Dedicated to Harriet Kamakanoenoe Hapai.
How Hilo Was Named
Maui Conquers the Sun
Kuna, The Dragon
The Last of Kuna
The Coming of Paoa
Maui and the Alae Birds
The First Law
Fed from the great watershed
of Hawaii far up the densely wooded flanks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea
– often snow-capped in winter
the Wailuku River roars through the very
center of Hilo, principal town of the Island of Hawaii.
There are many
vague stories as to why the Wailuku River was so named. In the Hawaiian
tongue Wailuku means literally "destroying water." In olden times before
there were bridges and other safeguards the river wrought considerable
damage to property and during the rainy season it took its toll of human
lives. Legends connected with the Wailuku tend to confirm the belief
that it was named for its violent habits.
Long ago, so one
legend goes, the much dreaded Kuna (dragon) blocked the gorge below
Rainbow Falls with intent to back the waters up and drown the goddess
Hina, who dwelt in the great cave for which the falls form a curtain.
How her son, the demi-god Maui, came to the rescue, saved his mother,
and finally hunted Kuna from his lair up the river and slew him, is told
in the legend, "The Last of Kuna."
When Paoa, a very
powerful god from Tahiti, came to visit Hawaii he built a grass hut and
made his home on the long, low rock – now known as Maui's canoe – in the
Wailuku near its mouth.
Local gods viewed
this selection of a homesite as foolhardy, but Paoa was unaware of the
sudden and rapid rise the river made when heavy rains and cloudbursts
loosed their torrents high upon the slopes of Mauna Kea. Hina, goddess
of the river, warned the visitor of his danger and told him how the
angry waters would sweep everything before them. In the legend, "The
Coming of Paoa," you will find his answer.
In those days there
must have been much more water in the river than there is today, for a
certain amount is now diverted above Rainbow Falls for water power.
In spite of the
decreased volume the river is still very violent and treacherous. At
high water big boulders are clumsily rolled down stream and when the
river is unusually high even trees are torn from the banks and carried
out to sea.
So the Wailuku still
lives up to its name, Destroying Water.
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HILO WAS NAMED
King Kamehameha the
Great was a very famous warrior. His chief ambition, which he lived to
realize, was to become sole ruler of all the Hawaiian Islands. Naturally
he had numerous enemies, and he never remained long in one place for
fear some of them might learn of his whereabouts and attack him.
One time, when he was
encamped near the mouth of the Wailuku, he planned a quiet visit to what
is now known as Reed's Island, where lived a particular friend of his.
As this friend was a powerful chief, Kamehameha felt safe in going to
him without his usual warrior bodyguard.
Before leaving camp
he called his servants to him and told them to stand watch over his
canoe, that it might not be stolen or carried away by the tide. This
they promised faithfully to do.
As time passed and
the king did not return or send word to his servants they grew uneasy
about him. Perhaps he might have been ambushed, they reasoned; or more
likely fallen into one of the caverns formed by ancient lava flows and
which are often treacherously concealed by a thin, brittle crust that a
man of Kamehameha's bulk might easily break through. Much as they feared
for the king's safety, the servants dared not leave the canoe unguarded.
They were in a quandary indeed.
"I know what we can
do!" cried one of the men. "We can make a rope of ti leaves and tie the
canoe so it cannot drift away."
"Make a rope,"
queried another, "how can we do that?"
answered the first speaker. "I'll show you. Take the ti leaves and
fasten them together. First you make two chains of leaves—like this—and
then twist each one. When you place them together they will naturally
twine about each other and you have a very strong rope. Such twisting is
"I've never seen it
done," admitted his fellow sentry, "but it looks very simple."
"And so it is," went
on the resourceful one, as he rapidly twisted the ti leaves into
serviceable ropes. "Now," he concluded, "these are plenty long enough.
Let us make the canoe fast to the beach."
And taking their
ropes to the canoe they tied it securely to that point of land – known
to the old Hawaiians as Kai- paaloa—near the mouth of the river where
the lighthouse stands today. Then they set out in search of the king.
Only a short way up
the river they met Kamehameha returning unharmed. Ignoring the spirit of
their intent in absenting themselves from their post of duty, the king
"But where is my
canoe? What have you done with my canoe? You promised to guard it. By
now it may have drifted out to sea or been stolen!"
"We tied it with ti
ropes," answered the servant who had woven them.
"Ti ropes!" roared
his majesty. "Why, no one here knows how to make ropes like that. The
only place they do know is at Waipio. How did you learn?"
"I came to you from
there," the man answered.
"Oh, and that is
where you learned. Well and good. Hereafter this place shall be called
Hilo." And so it has been. The town at the mouth of the Wailuku has
since that day been known by the Hawaiian word meaning "to twist."
