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Traditions of Oʻahu: Waiʻanae

Stories of this island before high-rises, freeways and hotels, before sugar plantations and pineapple fields, before churches and the Bible.

Stories by Districts - Waiʻanae

Wai'anae is the western district of O'ahu, on the leeward coast, from Nanakuli in the south to Keawa'ula in the north. Small streams water the vallue of this coast. "Wai'anae" means "Water of the Mullet." Offshore of the valleys beneath the Wai'anae Mountains are rich fishing grounds. Maui, the famous god of this land, was a noted fisherman, as was Niho'oleki, whose story appears under the tab above.

Map of Wai'anae Map of Oahu: Wai'anae

Maui: Genealogy and Birth

The Kumulipo (Beckwith 135) gives the following account of Maui's birth as a fowl:

Waolena was the man, Mahui'e the wife
Akalana was the man, Hina-of-the-fire (Hinaakeahi) the wife
Born was Maui mua (Maui the first), born was Maui waena (Maui the middle one)
Born was Maui-ki'iki'i, born was Maui-a-ka-malo (Maui of the loincloth)
The loincloth with which Akalana girded his loins
Hina-of-the-fire conceived, a fowl was born
The child of Hina was delivered in the shape of an egg
She had not slept with a fowl
But a fowl was born
The child chirped, Hina was puzzled
Not from sleeping with a man did this child come
It was a strange child for Hina-of-the-fire
The two guards were angry, the tall and the short one
The brothers of Hina
The two guards within the cave
Maui fought, those guards fell
Red blood flowed from the brow of Maui
That was Maui's first strife ...

Maui's genealogy, from Papa, the Earth Mother, and Wakea, the Sky Father, is given by Malo as follows (Hawaiian Antiquities 238):


Maui's genealogy, from Wakea, the Sky Father, and his daughter Ho'ohokulani is given by Kamakau as follows (Taes and Traditions 134-136):

Wakea / Papa
Wakea / Ho'ohokulani
Haloa / Hina-manouluae
Waia / Hunune
Hinalo / Haunu'u
Kakaihili / Haulani
Wailoa / Hikawao'opuaianea
Ki'o / Kamole
'Ole / Ha'i
Pupue / Kamahele
Manaku / Hikoho'ale
Kahiko / Kaea
Luanu'u / Kawa'amaukele
Ki'i / Hinako'ula
'Ulu / Kapunu'u
Nana'ie / Kahaumokule'ia
Nanaialani / Hina-kina'u
Waikulani /Kekauilani
Kuheleimoana / Mapunaia'a'ala
Konohiki / Hika'ululena
Wawena / Hina-mahuia
Akalana / Hina-kawea
Maui / Hinaakealoha
Nanamaoa / Hinakapa'ikua


Maui is In other Polynesian traditions, Maui-of-a-thousand-tricks, the youngest of the Maui brothers, is said to have been born as a premature abortion with eight heads. (Luomala 88; The number eight suggests power: the pig-god Kamapua'a had eight feet and; the bat-god Pe'ape'a had eight eyes and so was all-seeing.) Maui's mother threw her abortion into the sea, where the gods rescued and raised it.

Other gods, like Kamapua'a and Kaulu, were born as abortions ("cords") and later became heroes. The theme: one should not judge by appearance; even the humblest or misshapened being could turn out to be a god.

Tries to Join Kaua'i to O'ahu

Maui-kupua (Maui the demi-god) and Hina his mother lived together at Kaneana in the district of Wai'anae. One day he asked her why the Hawaiian Islands were separated by water?

"What?" she exclaimed.

"Why are they separated instead of being one big land? I'm thinking that they should be joined together."

Hina replied, "Say, where are you? If you desire this, you must go to Ka'alae-nui-a-hina (The big mudhen of Hina) and ask for help.

So Maui-kupua went to Ka'alaenuiahina and sat with him. Ka'alaenuiahina asked him the reason for his visit.

"I've come to ask for your help in joining the islands of Hawai'i together."

Ka'alae replied, "You and I can't do this. Only Unihokahi (One tooth) has that power."

Maui: "Where is Unihokahi to be found?'

"At Ponahakeone [a fishing ground off of Ulehawa]."

Maui returned home and told Hina what Ka'alae said. The next day he came to his mother and said, "I'm going out fishing." She told him to ask his brothers to go with him, so he did. His brothers agreed and got their fishing gear ready. Maui also made ready his famous hook named Manaiakalani ("Come from heaven").

As soon as everything was ready they launched their canoe and paddled to the middle of the sea of Ulehawa. Maui was in command, holding the steersman's paddle at the stern of the canoe. He said to his brothers, "When a kaliu (bailer) appears at the bow of the canoe, reach over and grab it."

They paddled on. Maui looked back toward Hina's place for drying kapa (bark cloth). He couldn't see it at first; when it came into full view, it gave him his bearings. He then looked forward, and there floated the kaliu. He called to his oldest brother, Maui-mua ("Maui the first born"), to catch hold of it, but Maui-mua replied: "We don't need a bailer; we already have one."

Meanwhile, the bailer floated toward Maui-kupua at the stern of the canoe. He caught it and put it into the canoe. The name of this bailer was Hina-a-ke-ka ("Hina, the bailer").

