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The Legends of

Stories retold by Napualani Wong


The Legends of

Stories retold by Napualani Wong Photographs by Carl Shannef Design by Nicole Tom


This book is dedicated to Napualani Wong, the eternal giver and optimist.



Manoa Valley

As far as beautiful, idyllic valleys in the archipelago of Hawai‘i go, Mānoa Valley ranks among the

choicest of them. It has all the requirements of a tropical paradise: cascading waterfalls, lush forests, cool streams trickling over lava rock down the center of a fertile, wide valley floor, misty rains that fall from clouds trapped high on green mountain peaks, and a mystique that transcends its physical beauty. But there is a lure to Mānoa that has invited and enticed kings and queens to everyday folk. Known as the Valley of Rainbows, it stands out among the others for its unique geography, its proximity to the island’s center of commerce, and its undeniable charm.

The island of O‘ahu, third largest of the main Hawaiian islands, was created over two million years

ago when a doublet of shield volcanoes rose violently out of the sea. Ultimately, wind and rain eroded these mammoths into two long mountain ranges: the older Wai‘anae Range to the west and the relatively younger Ko‘olau Range to the east. After a very long period of quiet, volcanic activity returned and the Honolulu Volcanic Series created many of the best known landmarks we see today such as Diamond Head, Punchbowl, and Hanauma Bay. The western wall of the Mānoa is capped by a row of cinder cones from that Series made up of Pu‘u ‘Ualaka’a (Round Top), Pu‘u Kākea (Sugarloaf), and Pu‘u ‘Ōhi‘a (Tantalus). It was the flow from Pu‘u Kākea, about 67,000 years ago that sent a river of lava into the valley, pushing Mānoa Stream from its natural course down the center to where it is now located, curving to the east. That same flow created the broad, level platform for the future University of Hawai‘i, raising the floor of the valley at that point and causing eroded material from the mountain walls to “back up” and fill in the lower spots. Because the last eruption of the Honolulu Volcanic Series was only about 32,000 years ago, volcanic activity on southeastern O‘ahu may not be entirely over. Imagine Diamond Head spewing lava into Waikīkī or Koko Head creating a new caldera out of Hanauma Bay! 6

Many thousands of feet tall at its earliest stage, the Ko‘olau shield volcano trapped the rain-bearing clouds carried in with the northeasterly tradewinds, bringing nearly constant rains that produced waterfalls which artfully carved out gorges that eventually widened into valleys. Continued erosion pushed the head wall farther back until a distinctive amphitheater-headed valley was formed. The tallest peak in the Ko‘olau Range, Kōnāhua-nui, is now about 3,150 feet above sea level, towering over the western side of the Mānoa’s head. Compared with Mauna Kea’s lofty height of 13,796 feet above sea level, it seems hardly grandiose but with an average rainfall of about 160 inches per year, the resultant waterfalls continually erode the face of the mountain creating steep walls and the valley’s signature beauty. Seven waterfalls have been identified, with historical variants, as: Waihīnui (“large trickling water”), Waihī-iki (“small trickling water”), Lua‘alaea (“pit of red earth”), Nāniuapo (“the grasped coconuts”), Wa‘aloa (“long canoe”), Ka-hūwai-iki (“the little hīhīwai shellfish”), and Wai-a-ke-akua (“water of the gods”). When the curtain of clouds and mist lifts after a heavy rain, all seven waterfalls may be viewed in their full and glorious splendor. Ultimately, the wind and rain-aided waterfalls fashioned a mother-valley with long protective arms that welcomed its first inhabitants, providing nurturing rain, fertile soil on a wide plain, ample ground water, and a year-round growing season with a south-facing exposure to the sun. In fact, Mānoa is translated as “vast,” a very apt description of the wide valley that sits squarely in the moku of Kona, one of six districts the island of O‘ahu was divided into. A moku is further divided into ‘ahupua‘a, tracts of land that loosely extend from the top of the mountain down to the sea, ending at the outer edge of the reef. Mānoa, then, would be described as being in the mauka portion of the ‘ahupua‘a of Waikīkī. Generally, residents of an ‘ahupua‘a would have all their needs met from the resources within its boundaries. The earliest settlers to the ‘ahupua‘a of Wakīkī would likely have stayed closer to the ocean to access the ready supply of fresh fish. Historians surmise that settlement would have begun somewhere between A. D. 1000 – 1300 but as people began to set up permanent homes and communities, farms and homesteads moved inland. Proximity to water sources was a primary need and Mānoa had that and more. It wasn’t until the 1500’s that Mānoa became actively populated when Waikīkī was known as a center for royalty, with its famous surfing 7

beaches to the south, bountiful valley head to the north, and miles of farmland in between. By the time of King Kamehameha the Great’s conquest of O‘ahu in 1795, Kou (later called Honolulu) was emerging as the center of commerce and island politics. With the lucrative amenities of a safe and deep harbor and the establishment of a missionary compound to support a newly converted Christian Hawaiian population, the royalty relocated their households to be at the center of the action. Mānoa Valley’s importance as an agricultural area to support the growing community and its appeal of cool mountain bowers as a welcome respite to those residents of the hot, dusty plains was undeniable.

