The Legend of the Naha Stone


Recorded in Hawaiian and translated by
adapted by

Cover by Paul Rockwood

Published by
Hawaii Natural History Association



Dedicated to the Hawaiian people and to their cultural heritage, handed down by legends such as these


In the days before the written alphabet came to Hawaii, the history and folklore of the Hawaiian people were handed down by word of mouth. Although many Hawaiian traditions have been carefully recorded by such students as Fornander, Emerson, Westerveldt, Malo, Thrum and others, most of their writings are out of print today and seldom available except in libraries.

In an effort to stimulate interest in the advanced culture of Old Hawaii and to prevent many beautiful and interesting stories from passing into obscurity, the Hawaii Natural History Association hopes to publish, at intervals, Hawaiian legends and myths, particularly those pertaining to places and things which may be seen by the present-day visitor to Hawaii. This story is the first of these.

This ancient LEGEND OF THE NAHA STONE was recorded in Hawaiian by the late Reverend Stephen Desha, Sr. of Hilo, and after careful translation was adapted in its present form by Mr. L. W. de Vis-Norton. Published originally by the Board of Trade in Hilo, it is reprinted with the kind permission of Mr. de Vis-Norton.

The Naha Stone which, with the entrance pillar of the great temple, Pinao, now rests in front of the Hawaii County Library, is considered by historians to be one of the greatest historical relics in the Hawaiian Islands. It was presented to the City of Hilo by Mr. J. A. Scott, upon whose property it lay for many years. The stones were moved to a site behind the old library, and when the new library was completed, were again moved to their present locality, not far from the site of the ancient temple.

The present resting place of the Naha Stone is near the site of the ancient temple, PINAO
(Douglass H. Hubbard, NPS).


For many, many years, there lay, in the back garden of a house in Hilo, Hawaii, a great rectangular lava stone. For so long, indeed, had it lain there, that this present generation has well-nigh forgotten its existence. The ever-present rank growth of the lantana had covered it, and its resting place bid fair to remain undisturbed forever.

But a revival of interest in the ancient relics of the past, brought it to light once more, and it has recently been moved to a place of great honor, on the grounds of the Hawaii County Library, near the bank of the river which plunges on its way to the sea, through the pleasant and beautiful Crescent City by the blue Pacific Ocean.

Here, doubtless, it will be gazed upon by the countless visitors to whom the great beauty of the Island of Hawaii is fast being revealed, and perhaps it will help them to imbibe something of the spirit of those ancient days which vested every part of the island with legendary lore and with records of wonderful deeds and prowess.

If this be so, then the Naha Stone of Hilo will have performed a great work, and its fame will increase rather than diminish throughout the ages yet to come.

Kamehameha The Great (Paul Rockwood)


Just how, and why the great stone first became famous, is veiled in the mystery of past days, for the first authentic record of it deals with its voyage from the far away island of Kauai. Here it had rested hard by the Wailua river on that Island, but was placed upon a double canoe by the high chief Makaliinuikualawalea, and by him brought to Hilo, Hawaii the Beautiful, and there placed in front of the temple Pinao, of which but one single stone now remains, and the site of which is the back-garden with which our story opens.

It is said that the Naha Stone had the peculiar property of being able to determine the legitimacy of all who claimed to be of the royal blood of the Naha rank, and many times, in front of the temple of Pinao, must the strange ceremony have been enacted.

Now, the children of this royal family were the offspring of a degree of relationship which, in these modern days, would be strongly disapproved of, and would be forbidden by the table of affinity laid down in the reign of good King James of England for our guidance, but we are less concerned with this, than with the actual ceremonial of determining which was in this wise:


As soon as a boy of Naha stock was born, he was brought to the Naha Stone and was laid thereon, while the kahunas prayed to the gods and chanted their strange barbaric chants. One can imagine how anxiously the parents would watch the unconscious babe, for one faint cry from those infant lips would bring upon him shame which would endure through all his lifetime, and he would be thrust out to take his place among the common people and to make his stormy way through life as best he could.

