Hawaiian Mythology
by Martha Beckwith 1940



Trickster stories are generally in the form of contests with the spirits who peopled the islands before  the coming of man to Hawaii, and are only occasion-ally told of animal figures. In early days the southern islands of the group were all peopled by spirits, each with its chief spirit, Kani-ka‘a of Hawaii, Keoloewa or Ke-ahu-ali‘i of Maui, Pahulu of Lanai, Kaunolu of Molokai, Halali‘i of Oahu. Lanai and Kahoolawe were long avoided by settlers through fear of the spirits who were their sole inhabitants. The Kaulu-laau of Lahaina who cleared Lanai of spirits has never been connected with the voyager Kaulu but may be a namesake. The tendency is to be seen on the one hand of centering such exploits about a single figure, on the other hand of a local detachment which gives rise to a distinct hero cycle on each island or even from district to district, hence a multiplication of trickster figures each with his own cycle of ad-ventures, sometimes borrowed from district to district. Most of the stories on record are of wide distribution and must be referred to late foreign or south Polynesian sources. What original jests they supersede it is perhaps not too late to. discover. The demigod Maui is archtrickster throughout Polynesia, but his deeds are rather typical of the kupua than of the trickster hero.

Pupuhuluena(-ana, Kupuahuluena, Puluana) is said to have been a kahuna who introduced food plants into the Hawaiian group, or, in localized versions, into Kohala district on Hawaii, by tricking the persons or "spirits" who owned the plants.


(a) Pupu-huluena (Tuft of red feathers) lives along the steep cliffs east of Kohala where no food plants grow; the spirits have hidden them at Kalae in Ka-u district. He goes out fishing and follows the shoals of fish until off the Kona coast he sees Ieiea and Poopalu, fishermen of Makali‘i, letting down a large-mouthed fishnet from their canoe. He makes friends with them by giving them oily kukui nuts in place of the sea beans (mohihi) they have been using to chew and spread on the water in order to see the fish entering the net. In return they help him get slips of food plants, which can be had only from the spirits ashore, since all their own food is cooked. The spirits must be made to believe that he has supernatural knowledge or they will never give up their food plants. He carves an image of wiliwili wood to set up as a god and weaves a basket of ieie vine in which he hides one of the fishermen. Brought ashore thus concealed, the native whispers to him the way in which to meet the tests by which those who have the food plants on shore attempt to put off the strangers. He is hence able to come ashore at the proper place and to name all the plants correctly as if revealed by his god. After he has stood some of them on their heads in a competitive game, they are glad to be rid of him. The tubers he planted are still to be seen growing at the foot of the cliffs east of Mohala. 

(b) Kula-uka lives above Kaumana on Oahu. At Lelepua lives the grandchild of Wailoa and Haumea named Kapahu. Kula-uka quarrels with his brother Kula-kai and, weaving a bird-form disguise out of ieie vine covered with feathers, he carries away Kapahu. When Haumea pursues, he throws out a stone which Haumea takes for her grandchild and which thunders when she tries to catch it. Haumea in revenge seizes the food from all the islands and retires to Nu‘umealani.

Oahu, Kauai, Maui, Hawaii are afflicted by drought. Pupuhuluana and Kapala, strong men and swift runners of Kauai, come to Oahu seeking food and at Kailua in the land of Maunawili find Haumea's attendants, the men Olomana, Ahiki, Pakui, and the women Makawao and Hauli, living on popolo and ti plant left by the angry goddess for the subsistence of her own people. Olomana sends the swift runner Pakui with the Kauai men to Ololo-i-mehani, the land of Makali‘i eastward of Oahu. They carve lifelike images of Ieiea and Poopalu, fishermen of Makali‘i, with humped backs like the uhu fishermen, real hair, eyes made of oyster shell. They bring back potatoes, taro, bananas, sugar cane, ape plant, ti, yams, hoi, arrowroot (pia), breadfruit, mountain apples (ohia), coconuts, and edible ferns. Thus these foods came to the islands. 

(c) There is a famine on the islands because Haumea has taken away the food. Pupuhuluana sails east to the land of Makali‘i and on his return lands at Kalae in Ka-u district on Hawaii with food plants. His canoe, the "net of Maeha," and the fishermen of Makali‘i, Poopalu and Ieiea, are to be seen there turned into stone. 

