mischief, Moku-hali‘i and Kupaaike‘e who are his relatives, then "greases the mouths of the gods" with offerings, and the gods complete the two canoes for him in a single night. In the morning after the night of Kane he finds them standing outside his door ready to be lashed together and launched.

Four skilful men accompany him, father Prop (makua Poupou) to hold open the mouth of the cave, father Stretch (makua Kiko‘o) to reach inside, father Torch (makua Kalama) to light the cave, and father Seeker (makua Imi) to hunt for the bones. Arrived at Punalu‘u they bribe the old woman to open the door by offering her a dish of soup. She tastes it and slams shut the cave door, declaring it is not salt enough. Father Reach now puts out his hand and tries the salt of various seas until the old woman is suited with that of Puna. No sooner is the door opened to take in the bowl of soup than father Prop holds it open, father Torch lights it up, father Seeker finds where the bones are lying, and father Reach stretches in an arm and brings them outside. They kill old Kaikapu and return to Maui, landing at Kaumakani. The bones, together with the canoes and the bodies of his companions, Laka deposits in the cave at Papauluana, whose entrance no man has found to this day. 

(b) Laka was born in Hilo, at Haili, on Hawaii. His mother was Koolau-kahili(kahiki?). He rules over Koolaupoko on Oahu, dies at Kualoa, and his body is brought back to Maui by his son Luanu‘u, child of Hikawailena from Waimea (the shark aumakua Haiwahine) and laid in Iao valley. 

 Kamakau quotes his chant, elaborating upon the searching party:

Searched for by father Searcher,
Lighted by father Torch,
Dug for by father Digger,
Uprooted by father Striker,
Propped up by father Post,
Reached after by father Reach,
Danced for by father Dancer,
Laka found them. . . . 

Old woman Kaikapu (Tapu sea) appears in several other Hawaiian stories. In the story of Kaumailiula her role is similar to that in this story. She lives in the land of Olopana and burns Kaumailiula and his brothers with fire because they arrive during a tapu period of whose rules they are ignorant. In the story of Aukelenuiaiku she is the old blind relative whose sight is restored by Aukele and who guides him to the water of life, and is represented as sister of his mo‘o ancestress Ka-mo‘oinanea and of his god Lono-i-kouali‘i (-ikuali‘i?). Her local legend resembles the Tahitian story of the cannibal grandmother of Pu‘a (Puna) and Hema.

Old Woman Kaikapu lives in a cave in Ninole, Kau district, on Hawaii. She is a cannibal and uses her pretty granddaughter Ninole to decoy travelers to her cave, whereupon she will take them out one by one and kill and devour them raw. She eats her own grandson, Ninole's brother, before she discovers who he is. 

The Laka legend is widespread in the south Pacific.

Maori. (a) Rata is the son (or grandson) of Wahieroa by Kura (or Matoka-rau-tawhiri or some other). He teaches the art of cutting and polishing greenstone with the whetstone. His wife is Tonga-rau-tawhiri and their son is Tu-whaka-raro. Rata asks after his father and learns that he has been killed by Natuku-Takotako and his bones (or eyeballs) carried away "where the sun comes up." His mother sends him out to find a tree suit-able for a canoe and gives him stone axes which he must "sharpen on the back of his ancestress" who is the daughter of Whetstone. The tree he fells returns to its place. He hides and catches the little people of Roro-tini, Pona-ua, and Haku-turi, who take the forms of the birds and insects of the forest. These spirits teach him to place an asplenium fern over the cut stump. The next day a canoe appears outside his door.

Ceremonies are performed for its successful launching. It is named Pu-niu (or nui), Aniu-wara, Ni- (or Ri-)waru, Tiurangi, Aniwaniwa, or Pakawai. Rata first slays some monster like the leader of the rat people, Kiore-roa, or the swallowing monster Pouahaokai, or he first slays Matuku, then Whiti. Rata goes overseas to Matuku's (or Whiti's) land, persuades a friendly guard to give a false call, and when Matuku comes up out of his cave before the season to bless the crops he nooses or snares him (as Maui snares the sun). 