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MAUI CONQUERS THE SUN
Hina, the goddess who
in the long ago made her home in the great cave beneath Rainbow Falls,
was especially gifted in the art of tapa making. So wonderfully artistic
and fine were the tapas of Hina that people journeyed from all parts of
the Island to view them and to covet. Even across the mighty shoulders
of Mauna Loa from Kona and Kailua and down the rugged Hamakua Coast from
Waipio they came, and from the other islands as well.
It was hard, laboring
over the tapa every day, and especially hunting for the olona which Hina
sometimes used. But she used also the bark of the mamake and wauke
trees, which were more plentiful and very good for tapa.
Interested though he
was in the manufacture and decoration of this beautiful paper-cloth,
Hina's son, the demi-god Maui, held aloof from the work. In the making
of tapa man's hand was tabu, yet he could not forbear an occasional
suggestion when his mother created mystic designs for decoration of her
After the tapa was
made it had to be placed for the Sun to dry, but by the time Hina would
reach the drying frames, the Sun was far up in the sky. All too soon
long shadows would creep across the stream below Rainbow Falls, warning
her that night approached and that it was time to take in her tapa.
Quite often the dyes with which the designs were painted
on the tapa were not entirely dry when the tapa was taken in, and many
fine pieces were smeared and ruined. Days were short in the narrow
walled-in river gorge and the Sun shone directly on the tapa for only a
few hours, passing then beyond the high western wall, and gloom would
settle about the cave, growing deeper with oncoming night.
It grieved Maui to see his mother's tapa so often
spoiled, so he besought the Sun to go more slowly. For one or two days
he did moderate his pace and Hina rejoiced in the lovely tapas she was
able to make. But soon the heedless Sun hurried past again as fast as
ever, entirely forgetting his promise to Maui.
So Maui determined to exact
a lasting agreement with the Sun, and set out in his canoe for Maui, the
Island which bears his name and on which is situated Haleakala, today
the greatest extinct crater in the world and in olden time the Home of
the Sun. Maui hoped to catch him there.
As Maui reached the eastern rim of Haleakala the Sun was
just disappearing over the other side; but Maui knew he would return in
the morning, so he prepared to spend the night in waiting.
As the Sun returned to his home next morning Maui caught
him by his rays, which the Sun used as legs, and, wielding the magic
club which he always carried on his many expeditions, broke several of
them. Thus crippled, the Sun was forced to stay for parley, though
crying out in alarm that he must be let go, as there was no time to
waste. Day must be carried westward. But Maui hung on and reminded the
Sun of his promises.
After much argument they agreed to compromise; so the
Sun promised to go slowly six months in the year and then, for the
remaining six months, to hurry as fast as before.
Maui was content with this arrangement and sure also
that the Sun would not again forget, for he had crippled him
considerably. It would take some time, he thught, for the Sun's broken
rays to mend.
So, very well pleased with his success, Maui permitted
the Sun to proceed on his journey, while himself he prepared to return
with all speed, bearing the good news to his mother.
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KUNA, THE DRAGON
Far above Rainbow Falls there lived a powerful kupua
named Kuna. Kuna had the form of a monstrous dragon, unlike anything in
these islands today.
Kuna often tormented the goddess Hina in her rocky cave
behind Rainbow Falls by sending over great torrents of water or by
rolling logs and boulders down the stream. Quite often he would block
the stream below the falls with sediment sent down by freshets during
the rainy seasons.
But Hina was well protected. Her cave was large and the
misty cloud of spray from the falling waters helped to conceal it. So in
spite of the frequent floods and many threats from Kuna, Hina paid him
not the slightest attention, but with her songs and gay laughter lightly
mocked him as she worked.
On many days Hina was quite alone, while her eldest son,
the demi-god Maui, was away on one of his numerous expeditions. Even
then she did not mind this, for should any danger befall her she had a
peculiar cloud servant which she called "ao-opua." If Hina were in
trouble this ao-opua would rise high above the falls, taking an unusual
When Maui saw this warning cloud he would hurry home at
once to his mother's side.
One night while Maui was away from home on the Island of
Maui, where he had gone to bargain with the Sun, a storm arose. The
angry waters roared about the mouth of Hina's cave. They hissed and
tossed in ugly blackness down the narrow river gorge; but Hina heard
naught of the wildness without. Being used to the noisy cataract, her
slumbers were not disturbed by the heightened tumult of its roar.
But Kuna, quite aware of the situation, was quick to
take advantage and to act. Hina's apparent indifference annoyed him. He
recalled several failures to conquer her, and rage overwhelmed him.
Calling upon his powers he lifted an immense boulder and hurled it over
the cliffs. It fitted perfectly where it fell between the walls of the
gorge and blocked the rush of the hurrying torrent.