(d) It is Aukele-nui-aiku and his brother (Kane-)Apua who bring the first coconut to Hawaii. The first time Apua and his brother come from Kahiki they do not bring slips of food plants because they expect to find them growing here. Being almost famished, they return to Kahiki after plantings, and appear off Kaula-(u)ka's place in Kahiki with a load of pretended food in the shape of coral rock. Their not landing is laid to the rough surf. Of each plant they are shown they declare that it "germinates, sprouts, bears leaves and fruits in Hawaii," and hold up a piece of coral resembling the shape of the plant. The owners of the food plants cast all away as worthless and the voyagers gather them into the canoes and carry them back to plant in Hawaii. The first coconuts in Hawaii are planted at Kahaualea (where stands the heiau of Waha-ula) and at Kalapana in Puna district, Hawaii. 

(e) Kupua-huluena is a famous kupua who travels to foreign lands, names vegetables introduced at Keauhou, Hawaii, offers them upon the altars of the heiau of Kamauai erected to Kane, and distributes them for planting. Thus vegetable foods are introduced into these islands. 

The device of a basket in which an accomplice is concealed as a pretended "god" occurs in the Pikoi-a-ka-alala legend, in which Pikoi is secretly conveyed to Hawaii concealed in such a basket as the god of his friend Kauakahi. In the Kaulu legend, the kupua's presence in the land of the gods is concealed by his hiding in a basket, where he acts as the pretended "god" of his brother and has to be properly fed to be effective. A bird disguise is woven by Maui when he goes in search of his wife who has been stolen by the eight-eyed bat. 

A few similar incidents are found in other groups, based on common customs or a common tradition. The use of oil to clear waters is noted in New Zealand. Compare also the incident in Marquesan stories of emptying a gourdful of oil into the sea in order to look down to the sea bottom, or "into Havai‘i." The trick of pretending acquaintance with some coveted culture gift in order that its owners may not know how eagerly the stranger desires it occurs in other Polynesian travel stories. In Pukapuka, Wue travels. At Rakahanga he pretends that only children use swings in his country, and thus gets samples of this novelty to take home with him. So with other games which he learns at the different islands he visits. 

A similar famine story occurs in the legend of Makali‘i.

(a) Kepelino version. Makali‘i, the famous steersman of Hawaii-loa, is a great farmer who gathers up the food from Kahiki: bananas, yam, sugar cane, starch plant, hoi berry, and the gourd vines from which food calabashes and water bottles are made. But he is stingy and keeps all fast in a net (koko) until a rat nibbles the cord and lets them fall out. When the land is troubled by drought, rats (some of them two-legged) scatter his horde. Hence the saying, "But for the rat who spread these things broadcast over the group . . ." (E ole ka iole, laha ai no mea kanu ma keia mau pae-aina).

(b) Fornander version (1). In the Moikeha-Kila legend Makali‘i, younger brother of Moikeha, remains in Kahiki as ruler over the land when his brother sails to Hawaii. He is good-looking, powerful, and brave, has the foreknowledge of a seer, and wields his war club Naulu-kohe-lewalewa with such force that its stroke forms a deep furrow in the earth. Foreseeing Kila's arrival, he has gathered up all the food of the land into a net called Makali‘i and hung it up out of reach. "The net of Makali‘i is drawn up above" (Huhui koko a Makali‘i iluna) is the saying. Kila's grandaunt (or uncle), Kane-pohihi, climbs up in rat form and gnaws the strings of the net so that all the food is scattered over the land. Makali‘i comes down from his home in the clouds to do battle with Kila, but Kila dodges the swing of his club and gives him a stunning blow, after recovery from which he crawls away thankfully to his home in the clouds and never returns to earth.

(c) Fornander version (2). Makali‘i is a mythical ruler in Kapakapaua-a-Kane who in time of plenty stores up food which in time of famine he hangs out of reach in a net. The rats travel over the earth in search of food and find nothing. They look up to heaven and see the net. One climbs thither on clouds and rainbow and nibbles the ropes of the net at the center. The food falls and restocks the earth.

(d) Emerson version. Makali‘i has hung up the vegetable food in a net attached to a cloud at Kaipaku, Hanalei, on Kauai. Puluena comes from Kohala seeking food and puts the rat into the net. A division of land in Kohala district is called Iole after this friendly rat. The chant runs

Hiu ai la Kaupaku Hanalei
I na mapuna wai a ka naulu.

"Hung up on the ridgepole of Hanalei,
To the water springs of the rain cloud." 