Maui-kupua called to his brothers, "Paddle until we reach the ko'a (fishing ground)." They turned around and saw a beautiful woman in the canoe. They paddled on until they reached the fishing ground of Ponahakeone and, anchoring the canoe, the brothers looked back again, but the beautiful woman was gone; the bailer had dropped into the sea. Maui-kupua called out to his elder brother, "Let down your hook," and Maui-mua did so. When Maui-mua felt a bite, he boasted: "Say, I've caught an ulua (crevalle).

But Maui-kupua said, "No! it's a mano (shark)."

"That despicable fish caught by my hook?"

Maui-kupua said, "Haul it in and see for yourself." Maui-mua pulled in his line and saw he had indeed caught a shark, whereupon he cut the line and let the shark go. And the same thing occurred also with Maui-waena (Maui the middle born) and Maui-hope (Maui the last born).

Maui-kupua then said, "All of you keep quiet­it's my turn." He prepared and let down his famous hook Manaiakalani and called to his brothers, "Get your paddles ready."

shark hook

Manaiakalani went down until it reached the bottom of the sea, where it was caught by Hinaakeka, who went to Unihokahi. The fish said, "What brings you here?"

Hina replied: "I've come to settle a dispute I had with Maui-kupua. I said you had only one tooth, and he said no one has just one tooth, everyone has many teeth; and so I came to determine who was right. Will you open your mouth?"

Unihokahi opened his mouth, and Hinaakeka put the hook Manaiakalani in; at the same time she jerked the line, signaling to Maui that the hook was set. Securing his end of the line to the outrigger of the canoe, Maui told his brothers, "Paddle, the fish is caught. But keep looking forward; don't look back."

They started to paddle; their strength was so great that the canoe flew forward as swiftly as ashes blown from a fireplace. They paddled vigorously until they began to get tired. Maui-kupua urged them on: "Keep paddling, and we'll soon reach shore." They kept paddling, but were soon exhausted. Maui said, "We're almost ashore; don't look back."

They continued to paddle for a while and then said: "This is no fish--if it was, we would have reached shore long ago."

Maui said, "Be patient. Keep paddling."

"We can't, we're exhausted," they replied.

Maui-kupua grabbed his paddle to help his brothers. While he was paddling, his three brothers looked back and saw the islands of Hawai'i moving behind them, whereupon they exclaimed: "No wonder we're exhausted, we've been pulling islands!"

When Maui-kupua heard this he was very angry with them. His hook fell from the mouth of Unihokahi and the islands floated back to their original positions; thus Maui-kupua failed in his attempt to join the islands together.

This story depicting Maui's failure to pull together the islands embodies a common mythological motif: an explanation of why things are as difficult as they are (i.e., why the islands of Hawai'i are far apart, so that one needs to paddle to get from one to the next.) The explanation given in this story is also widespread: human inadequacy to resist seemingly simple temptations results in failure to achieve one's purposes (cf. the Greek stories of Pandora's Box and Orpheus' failure to bring Eurydice back to life because he couldn't resist looking back at her before they returned from Hades). The strictness of Maui's command to his brothers to paddle and not look back is linked to Hawaiian belief in the importance of concentration for any ritual or activity to be effective. During rituals at the heiau (temples), absolute silence and rigid posture were required. Any sound or movement could result in failure of the ritual to achieve its purpose (See Kamakau The Works 141-142).

Battles with Pe'ape'a

Some time after his effort to pull Kaua'i closer to O'ahu failed, Maui and his three brothers went out fishing again at the fishing ground of Ponahakeone, where each of them in turn let down his hook. Each brother caught a shark; Maui, with his famous hook Manaiakalani, caught a moi (threadfish) and a large ulua.

Maui-kupua told his brothers to paddle ashore and directed them to the best landing place. After they landed, he grabbed his hokeo (fishing gear gourd), his paddle, and his two fish and returned home to his mother Hina. He left his hokeo and paddle with her and continued on his way, carrying the fish to the heiau (temple) called Luaehu, because he was supposed to eat the fish there. He began to eat the fish from the head and had almost reached the tail, when, looking up toward Pohakea, he saw Kumulama, his wife, being carried away by the chief Pe'ape'a-maka-walu (Eight-eyed-bat).(a) Maui left the tail of the fish and pursued the bat to get his wife back. But Pe'ape'a-maka-walu was too swift for him and disappeared into the sky beyond the sea.

Realizing he couldn't overtake his enemy, Maui returned to the road, crying over his wife's misfortune. When he arrived again at the heiau, where he had left the fish tail, the fish was gone, having recovered its form and returned to the sea.(b)

Still weeping bitter tears, Maui returned to his mother Hina.

"Why are you crying?" she asked.

"My wife was been stolen by Pe'ape'a-maka-walu."

"You're a swift runner­couldn't you catch him?"

"I chased after him but he flew off," replied Maui.

"Then rest a while. Later, I'll tell you what to do," said Hina.

Still grieving, Maui rested and waited patiently until the next day. At the appointed time he went to his mother, who told him: "Go to the land of Keahumoa; there you'll see a large hut. Your grandfather Ku-olokele (Ku-honeycreeper) lives there, and he'll instruct you on how to recover your wife."