Laughing loudly at his success, Kuna called on Hina and
warned her of her plight, but, still unknowing, Hina slept on until the
cold waters entered the cave, rapidly creeping higher and higher until
they reached her where she slept. Startled into wakefulness she sprang
to her feet, and her cries of panic resounded against the distant hills.
As the waters rose higher her cries became more terrified until they
reached the Island of Maui and the ears of her son.
Through the darkness Maui could see the strange warning
cloud, unusually large and mysterious. With his mother's cries ringing
in his ears he bounded down the mountain to his canoe, which he sent
across the sea to the mouth of the Wailuku with two strong sweeps of his
paddle. The long, narrow rock in the river below the Mauka Bridge,
called Ka Waa o Maui (The Canoe of Maui), is still just where he ran it
aground at the foot of the rapids.
Seizing his magic club with which he had conquered the
Sun, Maui rushed to the scene of danger. Seeing the rock blocking the
river he raised his club and struck it a mighty blow. Nothing could
resist the magic club! The rock split in two, allowing the strong
current to rush unhindered on its way.
Hearing the crash of the club and realizing his attempt
on the life of Hina had again failed, Kuna turned and fled up the river.
The remains of the great boulder, now known as Lonokaeho, overgrown with
tropical plants and with the river rushing through the rift, lies there
to this day as proof of Maui's prowess.
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THE LAST OF KUNA
So great was the wrath of the demi-god Maui at the fell
intent of Kuna to drown his mother that he vowed never to relent in his
search for the monster, and to kill him on sight. Kuna evidently sensed
Maui's intentions, for as soon as he saw his great mischief undone he
fled to a hiding-place far up the river. He realized then how great had
been his folly and trembled at the thought of capture by the mighty
demi-gcd. In spite of his magic powers Kuna knew Maui's anger to be far
greater than all of them put together; still, he had countless secret
hiding-places where it would be difficult to find him.
He did not have long to wait in his secret lair before
he heard the thundering voice of Maui commanding him to come forth. The
earth shook with the heavy tread of the vengeful demi-god and the
dreadful blows he dealt all obstacles he passed which might possibly
conceal the form of his enemy.
The thundering voice and quaking earth became more
horrible and terrifying as Maui approached. Soon he stood before the
hole in which Kuna lay hiding. Catching sight of the ugly monster
within, Maui let out a deafening yell, poised his magic spear, and with
one sweep of his mighty arm hurled it into the depths of Kuna's
hiding-place. But the dragon was sly and agile, notwithstanding his huge
bulk, and slipped out in time to save himself.
Even today you can see the long hole - puka o Maui-
which the demi-god's spear made through the lava beyond the cavern;
sufficient evidence of the Herculean strength with which the weapon was
driven. Small wonder Kuna so feared a meeting with this outraged son of
the goddess he had sought to drown.
Wasting no time, Kuna started down stream, with Maui in
hot pursuit. Often the dragon tried to conceal himself in some sheltered
spot, or evade his pursuer by hiding behind a rock, but Maui gave him no
rest, spearing him from one hole to another.
Diving into one of several deep pools in the river, Kuna
hoped that at last he was safely hidden. Maui was not to be thus easily
fooled. He could see the grotesque bulk of his enemy far below the
surface of the gloomy water. Kuna was cornered.
Calling upon Pele, goddess of the Volcano, to send him
hot stones and molten lava, Maui cast these into Kuna's retreat until
the waters boiled furiously, sending a vast column of steam far above
the rim of the gorge. Known today as the Boiling Pots, although time has
cooled their waters, they still bubble and surge as vigorously as ever,
especially when the heavy rains come and remind them of the time when
Kuna the Dragon sought refuge within their depths.
Tough as the hide of Kuna was, it could not save him
from the terrific heat generated by the red-hot rocks and lava cast into
the pool by Maui. Nearly exhausted, the monster managed to drag himself
from the cauldron and, shrieking horribly, he again took up his flight
down stream. Maui sent torrents of boiling water after him, scalding at
last the life from his ugly body.
Then Maui rolled the huge carcass down the river to a
point below Rainbow Falls, within sight of his mother's home, where she
could view daily the evidence that none might threaten her and live. And
there the ungainly form lies today - a long, black-rock island known as
Moo Kuna, between the rapids - where every freshet, every heavy rain,
beats upon it as though in everlasting punishment for plotting the death
of Hawaii's beloved goddess, Hina.
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THE COMING OF PAOA
Many years ago there lived on the land of Tahiti several
brothers. all verv gifted and powerful gods of that land. One was by
Now Tahitian customs were very like those of Hawaii at
that time, in that the Tahitians offered human sacrifices when a canoe
or a heiau was in process of construction. How the observance of this
custom caused the flight of Paoa to Hawaii, you shall see.