(b) Best version. Rata is son of Wahieroa and Hine-tuahoanga. He learns from his mother that his father died at Pariroa south of Tawhiti-roa, slain by Pou-haokai and Matuku-tangotango while accompanying a party after bird plumes. The tree he cuts down for his canoe is found erect in the morning and he is told to cover the stump with a special kind of fern and then convey the ferns so used to the priest Whakaiho-rangi, his ancestor, who utters building incantations. It is his "elders," the supernatural folk of whom the forest is full, who have done the mischief. The same priest teaches charms to insure the canoe Ani-waru against sharks, points out his route, and predicts success rom the signs given him by the gods. He is accompanied by Apakura as "controlling expert of the various supernatural beings despatched by him as a protection." The party first slay the people of Pouhaokai while they are scattered about looking for food. Baskets full of the slain are brought to Matuku as food, Apakura impersonating Pouhaokai. The house is then set on fire and when Matuku tries to escape his neck is caught in snares. His bones are made into spear points for spearing birds. 

Tahiti. Rata is son of Vahieroa and Maemae-a-rohi, sister of the ruling chief of  North Tahiti, Tumu-nui. He is born after Tumu-nui and his four rat brothers Iore-roa, Iore-poto, Iore-mumu, Iore-vava, and his brother-in-law Vahieroa, father of Rata, have all been swallowed by a giant clam while voyaging to Tu-i-hiti, whose chief had made Tumu-nui's daughter his wife. Rata grows into a giant and at a boar hunt loses self-control and knocks men about fatally. His mother upbraids him and when she sets forth to seek her lost husband, refuses to let Rata accompany her.

Rata must have a canoe in order to follow her. He fells a sacred tree in the grove of Ihu-ata. The little people of Tuoi replace it until Rata hides and seizes Tuoi and the artisan Fefera, releasing them only when they promise him the canoe. He brings them a great offering of food and the next day it is completed and brought down to the beach, where a baptism ceremony has to be performed before the canoe is successfully floated. It is named Va‘a-i-ama (-i-a, or -i-ura).

Strong warriors, Matua-fa‘auu, Matua-a-aro, Te-iri-poto, Te-iri-roa, accompany him, and slay all the monsters enumerated in the voyages of Tumu-nui and the others lost in seeking him. First they slay the great clam, recover the bones of the dead, and also Rata's living mother, just fallen into the monster's mouth on her return voyage from Hiti-au-revareva, the home of Tumu-nui's son-in-law. Afterward they slay the demon bird Matutu-taotao and extract the skull of a relative from its maw who speaks "in an audible voice" calling upon them to rescue his wife from king Puna in Hiti-marama. Rata escapes a fire trap at king Puna's place and slays Puna (as in the Tuamotuan version) and recovers the woman. 

The four Tuamotuan versions of the Laka story are so similar that they must have come from a single source and probably by way of Tahiti, since the locale of Laka's home is laid in North Tahiti. The land of Hiti-marama, sometimes spoken of as a land swallowed up in the sea, is in one version called Aihi and identified with Makatea or Saunders island, seventy miles east of Tahiti. The story of the competition for Puna's wife is in the Tuamotus worked into the Matutu story with a consequent inconsistency in the causation. In Seurat's version the canoe builders are crabs and insects and a crab is the guardian on the way. From each of the monsters Rata recovers a part of his father's body and eventually restores him to life. His mother is in the power of an eel, as in the Tuna story.

Tuamotus. Rata is the son of Vahieroa (Vahivero in Seurat) and his wife Tahiti-to‘erau (or Matamata-taua, or Tairiri-tokerau) in North Tahiti. He is brought up by his maternal grandmother Ui-ura (Kuhi, [K]ui, Ine-uru-o-runga, Tiau-tara-iti). When the boys taunt him because his clay boat is left behind in the race (or because he outdistances them with his toy boat), he learns from her that his parents have been seized by Matutu, demon bird of Puna, and his father's head bitten off and swallowed and his mother used as a food holder for Puna's wife (or daughter) Te-vahine-huarei (or father killed and mother taken to sacrifice on the altar). He sharpens an axe "on the back of his grandmother" and fells a tree for a canoe. The tree returns to its place. He hides and surprises To-a-hiti (Too-hiti-mataroa) and Ta-va‘a, the leading artisans among the canoe-building spirits of the forest, makes them a handsome present of food, and the next morning a complete war canoe stands at his door. Puna has a number of sea gods whom he sends to keep back the voyagers. Guided by Ta-va‘a, Rata spears them one by one (with his spear Taipu-ari‘i): a giant bivalve, a shoal of monsters, a great billfish, a cavalla fish, and a ghost-possessed rock (or branching coral which forms Fakarava today). He slays the demon bird Matutu-ta‘ota‘o (Matu‘u). At Puna's home he is received with pretended friendship, escapes an attempt to kill him in his sleep, and plays tricks on Puna's men by betting his empty crab baskets for their full ones, then filling his own from theirs. He slays Puna by first slaying the warriors of Matutu who guard Puna, hooking the rooster who wakens him in the morning, and tying Puna in his sleep to the rock Papa-‘ari‘ari. He frees his mother (in Kororo-po) and secures the daughter of Puna (Tie-maofe or Te-vahine-huarei).  