References to the famine in the days of Makali‘i are not uncommon. In Green's version of the Anaelike story the chiefess of the Rolling island visits Hawaii at a time when Makali‘i has hung up the food in his net and there is little for man to eat; later in the story the rat nibbles at the net and there is food. The famine myth is generally placed in a distant land. Only in Emerson's version is Makali‘i said to belong to Kauai and the havoc of his horde to have taken place on the southern coast of Hawaii. At the southernmost point of that island, at Kalae in Ka-u district, rock formations are locally ascribed to objects in the legend: "the stars of Makali‘i [Pleiades], the house of Makali‘i, his net, and the rat." The string figure to which the chant belongs shows the net with its eight compartments, each of which holds a single kind of vegetable food--taro, sweet potato, plantain, yam, arrowroot, fernroot, smilax, and another. The point at which the rat nibbled the cord is one which, if cut, will cause the whole figure to fall apart.

One of the ceremonies of the Makahiki festival consisted in shaking a netful of food out upon the ground to foretell what the crop would be like that season; if anything clung to the net it was a sign of scarcity. The ceremony, says a note, commemorated the time when "the kupua Waia let down from heaven a net whose four corners pointed to the North, South, East and West, and which was filled with all sorts of food, animal and vegetable (i‘a and ai). This done he shook the net and the food was scattered over the land for the benefit of the starving people." In the prayer offered at this time for the net (ka pule koko), Uli is invoked as a god, and Kane and Kanaloa as the "life giver" and the "wonder worker." To this net Malo gives the name of Maoloha. It is moreover from Makali‘i that Kaulu (Kula-uka?) gets the net of Maoleha in order to snare and kill Haumea. Now Haumea in one version of the Pupuhuluana legend is the one who has caused the famine which has started the quest after food plants. In Emerson's version of the net of Makali‘i, Puluena is the man who comes seeking food. The names are evidently variants, and the food famine is thus closely connected with the stories of both Kaulu and Pupuhuluana. In the Kaulu legend Makali‘i is represented as the seer of the gods Kane and Kanaloa and lives in the heaven above Kuaihelani, where lies the vegetable garden of the gods. Kaulu wrecks this food plot by the trick familiar to folktale of appearing as a puny fellow and then gathering up the entire crop when told to take "all he can carry away." The same device of the chewed kukui nut to clarify the water with which Pupuhuluana bribes the "fisher-men of Makali‘i" to help him secure the food plants from the spirits is employed in the Kaulu story by Makali‘i himself, under compulsion, in order to clear the ocean surface and find out where the fishes have hidden Kaulu's brother. 

Ka-ulu (The breadfruit) is known to Hawaiian legend as "son of Kalana" and a great voyager in the South Seas; to Hawaiian mythical fiction as a great trickster who wrecks the vegetable garden of Kane and Kanaloa, slays their pet shark whose spirit is accordingly placed in the Milky Way, terrorizes Makali‘i into giving up the net Maoleha in order to snare Haumea, and kills Lono-ka-eho with the eight foreheads and his dog Ku-ilio-loa, who rule the north side of Oahu.


Ka-ulu is the youngest son of Ku-ka-ohia-laka and Hina-ulu-ohia born at Kailua, Koolau, on Oahu. Since an older brother Kamano has threatened his death as soon as he is born, he fears to take human form and appears in the shape of a rope, which is put up on a shelf and guarded by a kindly brother Kaeha (or Kaholeha) until he becomes a human being. Kaeha is carried away to lands in the sky called Lewa-nu‘u and Lewa-lani (or Kuaihelani) where Kane and Kanaloa live and Kaulu voyages thither to find him. Kaulu's strength lies in his hands; each obstacle he encounters is overcome by means of their strength alone. These obstacles are strong waves, which he breaks up and hence the surf of today; long and short waves; the dog Ku-ilio-loa, which he breaks in pieces and hence the small dogs of today (and in another version the tides Keaumiki and Keauka, and gods and ghosts).

Kaeha hides him in a loulu palm leaf from which he speaks with the voice of a god and demands the awa cup given to his brother. The seer Makali‘i warns the gods that Kaulu is among them and is all-powerful, but they fail to find him. He plays tricks on the spirits by putting stones into their sleeping places; they retaliate by refusing food to the brother and telling him to get it for himself. Kaulu "flies up" to the gods' provision ground; the guards turn it over and shake him off into space but he recovers footing and teases the guards into giving him "anything he wants." He takes everything they have, even to the rays of the sun, and they have to beg a piece of each to restock the land.

