Hawaiian Mythology
by Martha Beckwith 1940



The romance of Hainakolo tells the story of a marriage arranged between two young people of closely related families, one living at Waipio on Hawaii, the other in a distant land called Kuaihelani. There is friction between the two and the husband leaves the wife for another or an earlier lady love. The wife with her little son goes home (or in pursuit) but her canoe is overturned and she just manages to swim home to shore with the child. There she loses her wits and runs wild in the forest. The child is drawn up in the fishnet of the guardian of the chiefess Lu‘ukia, a relative of Hainakolo, who has the little waif reared carefully and takes him for her husband. When she finds him philandering with a younger woman, in a fit of rage she kills the son she has had by him. The father's chant of despair is heard by his mother, who comes upon the scene to help restore the child to life, and the identity of its father becomes known.


(a) Pukui version. The man-eating Ku-waha-ilo comes from Kuaihelani to Waipio valley. Maggots squirm from his mouth. Thus his face appears reflected in the pool where the beautiful Hina is bathing, but when he reveals himself in the form of a handsome man the terrible apparition is forgotten and she takes him for a husband. He abjures human flesh and provides for his family by fishing and cultivating. After three children have been born, Kama-ai-ulu-nui, a son, Hina-ai-ulu-nui and Hi‘ilei, daughters, he returns with his son and younger daughter to Kuaihelani leaving the older daughter with her mother. When the children reach marriageable age, Kama returns according to promise to Waipio to wed Hina. To satisfy her pregnancy craving he ascends the mountain after snow, and because she follows him (ho‘okolo) and grumbles (kolokolo) the girl who is born is named Hainakolo and an uncertain fate predicted for her. Five more girls are born, Lu‘ukia, whose foster parents are Kaholoholo-uka and Kaholoholo-kai (Going upland and Going seaward), and the four Maile sisters, whose foster parents are Nakula-uka and Nakula-kai (Land plains and Sea plains).

Hina's younger sister meanwhile bears to her husband Kaula-wena (Red dawn) in Kuaihelani a son named "Keaunini of-the-redness-of-heaven." Her husband's sister, the beauty of

Kuaihelani, wishes this boy for a husband, but has promised him to her own sister's daughter, and Keaukai and Keaumiki are sent to Waipio, where they find in Hainakolo a ravishing bride for their ward. A mo‘o ancestress named Mo‘o-inanea who lives at Waolani in Nuuanu valley on Oahu stretches her body into a bridge across which Hainakolo walks to join her husband in Kuaihelani. A son Leimakani is born, but after seven years Keaunini falls under the spell of his former sweetheart and Hainakolo sails for home with their child. Ku-waha-ilo is displeased and sends a storm which upsets the canoe and she is obliged to make the rest of the journey by swimming with her child.

At Waipio, Hainakolo leaves Leimakani on the beach and wanders away crazed to the heights of the valley. He is drawn up in the net of Lu‘ukia's foster parent and brought up in concealment because of his beauty, under the name of Lopa-iki-helewale (Little worthless castaway). Lu‘ukia sends each of her sisters in turn to report upon him but each, desiring him for herself, declares him to be a monster. Finally she learns the truth and takes him for her husband. When she finds that he has an affair with her youngest sister Maile lau li‘i, in a fit of jealous rage she kills the child she has had by him, named Lono-kai-olohia. The father's chant of grief reveals his identity and brings his mother to the scene with reason restored, and the child is brought back to life by bathing and prayer. [Two pieces at the top and at the back of the head were not quite healed and that is why babies' heads today are soft in those places.] Keaunini's infatuation for the beauty of Kuaihelani is broken and he returns to live in happiness with Hainakolo in sight of the beautiful falls of Hi‘ilei.