The wide, cool valley must have exuded the same mystique then as it does now. Looking mauka from

the dry plains of Mō‘ili‘ili or the sun-baked beach of Waikīkī, it’s quite common to see a double rainbow, one arch of glittering gems mirrored by its ghostly companion, contrasted against the deep green of the mountain walls. Heavy clouds usually rest on the mountain peaks and the frequent rain showers that follow often dull the emerald tones with hues of grey and purple. Those dark forests and looming valley walls were a source of mystery and lore, whispering their secrets from swaying stands of bamboo and peeking out among the wild bursts of color from the ‘ōhi‘a lehua trees in full bloom. Certainly gods and goddesses would have been lured by the sweet water from cold mountain springs and creatures both fearsome and magical would have resided there, lurking in the depths of dark, fathomless pools or hiding in the shadows of waterfalls. Great heroes were born here where beautiful maidens danced among the rainbows. From the imagination and wonder of a fantastic race of indigenous people who chose to live on the most profoundly remote island archipelago in the world, the myths and legends of Hawai‘i were born. Told, re-told, embellished or reinvented by countless generations, the stories of Mānoa Valley give precious glimpses into an amazing culture that understood the nature of the supernatural and provides a bridge to a civilization that thrived against the odds of its relative isolation. There is magic in the invitation to learn, live, and therefore truly understand and appreciate the wisdom of the Hawaiian civilization of yesterday.



Pīkoiaka‘Alalā Kahalaopuna Kapo‘i

Based on the story of Pikoi and his magical arrows adapted and edited by Napualani Wong.

Based on Kahalaopuna, the Princess of Mānoa, a Legend of the Valley of Rainbow by His Hawaiian Majesty King David Kalākaua.

Based on “Battle of the Owls” by Joseph M. Poepoe from Thomas Thrum’s Hawaiian Folk Tales


Copy of the Manoa Valley Survey map done in 1881 10

Kahaloa, where the story of Pikoiaka 窶連lala takes place. 11

“Ku aku la i ka pana a Pīkoi-a-ka-‘Alalā, Keiki pana ‘iole o ke kula o Keahumoa” “Shot by the arrow of Pikoi -son-of-the-crow, the expert rat shooter of the plain of Keauhumoa” 12



I see you! Now, hush! Don’t move! DON’T BREATHE!

He stood against the tangled roots of the hau , as silent as the hushed forest. Dark, hypnotic

eyes fixed on the moving target as he repeated the mantra to keep his focus. Then sinuously, he crawled through the brush against the rocky face of the valley wall. Fronds of palapalai ferns lifted and twisted gently as though caught by the faintest wisp of breeze. The ‘iole’s eyes shifted nervously at the movement but felt the ‘ēlau makani on his whiskers, cooling his long russet nose and he returned greedily to his feast of tender hāpu’u shoots. The hunter crouched carefully now beside a small rock outcropping and lifted his bow, sighting the ‘iole between his fingers, his target nearly one hundred feet away. Caressing the shaft of the arrow his father had fashioned from a choice sugar cane flower stalk from Wailua, he mouthed a silent prayer and let it fly.

He couldn’t hear his arrow land. He didn’t need to. He never missed.

Pīkoiaka‘Alalā was only seven years old but had shot his seventh ‘iole before the sun had

completed its morning ascent. “One for each year,” he thought to himself. But he knew that soon, it would not be enough. 14

Born on the mystical island of Kaua’i, Pīkoi was the only son of ‘Alalā and Ko’uko’u. Six of

his sisters were kūpua , demi-goddesses who could take the form of an ‘iole. His seventh sister grew into such intoxicating beauty that every available chief competed for her companionship until she finally agreed to marry Pawa’a, a close friend and companion of Kakuhihewa, the ali’i nui of O’ahu. The happy couple chose Kahaloa on the eastern slope of Mānoa Valley as their home during the rainy season and Kaho’iwai in the cool recesses of the forest as their retreat in the hot summer months. Pīkoi had come here to visit his sister and the near-constant kilihune that bathed the valley daily reminded him of his birthplace and gave him considerable comfort. He had only just completed the kā i mua and was no longer allowed to eat with the women in the hale ‘aina as he formally entered the world of his father and his training in manly pursuits. Only his father had come with him to O’ahu and he deeply missed the companionship of his mother and sisters. 15