Maui went to Keahumoa and found the hut. He peeped in but no one was inside. He looked at the sweet potato fields on the other side of Pohakea, toward Honouliuli, but couldn't see anyone. He then climbed a hill and after a while saw a man coming toward Waipahu with a load of sweet potato leaves, one bundle of which, it is said, could cover the whole land of Keahumoa.

Kuolokele was crossing into Keahumoa from Waipahu, and as he reached the stream, he put down his load of leaves and went and bathed. Maui saw that he had a humpback.

He picked up a stone and threw it at his grandfather, striking him on the back, whereupon Kuolokele's back was straightened. Kuolokele picked up the stone Maui threw at him, and threw it to Waipahu, where it has remained to this day.

Kuolokele then turned and saw Maui and said to himself, "Oh, there you are." He went back to pick up his load. Putting his arms into the strings of the bundle of leaves and lifting it onto his back, he went and met Maui, his grandchild. Then they both went to the hut, where Kuolokele put down his load and said, "What brings you here?"

"My wife has been stolen away."

"Who took her?"


"Are you very swift? "


"Then go and catch birds for feathers, and gather ki leaves, and 'ie'ie vine and fill that house over there with them."

Maui went to gather all these things together and put them in the house. Then he went back to Kuolokele and said, "Everything is ready."

"Return home, and in three days come again."

"Very well," said Maui and he left.

On the first day, from the bird feathers, ki leaves, and 'ie'ie vines, Kuolokele made the body and wings of a bird. On the second day, he finished the bird and tested it. It flew­the first flying-craft ever in Hawai'i.

On the third day, Maui appeared before Kuolokele. As soon as he arrived, food and water were loaded into the moku-manu ("bird-ship.") Kuolokele told Maui "Fly in this bird until you come to Moanaliha, the land of Pe'ape'amakawalu. When you reach it, look for the village. If the village is deserted, then look toward the sea and you'll see a great number of people gathered there, among whom will be Pe'ape'amakawalu, along with your wife. Fly near them, but not too close, just close enough to attract their notice; then fly far out to sea. On your return the people watching you will shout, 'The bird! The strange bird!' Pe'ape'amakawalu will say, 'Perhaps that's my bird; let's see if it flies to and rests on my sacred box."'

Maui entered the body of the bird, and Kuolokele called out, "Pull the strings fastened to the wings to make the bird fly." Maui pulled the strings and started to fly. He flew for two days and two nights. Arriving at Moanaliha, he looked over the land and noticed that the houses were beautiful, but there were no people. According to an ancient chant:

There stood the houses of Limaloa
There were no inhabitants.
Basking in the sun, the sea, and the smile of chief­
All were at Mana. (c)

And when he looked toward the seashore he saw a crowd gathered there. He flew until he was right over the multitude and saw his wife, Kumulama. He continued flying over the deep ocean. Passing over the small waves and resting on the rolling billows of the sea, he was moistened by the fine sea-spray. Then Maui turned and flew toward land. As he neared the shore, the people exclaimed, "Oh, an enormous bird! An enormous bird!"

Pe'ape'amakawalu said, "Perhaps it's my bird; if it is, it'll land on my sacred box."

Maui heard him and flew and landed on the sacred box. The people shouted excitedly, "The bird's now resting on the sacred box, there it is!" After this, the chief and the people arose and returned to their village.

Arriving at his house, the chief told his attendants to go and bring the bird into the sleeping house. The order was carried out and the chief said, "Give the bird poi and fish." Food was brought to the bird. Maui reached out from the opening of the mouth and took the food inside. After a while more food was brought but the bird's mouth didn't open again, so the attendants concluded that the bird was satisfied. The people then returned to their own houses to eat. Night fell. Pe'ape'amakawalu and Kumulama lay down to sleep. Maui saw his wife lying with the bat, and his anger boiled within him. He wanted to kill Pe'ape'amakawalu right then, but restrained himself, knowing the time was coming when what had been foretold would be fulfilled.

This chief Pe'ape'amakawalu had eight eyes, four in front, and four behind, and that was why he was called "eight eyes." Maui eagerly waited for all eight to close. After a while one of the eyes closed, and seven remained open. He waited until four more closed, and three remained. He continued waiting until almost daylight, when he preyed to Hina: "Hold back the night!" Hina held back the night.

Maui waited patiently until seven eyes closed and one remained open. He kept awake until the last eye closed. Then he emerged from the bird, went to where Pe'ape'amakawalu was sleeping, and cut off his head. Maui took his wife and the head and entered the bird again. Then he broke a hole in the roof thatching and flew out.

The next day, Pe'ape'amakawalu's people waited outside his house a long time. They became restless when he didn't appear. When they opened the door and went in, there was neither bird, nor woman, only the headless body of Pe'ape'amakawalu. Looking up, they saw the hole in the roof and knew the bird had killed their chief and flown away while they slept. The land of Moanaliha, from one end to the other, went into mourning for their dead chief.

Meanwhile Maui was flying back to O'ahu. He dodged clouds; he was battered by strong winds and pelted by rain. But all these were as nothing to his bird. It flew and arrived at Kuolokele's house. The grandfather greeted him, "Come, the feast is ready­the poi, the fish, the pig, and the 'awa." As soon as Maui alighted, his grandfather asked, "Where is your wife and your bundle?"