It so happened that one of the brothers was having a
canoe built, and they all undecided as to whom should be offered in
sacrifice. A quarrel ensued. Paoa and the owner of the new canoe grew
very bitter towards each other over it. When the time came for the
sacrifice Paoa's only son was taken and offered to the flames.
Grief-stricken al die loss of his son and furious at the
cruelty of his brother. Paoa decided to leave it all and seek peace some
other island. In preparation for the long journey by canoe he took only
three things with him: two kinds of fish - the aku and opelu - and some
Journeying northward he encountered a terrific storm
which grew more terrible as the days passed until it seemed the low
canoe could no longer breast the great mountains of angry water that
bore down upon it as though to drive it under and swallow it into the
Fearing for his safety, Paoa took the two kinds of fish
and threw them overside. Almost at once the mighty waves were calmed and
the canoe went safely on its way surrounded by an area of calm, peaceful
water while the storm raged on all sides a little distance away.
Even today if you see a smooth area of water in the
midst of a rough sea you will know that there is a school of aku or
opelu very near the surface. So Paoa sailed safely through the storm. As
soon as it subsided he called back the fish and placed them in his canoe
once more. They had been very helpful and might be of use should the
storm arise again.
At last Paoa came to an island which appeared very large
and was covered with vegetation. Paddling his canoe into a great
crescent-shaped bay, he observed a river emptying into it and turned the
nose of his tiny craft that way. Not far up the river he came to a long,
low rock which he called Waa Kauhi, and landed on the southeastern side
of its point.
So great was the joy of Paoa upon reaching this
beautiful island that he decided to make it his home. To commemorate his
safe landing he at once planted on the rock the pili grass he had
brought with him. Also he liberated his aku and opelu fish in the new
waters, where today their progeny teem in countless millions.
Very soon he built himself a grass hut for a home, and
was careful to protect the pili grass, which grew rapidly and before
long spread to other parts of the big island, where it throve even
better than on the scant soil of the pahoehoe rock.
Hawaiians soon learned to use the pili grass in house
building, as it made a tighter thatch and lasted longer than the lauhala
or the grasses to which they had been accustomed. The stems of the
flowers were later used in weaving hats, as they, too, were firm and
Farther up the river, which Paoa learned was called the
Wailuku, there lived the goddess Hina. Soon after the arrival of this
stranger from Tahiti, Hina heard of him and his chosen home. Evidently
he had not come to wage war or do harm to the people, for he had already
made friends with many of the fishermen living near him.
So Hina decided to see him for herself and went down to
his home. She was surprised to find that he really had established
himself on that low rock. "Why," she exclaimed, "you must not stay on
this rock! Can't you see the waters above here are high? When the rains
come you will be washed away and drowned. It is not safe!"
Paoa stood upon the little plot of pili grass as he
answered her. "No, I will not go away, for no matter how high the waters
come they shall never cover this spot.
From that day Paoa's word has held true. No matter how
high the Wailuku rises, it never has covered the little plot of pili
grass which still grows on the long, low rock at the river's mouth.
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MAUI AND THE ALAE BIRDS
Maui, the eldest son of the goddess Hina, lived with his
mother and two brothers in the cave behind Rainbow Falls, in the Wailuku
River Gorge, a short distance mauka of what is today the town of Hilo.
Often the brothers would go fishing in the harbor.
At this time the Hawaiians knew nothing about fire. All
their food was eaten raw. Occasionally Maui had found in his various
wanderings some bits of cooked banana and pondered over their delicious
flavor. He could not understand what had been done to them until one day
he came upon a group of little alae birds cooking bananas over a fire.
He was so amazed at the scene that the birds had plenty of time to put
out their fire and take wing before he could bring himself to action.
This only aroused his ambitious nature and he vowed he would learn the
secret of fire.
In the days that followed he devised many cunning
schemes to trap one of the alae birds, but they, too, were cunning and
carefully refrained from building any fire when Maui was near. Once or
twice while he was out fishing he had seen white puffs of smoke among
the trees and knew the birds were preparing a feast, but he could never
reach the place in time to catch any of them.
One day he thought of a clever trick And took his
brothers into his confidence. They fixed up a kalabash covered with tapa
to resemble a man and placed it in the middle of Maui's canoe. Then the
two brothers took their seats at either end of the canoe and paddled out
into the harbor while Maui ran back and concealed himself in the woods.
Soon the alae birds came circling overhead and Maui
heard them say, "At last we can make our fire and have a good feast.
Maui and his two brothers are out for a day's fishing."
Quivering with excitement, Maui crouched in his
hiding-place and waited. Soon he heard the birds talking quite near him
and, peeping out, saw them pushing fresh bananas into a blazing fire.
Rushing into their midst he caught one of the birds.
"Tell me how you make fire or you shall never go free!"