The gods endeavor to get rid of Kaeha by tempting him out surf riding, where he is swallowed by the chief of the sharks Kukama-ulu-nui-akea (or Kalake‘e-nui-a-Kane). Kaulu first drains the sea to find his brother, then spits it out (and hence the sea is salt today) and seeks Makali‘i. The thunderstone Ikuwa which Koeleele (or Kaaona) hurls at him he catches on his forefinger. Makali‘i chews kukui nut to oil the surface of the sea and points out the chief shark to Kaulu. Kaulu teases the shark until it opens its jaws, then tears the jaws apart with his strong hands and out comes his brother with hair all worn away. The spirits again try to kill Kaeha in a swing, but Kaeha kills them instead by pretending to swing them. Those who survive catch Kaeha and hide him in a mussel (opihi) shell, but Kaulu urinates upon it and forces it to open its shell, hence that species of mussel is bitter today.

Kaulu returns with his brother to Papakolea in Moanalua and himself goes on to Kapalama, where he kills Haumea by trapping her in the Maoleha nets obtained from Makali‘i; then to Kailua where he kills Lono-ka-eho with the eight foreheads and his dog Kuilioloa at Kualoa, and assumes the chief ship over Koolau. 

In this legend of Ka-ulu's birth and his fabulous adventures when he goes to find his brother in the land of Kane and Kanaloa, the trickster element is uppermost. As a kupua his own two hands are his "god" and, although the voyage and the adventures in the land of the gods contain elements similar to other such travel tales, the emphasis of the story is upon the tricks he plays upon the spirits in contests of power.

(A) Birth in the form of a rope.

(B) Voyage in which obstacles are sent by the gods to obstruct the way.

(C) Tricking of the spirits in the land of the gods; (C1) disguise as a god; (C2) rough handling of the spirits until they are glad to be rid of the visitor.

(D) Carrying away food plants; (D1) all the food there is.

(E) Avoiding thunderbolts.

(F) Killing the gods' shark, which is thrown up into the Milky Way.

Similar stories of contests with spirits in order to win food plants from the gods come from Samoa.

Lele‘asapai. The flying gods (aitu) in Alele have stolen all the chief of Samata's yam planting. He sends his grandson Lele‘asapai to the spirits' land to the westward of Savai‘i to bring them back. On the way Lele lands at Pulotu, where the ruling chief Savea Si‘uleo pretends friendship and asks him where they sleep at night, intending to destroy them. His guardian god Saolevao sets a watch and guards them against the plot. Si‘uleo sends him after kava, but misdirects him; again Saolevao sets him right. The spirits poison the kava they give him to drink, but Saolevao drinks the poison for him. Now allowed to go on to Alele, he hides at the spring and first kills the bearers who bring the chief of the flying spirits, then forces the chief to give him the yam plantings. 

Lefanoga. The young son follows his father Tagaloa-ui and his brother Tae-o-Tagaloa to the family gathering in the heavens. The family are shocked and give him the poisonous kava to kill him. He avoids the poison, uproots the whole plant, and brings it down to the Tagaloa people on earth. 

Losi. Losi sets out (usually with a boatload of god-like companions) after food plants and brings taro, coconuts, bread-fruit, and the kava ritual from the Tagaloa in the heavens by outwitting the gods in all the tests they set him and defeating them in battle, teasing and bullying them until they will give him anything he asks in order to be rid of him. The tests consist in kava drinking, eating (sometimes poisonous food), surf riding, diving, catching fruit shaken from a tree, or in more magical feats like setting back the sun or stopping rain. A similar story from Tonga tells of the voyage to Bulotu, the tests under-taken, and the food plants with which the voyagers escape from the spirits of Bulotu. 