"Here they are inside," replied Maui.

"Then let your wife out first," said Kuolokele, and Kumulama came out; then Maui brought out the head of Pe'ape'amakawalu.

The eyeballs were plucked out by Kuolokele and placed in the 'awa cup, and the 'awa was prepared. When the cup was filled, he gave it to Maui, who drained it. Then they ate the prepared feast until they were satisfied, and Maui's anger was appeased. After they enjoyed some time together, Kuolokele excused Maui and Kumulama, and they returned home to Hina, who welcomed them back with joy.

(a) In her translation of the Kumulipo, Beckwith identifies Pe'ape'a as "god of the octopus family" (ke akua pe'ape'a) (136):

Hina-ke-ka was abducted by Pe'ape'a
Pe'ape'a, god of the octopus family
That was Maui's last strife
He scratched out the eyes of the eight-eyed Pe'ape'a
The strife ended with Moemoe

But "pe'ape'a" is usually translated "bat." Pe'ape'a is also the name of a peak in the Waimea district of Kaua'i.

(b) This allusion to the fish that came back to life is more fully described in the following passage from the Kumulipo (136):

The sixth strife was over the prayer tower in the heiau
Maui reflected, asked who was his father
Hina denied: "You have no father
The loincloth of Kalana, that was your father"
Hina-of-the-fire longed for fish
He learned to fish, Hina sent him:
"Go get [it] of your parent
There is the line, the hook
Manai-a-ka-lani, that is the hook
For drawing together the lands of old ocean"
He seized the great mudhen of Hina
The sister bird
That was the seventh strife of Maui
He hooked the mischievous shape-shifter
The jaw of Pimoe as it snapped open
The lordly fish that shouts over the ocean
Pimoe crouched in the presence of Maui
Love grew for Mahana-ulu-'ehu
Child of Pimoe
Maui drew them ashore and ate all but the [pectoral fin] (ka pewa)
Kane and Kanaloa were shaken from their foundation
By the ninth strife of Maui
Pimoe "lived through the [pectoral] fin"
Mahana-ulu-'ehu "lived through the tail"

(c) Limaloa is a famous chief of Kaua'i. Mana is the western district of Kaua'i, where Limaloa lived in spirit form in a mirage village with the ali'i wahine La'ieikawai.

Gets Fire from 'Alae (Mud Hen)

The first fire of ka po'e kahiko (the people of old) was a continual fire, kept going by the gods. The gods snatched it away, so Maui-a-Kalana sought a source of fire, and found it in the mapele [creating fire by rubbing sticks; mapele was a shrub or tree]. From mapele fire, ahi mapele, was named volcanic fire, ahi pele. [Volcanic fire was brought by the volcano goddess Pele; fire was made by friction before Pele's volcanic fire was brought to Hawai'i.]

Two women, 'Alae-huapipi and 'Alae-nui-a-Hina, had fire in the mapele, and from them fire was obtained. From then on men have had fire. The source of fire was in the possession of those two-bodied bird women, but Maui constantly spied on them and found the source.

At one time Maui-a-Kalana was living makai of Ulehawa in Wai'anae, Oahu, and he saw the fire over which these two women broiled bananas in the valley of Poho-a-'Alae. One of them was just saying, "Hina's cock of a son is swift," when [the "cock" himself] Maui appeared.


The women changed themselves into their 'e'epa forms of 'alae [mudhens]; Maui caught hold of the head of 'Alaehuapipi, but her companion escaped, and the heartless woman called out, 'O 'Alaehuapipi, hide the fire!" Maui held 'Alaehuapipi dangling by the head, with her wings crossed, and said to her, "Tell me the source of fire! If you hide it, I will kill you!" Knowing that she would die if she did not tell him, 'Alaehuapipi told him the mapele fire was hidden in the hollow of a rock.(a) It was called mapele because it took the combined [efforts of] two, three, or four women to make fire with the fire-plow.

After Maui had found that fire was in wood, fire was obtained from sparks [literally, the lightning, uila], from two sticks rubbed together. The stick laid underneath was called the 'aunaki, and the one grasped firmly in the palms of the hands and rubbed in the flat place hewn on the under stick was called the 'aulima. The wood dust produced by the rubbing of the two sticks was called "hana"; the rubbing itself was called "heahi'a" [a contraction of "he ahi hi'a"]. The fire started in the wood dust that accumulated. Fire by friction was the ancient source of fire of the Hawaiian people.

This Wai'anae version of the story of Maui's getting fire from the mudhen is quoted from Kamakau'sThe Works of the People of Old (116-117). A variant, set in Kaupo, Maui, has been published in Thrum's Hawaiian Folk Tales (33-35); another variant, set in Wailua, Kaua'i, is found in Dickey ("Stories of Wailua, Kauai" 18).

(a) In the other versions, the 'alae tries to deceive Maui by telling him to rub together soft green plants to start a fire. Maui is angered at the lies, and after he finds out how to make fire, he rubs the bird's head against the under-stick. Ever since the mudhen has had a red mark on its head.