But should the infant have been endowed with the golden virtue of silence, then indeed a career was open to him, for he would be declared by the high kahuna to be of true Naha descent, a royal prince by right and destined to become a brave and fearless soldier and a leader of his fellow men.

Now, these things may seem strange to us, but the Naha Stone was vested with yet more mystery, for concerning it there existed an ancient prophecy that only the chiefs of the Naha blood could violate its sanctity by moving it, and that he who moved it would become a king of the Island of Hawaii. And yet more: for the saga had come down through the past ages that he who could overturn the stone would be a king indeed, for to him should be given the power to conquer all the islands of the group and bring them under one sovereignty.

That this saying most strongly influenced the career of the great Kamehameha, we shall now see, for this is the story of his dealings with the Naha Stone of Hilo:


In those days lived Kekuiapoiwa Elua, a High Princess, wife to Keouanui, the brother of Kalaniopuu, the mighty chief and warrier. And in the fullness of time, Kekuiapoiwa gave birth to a son, Kamehameha, and thus was the great king brought into the world.

Now Kamehameha was cared for by Naeole, high chief of Kohala, and lived with him through all the days of his boyhood, being well instructed in all manly sports and in the art of war, so that even while he was young in years he did mightily excel all others in the casting of spears, in the running of races on sledges, in swimming in the great waters and in all things. And his days were passed in happiness and peace, neither knew he of the future in store for him.

And warfare and strifes spread throughout all the land of Hawaii, and for many seasons the warfare ceased not, and ever the tidings came of fierce and terrible conflicts, of chief against chief and brother opposed to brother, so that men died in their thousands and all the land was red with blood.

It came to pass also that Kalaniopuu was foremost in these wars, until he fought against Alapainui, king of the Island of Hawaii, who defeated him. But Alapainui was heavy with years so that he died. and was succeeded by his son.

And then Kalaniopuu warred against the son of Alapainui and defeated him, so that he fled to Kawaihae, where he died, and Kalaniopuu reigned in his stead and became king of the Island of Hawaii. And the father of Kamehameha, Keouanui, died before Alapainui, an enemy having given him poison in his food.


But while these things came to pass, Kamehameha was grown to man's estate, and betook himself to dwell in Hilo, where he abode for some years, waxing stronger in manhood and greater of stature, so that his fame began to spread abroad, even as far as Kohala, where Kalaniopuu had taken up his abode, with his chiefs and princes.

Now, when Kalaniopuu had heard these tidings of the young Kamehameha, his heart waxed warm within him, and he sent a messenger unto him saying: "Come back with this my messenger and dwell with me in the land of Kohala, for I will welcome thee, and there shall no harm come nigh thee."

And when the messenger had come to Kamehameha, and had delivered these messages unto him, Kamehameha set forth with the messenger and came into the land of Kohala to take up his abode and to dwell in the shadow of the King's cloak.

And the King received him gladly, and wept over him, as was the custom of those days. And made a feast for him, and bade all the chiefs and captains and princes to be present, and many spake good words to Kamehameha. And when they had nearly made an end of speaking, the prince Kaiokuanuiakanaele stood up and spoke to those assembled in this manner:

"Behold, O King, and all ye princes and chiefs here assembled, I have words for ye to hear. Of this Kamehameha are many strange things told, and there be rumors and strange whispers concerning him. Now therefore, gather together the kahunas and the priestesses that they may examine into his future and tell us the things that shall come unto him."


After these words, the King sent forth messengers and gathered together the priests and the priestesses exceeding wise in wisdom and prophecy, a goodly company. And they came and stood before the King. And the King commanded them, saying "Search ye the future and inquire of the gods concerning the life of this young man, so that I may hear that which ye may learn concerning him."

And the priests took counsel together, and communed with their gods, and made answer: "O King, we have taken counsel together, and have looked into the future and thus do we prophecy concerning the young Kamehameha: Great shall he be and mighty; a warrior above all warriors. None shall stand before him, neither may any dare to meet him in combat. Behold we do pronounce him dedicated to the stormy winds, and as a stormy wind shall he live, sweeping all before him, for none may stand in his path."