Pīkoi was an unusual child. Fishing

their home on the drier plains of Kahaloa and

and farming were for the other boys in the

Pīkoi would imagine he was a lone pueo, flying

village. Some of the young men apprenticed

above the green and lavender plots of ‘uala that

with an elder to learn a skill that would ensure

sheltered the clever ‘iole, seeking them out

a future of worth and a wife of means that

with a superhuman ability to sense the warmth

would go with it. Such training was not for

of their bodies and the almost imperceptible

him. While the other children played the

flutter of their whiskers as they shuffled through

familiar childhood games, he preferred his

the brush in search of plunder. And so Pīkoi

own company and instead, discovered that he

grew into young adulthood – in solitude, but

had an unusual gift of farsightedness and an

never truly alone.

even more uncanny skill with a bow and arrow. ‘Alalā recognized that his son had been given a

great and wondrous gift and was not about to

Pīkoi set out from his sister’s home in Kahaloa

question the wisdom of the gods in presenting

to find new challenges to his already matchless

him with such an unusual boy.

skills. The weather was getting warmer and

One unusually clear day in Welo ,

there were no kaunana pālāmoa casting rain

Pīkoi, then, was a “legend-in-training”

shadows over Konahuanui at the head of the

and allowed to wander alone daily into the

valley. The ‘uala vines had already begun to

forests of Wa’aloa and Naniuapō, studying

stretch out with the promise of a good potato

the birds and the creatures of the mountain

season and as the days grew warmer, he knew

streams until he could perch unnoticed in the

the ‘iole would soon be moving back into the

lehua trees among the ‘amakihi or swim in

cooler recesses of the valley. He delighted in

the shallow pools alongside the shy ‘o‘opu .

knowing he would never be lacking in stealthy

When the ho’oilo season came with its heavy

targets among the kāwelu and the ko’oko’olau.

rains and cooler winds, the family relocated to 16

But today, something unusual caught his eye. On the far-off plains of Makiki, a small crowd

had gathered and his curiosity overcame his usual aversion to social interaction outside his small family unit. Still keeping a measured distance, he could see that there was a very spirited contest in progress and much to his great excitement, he recognized the famous rat-shooter, Ma’inele in the center of a make-shift arena. He had seen this man before, strutting about the chief ’s court, boasting of his awesome ability to kill ‘iole by the dozens but Pīkoi had never seen him in action. Ma’inele was the man he aspired to be! Awestruck by the grace and glory of the great hero before him, Pīkoi timidly moved into the shadow of a kou tree, never taking his eyes off the legendary rat-shooter. Suddenly, he felt a painful thrust between his shoulders and in an instant, he was face down in the dust. Strong hands held him as he blinked into the brilliant sun, shocked and stunned. Dark shapes stood menacingly around him. Everyone stopped to stare at the impudent boy lying prostrate on the ground.

“How dare you! Get up!” It was a woman’s angry voice that commanded him to stand. As

quickly as he looked into her eyes, he just as quickly looked away. He had unknowingly shared the tree’s shade with an ali’i wahine and he was in serious trouble for it. He wondered why he hadn’t noticed the fine kapa of the attendees and the delicately-feathered hand kāhili they had been carrying. He had been too transfixed on his hero worship. He had to think fast.

“I, too, am a rat-shooter,” he offered boldly, without apology. He pulled his shoulders back

and planted his feet solidly beneath him, perhaps ready for another blow from her nervous guards.

The ali’i wahine was taken aback by the braveness of this young man. Even at nearly

thirteen years of age, he was already as tall as she and his lean, muscular torso and shoulders spoke 17

quite favorably of his

was not the only one to see

athletic ability. But it was

his eyes flash and his jaw

something in his deep eyes,

tighten in response to her

colored in the shades of

challenge. She was clearly

polished koa , fringed by


lashes that were impossibly curled, that captured her

attention. Something old,

anticipated his response for

unfathomable, maybe even

she quickly picked up her

wise, was embedded there. She was aware then, not only of his unusual beauty but that he was somehow favored by a watchful god.

“Pana ‘iole is not

abilities against that of the great Ma’inele, who unfortunately for me today, has bested my own champion, Ke-pana-kahu. I am Kaea-a-Kalona, wife of your ali’i, Kakuhihewa. Do

a sport for commoners,” she

you think you can beat him for

said with feigned indigna-

me?” Her smile was teasing

tion. “But I wonder if perhaps

now and she clearly expected

you are not what you appear

this exquisite young boy to

to be. I’ll forgive your brash

apologize and run as quickly

ignorance of your station but

as he could back into the hills

only if you’ll agree to test your

from which he came. But she 18

She might have

own kakaka kīko’o and pua pana whose obvious craftsmanship was befitting that of royalty and handed it to her attendant, indicating she should give it to Pīkoi. He had never seen anything so beautiful before but as he tested the draw of the arched wood and the tensile strength of the cordage, he shook his head. The wood was inconsistent. The shaft of the pua pana was not balanced with

its tip. “These are not for hunting,” he declared,

avoiding the eyes of his onlookers. “I cannot use

take threats to his professional standing lightly,

these because they are, well, useless.” The horri-

especially when a challenge came from such a

fied silence surrounded him like the valley walls

young boy. “Why, we live on the same island

in the night of Muku . He was in for it now.