Maui's Death

Maui, son of Hina, was famed for his many exploits throughout the islands. Because of some escapades during his residence at Hilo, Maui is said to have lost all his friends and was obliged to live alone. For a while he lived in Waipi'o valley, finding food with little labor; the stream furnished fish, and wild bananas grew in abundance. So long as he behaved himself all went well; the gods did not molest him. But with his passion for mischief, he soon tired of finding his own food and thought to steal from the gods. For this theft he paid with his life.

In Waipi'o valley, Alakahi was the chosen abode of the two primary god of Hawai'i, Kane and Kanaloa, who were accompanied by a company of lesser gods such as Maliu, Kaekae, Ouli and others. Kanaloa was a tall god with fair skin, while his companion, Kane, was dark, with curly hair and thick lips. They always went together and were of very simple habits, usually gathering and cooking their own food.

One day Kane and Kanaloa were roasting bananas on the east bank of the stream. Maui came along on the opposite bank and thrust a long sharp pole into one of the roasting bananas and drew it out of the fire and across the stream. Then he ate it. As he attempted to get a second banana, the gods sprang on him and dragged him over rocks and through bushes till they reached their heiau. There they dashed out Maui's brains with a stone, spilling his blood, which stained the side of Alakahi peak red, as it is to this day.(a) The water of the stream was tinged with his blood as well, so the shrimp therein since that fatal day have always appeared red. A portion of Maui's blood was also transformed into the rainbow that spans the heavens where he had many years before won his great victory over the sun to lengthen the days, so that his mother could dry her kapa.(b)

(a) The Kumulipo contains several references to Maui's strife with Kane and Kanaloa (136):

He fetched the bunch of black 'awa of Kane and Kanaloa
That was the second strife of Maui
The third strife was the quarrel over the 'awa strainer
The fourth strife was for the bamboo of Kane and Kanaloa

The chant claims Maui as a hero of Ko'olaupoko on the Windward side of O'ahu, and places his birth and death in that district (136):

He drank the yellow water to the dregs [?]
Of Kane and Kanaloa
He strove with trickery
Around Hawai'i, around Maui
Around Kaua'i, around O'ahu
At Kahulu'u was the afterbirth [deposited], at Waiakane the navel cord
He died at Hakipu'u in Kualoa
Maui of the loincloth
The lawless shape-shifter of the island
A chief indeed!

(b) The famous story of Maui slowing down the passage of the sun so his mother could dry her kapa is told in Thrum's Hawaiian Folk Tales (31-33) and in the Kumulipo (Beckwith 136), from which the following lines are quoted. The episode is set on the island of Maui. The sun doesn't stay up in the sky long enough for Maui's mother Hina to dry her kapa (bark cloth), so the demigod uses a rope of coconut fiber to loop the sun and slow it down during the summer month (Kau, see "Seasons and Months of Hawai'i"); during the winter months, marked by the appearance of the Pleiades (Makali'i) at the eastern horizon in the evening sky, just after sunset, the sun still moves quickly:

Everyone knows about the battle of Maui with the sun
With the loop of Maui's snaring-rope
The winter months (Makali'i) belonged to the sun
The summer months (Kau) to Maui.


Kaehaikiaholeha, whose kino wailua 'uhane (spirit body)(a) was known as Nihooleki, was born in Keauhou, Kona, on the Big Island and then went to live at Kuukuua, in Pu'uokapolei, Wai'anae, on O'ahu, where he married a woman from Kaua'i. Kaehaikiaholeha became the ruling ali'i of Wai'anae and its greatest fisherman. With his marvelous pa hi aku (pearl-shell hook for catching aku) named Pahuhu, he fished all the headlands along the coast; he knew all the fish and fishing grounds of the district.


Kaehaikiaholeha left his parents and a younger sister in Wai'anae and went to live in Waimea, Kaua'i, the birthplace of his wife. When he arrived there, he became the ali'i of Kaua'i because his wife was its ali'i. He fished everyday with his pa Pahuhu; when he lowered it, the aku came up and filled the canoe. His fishing canoe was a double-hulled canoe ten anana (fathoms) long, with twenty paddlers to steady it while he fished.


After Kaehaikiaholeha died, his body was returned to Kuukuua, in Wai'anae, and laid out in a corpse-house. His parents prayed for his spirit and strengthened it until it went about as if it were a live person again. After this revival, his spirit returned to Waimea, Kaua'i, and married his former wife; while they lived together, the wife didn't recognize this spirit as her former husband. His new name was Nihooleki. He slept all day, not eating; only his wife ate, and she ate only 'ai (vegetable food), without i'a (fish).

One day his wife got hungry and went to her brothers for 'ai and i'a. Her brothers asked her, "Where is your husband?"

"He is sleeping in the house."

"Your husband is strange! If all he does is sleep, how can he keep your belly satisfied, except perhaps with our i'a?"

Nihooleki heard these words, and when his wife returned, he said, "Don't your brothers have a pa?"

"A pa­yes."

"Go get it and bring it here."

When his wife arrived at her brothers' place, they asked her, "What brings you here?"

"To get a pa hi aku for your brother-in-law. "

"Good, he will support you now; here is a pa that will catch ten aku, and one that will catch twenty aku." The wife returned with a pa and called out to her sleeping husband:

Wake up, Nihooleki,
Wake up, Nihooleki,
The nights go by,
The days go by,
A fisherman's eyes are wakeful,
Wake up, here is our pa.