(b) Westervelt version. Kahuli is a chief who, when he turns, shakes the land of Nu‘umealani. Two children are born to him by his wife Kahela, named Nakula-uka and Nakula-kai. They wed and bear a daughter Hi‘ilei and the triplets Keaumiki, Keaukai, and the girl Hina. Hi‘ilei goes to Honua-lewa (Cloud land) to wed Ku-(w)aha-ilo. Warned by her mother, she shows no fear when he appears to her in all his terrible forms. He makes her his wife and when he leaves her he gives her a rainbow as loincloth and the war club Kaaona for their son Keaunini-ula-o-ka-lani. The boy grows up in the tapu house at Kuaihelani under the care of his uncles and, discovering who his father is, sails away to Ka-lewa in a canoe made by his ancestor Niu-loa-hiki. His father, who fails to recognize him, he clubs to death in a contest, but not before he has made the acquaintance in Ka-lewa of his pretty half-sister. On his return to Kuaihelani, Keaunini dreams of a beautiful girl, falls ill with longing, and sends his uncles in search of her. They land at Waipio during a tapu period and are about to pay the forfeit with their lives when they are recognized by their sister Hina. She has come to Hawaii, married Ku, and lives at Napo‘opo‘o. Hainakolo, daughter of Ku and Hina, is the girl of Keaunini's dream. When the youth comes to Waipio for his bride, the little people Kana-mu and Kana-wa build him a tapu house and there is chanting and singing and ceremonies unknown to the simple livers in the valley.

Soon the young people neglect the tapu; they quarrel, and Keaunini returns to woo his pretty half-sister in Lewa-lani. When Leimakani is born, Hainakolo places him in a coconut gourd and swims out to sea to find her husband, but her rival drives her back with contrary winds and she lands at Waipio, leaves her child, and wanders crazed in the forest. Leimakani grows up as in the other story and is taken by Lu‘ukia, a "relative" of Hainakolo, as a husband. After their son Lono-kai is grown, he goes to Kuaihelani to seek his grandfather's spirit, which has gone down to Milu, and restores it to the body, which lies in the tapu temple at Kuaihelani. The two return to Hawaii, Keaunini is restored to Hainakolo, and Lono-kai weds a beautiful chiefess of Molokai.

(c) Thrum version. Keanini-ula-o-ka-lani is born at Kuaihelani of Haumea the wife and Ku-wa(ha)-ilo the husband, and brought up by his adopted parent Makali‘i until he comes to marriageable age. His maternal grandparents Keaumiki and Keauka sail in a coconut-tree canoe to the Hawaiian group, visit each island in turn to view the recognized beauty of each, and finally arrive at Waipio on Hawaii during a tapu season. They are seized and bound, but Olopana recognizes them and they find in his sister Hainakolo a suitable bride for their ward. Keanini comes to Waipio after his bride. The couple return to Kuaihelani, where a son, Lei-makani, is born. Keanini goes to live with a former sweetheart, daughter of Makali‘i, and Hainakolo and her son return to Hawaii. The canoe capsizes in mid-ocean. Mother and son swim the ocean, reaching first Ni‘ihau, then Nawiliwili on Kauai, where they take canoe and eventually arrive at Waipio. The story proceeds as in the two other versions. Lu‘ukia is represented as a chiefess of Hamakua. 

(d) Fornander story outline. Olopana lives at Opaelolo in Waipio valley and has two daughters, Lu‘ukia-nui and Lu‘ukia-iki. His sister Hainakolo becomes the wife of Keanini. The child of the two, Leimakani, under the name Lopa-iki-helewale, becomes the husband of Lu‘ukia-iki but is taken away from her by her sister Lu‘ukia-nui, 'who bears him a child called Lono-kai-lohia. Lu‘ukia kills the child in a fit of jealous rage, but Hainakolo restores him to life. Keanini has another wife in Kuaihelani. 

(e) Fornander historical version. Hainakolo is the daughter of Mulieleali‘i and sister of Kumuhonua, Olopana, and Moikeha. Olopana and Moikeha establish themselves in Waipio valley on Hawaii where Olopana takes to wife Lu‘ukia, granddaughter of the ruling chief of Kohala district, Hikapoloa, and of his wife Maile lau li‘i, who comes from a chief family in Kona district. Hainakolo becomes the wife of a southern chief in Kuaihelani but is unhappy and returns to Waipio valley, where her spirit still haunts the mountain cliffs and valleys about Waipio. From their son Leimakani some Hawaiian families count descent. 