The king shark of Kane and Kanaloa in Lewa-lani, called Ku-kama-ulu-nui-akea or Kalake‘e-nui-a-Kane, whom Kaulu slays in this legend and whose spirit flies up to the Milky Way, has its prototype in the South Seas. In the Tuamotus the Milky Way is the sacred ocean of Kiho-tumu; the dark rift in the Milky Way is his sacred ship, called The-long-shark. In New Zealand the Milky Way (Te Mangaroa) is called The-fish-of-Maui (Te-ika-Maui). In Rarotonga Maui kills Te-Mokoroa-i-ata, the water monster who insulted Maui's father Tangaroa, and Mokoroa becomes the Milky Way. In Tahiti Ire, "the handsome blue shark, be-loved of Ta‘aroa," frolics with the children until the gods of the sea warn the brothers Tahi-a-nu‘u and Tahi-a-ra‘i that there is danger of its becoming a man-eater. One breaks his spear between its jaws, the other aims at its heart. They are about to cut it up when Ta‘aroa and Tu snatch away their pet to the Wai-ola-o-Tane and it bathes in the Milky Way. 

Kaulu and his wife Kekele, a quiet, handsome woman who loves all fragrant plants and who planted the hala groves of Koolau and used to wear wreaths of sweet-smelling pandanus about her, are not named upon the genealogical line to which Kaulu's forefathers belong but remain mythical figures. In the story of his adventures his parents are woodland deities. His own name refers to plant growth, especially the breadfruit, and is used in referring to a young person before puberty.

The theft of the awa plant from the garden of the gods connects Kaulu's exploits as a trickster with those of Maui as recounted in the Kumulipo. The arrangement of the strata of the heavens in which Kane and Kanaloa drink awa and surf with the spirits in the lower heaven (Lewa-nu‘u) while their vegetable garden is tended in the heaven above (Lewalani) corresponds with a fishing chief's establishment who lives by the sea and has his vegetable food brought from the uplands. The looting of the patch corresponds with Maui's early exploit. Hina-the-tapa-beater, wife of the Nanamaoa who is represented on the Ulu line as son of the trickster Maui-a-kalana, is called the grandmother of Kaulu the voyager. 

Two traditions remain from the legend of Kaulu's voyages: one that he brought to Hawaii "the edible soil of Kawainui" called alaea, used medicinally by old Hawaiians and resorted to in Tahiti in time of famine; the other that he visited the maelstrom called Moana-wai-kai-o-o, or Mimilo-o-Nolewai, an adventure, says Emory, often depicted in Tuamotuan tradition where actual whirlpools are common within the group, one within the lagoon of Takaroa "into which canoes are drawn, disappear from sight, and emerge again some distance beyond." Lands visited by Kaulu in circling Kahiki are recited in a name chant:

I am Kaulu, Offspring of Kalana,
He who visited Wawau (Borabora)
       .       .       .       .       .       .
Upolo (Taha‘a), little Pukalia,
Great Pukalia and Alala, p. 441
Pelua, Palana, and Holani,
The isthmus (kuina) of Ulunui, Uliuli,
Melemele, Hi‘ikua, Hi‘ilalo, Hakalauai;
Spanned the heavens,
Spanned the night, spanned the day,
Made the circuit of Kahiki,
Kahiki is completely circled by Kaulu. 


(a) Fornander version. Ka-ulu-laau (The grove of trees), son of Kakaalaneo and Kanikani-ula, is brought up at Lahaina (called Lele) on Maui, where his father lives and rules the whole island of Maui. All the children born on the same day are brought to the chief's place to be the boy's companions. Each day he leads them into mischief, finally pulling up the breadfruit plantings. The boys are sent home and Kaululaau exiled to Lanai, which is inhabited by spirits. In vain these man-eating spirits try to discover the place which his god has given him to sleep in. Each night they tire themselves out running to a new place to which he has directed them, while he sleeps pleasantly somewhere else, until all die of exhaustion except Pahulu and a few others, who escape to Kahoolawe. The chief sees how his son's fire burns each night on Lanai, is pleased with his courage, and sends a canoe to fetch him home. 

(b) Emerson version. To trick the spirits, Ka-ulu-laau proposes a swimming test to a rock at which he takes his stand and as they swim up to the rock one at a time, he holds the head of each under water until he is drowned. The remaining spirits he makes drunk in a feast house, gums their eyes while they sleep, and then sets fire to the house. Only three or four escape. One he ends with a mock club, another by tricking him to dive for his own reflection in the water and then jumping in on top of him and putting an end to him. 