Nihooleki asked: "Which pa?"

"The lalakea (white-finned reef shark)" she replied.

"The fish won't bite that pa," Nihooleki answered; then he chanted:

We will catch only two aku,
One for the male god,
One for the female god, (b)
The paddlers' hands will be crippled,
Where is the small Pahuhu?
So a man can eat and have leftovers,
The pa hanging from the gable,
Guarded by the Noio, (c)
Swept by the current to Maka'ena,
The place where aku is plentiful,
So the sharing will be a pleasure,
The lazy ones will eat,
The hungry of the uplands of Waiahulu will eat(d)

The wife went back to her brothers. "What brings you here?" they asked.

"My husband said the fish won't bite this pa, it will bring in only two aku, not enough to make the sharing of the fish a pleasure."

"Where is the pa that the fish will bite?"

"My husband said it is hanging from the gable of the house, guarded by the Noio."


They went to look for it and found the pa Pahuhu, guarded by the Noio, who was the bird-sister of Nihooleki. When the wife returned to the house where her husband was sleeping, she called out, "Here is the pa Pahuhu." Nihooleki chanted:

The pa that fish will bite,
So the sharing will be a pleasure
The lazy ones will eat,
The hungry of the uplands will eat,
At Waiahulu.

The wife threw the pa into the palm of his hand; he got up and kissed it and wept because since he had died, he had not been fishing. Now that he had his pa, Nihooleki said to his wife: "Go and get a canoe from your brothers; not a canoe five anana long, not a single canoe, but a double canoe ten anana long; after you get the canoe, ask for twenty paddlers." (e)

The wife went back to her brothers.

"What brings you here?" they asked.

"Your brother-in-law needs a canoe."

"Yes, we have a canoe five anana long."

"Not that canoe­the double canoe ten anana long."

"A lie. There is no double canoe; nor could he paddle one by himself."

The sister said, "The double canoe is there in the canoe shed." A search was made and the double canoe was found where it had been left.

Twenty men boarded the canoe and paddled it to Nihooleki, who recognized it as the canoe he had when he was alive. He said to his wife, "Are you the favorite of your brothers?"


"Then go and ask for twenty men to go with me and steady the canoe while I fish."

When the crew Nihooleki asked for was ready, it went to the canoe landing and remained there with the others, thinking they all were going fishing at the crow of the cock, as was customary. When the cock crowed once, the other fishermen at the canoe landing got into their canoes; when the cock finished crowing, they went fishing. Nihooleki's men waited for him until daylight, and when he didn't show up, they went back home. Nihooleki was lying down at home, thinking. His wife called out to him: "Get up, go­it is the cool time for fishing, when the sun won't make you drowsy."

"I will go fishing at sunrise." At sunrise Nihooleki rose, got the ka (bailing cup) and the hokeo (gourd for fishing gear), and put on his malo (loincloth). Then he went to the canoe landing with his paddlers, pushed the canoe out, and anchored it at sea. After his crew boarded it, they paddled out. Nihooleki brought out his pa Pahuhu, and the aku came up and filled the canoe; the men paddled in and threw the fish onto shore; then they paddled out again, and the canoe was filled for a second time, and the fish again were thrown onto shore; and so it went until six canoes loads of aku had been piled up on the beach. The wife gave away some, the pigs ate some, the lazy ones ate some, some were cleaned and salted; yet the pile of fish was so big, some fish still remained.(f)

People came down from the uplands with 'ai (poi), ko (sugar cane), mai'a (bananas), and many other kinds of delicious things to eat and traded for the fish; when they returned upland, others heard about the fish and came down to the sea and returned upland with fish.

Nihooleki and his paddlers went far out to sea, where his brothers-in-law were fishing; when Nihooleki passed by their canoes, they saw his fine body and called him Pu'ipu'iakalawai'a ("Stout-bodied fisherman"), and this became Nihooleki's third name (g). They approached Maka'ena, in Wai'anae, and saw the land of O'ahu. Nihooleki again fished there and filled the canoe with aku; he told his paddlers to eat the fish and they ate until they were satisfied (h), then threw away some and left some carelessly about the canoe. They went on and landed at Kaunolu on Lana'i, fished again, caught more fish, and ate until they were satisfied. They went on and arrived at Keauhou, in Kona on Hawai'i, where Nihooleki told his paddlers, "Go ashore while I stay in our canoe. Take one aku each, twenty aku for twenty of you. At that shed of coconut leaves in front of the house where the women are seated, throw the fish down and come back without looking behind"(i).

When the paddlers jumped off the canoe, Nihooleki turned it around, and when the paddlers returned, they paddled back to Kaua'i in one day, where Nihooleki's brothers-in-law were fishing. Nihooleki brought out his pa, and the aku came up and filled his canoe; the brothers-in-law saw the canoe full of fish, so full that the crew had to stand up in the canoe (j). When this canoe came ashore, Nihooleki seized two aku, and offered them, one to the male fishing god, one to the female; he bathed and returned home and said to his wife, "Go to the paddlers and give them the aku in the canoe." Nihooleki returned home and slept. The fish that remained from his catch was left to rot.