Rarotonga. Rata lives in the island of Avaiki. Vaieroa is his father, son of Taaki, son of Ema; Tairiri-tokerau is his mother. He is brought up by his grandmother Ine-uru-o-runga (or Tiau-tara-iti) until the gods reveal to him that soon after his birth his parents were swept out to sea and destroyed by the sons of Puna (octopus, clam, etc.). He sharpens his axe by burying it overnight in the sand and when the little gods re-place the tree felled for a canoe, he makes an offering to the gods Atonga and Tonga-iti-matarau and they complete for him the canoe O-tutai and tell him of his parents' fate. A crew of ten men is selected for the voyage, each an expert in some art essential to managing the canoe. When Nganaoa the kite flyer asks to join the party, he is refused. Twice taken in as a floating gourd and thrown out again he is finally accepted upon the promise to kill all the monsters on the way. This he achieves by entering their bodies in gourd form and stabbing their vitals; but for him all in the canoe would have been lost. At Great Fiji where Tukai-ta-manu is chief and Ina-ara-maunga his wife, he outriddles the riddling priest and hence the saying,

"It was said by the young priest Kairu-mauanoke
'Do not tempt voyagers lest you be outwitted.'"

He voyages to Motu-ta‘ota‘o and kills Te-vaine-uarei who has his mother's eyeballs.

Thence he voyages to many lands, remaining for a time at Vai-a-kura in the west of Tumu-te-varovaro. Returning to Avaiki, he attacks Kuporo and there his canoe is lifted and lodged in the treetops and he himself is slain by a great warrior named Vaea, but some say he escaped. 

Marquesas. Ata is the son of Vehie-oa and Tahi‘i-tokoau. He is brought up by Tua-hoana and her sister, who find him sleeping in the cave where his parents left him when they went after crabs in Vae-tea and were carried away in the boat of Puna-iino which had come seeking victims for sacrifice. Ata plays with the Hana-ui children and although they give him green fire sticks to use and green breadfruit, his sticks alone strike fire and his breadfruit has the best meat; although he fishes in the sand with a thorn and the other children have fine hooks to cast into the sea, yet he catches all the fish and they catch none. The boys abuse him but the old women teach him how to wield a stick and throw stones. The boys taunt him about his parents and he learns the truth from his grandmothers. The temanu tree he fells for a canoe is erect the next morning. He thinks it may be a god and hides to see. Hope-ou-toi and Motuhaiki are discovered. He brings food offerings and they make the boat for him. He goes to the land of Puna-iino, takes seven men as a sacrifice, and bakes them in the oven in a feast of vengeance at Hana-ui. Kau-tia, daughter of Puna, he takes for a wife. Koomahu carries her away. He returns weeping to Hana-ui and his companions go to the home of Koomahu and bring back the wife while Koomahu is away seeking his sister; when Koomahu returns he finds all gone. 

Aitutaki. Rata lives in a far land called Kupolu (Ukupolu). In search of adventure he finds a heron attacked by a serpent. The tree he is cutting for a canoe for a voyage to the "land of moonlight" returns to its place until he rescues the bird by killing the snake [a foreign interpolation], then grateful seabirds deposit the completed canoe at his door. Nganaoa, refused passage, follows in an empty gourd and is taken into the canoe on condition that he kill all the monsters they meet on the way. These are a giant clam, an octopus, and a whale. Inside this last, Nganaoa finds his lost parents Tairi-tokerau and Vaiaroa sitting plaiting sennit. He builds a fire inside the whale [foreign interpolation] and leaves it to die. 