(f)Kamakau version. Keaumiki and Keauka, brothers of Keanini's mother from Hawaii, come from Kuaihelani by way of Keolewa and Ni‘ihau seeking a bride for their ward and at Waipio find Hainakolo. They return by the west side of Ni‘ihau. Leimakani is born at Kuaihelani and both (mother and son?) return to Hawaii and become ancestors of Hawaiian chiefs. 

The very popular Hainakolo romance is probably based on an old traditional source. Certain elements are common to all versions. Others have been worked in by different composers out of material suggested by similar situations. From Leimakani (Wind wreath), who appears in all versions, Hawaiian families today are said to claim descent, but it would be difficult to say whether the historical connection is derived or basic. The romance belongs to the period of Olopana's legendary sojourn in Waipio valley. The wooded heights about Waipio are the traditional scene of Hainakolo's madness. Her family in Waipio represent a simpler religion than that imported by the young chief from abroad. He brings the drum and tapu ceremonies unknown before on Hawaii. The priests of Olopana can cause thunder, lightning, and earthquake; Keaunini's priests blow toward the east and make land. The lightning, the blood-red sky, the dark cloud are his signs in the heavens. The little people, the Kana-mu and Kana-wa, are his servants. In a single night they fashion a tapu house thatched with feathers, with posts and rafters of polished bone, and all day within there is soft chanting and the sound of a drumming unknown before on Hawaii, while Keaunini and his party drink awa and eat sugar cane in honor of the gods. The bride's family offer pig and fowl before he emerges to take his bride. His grandson invokes Lono in the underworld, in the sky; Kane in the darkness and hot wind, thunder, whirlwind, and storm; Laka, Pele, and Hi‘iaka; Aukelenuiaiku in the underworld; and offers a pig to his ancestral gods (aumakua). Keaunini travels in a coconut-tree canoe which is the body of his ancestor Niu-loa-hiki; in another version this relative accompanies him in eel form. From his man-eating father he inherits a rainbow for his loincloth and the war club Kaaona. The whole picture suggests the severe ritual introduced with the Kane worship by the Ku class of priests as against the simpler practices of an earlier period. It corresponds with the Hawaiiloa tradition of marriage relations sought between two branches from a common family stock who have been separated by migration. Situations, characters, and incidents reappear in a number of Hawaiian romances which turn upon marriage between children of chiefs, often of close relatives separated from childhood in foreign lands but brought together by a recognized claim to such an alliance. This claim is based upon the idea of rank for a child born of close inter-family marriage. Family aumakua aid in effecting the union. As in the two preceding romances, there is often an infidelity episode and a recall of the mother, in this case to cure an abused and unrecognized child.

In Thrum's version the incident occurs of a landing made in ignorance at a tapu part of the beach or during a tapu season, and the consequent sacrifice of the stranger to the violated gods. It was thus that Laka's father perished at the hands of Old Woman Tapu-sea (Kai-kapu). A folktale from Hana district on Maui uses the theme humorously.

A man from Hana lands with his family on a Kauai beach during a tapu season. He is shut up in a house for sacrifice the following day. He arranges with his child to get up on the roof of the house and complain of hunger because the food he is accustomed to get from the moon is not forthcoming in this strange country. Meanwhile he is careful to see that the guards hear the talk. They report to the chief and an expedition is arranged to see this wonder. When they reach Hana the whole party is put to death.

The terrible bodies with which Ku-waha-ilo in the Westervelt version attempts to frighten in order that he may have an excuse to devour her find a parallel in the Aukelenui legend when the chiefess Na-maka-o-kaha‘i tries to frighten off her wooer, and in the Puna-ai-koae when the mo‘o is getting ready to eat up her young husband for spying upon her. Ku-waha-ilo's forms are whirlwind, thunder, and lightning, a stream of blood, a mo‘o, a caterpillar, a flaming pit; Namaka's are a cliff, an ocean, a flame. All these are aumakua of the Pele family. South Sea groups furnish a similar belief in such transformation bodies. Among the Maori, each god has its aria or forms in which it may appear. For example, the offspring of the family of Tane-atua and Pahau-nui can take the forms of a stream, "a dog that barks at night" (wind), a little lake, a rock. The Kai of New Guinea tell a story of Tabotaing, chief of the dead, who tries to frighten a visitor who comes to fetch fire by appearing first as a boar, then as a snake, and finally takes the form of a man. 