(c) Kalakaua version. Further adventures recounted of Kaulu-laau include the possession of a magic spear point with which he is able to sink into the ground a demon mo‘o called Mo‘oaleo, protect himself from Pele, and kill a giant bird which harries Oahu and is possessed by the spirit of Hilo-a-Lakapu, f chief of Hawaii who invaded Oahu during the rule of Maili-ku kahi and was slain at Waimano and his head placed on a pole for the birds to feed upon near Honouliuli. Of akua blood, his spirit enters the monster and is driven forth only by pronouncing his name. This spurious version gives Kaululaau a half-sister Wao and a half-brother Kaihiwalua, father of Luaia. The kahuna Waolani is his friend. His land on Maui is called Kauaula. His wife from Oahu is named Laiea-a-Ewa. 

The motive of hiding from the spirits occurs in the Banks islands and in Samoa.

(a) Qat and his brothers go to the village of Qasavara and to escape death at the hands of the spirits hide each night through Qat's magic in a different crevice of the house, which the fool brother the next day points out. 

(b) In Samoa, Lele‘asapai is sent to recover yams stolen by the flying god of Alele. He comes to Bulotu and, helped by his guardian spirit Saolevao, avoids the plots laid against him, first by giving wrong information as to where he will sleep; second, by keeping awake all night; third, by climbing into the heavens and bringing down kava to drink; fourth, by avoiding drinking the poisoned kava. He then proceeds to Alele and kills the demon, but not the king for whom the demon stole them. 

Besides these two arch tricksters of Hawaiian tradition, similar tricks are told of other trickster figures who contend with the early spirit inhabitants of the islands.


A trickster (of Hilo, Hawaii) fools the spirits by feeding them salt dung, while himself only pretending to eat. When they play hide and seek, Lepe conceals himself by standing on his head, and then plays them a vulgar trick. When they play sand digging he conceals dung in the sand so that they smear their hands. He goes to their feast painted black to escape recognition. He invites them to visit him in return, but as they approach he rattles gourds and sings, as if to companions, "Wake up! here come the spirits, our favorite food!" and all run away. 


The artful son of Hina in Kohala, Hawaii, tricks the sharks who guard the cave of lobsters by throwing in a stone which the sharks all make for, supposing that he has himself leaped in, then diving in another place after the lobsters and escaping unharmed. Meanwhile the sharks quarrel as to which shark is his accomplice, and kill each other until the king of sharks alone remains.

To kill this king shark Punia prepares a long sharp stick, two fire sticks, kindling wood, food, salt, and a mussel shell and assures the shark that if it bites him and the blood flows it will rise to the surface and he will live again, but if it swallows him whole he will die. The shark accordingly swallows him whole and for ten days he lives inside the shark by making a fire and cooking the food he has brought and the meat which he scrapes out of the inside of the shark. When the shark becomes weak and makes for shore, he tricks it into carrying him to the sandy beach, where the fish is stranded and people come and dig out Punia.

On his way back to Kohala, Punia escapes the spirits by pretending that this fishing ground is familiar to him and thus enticing the spirits out to sea by ones and twos where they are at his mercy. Thus he kills all but one wary spirit.  

The first incident occurs in Samoa, where spirits called Alele rob the yams of the Tui Samata. He sends his grand-child La-le‘a-sapai to recover them. The boy throws a club into their bathing pool and the spirits fight each other until all are killed. The second motive, that of destroying a monster by being swallowed whole and cutting the way out, is of worldwide distribution. The third occurs in the Emerson version of Kaululaau. 


(a) Fornander version. Hanaaumoe, the great flatterer of the spirits of Oahu who devoured men, used to invite travelers from Kauai ashore with a chant warning of the dangers to be met from spirits of other islands and praising the safety of his own island. When the deceived voyagers came ashore, the spirits would give them a great feast and when they were sound asleep would kill and eat them. None escaped to warn other travelers. Finally the double canoe of Kahao-o-ka-moku, friend of the ruling, chief of Kauai, is tempted ashore and the whole party killed and eaten in this manner; "one smack and the people disappeared, all eaten up by the spirits." A lame man, however, has suspected danger and kept awake as long as he could in order to answer the guards who came to find if all were sleeping. Finally he goes to sleep in a hole under the door-step and escapes detection. He returns to Kauai and reports the matter. The chief comes with a party to avenge his friend. Wooden images take their place in the Long House while the Kauai men conceal themselves. The spirits find the images tough eating. When all the spirits have fallen asleep, the house is burned over their heads and all consumed except the flatterer, who manages to escape. 

(b) Rice version. Kauai and Ni‘ihau fishermen are eaten by the gods who live at one end of Ni‘ihau. The fishermen make wooden images with eyes of mussel shell and place them in the Long House. While the gods are trying to eat the images, the fishermen close the door and burn all to the ground with the gods inside. 