At first the bird was sullen and refused to answer, but
at Maui's rough treatment resorted to trickery and replied,
"Rub two taro stalks together and you shall have fire."
Holding the bird closely, Maui did so, but only little
drops of water came from the stalks. Very angry, Maui punished 'the bird
again and demanded the truth.
Helpless and exhausted, the poor alae told Maui to take
two hau sticks and rub them together.
Maui found the hau sticks, but fearing the bird was not
telling the truth, he rubbed its head with one of the sticks until a
drop of blood trickled out, staining the tuft of feathers on its crest.
But the bird persisted in this statement, so Maui began rubbing the
Little sparks appeared and caught fire to the dead
leaves on which they fell.
Overjoyed at his discovery, Maui set the bird free. But
to this day every alae bird wears the symbol of punishment for telling
its secret-a tuft of red feathers on the top of its head.
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Maui, the great demi-god of Hawaii, was restless. Time
hung heavy on his hands. Uneventful days of quiet had fallen upon the
land. Adventure seemed to be in hiding, and no exploit invited to
service this active youngster's shining spear or magic club. Idleness
grew more and more unbearable.
Now Laamaomao, god of the winds, dwelt not far above
Rainbow Falls in the beautiful gorge of the Wailuku and to him Maui
confided his discontent. The old fellow admitted that times were dull.
Not for a long time had he been called upon for blasts from his greater
windpot, Ipunui. On the heels of this remark came inspiration, and he
suggested that Maui fashion a large kite. He, Laamaomao, would see to it
that a suitable wind be forthcoming and excitement sufficient to break
the dull monotony of too peaceful days.
So Maui set about the construction of an enormous kite.
His mother, the goddess Hina, made for him a beautiful and strong tapa,
and twisted fibres of the olona into a stout cord. From the rich red
wood of the koa expert and willing hands put together a graceful frame,
and in due time the big plaything was ready.
Laamaomao, having fathered the idea, manifested a keen
interest in the proceedings and had his windpots in readiness for the
Calling Ipuiki, smaller of his two windpots, into
action, Laamaomao directed a steady, gentle breeze up the gorge against
the breast of the great kite, cautioning those who held it to be in
readiness to let go at the proper moment and reminding Maui to have a
care lest the olona cord slip through his hands.
Gracefully the birdlike thing rose into the brilliant
turquoise sky - that same sky which today so enchants the malihini- and
as it tugged at the line, dipped, rose again and circled about, the
thrill of it came down the cord to Maui's hands and his delight knew no
Often in the quiet days that followed did Maui amuse
himself with the big kite. As he grew more familiar with its handling
the impetuous demi-god would ask Laamaomao for winds from Ipunui and
glory in the tussle his kite gave him when buffeted by these stronger
blasts - even though wise old Laamaomao was careful to moderate their
Sometimes Maui would tire of his sport and, drawing its
cord through a round hole in a rock which lay in the center of a small
lake near the wind caves, would leave his kite to its own
devices while he slept.
On one such occasion Laamaomao,
having received an order for a great storm, forgot all about Maui's kite
and turned loose his most powerful wind from Ipunui. All night long it
howled through the creaking trees, driving the rain before it in lashing
sheets. Stout as it was, the olona cord with which Maui's big kite was
moored could not long withstand the strain and finally parted, leaving
the kite to the mercy of the winds. Tossed madly about in the storm, it
was carried far across the flank of Mauna Loa and
dropped into the sea off the shore of Kau.
Now Puuanuhe, the much-dreaded lizard-woman, made her home on the shores of the
Kau desert, and to her ears had come the wonderful story of
Maui's kite, fanning an already hot jealousy of the young demi-god and
his doings. Puuanuhe was the only creature of those days
who had fiery red hair, and her temper was none the less caloric.
So when she saw this strange object floating in the
water near her home on the morning after the storm she recognized it as
Maui's kite. Chuckling in vicious satisfaction at this chance
opportunity to make trouble for the handsome son of Hina, Puuanuhe hid
the kite in the rough hills back of Hilea.
Great was Maui's surprise and consternation when he
found his kite gone. He at once set out in search of it. Days passed
without trace of it, but one day news came to him that Puuanuhe had been
seen with a large kite. He knew it must be his, as there was none other
Arriving at Hilea he discovered the hideous read-headed
lizard-woman, who admitted she had found his kite,
but refused to enlighten him as to its whereabouts. This same creature
had lured many a poor fisherman to death on the
rocky coast of Kau, and Maui thought it high time
to put an end to such a pest, so he killed her.
Once more he took up his search for his beloved kite and
soon found it cleverly hidden in the hills. Ironically he
named the spot Puuanuhe, and returning home with his precious toy
he fastened it securely to its moorings again.