The story of the marriage of Keanini's mother bears some resemblance to the Tagaloa-Ui cycle from Samoa.

The sun god Tagaloa is angry because men complain that the sun goes too fast, and he begins to eat men. Lua and Ui wish to prevent this. As he rises in the morning Ui utters a propitiatory chant and offers herself to him. She receives the sun's rays and becomes pregnant. The sun promises no longer to eat men. She and her brother Lua swim away to Manua where she makes a house out of coconut for the son whom she now bears, and names him Tagaloa-Ui. 

The episode of the child caught in a net and adopted by a chiefess is also reported from Samoa in the story of Fiti-au-mua.

A pregnant wife craves taro and eats that dedicated to the chief. She is expelled and swims out to sea with the child. The child is caught in the net of Sa‘umani, a fisherman who is after an offering for the chiefess who rules the land. The parents beg his life and name him Fiti-au-mua. In wars in Samoa he is slain, but a foster brother from his parents' adopted homeland avenges his death. 

The theme occurs in an Oahu story of Aiai, son of the fish god Kuula, and in the Kauai story of Uweuwelekehau which follows, in which the waif caught in the fishnet is adopted by Lu‘ukia and becomes her lover, but is not recognized as the high ranking chief that he is and the chosen bridegroom for the highborn chiefess.

The name of Keanini (Keaunini) has a number of local associations not necessarily belonging to the character in this story. A kupua stone called Keanini-pohaku which stood at the Kaukuana gulch on Oahu is one of two stones said to represent "Keanini and his sister" from Kauai. Off Waikoloa bay at Hana, Maui, a surfing wave that disperses before coming up to shore is called "the wave of Keanini" (ka nalo o Keanini). The local story is that Keanini came surfing from Hawaii and was about to land at Waikoloa when he saw two nude ladies bathing and was too bashful to proceed. The right and left points of the bay are named for these two chiefesses, Popolana and Ho‘olae. In the vicinity of the heiau of Kalahiki toward Mokuleia on Oahu it is unsafe to speak of going fishing at night lest the shark god Keanini, represented by a huge rock "lying awash a few hundred feet from the shore," should bring on phosphorescent lights and spoil the catch. 

Important for Hawaiian connections are the Maile sisters, favorite characters in Hawaiian romance, and the appearance again of the infidelity motive, here doubled from father to son. Keanini's former sweetheart, who seems to have no traditional name but is called variously Hapai-memeue, Hapai-onemuu, Moho-nana, or Kaekae-nalu-kae, is to be compared with the similar situation in the Fornander romance of Lau-kiamanu-i-kahiki which follows, in which the lover leaveshis sister-wife for a former alliance in Kahiki, and the girl, who has traveled to meet him clinging to the tip of a stretching tree, follows him across the sea on the back of a friendly turtle just as Hainakolo is conveyed on the back of her mo‘o ancestress.


Maki‘ioeoe, a visiting chief from Kuaihelani to Kauai, leaves Hina with child by him and gives her a whaletooth necklace, a bracelet, and a feather cape as recognition tokens and bids her name the child Lau-kia-manu-i-kahiki (Leaf for bird trapping in Kahiki) and send the child to him in a red canoe attended by servants clothed in red. In Kuaihelani he makes a bathing pool and plants a garden for the child's arrival. A beautiful girl is born and brought up on Kauai without knowledge of her origin, until her supposed father scolds her for giving away food too lavishly. Learning the truth, she refuses to go by sea to Kuaihelani and two old grandmothers roasting bananas cause a bamboo to sprout, to the tip of which she clings until she is dropped at the chief's home in Kuaihelani. There she adopts a girl friend and the two string flowers in the garden planted for the chief's daughter and bathe in its sacred pool, where a turtle comes and rubs her back. She is not recognized and an oven is ordered built for the girl's death, but an aunt in owl form chants her name and lineage and displays the tokens, and the chief recognizes his daughter.