Mangaia. Una the moon is invoked in a canoe-making song to use the wonderful axe with which Lata felled forests:

"Slash away, Una,
With the wonderful axe from another land,
That which enabled Lata to fell the forest." 

Vaitupu (Ellice islands). Rata is the child of Mafieloa and Tavini-tokelau, born when she eats an eel to satisfy a pregnancy craving. A tidal wave carries everyone away, but the child is saved. He finds a house, clothing, and adz, and adapts each to his use. A Sinota monster repeatedly erects the puka tree Rata has cut down for a canoe, until he has defeated it in wrestling. The monster Ulu-poko-fatu begs to come aboard, and accompanies and protects him from danger.  

Pukapuka. Lata of Samoa goes to pick out a log for a canoe and selects the favorite tree of a rival magician named Hinata. The two wrestle but find they are of equal strength. Hinata's chant restores his tree as before, but Lata has put another trunk into its body and has the log he wants. He selects for a crew "Head of stone," "Flat head," "Hole digger," etc., and voyages to see the world. As dangers approach, each man uses his special power and gets rid of the danger. Finally Lata dives into a giant clam, digs at the roots, the shell opens, and out he swims and divides the flesh among the islands, but forgets Pukapuka, which gets the unedible root. The voyagers come to the Witi people and win in competition with them, due to the special powers of Lata's companions. One of the tricks is that of a crab-digging competition, which Lata's man wins by putting the Witi man to sleep with stories and taking the crabs from the other's full basket into his own, then making holes in the other's basket and pretending that the crabs have escaped. 

Samoa. Lata is a canoe builder who comes from Fiji, "visited Upolo and built two large canoes at Fangaloa," but dies before the deckhouse is completed. He builds a double canoe at Tafagafaga on the island of Tau off Manu‘a and sails to Savai‘i, where a southwestern district is called Lata after his name. Two hills on this island are called "the double canoe of Lata." From Savai‘i he sails to Tonga and dies there and from him the Tongans learn to make the one-sided deckhouse after the Manu‘a pattern, called fale fa‘amanu‘a. "Steersmen in the canoe of Lata" (Seu i le va‘a o Lata) is a title still heard in Samoa in Turner's day. 

Tonga. Lasa (Laka) prepares to make a trip to Fiji. Haelefeke replaces the tree he has felled for a canoe, until on the fourth day Lasa hides and catches Haele, who then helps to build the canoe and advises his taking on board anyone whom he sees beckoning to him. Three helpful beings are taken on board in this way, a great eater, a thief, and finally Haelefeke himself. With their Help the tests set by the demon of Fiji are successfully met, namely, an eating test, a catching test when fruit is shaken from a tree, a test as to which will first fill a basket of crabs. The thief waits until the contestant of Fiji has filled his basket, then puts him to sleep with a charm and empties it into his own. 

Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz people say that Lata made men and animals. They equate him with Qat.

The Laka story follows a fairly uniform type pattern, most consistently developed in the Tuamotu versions. Maori versions are without the trickster elements of the eastern islands.

(A) Discovery of his father's fate (A1) through taunts of jealous companions, (A2) through discovery of superior strength which has disastrous consequences upon his companions.

(B) Canoe building halted by spirits who replace the tree he has felled.

(C) Dangers encountered on the voyage overcome through (C1) a companion voyager, (C2) companions with special skills.

(D) Swallowing monster slain, (D1) parent rescued from the monster or (D2) from a cave.

(E) Competitive tasks won: (E1) filling baskets, (E2) riddling, (E3) escaping a fire trap.

(F) Monster in a distant land tricked and slain: (F1) by noosing, (F2) after a false call, (F3) after setting fire to the house, (F4) by freezing.

(G) Woman sought: (G1) stolen mother rescued, (G2) wife or daughter of enemy taken, (G3) both woman and mother recovered, (G4) woman slain.