Even today you can see the immense kite,
now turned to stone, just as Maui hauled it
in for the last time and left it. It is seventy-five feet long and about
forty-five feet wide, narrowing to eighteen feet at one end.
At the narrow end is a crystal-clear lake, very
deep and smooth as glass. In its center is a large, round stone
projecting above the surface with a two-inch aperture in the middle
where Maui used to make his
kite string fast.
Near this lake are the two windpots, Ipunui and Ipuiki,
and a little way below are three very distinct
foot-prints, each fifteen inches long, showing where Maui
stood while flying his great kite.
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Maui, the powerful young demi-god who dwelt with his
mother, the goddess Hina, in the great cave behind Rainbow Falls, had
succeeded in so many hazardous undertakings, and had the welfare of his
people so much at heart, that he resolved upon what was to be his
greatest deed of prowess and beneficence.
Now Maui had a magic fish-hook which he cleverly used
while fishing with his brothers. Maui was very sly and quick, but he was
never a good fisherman. He would sit in the canoe and drag his hook
through the water, catching no fish himself but snagging those his
brothers caught and laughing merrily at their bewildered expressions
when they pulled in their lines and found nothing.
They distrusted Maui, for he would never let them see
his hook, yet they knew it was shaped differently from theirs. It was
more complicated and had a double barb, while the common fish-hook had
but one. But his brothers could never catch him at his tricks.
At last they no longer allowed him to accompany them on
their fishing trips, as he took all the fish and honors, and they all
knew, Maui included, that he did not deserve them. So Maui would go
alone to the bay, but the hook remained idle in the bottom of his magic
canoe which, as related in the legend of Kuna, he drove from the shores
of the Island of Maui to the mouth of the Wailuku with two sweeps of his
While drifting about Maui watched some of his people who
were not blessed with magic canoes, and considered the hard paddling
required to send them through the water.
One day as he sat in his canoe watching another pass by,
evidently on its way to a neighboring island, the demi-god wondered if
it might not make things easier to have all the islands joined together,
so people could travel to any part of the kingdom without the laborious
Calling a meeting of Hawaii's chiefs and strong men Maui
informed them of a plan to draw all the islands together. He told them
he would need their help in pulling the islands, but no matter how hard
or how long they pulled they must never look back to see how much was
being accomplished until the islands were firmly joined together.
The men solemnly promised to obey Maui and at once
proceeded to their new task. The island now known as Maui was selected
for the first attempt.
Maui fastened his magic fish-hook into that part of the
land nearest Hawaii, and at his command the strong men and chiefs
paddled with all their might. Slowly the island moved behind them.
No one dared look around, though all were burning with
curiosity to see the result of their struggles. Long and steadily they
paddled until the two islands were only a few feet apart. Then one of
the chiefs could no longer control his curiosity and looked around.
In an instant the charm was broken. The island slid back
through the sea to its former position in spite of all that Maui, chiefs
and strong men could do to stop it. Only a small piece of land was left
- that in which the fish-hook was still deeply imbedded. Today that bit
of land is covered with lauhala trees and coconut palms, and is known as
So great was Maui's disappointment at this his first
failure in any important enterprise that he would not try again. He said
his fish-hook had lost its charm and sorrowfully he took it away with
him in his canoe. He carried it up the Wailuku River to his home behind
Rainbow Falls, where he grieved for many days over the unsuccessful
attempt. Later, having no more use for the hook, he carried it away
from the cave
and threw it into the forest near his home, where it lay undisturbed
until the haole came.
To those early settlers the magic fishhook of Maui was of less
interest as such than as material for masonry, and not a piece of it
remains. At the forks of the Piihonua-Kaumana road one may,
however, see the peculiar-shaped depression where it lay for so long
before civilization's vanguard swept the tangled jungle of Maui's time
from its hiding-place.
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Just mauka of the Hilo Boarding School are three large,
rounded hills which, centuries ago, were mud craters. Covered with the
green of rustling canetops, at a distance they appear to be soft, grassy
mounds. Many a tourist, gazing from the deck of an incoming ship, has
yearned to "stroll over those smooth, rolling hills," only to find the
pastime quite impossible on nearer view, which revealed the 'Velvety
grass" as lusty sugar cane stalks ten to fifteen feet high and closely
But now the last crop of cane has been harvested from
these graceful mounds and their slopes are being prepared to receive the
dwelling-houses of any who choose, and can afford, to live in the
rarified atmosphere of romance that hangs about this Hawaiian Olympus.
Nor is the term Olympus as applied to these hills a
redundant flight of fancy. Long ago - many, many years before the haole
came to plant his sugar cane in their deep, rich soil - these hills were
the homes of several beautiful goddesses. The makai and largest hill,
called Halai, was the home of Hina Keahi, eldest daughter of the goddess
Hina, who lived at Waianuenue, the cave behind Rainbow Falls in the
and sister of Maui the demi-god. To Hina Keahi was given power over fire.