Light radiates from her as she sleeps at night. She becomes the wife of the chief's son Kahiki-ula when he comes to visit his father. On his return to his first wife at Kahiki-ku she is inconsolable and follows him riding upon a friendly turtle. At Kahiki-ku she takes the form of an old woman and enters the service of the household, recognized only by her former husband. His wife Ka-hala-okole-pu‘upu‘u treats her with ignominy. She does pretended service only and eventually burns down the house and consumes all in it except her half-brother, whom she then deserts and returns to Kuaihelani. 


Uweuwe-lekehau is the son of Ku and Hina on Hawaii. Kane and Kanaloa are his gods. He is kept under strict tapu as a high chief. Olopana on Kauai has declared that his daughter Lu‘ukia shall have no other husband than he. One day when Ku and Hina have gone oopu fishing in the Wailuku river, the boy goes to Kalopulepule river to sail his boat and floods wash him out to sea. He is transformed into a fish and swims to Kauai. Fishermen catch him and bring him to Lu‘ukia. He becomes her lover in secret. When this is discovered, Olopana in anger banishes the two to the barren country of Mana where none but spirits dwell. He does not recognize the boy's rank because he has expected him to come in a royal red canoe manned by a company of paddlers. The spirits supply the two with all things needful and Mana becomes a fertile land where the hearts of the people are stolen by kindness so that they follow to share their chiefess's exile. The boy is finally recognized and becomes ruling chief of Kauai. The two plant a famous coconut grove at Kaunalewa and build the heiau of Lolomauna. 


Hoa-make-i-ke-kula (Companion in suffering on the plain) is a chiefess of high rank and faultless beauty born in Oioiapaiho, Kohala district. Her mother Pili bears first to the high chief Ho‘oleipalaoa the son Waikuaala, then this girl is born in the shape of a taro plant and thrown out upon the rubbish heap. Makapailu, Pili's mother, has a prophetic dream and, guided by a rainbow, finds the child, wraps her in red bark cloth, and in twenty days she has attained perfection of form. She is kept under strict tapu, but one day when she and her companion are stringing blossoms in the woods, the elepaio bird comes to them with a song and, turning into a handsome man, hides the girl in mist from her companion and lures her away to a young chief named Ka-lama-ula (Red torch) living with his sister Ka-nahele-i-ka-uka-waokele (Thicket on the forest upland), children of the chief of Kawaihae. His rank does not satisfy her and she dreams of a handsome chief with whom she falls in love. In a fog she runs away and wanders in the uplands of Pahulumoa, accompanied by a rainbow, until she is found by Pu‘uhue hiding in an olapa tree and taken to his chief Pu‘uonale, ruling chief of Kohala, who turns out to be the lover of her dreams. The union of these two is accompanied by all the signs of high rank and a child is born to them in the form of an image and named Alelekinana; hence the saying, "Place the image on the sea side of the platform" (Ho‘oku ke ki‘i i kai o kahua). Images were first made for worship in Kohala and it was this image which first gave the idea of carving the forms of gods out of wood. 


Ku and Hina, chiefs of high rank in Hilo, Hawaii, have two children, the boy Ho‘oka‘aka‘a-i-ka-paka (Rolling in the rain-drops) and the girl Kapua-o-ka-ohelo-ai (Blossom of the ohelo berry). For twenty years they are brought up apart under strict tapu without knowing of each other's existence. One day at noon when the attendants are away the girl follows a bright light and discovers her brother. They sleep together until time for the guardians' return. This goes on for some days, until the girl grows impatient of the slow-coming dawn and gets the guards off early by waking the chickens and starting their crowing. They are detected and the girl is banished to Kuaihelani, where her mother was reared. At Kauai, they find a messenger just come from Kuaihelani in search of a wife for its young chief. No girl is to be found more beautiful than Kapua. Forty days they sail before they smell the fragrant kiele flower and know that land is near. Warned by her conductors not to betray undue arrogance, she does not seat herself upon the chief's tapa nor ascend his daughter's sacred platform until taken by the hand. Even then she slips in the ascent because of her loss of virginity and again at the sacred bathing place she slips and the sacred eel bites at her. She would have been killed at once had she not been recognized as daughter of Hina, the chief's older sister, and of higher rank than his own daughter.