The motive of the tree that resists felling occurs regularly in the Laka story. In the form of the reërected tree it appears in the Kana story in Hawaii; in New Zealand, in a folktale of the Rata type in which two children who seek to build a canoe to rescue their father from an ogress find the tree restored at the command of Tane; in the Marquesas, in the story of Taheta and his son Vaka-uhi, who, neglected by his father because of the death of his mother in childbirth, attempts to build a canoe in which to leave the land, and finds it each morning reset by the grandmothers, because they fear the death of their grandchild on the expedition, but upon his making offerings they build the canoe in a single night; in Samoa, in a fable of Toa in the form of a handsome tree replaced by his friend Pale, who has concealed himself from woodcutters in the shape of a bent stick, and in the story of two chiefs of Upolo who cut down a tree in Raka's forest, which Raka restores with an incantation; in Dobu, of a mango tree which, when felled, returns to its place each night; in Mota of the Banks islands, in a trickster tale of Qat, who fells a tree for a canoe, which Marawa the spider re-sets until Qat hides a chip; among the Dyak in the story of Pulang-gana in which a clearing is restored as before until the proper offerings are made and incantations repeated. 

In other instances the tree resists felling except with a special instrument. In Hawaii, the legend of the Kalaipahoa tree which can be cut with a stone adz alone belongs to this type, and the story of Maui told on Kauai, where a spear of lehua wood and a special ritual are required. In the Ono-kura legend of Mangaia a demon living at the taproot of an ironwood tree destroys those who cut it down and restores the tree to position. Ono-kura kills the demon with his ironwood spade Rua-i-para, removes the roots, and forms weapons out of the hard wood. In the Marquesas, the great tree Anianiteani cannot be felled by the avenger of Apekura's son until a special axe is secured. In Tahiti, Tafa‘i can cut the sinews of the great fish with a special axe alone. In a Maori story, Te-Peri's brother is buried at the foot of a tree which resists felling until cut with the axe Tia. 

Among Hawaiians, the felling of a hardwood tree for a canoe is an occasion of great spiritual excitement as the feller feels himself drawn into close relationship with spirits of the forest whose anger he fears and whom he placates with propitiatory offerings and prayers. Special rituals attend the cutting and shaping of a canoe and its bringing down from the forest, or the cutting of the tree for the building of a new heiau. In Tahiti, "When canoes were hewed out in the mountain, Tifai (Mender) was invoked and there would come a wind, the men would lie inside the canoe with the ropes hanging outside, and the canoe would go down the mountainside of its own accord. When they came to low ground, the men got out of the canoes, picked up the ropes and sang, and the canoe was light to draw and was taken to the builders' marae to be completed." Even today in Hawaii the canoe makers assure us that the difficult course of the canoe to the sea is achieved with such ease as could not be possible by human hands alone.

The Aikanaka-Laka legend emphasizes throughout this dependence of man upon the cooperation of spirit forces which control the material world whose resources he would utilize for his own needs. The cycle revolves about two major themes in Polynesian story, the winning or losing of a supernatural wife, and the voyage of adventure or revenge. These are developed by means of a multitude of details in which the supernatural forces of the mother's family are assembled in behalf of her child, either through direct endowment, instruction in magic incantations, or cooperation in the quest. The gods of a family, its aumakua, are thought of as restricted within a limited locality. A wife from a foreign land may control, through family descent, supernatural forces superior in power to her husband's but unable to exercise control within his territory. Competition against alien and inimical forces is necessarily set up by contestants who venture outside the area protected by their own gods. Death on an expedition to a foreign land or on a fishing trip into unknown waters is no natural occurrence but due to the malignity of evil powers. It must be avenged upon these powers in order to uphold the family honor. Even the preservation of an ancestor's bones from ignoble uses becomes a sacred obligation. Who is able to carry out such a revenge but one whom the ancestral gods have endowed beyond his fellows; specifically, one descended from divine parentage beyond the limits of the household into which he is born? The superiority of divine aid over brute force--the necessity therefore of propitiating the gods--is hence emphasized throughout the cycle. The characteristic Polynesian turn to this world-wide theme is that of the necessity imposed upon the gods to acknowledge the family claim and to succor and support their offspring. It is through the idea of the kumu-pa‘a, the "fixed foundation," that such an obligation becomes inherent. In the course of popular development and in groups where the idea of family inheritance has been perhaps less firmly established than in Hawaii, the religious background gives way to interest in trickery and native wit over dullard achievement or to a realistic scene of human revenge, and the devices for achieving a supernatural wife multiply down the line; but on the whole the legend throughout the whole area unfolds a family history of divine parentage through marriage with a goddess, and the rise of an avenger equipped against the mysterious forces of a supernatural world.




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
  Back to Mo`olelo (stories)  
  History  Atlas  Culture Language Links  

donch.com home     photos     baritone ukulele     lucky u live hawai'i