In many ways this
young goddess aided her people, bestowing upon them the blessing of
protection from fire while teaching them many ways in which
to use it. The remarkable fact has
often been noted, by the way, that although the Hawaiians always lived
in grass houses, seldom was one known to be destroyed by fire. Hina
Keahi was well beloved by her people and her lightest commands were
Food had always been plentiful in Hawaii. The people cultivated their fields, which yielded
bountifully. But one time the crops failed,
grew smaller and smaller, and began to shrivel up and die. Soon a famine
spread over the land. Crops were allowed to wholly perish because none
was strong enough to tend them.
Hina Keahi saw that unless something was done at once
her beloved followers would all die. Calling them about her she commanded that
an immense imu be dug in the top of Halai Hill. "Prepare a place for
each kind of food as though you were ready to fill the imu, then bring as much firewood as you can," she ordered.
The starving people summoned new strength at
this promise and worked for many
days preparing the enormous imu. Knowing a
sacrifice would be offered as the only possible result of their labors,
they lived in fear and wondered who
would be chosen. Still, they never once thought of deserting their work
and finally everything was in readiness.
"Fill the imu with wood and heat it,"
As soon as this was done she
turned to the wondering people and said: "Listen to what I tell you, and
follow my instructions. It is the only way you can be
saved from starvation. I will step into the imu and you must quickly
with earth. Do not stop throwing earth over me until the last
puff of smoke disappears. In three days a woman will appear at the edge of the imu and tell
you what to do."
Bidding them farewell, Hina Keahi stepped quickly into
the red-hot imu. Immediately a dense white cloud of smoke surrounded and
concealed her. For a moment the people stood transfixed at the sight;
but remembering instructions they at once began covering the imu with
Followed then three long days of waiting fraught with
mingled hopeful expectancy and anxiety for their goddess. On the third day everyone repaired to the edge of the
imu and awaited the appearance of the woman of whom
Hina Keahi had spoken.
In the meantime Hina Keahi had not remained in the imu
for long. The fire had not harmed her, for she
had complete power over it. Going underground she made her way toward the
sea, coming to the surface of the earth somewhere near the spot on which
the Hilo Boarding School stands today. The place was marked by a bubbling spring.
Once more she disappeared
underground and again came to the surface, creating another spring near
the present location of the Hilo Hotel. A third time the
goddess followed her subterranean route, coming up in a third spring at
the place now occupied by the
American Factors' lumber yard. Refreshing herself in the clear waters,
she started back to her home, this time traveling above ground.
Thus on the third day from the disappearance of Hina
Keahi those gathered about the imu saw a strange woman approaching from the
direction of the sea. As she drew near they noticed a striking resemblance to
goddess, yet she, they knew, was buried in the imu. In fear they drew
away, but the strange woman smiled and told them to uncover the imu.
Reluctantly they set to work, dreading the sight which
all had in mind. But when the imu was uncovered they found it filled
with cooked food,
enough to supply their needs until the rains came and new crops could be
grown and harvested.
In gratitude they turned to thank the strange woman, but
she had vanished. And to this day one may see the immense imu in the top
of Halai Hill, now overgrown with a thicket of feathery bamboo, which
the people left open in memory of their timely deliverance.
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Hina Kuluua was the second
daughter of the goddess Hina, who lived behind Rainbow Falls. Hina Keahi,
the elder sister, had received the best of the gifts which their mother
could bestow, power over fire and ownership of the largest of the Halai
hills. Known as the goddess of fire, Hina Keahi was indeed very powerful
and one time gave spectacular evidence of it in saving her people from
starvation, as told in the legend, Hina Keahi.
Naturally everyone looked upon her thereafter as the
most wonderful goddess in the Islands. Even her sister's little band of
followers did not refrain from open admiration of the beautiful fire
This made Hina Kuluua exceedingly angry. Her jealousy
overwhelmed her; she could not bear to let her sister claim so much
glory, and she have none at all. It was not long after this that another
famine swept the land. Hina Kuluua thought fortune was at last coming
her way. Here was the very opportunity she craved. Now she would prove
her power superior to her sister's and all the people would sing her
praises and worship her alone.
In her excitement she entirely overlooked the fact that
she was goddess of rain, and not of fire. She ordered an immense imu to
be dug in her own hill, Puu
Honu. Comprehending her intentions the people at once realized the utter
futility of her proposed action and pleaded with her against it; but to
"Do you mean to tell me
that my power is less than Hina Keahi's?" she demanded
angrily. "Do you think that I, Hina Kuluua, cannot do as much for
my people in their time of need? I will show you! Then
you shall recognize Hina Kuluua as the greatest goddess in
"You can help as well and perhaps better than
your sister," they argued, "but you cannot do it in the same way. Your
power, though it may be as great, is nevertheless
entirely different from hers." Then Hina Kuluua
would order them out of her sight and command them
to hurry the completion of the imu.