The fishing continued like this for a long time, and the news of the abundant fish eventually reached Kamapua'a in the uplands of Waiahulu. He said, "If I could get down to the seashore, I could get some fish." Kamapua'a was pehu ("hungry," "swollen," "sick with dropsy") and couldn't walk; he was also very heavy, so his men had to carry him on shoulder poles down to the sea.

Before going fishing one day, Nihooleki told his wife, "A pehu man is coming down from the uplands; greet him as if he were your husband, as he is my friend."

After Nihooleki left for fishing, Kamapua'a arrived and peered into the opening to the house. The wife said, "Go away, you smelly man!" Kamapua'a went to sit down by the pig house with his men and waited for Nihooleki to return.

When Nihooleki returned with fish, he flew to Kamapua'a and kissed him; then he said to his wife, "You are strange! I told you to take care of my friend, but no! What of it? I am leaving with my friend, while you stay here." Nihooleki ordered fish to be given to his friend. Kamapua'a's men gathered up some fish, and still some were left over (k).

When Nihooleki and Kamapua'a were ready to leave Waimea for Wai'anae, Nihooleki said to his wife, "Give the child you are carrying my name, Kaehaikiaholeha; here are my la'au (club) and my 'ahu'ula (feather cape), the tokens of recognition should my child search for me."

When the wife heard this bequest, she wept, realizing this person was her former husband, Kaehaikiaholea. When the other ali'i of Kaua'i and the brothers-in-law heard that Nihooleki was actually their ali'i, they chased after him, but Nihooleki and Kamapua'a dove into the sea and surfaced at Kuukuua in Wai'anae. One Kaua'i ali'i, Pohaku-o-Kaua'i ("Rock of Kaua'i") pressed after them, and remains to this day as a stone in Wai'anae.

As the two friends approached the house of Nihooleki's parents and younger sister, they stopped at the corpse-house where Nihooleki's body lay. Nihooleki told his friend: "Listen, go to our parents and ask them for my things; under the threshold is the mahiole (feather helmet); under the sleeping place of our younger sister is the 'ahu'ula (feather cape); at the foot of the sleeping place is the lei niho palaoa (whale-tooth necklace); at the inside corner of the house is the kahili (feather standard)(l). Take our younger sister as your wife because she is big and beautiful." Kamapua'a went to the parents and younger sister, and did as his friend had told him to do­he married Nihooleki's sister. Kaehaikiaholeha, also known as Nihooleki, entered the corpse-house and disappeared. Thus ends this story.


This traditional story of Nihooleki has been translated by Esther T. Mookini from the Hawaiian text in Fornander, Vol. 4, 488-497. Aku was caught in great quantity during spring and summer, when it was fat and plentiful. Kepelino says that aku is the most delicious fish (Titcomb 61). Nordhoff notes "it is no exaggeration to call it the herring of the South Seas. Its flesh is rich, palatable, and nourishing, and one can eat it with relish every day" (235). A good pa hi aku (lure-hook for catching aku) was a highly prized possession and given a name. (See the the tradition of 'Ai'ai, note 18, for a description of the pa hi aku and its use.) Nordhoff writes: "[Tahitian bonito-fishermen in the 1920's] are invariably the onwers of large collections of pearl-shell shanks, collections which they care for, polish and look over as if the bits of shell were jewels. Three or four of my elderly friends have rolls of flannel with little pockets into which each shell fits­the whole stowed away carefully at the bottom of an old camphor-wood box. It is not easy to get a glimpse of such a collection, only examined and gloated over when the owner is alone. Each shank is named; Patiti (Thunderbolt), Ahimaa Poipoi (Morning Oven), and Ahimaa Ahiahi (Evening Oven) are typical names. The two latter signify that when the fisherman starts out in the morning or afternoon with that particular hook, the women at home kindle the native ground oven (ahimaa) before the return of the canoe, so sure are they of the shell's success. The owner of a valuable shell hestitates to display it for a reason obscure to a stranger, but clear to the man who knows the Polynesian. An old and highly successful bonito-hook is property almost beyond price, cherished not only for its utilitarian value, but because in the course of forty or fifty years it has acquired in the catching of countless fish a tremendous charge of mana. To display it is to run the risk of having a friend ask for it, and to the Polynesian, such a request is difficult, it not impossible, to refuse" (239). (For more on aku fishing, see note g in "'Ai'ai.")

(a) In the Hawaiian belief system, the spirit leaves the body after death and goes to dwell with his or her ancestors; or if the body has not started to decompose, he or she might be prayed back into the body; or he or she might remain as a spirit among the living, as in this legend.

(b) "When the aku fishing canoes and malau (bait tank) canoes came ashore, the women would separate the tabu fish for the men's eating houses from those for the free eating, 'ainoa, of the household. First the head fisherman went ashore with fish in his right and left hands and went into the Ku'ula heiau to pay homage to the gods. He cast down the fish for male 'aumakua and for the female 'aumakua, and then returned to give fish to the canoe men, to those who had done the chumming, and to those who had done the actual fishing" (Kamakau,Works 73-4).