And having said these things, the kahunas were silent.

Then turned the King to the priestesses, the wise women, even Kahookahikuaa of Waikamalii, and Kamalelemauliokalani, the priestess of Pihanaakalani i Wailua, Kauai, and a high princess of that land, and Kanoena a prophetess of Kealia, and Kalaniwahine, a priestess and a high princess also, and asked of them "What say ye, O wise ones, concerning the young Kamehameha?"

And they made answer unto the King and said, "Thus say we, O King: it shall be to Kamehameha even as the kahunas have pronounced."

But Kalaniwahine, the high princess, stood out before the King and all the chiefs assembled, and lifted up her voice yet again saying:


"Hearken ye unto these words, and mark them well, for they are words of wisdom. The young Kamehameha will have but one adversary who will sorely try his strength, and the strength of his men learned in the throwing of spears, for surely will Keaweokahikona try them to the uttermost. And now behold, these twain are of one blood, wherefore it is fitting for Kamehameha to go and visit his relative, that they may learn and understand and dwell together as brothers. Also there is a deed for Kamehameha to do, even the overthrowing of a mountain. And now is the time propitious for these things, therefore let him hasten and tarry not, lest he be too late for the meeting."

So the King and the princes and the chiefs took counsel together and the next day following made preparations for the journey of Kamehameha to see his relative Keaweokahikona, and to visit the Naha Stone in front of the temple Pinao in Hilo.

And when all the preparations were accomplished, they set sail in their canoes, the young Kamehameha being accompanied by the prophetess Kalaniwahine and by two high chiefs, Naihe and Kalaninuimakolukolu.

Now the journey was made without mishap, (the three mountains of Hawaii being exceedingly clear to the sight,) and the canoes reached Hilo. And as soon as the canoes had touched the shore of Hilo, Naihe and the others departed directly for the home of the princess Ululani, who, when she saw them approaching, stood in the doorway of her house and cried unto them, and to Naihe, saying: "Tell me, I pray thee, my own dear flesh, whence camest thou, and what is the reason of thy journey over the seas?"

And they made answer, saying, "O Mother, one comes with us, Kamehameha, who seeks for his relative, and this is the reason for his coming before you."

Now while they spake these words, Ululani walked further out of the house, and saw Kamehameha approaching, and immediately she began to call upon his namne in a loud voice, uttering these words:

"See the gloomy night withdrawing,
And the roseate morning breaking;
While the rainbow of Haao
Upward leaps from Auaulele:
Lo! here comes the long expected
Comes Laninuimehameha
Comes to Kealohilani
Welcome to this home, O chieftain,
Come within and drink the awa
Kane planted in Hawaii:
Bathe in the forbidden waters
Pool of Ponahakeone.
     So shall all the god's descendants
     By thine action be preserved."

And so he came to her. And, as was the custom, they wept together.

And straightway a feast was made for the princes and for Kamehameha, and for the canoemen that came with him. For it was the custom of Kamehameha ever to care for the high man and the low man, and this was the reason for his many victories in battle.

And when they had made an end of feasting, Ululani again asked them of their journey, and said to Kamehameha: "Tell me now, was there not a word spoken unto thee, and that is the reason of thy journey?"

Hilo Bay as it appeared in 1824, looking northwest toward the slopes of Mauna Kea
(From Byron, Voyage of HMS Blonde. Engraved from a drawing made on the spot by Robert Dampier)


Then up rose Kamehameha and said: "Thou hast spoken the truth indeed, for I have come to try and move the Naha Stone, for by that symbol I shall attain success and live, or shall meet that which will bare my bones."

And when the night was spent and the morning was fully come, the whole company, with the high chiefs of Hilo, and Kalaniwahine the prophetess, came to where the Naha Stone lay.