At last all was ready. A group with tear-stained
faces were gathered about the smoking imu. Hina Kuluua approached, her
head held high in an air of triumph. She stepped to the edge of the imu,
cast a glance of disdain toward the wailing women
and said, "Cover me quickly. Watch
near the imu and in three days a young woman
will appear. She will give you further instructions."
Stepping into the imu she was quickly covered with soil.
The people had expected a cloud of smoke to
appear, but were somewhat surprised to see the little there already was
become even thinner and dwindle away to mere
Slowly the long days of waiting passed.
The third day dawned. All morning the people watched for signs
from the imu. Late in the afternoon found their vigilance unbroken;
night closed in and still no sign. Dawn once more, another day of
anxiety. On the fifth day they could no longer restrain themselves and
cautiously uncovered the great oven.
A dark greyish cloud rose over the imu - that was all.
Within, the people could distinguish the charred remains of their proud
goddess. With reverence they covered the imu once more and carefully
smoothed it over.
That is why today you cannot see a deep crater in Puu
Honu as in Halai, and why the dark, gloomy cloud, a sure sign of rain,
often hangs low over the one-time home of Hina Kuluua.
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THE FIRST LAW
Following one of his great victories King Kamehameha I
established his court on the largest island of the Hawaiian group,
Hawaii, and prepared to make his headquarters there for the time. Of
course a heiau must be built, and he ordered construction to begin
immediately, selecting a site near the mouth of the Wailuku where today
stands the armory of the National Guard of Hawaii.
This heiau was unusually large and considerable time was
consumed in building it. Finally it was completed, but before it could
be used the customary human sacrifice had to be offered. Not willing to
take one of his own men, the king went in search of another.
Early one morning, accompanied by a small body of his
warriors, Kamehameha set out in his canoe, sailing along the coast in
the direction of Puna. As the royal party neared Leleiwi Point, two
fishermen in a small outrigger were discovered, busy with their nets.
The king's big war canoe bore down upon them, but recognizing the royal
craft from afar, they paddled lustily for the shore. Knowing the heiau
was nearing completion the fishermen guessed the reason for the king's
early morning visit and had no intention of remaining to receive him.
Landing safely, yet with the prow of the big canoe not a
spear's length behind, the poor fellows made all
speed over the open lava beds that lie between the shore and the jungle
at this point. The king, standing in the
bow of his canoe, was first ashore and in hot
pursuit, but, unfamiliar with the footing there, made
poor progress. These lava beds are full of treacherous pukas and
into one of them Kamehameha stumbled, sinking to
his armpits. There chanced to be a sizeable stone within reach of his
hand, and this he hurled after the fleeing men, but his aim was bad and
he missed them. This very stone, and the hole into which the king fell,
may still be seen just mauka
of Leleiwi Point.
Glancing over his shoulder, the hindmost fugitive
observed the king was trapped and that his retainers were still some
distance to the rear. Here was a chance for revenge. Swinging his heavy
canoe paddle, which he had been too frightened to drop, the fisherman
turned and dealt his majesty a cruel blow on the head and, leaving him
for dead, made off at top speed after his
When his men came up, the king was just regaining
consciousness. One look at their wounded monarch
sent them like a pack of hungry wolves after the fishermen.
"Mamalahoa Kanawai o na alii!"
Kamehameha called after them. "Whoever
purposely murders a fellowman shall be hanged." And thus the very first
law was made in Hawaii.
"Let them go," he said, as his men
reluctantly abandoned the chase. "I am not much harmed and they are
badly frightened now. They may never do violence
again to anyone. If any man hereafter wilfully
take the life of another he shall be hanged. Come, let us go back. My
heiau will not require a human sacrifice, for it
shall never be used."
So it happened that this was the first heiau ever built
without its human sacrifice, and the last one
constructed on the Island. Once the law forbidding murder was enforced
heiaus were no longer needed.
For the first time on Hawaii trails became safe for
travelers. Always theretofore one never knew at what moment an enemy in
ambush might rob him or take his life. Women and children could
now go abroad at all times in safety.
Peace reigned in the land and the people became more
prosperous and progressive. Years passed before the law was broken, and,
true to his word, for the king's word was law, Kamehameha
ordered the murderer hanged. The scene of his
execution was the unusually crooked coconut tree which until recent
years stood near the present site of a cracker factory on what is
now Kamehameha Avenue.
Today a careful observer may, by peering beneath
the Armory Hall, make out the few remaining stones
which were once a part of the foundation of the last heiau built on
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