A cunning spirit of Waiapuka in North Kohala named Wakaina pleases the people by his singing, then deceives them into dressing him in a feather cloak, helmet, and native garment, and giving him a bamboo flute and other ornaments in which he promises to show them a new dance, and flies away with the whole costume. 

Wakaina accompanies Pumaia on one of his sightseeing tours on Maui. The people see them coming and to test whether they are spirits or not spread ape leaves for them to walk upon, since a human foot will tear the leaves but a spirit's will leave them untorn. Pumaia saves his friend by walking ahead and bidding him follow in the torn footprints. As they cross Lama‘oma‘o a prophet sees them coming and gives chase. The great owl of Kona (Pueo-nui-o-Kona) fights the prophet and his entrails become spread over the akolea ferns that used to grow in that place. [Hence the name of "intestines of the prophet" for the endemic species of the dodder, called pololo and used for love charms, whose yellow stems form a tangle over bushes in some parts of the islands (Cuscuta sandwichiana).]

The trick of escaping with valuables while giving an exhibition of skill in dancing occurs in many South Sea groups. In Mangaia, Ngana the crafty persuades (H)ina to let him try on her ornaments, then flies up in the air with them through a chink in the wall. In Maori, Whakaturia is taken captive and hung up in Uenuku's big house while the captors dance and sing. Tama-te-kupua suggests to him a way of escape by boasting of his own skill until he is released to dance and sing. He makes his escape through the doorway, which is then quickly closed and fire is set to the house. A god caught stealing in the witch woman's sweet-potato store-house is about to be cooked and eaten when he offers to dance and flies away with the witch's grandchild. In Nukufetau of the Ellice islands a captive is released to dance. He leaps as high as the roof and is hence taken outside to show his skill, when he promptly flies away. In the Lau islands, the tricky gods are tied and left in charge of the children. Freed to teach a new dance, they sing a magic song which sinks the ship and the children all perish while the gods disappear. In Florida the incident is part of an animal story in which the turtle has saved the life of the heron and the heron reciprocates. The turtle is caught and tied in the house of his captors. By dancing for the children while their elders are away the heron distracts their attention from the escaping turtle. He then flies away with the ornaments he has borrowed from them for the dance. 


The clever thief Iwa, son of Kukui, who "stole while he was yet in his mother's womb," lives at Kaalaea, Koolau, Oahu. Keaau seeks him to recover his lucky cowries used for squid fishing, which Umi has taken from him. Iwa dives under the hook, detaches the cowries, and fastens the hook to a bank of coral while he makes his escape. Afterwards he betrays the trick to Umi and steals back the shells from Keaau.

To test his skill as a thief Umi sets him two tests: to steal his tapu axe which hangs suspended to the middle of a cord passed about the necks of two old women in the temple of Pakaalana in Waipio while a crier makes the circuit five times each night of the tapued district, and to contend six to one with professional thieves in filling six houses with stolen treasure in a single night. Iwa personates the crier and asks the old women to let him touch the axe to make sure of its safety, then makes off with it so swiftly that no one can catch him. For the second test, he waits until the six professionals have filled their six houses and gone to sleep, then steals everything out of them and fills his own. He even steals the sheets from under Umi as he lies sleeping.

Iwa owns a paddle named Ka-pahi (The scatterer), with four strokes of which he can cover the distance between Ni‘ihau and Hawaii (the easternmost and the westernmost of the group). 

Stories of the clever thief Iwa do not strictly belong to this group. The tricks he plays are upon human combatants and resemble those told in Hawaii of such legendary heroes as Kua-paka‘a in the court of Keawe-nui-a-Umi rather than of Laka and Kaha‘i in southern cycles, who may be regarded as the great eastern Polynesian examples of tricksters in spirit land, as Lele‘asapai is in western Polynesia. Iwa is the name of a bay below Kapoho in Puna district. Hiro (Hilo) is god of thieves in Tahiti, Iro in Mangaia and Rarotonga, Whiro among the Maori, not to be confused with the navigator of that name. In Tahiti the dragonfly is his agent. His "sky of the prophets" is below the "water of life of Tane" or Milky Way. Among the Maori he is one of the sons of Rangi, lord of darkness, as opposed to Tane, god of light. In Mangaia the will-of-the-wisp Uti is invoked to light the world against his thefts.




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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