The two girls become companions. She weeps for her handsome firstborn brother and her friend wishes to see him. For ten days she brings his spirit to her friend in sleep until the girl is so much in love that she sails to the east to see him, landing first at Kauai, then going on east to Hawaii and the harbor of Punahoa. The brother has been pining for his sister, but a couple of days of feeding and bathing restore his beauty. The chiefess follows a rainbow and finds him under the red tapa. Only after his spirit has first gone to his sister and lain with her does the sister permit him to lie with this new lover. 


Holua-loa and La‘a-loa have ten children, five boys named Kalino, Lulu-kaina, Ahewahewa, Wawa, Mumu; and five girls, the four Maile sisters and Kaulana. Maile lau li‘i, the eldest girl, becomes the wife of Hikapoloa, chief of Kohala district, and lives upward of Pu‘uwepa. Ka-ili-g(a)la (Fragrant skin) is their child. He marries Waikua-aala and the two have four children, Lu‘ukia, Kaumailiula, Ka-lehua-lihilihi-loloa, and Kukui-kupuohiohi-ho‘owiliwili. Lu‘ukia sails to Kahiki and weds Olopana, ruling chief of Kahiki. Olopana's daughter Kaupea hears so much from Lu‘ukia of the beauty of Kaumailiula that she sails from Kuaihelani, finds him at Kailua, and takes him for her husband. She becomes pregnant and returns to Kahiki for the child's birth. Kaumailiula follows but lands in Kuaihelani on a tapu day when Kaupea is in labor and Lu‘ukia and the chiefs are gathered in the tapu house prepared for the birth of the child. The whole party is seized and imprisoned. Old woman Kaikapu proceeds to have them burnt to death, but through the prayers of Kaulana they escape. The child is called Ka-maka-o-ke-ahi (Eye of fire), and from him is descended Kahihi-o-kalani (The branching of the heavenly one). 


Kaulana-iki-poki‘i (Dear little Kaulana) is the youngest of five sisters born to Kau-malumalu and Holua-loa, chiefs in Konadistrict. She is the only one endowed with a knowledge of sorcery. Maile-lau-li‘i, Maile-pakaha, Maile-kaluhea, and Maile-lau-li‘i are her sisters; her brothers are Mumu, Wawa, Ahewahewa, Lulukaina, and Kalino. The sisters go sightseeing and in Kohala the oldest, Maile lau li‘i, takes first as husband the handsome salt maker Puako, then, dissatisfied with his rank, the ruling chief Hikapoloa at Koko-iki.

The chief sends his wife to ask from her family the lucky fish-hook for catching aku fish. The hook she brings back proves worthless and Hikapoloa seeks to avenge himself. He invites the brothers to visit him and as they come up from the beach and stoop their heads in at the low entrance to his house he cuts off the head of each and consumes the flesh with fire. The sisters are meanwhile shut up in the women's house composing a chant for the child about to be born to Maile lau li‘i. Kaulana knows all that is happening and succeeds by her magic in bringing about the birth at once, whereupon the father is summoned. Rain and high seas impede his way, his footsteps are entangled in ie and maile vines conjured up by the magic of Kaulana, and he is put to death. Kaulana has by her magic arranged that each brother should be reduced to ashes by a particular kind of wood and she now invokes the spirits of the wood (who are her family aumakua) to tell where the bones lie whose flesh they have consumed. Putting together the bones, she brings her brothers back to life and all depart for Kona and "abandon the proud land of Kohala and its favorable wind the Aeloa."




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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