And while they were journeying thither, the high princess Ululani spoke to Kamehameha, saying: "O, Prince, thou knowest, perchance, that this stone is sacred to those of the Naha blood, and they are the only persons who may ascend it and move it. Now thou, dear Prince, belongest not to the royal family of Naha, but to the royal family of Niu-pio, and it may be that this will hinder thee in the moving of the stone."

But Kamehameha answered never a word, and presently they were come to the temple of Pinao, in front of which the Naha Stone lay. And Kamehameha came and stood by the stone, and when he had seen its great size, he uttered a heavy sigh, and spake these words:

"Now do I perceive that this is indeed no stone, but a mountain, and perchance I may not be able to move it. Moreover, it is said that only they of the royal Naha line may essay the task. Howbeit, I will put forth my strength, and if I fall, then it can be truly said that this stone belongs to the Naha line by law, and if I succeed. then by my strength and favor of the gods my success will be attained."


And even as he spake these words, they who stood by were stricken with fear, for his face flushed red as with blood, and fire appeared to flash from his eyes, so that the fear spread even among the high chiefs who gazed upon him.

Then Kamehameha prepared himself for the ordeal, examining his hands and the stone that he might see how best to accomplish his purpose. And Kalaniwahine, taking hold of his hands, spake encouraging words unto him and said unto him:

"If indeed the Naha Stone shall be this day moved by thee, then shall the whole group of islands, from Hawaii to Kauai be moved, but if indeed it shall be moved and turned from its resting place, then shall all dissensions be removed, and thou and thy people and thy prophetess shall live and shall dwell henceforth in peace forever. For this is the prophecy of the Naha Stone, O Prince, so get thee to thy great task."

And now, as the people and all assembled, watched Kamehameha closely, he placed his hands under the stone and began to move them so that he might better take hold. Which being done, he cried these words:

"Naha Stone art thou:
And by Naha Prince only may thy, sacredness be broken.
Now behold, I am Kamehameha, a Niu-pio
A spreading mist of the forest."

Then gripped he the stone and leaned over it, and as he leaned, great strength came into him and he struggled yet more fiercely, so that the blood burst from his eyes and from the tips of his fingers, and the earth trembled with the might of his struggling, so that they who stood by believed that an earthquake came to his assistance.


And he put forth all his strength. and, behold, the stone did move under his arms, and he raised it on its side and with supernatural strength did over turn it, so that all who stood by were amazed and dumb with awe.

Afterwards went Kamehameha with Ululani and his relative Keaweokahikona to the house, and a great feast was prepared and all the men did sit down together and eat with their followers assembled. And when they had made an end of feasting, Keaweokahikona did take hold on the hands of Kamehameha, and greeted him lovingly with words of kindness.

"Love to thee, Kamehameha my relative. Listen to these my words. For that this day ye have done a great deed whereat all men may wonder, now do I declare unto thee that henceforth shalt thou be my chief man in battle, and to thee will I give all my art in war, and teach thee many things. Therefore, let us live together as relatives and let there ever be peace between us. Behold, my girdle, I give to thee, and thine shalt thou give to me that friendship and love is established between us, and that in remembrance we may live in peace hereafter."

This, then, is the story of the Naha Stone, which lies by the library in Hilo today for all to see.


Students of Hawaiian history know that the promise made by Keaweokahikona to Kamehameha was nobly fulfilled, for did not Keaweokahikona forsake his own father's side in battle and cleave to Kamehameha?

And in the wars fought by Kamehameha, his relative was ever by his side until he was poisoned by one of his chiefs. This act was heavily punished by Kamehameha, who greatly loved Keaweokahikona, and it is known that in all the subsequent battles, Kamehameha used the favorite spear of his relative for the preservation and maintenance of his honor.

The fulfillment of the prophecy concerning the Naha Stone attracted all the high chiefs and the greatest warriors to Kamehameha's standard, and this, in conjunction with the immunity from harm, and the apparent favor with which the young Prince was regarded by the gods, caused him to embark upon the long series of conquests which made him King of all the group of the islands, and made his name revered for justice and equity and high statesmanship among all who have learned to know and love the Hawaiian race.




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