(c) Deep-sea aku fishermen looked for the noio, or noddy tern, to find aku because the aku and the noio were found together feeding on the same small fish. Kamakau describes the scene: "The place where the aku would be was where the noio birds gathered above the piha [a herring], the nehu pala [anchovy] and the other small fishes that leaped above the surface to escape the snapping of the aku. Then the noio would swoop down screeching over the fish. These birds were companions of the aku and the kawakawa [a type of bonito]--where these fishes went, the birds sought them out" (Works 72).

Nordhoff gives a more extensive listing of a fisherman's knowledge of seabird behavior as it relates to fishing in Tahiti: "A thorough understanding of the behavior and feeding habits of these birds is indispensable to the bonito-fisherman; it will save him many a mile of useless paddling and guide him to schools of fish, from which he can quickly load his canoe. The following sketchy bits of information will give an idea of the importance and scope of this bird-lore. "Bobbies, when in large flocks and unaccompanied by other birds, are apt to be over a school of albacore (ahi) or porpoise; or ordinary bonito travelling too fast for a canoe to come up with them. When the birds of such a flock dive repeatedly, but level off just before touching the water, they are following a school of flying-fish. When boobies are feeding close to a flock of feeding terns, but separate from them, the former are probably accompnying albacore, the latter bonito. Boobies and terns mixed and feeding eagerly, with cries of excitement, mean bonito which will take the hook and not travel too fast. A cloud of small white terns moving high and slowly above the sea is an indication of albacore too big to take on bonito tackle. One, two, or three white terns, circling rapdily indicate dolphin (mahimahi). A cloud of small dark terns with white caps (noio) unaccompanied by other birds, means very small bonito, not apt to take the hook. The presence of frigate-birds above the boobies is a sign of good fishing, but an indication of bad weather on the way. When tropic-birds are diving among other kinds, it is a sign that the small fry are too small to resemble a bonito-hook. And so on ad infinitum" (249-250).

(d) Waiahulu is a stream and area far upland in Waimea Canyon.

(e) Common fishermen went aku fishing in a single canoe with as few as one or two paddlers, with the fisherman at the back of the canoe acting as steerman while trolling; because Nihooleki is an ali'i, or chief, he can command a double canoe with twenty paddlers, an advantage in chasing schools of aku at sea.

(f) The standard for a great catch in Polynesia was that fish could be left behind to rot on the beach after everyone who wanted any had taken all that could be used. Robert Aitken reports on the use of this standard in Tubuai storytelling about the catch taken with rau ere (a coconut leaf sweep used to encircle fish so they could be scooped up with a net): "The share for each person, including as persons even the small children who had come out at the finish of the labor as spectators only, was about 20 fish. This is the mildest version of the story; other informants stated that many fish were left on the shore by those to whom they were distributed, as it was not worthwhile carrying home more than the families and their neighbors could consume. Another version of the story is that the boat in which the fish were loaded belonged to a Rurutu schooner then in port. The boat took one full load to the schooner, the fish being subsequently salted and dried, and taken to Rurutu; after delivering the boat-load to the schooner, the boat returned to the rau ere and took ashore enough fish to more than satisfy all those present. Still other versions soar beyond the limits to which even a fish story may aspire. It is certain, at any rate, that upon some former occasions vastly greater hauls have been made than those I have seen" (61-62). The same standard for a great catch (i.e., fish left behind to rot) is used in the story of Puniakai'a.

(g) The nickname "Pu'ipu'i-a-ka-lawai'a" was also given to the famous ali'i aku fisherman 'Umi-a-Liloa, who was noted as a strong canoe paddler (Kamakau, Ruling Chiefs 11, 20).

(h) "As the bonito expeditions start before the morning meal [i.e., at about four in the morning], the crews often eat raw fish while they work." MacGregor (111-112). The fishermen left before sunrise so they would arrive at the fishing grounds at daybreak when the aku were known to feed on surface fish.

(i) Keauhou is Nihooleki's birthplace; so Nihooleki has returned to share his catch with the people of Keauhou. It was common for the hero or heroine in a Hawaiian legend to travel from one end of the island chain to the other, endowing him or her with a heroic stature because of the great distance covered.

(j) "In a large school with the fish biting well, [a fisherman] can take 100 fish in less than half an hour" MacGregor (111).

(k) Kamapua'a, the pig demi-god, is a forest dweller representing the uplands; his friendship with Nihooleki symbolizes the close link between sea and mountain, the fisherman and the forest dweller. The traditional story of Kamapua'a doesn't mention Nihooleki, but contains an incident in which the pig demi-god is refused fish. Kamapua'a is living in the uplands of Waiahulu when he hears news of a great catch of fish at Kalalau. He descends to demand a share. His family and their fisherman Wailinuu fail to recognize him and refuse to give him any fish. Angered, he forces his parents and his brother to humble themselves, then takes on his pig form and devours the fisherman. (See Fornander Vol. 5, "The Legend of Kamapua'a," Chapter VII; and Mookini and Neizman, Chapters 13 and 14.) The fish that Nihooleki gives the pig god seems to heal him and invigorate him, to make him whole again, so that Kamapua'a is able to travel with the fisherman to O'ahu.

(l) These are symbols of Nihooleki's royalty; Nihooleki is apparently passing on to his friend Kamapua'a the right to rule Wai'anae.

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