and I’ve never heard of him!” he muttered to

Maybe they would take turns shooting him with

himself as Pīkoi approached. “Who are you?”

those lovely pua pana, but he knew he would

he demanded aloud at the audacity of the boy’s

lose the wager and death was probably the better

obviously misplaced aura of confidence. Pīkoi’s

alternative to shame.

only reply was to set the challenge at fifteen ‘iole

A whisper came from his side. “Pīkoi,

take these.” He didn’t turn toward the voice because he knew his father had followed him

Ma’inele was not amused. He did not

apiece. Whoever got that number first would win. In deference to the hero before him, Pīkoi allowed Ma’inele to shoot first.

and had brought his own kakaka kīko’o and

pua pana, wrapped carefully in a roll of kapa.

he quickly shot fourteen ‘iole as his attendant

As he unwrapped his bundle, a roar of laughter

would retrieve each one, remove the pua pana,

came from the crowd, easing the tension of

and return it to Ma’inele to resume his task. His

the moment. “What an absurd upstart,” one

skill was apparent as his poor attendant could

hollered. “Look at that simple kakaka kīko’o!

barely catch his breath before the famous rat-

Why it isn’t even polished!” someone else

shooter had killed another and he imperiously

jeered. But Pīkoi wasn’t bothered. He felt

disregarded the impaled victims that twitched

better now and could feel the familiar buzz that

morbidly in a tidy pile beneath his outstretched

connected his hand to the precious wood in his

arms. He needed only one more and he would

grasp. He moved forward through the crowd

win the contest, salvage the day, and reaffirm

toward the arena that had been prepared for the

his standing as the greatest rat-shooter of the


kingdom. “Maybe that boy is a trickster,” he 19

Ma’inele’s reputation was at stake so


thought. “He’ll allow me to win without having

himself. He appeared strangely transformed and

to shoot at all, so I will have proven nothing.”

entranced - calm, serious, and serene. Slowly, he

But number fifteen was elusive. He

needed number fifteen so this ridiculous irritant would be taught a lesson! Maybe Kaea-a-Kalona would have him killed for his impudence or his failure. Maybe he would be put in service

pulled back the pua pana that stretched the olonā to his cheek.

I see you! I hear you! Now, hush! Don’t move! DON’T BREATHE!

to Kakuhihewa as a kahu moka. That last idea

brought a smirk but gave him little comfort.

everyone ran to the spot. Pīkoi’s pua pana had

“There are no more ‘iole!” he finally shouted

found its unseen prey and a little boy held it up

impatiently. “I got them all so the matter is ended.”

for all to see. He quickly pulled the pua pana

He picked up his ukana and turned to leave.

from the ‘iole and returned it to Pīkoi with awe

“There is another, Ma’inele, and if you

cannot see it, I will shoot it for you.” Ma’inele turned to face the boy who had spoken those

The pua pana entered the brush and

and adoration in his eyes. Ma’inele could not believe what he saw. The crowd was quiet now, unsure of what they had just witnessed.

incredible words, knowing that he had killed

every ‘iole within and without the arena. “Then

edge of the arena and stared into the ‘āweoweo

shoot it,” he hissed incredulously.

shrubs in the distance. Fixing his eyes upon an

The crowd around Pīkoi moved away.

The air had taken on a strange charge as though lightning had just struck the ground and an eerie vibration seemed to be emanating from the boy

Then Pīkoi wordlessly walked to the

invisible target, he motioned to his father, who handed him a special pua pana with an unusually long tip of polished kauila wood, sharpened to a point as fine as a needle. Only Pīkoi’s arms moved in an imperceptibly slow, graceful arch as 21

his rigid body stood as motionless as a ki’i . The pua pana whistled as it flew until it disappeared into the bushes near the base of Pu’u o Mānoa almost half a mile away! This time, Ma’inele joined the young men who ran to retrieve the pua pana. There was no sound when they could be seen returning holding the pua pana aloft, heavy with the numerous bodies of its victims. No voices called out that Pīkoi had just shot fifteen ‘iole with one arrow. No cheers filled the air. No one spoke at all. There was only awed, reverent silence for the beautiful boy that had done the impossible. They could only have witnessed a magical interlude with a god.

As the remaining crowd ran toward the returning group, no one noticed as ‘Alalā ushered

his son into a dense thicket of pūkiawe shrubs. He knew that Ma’inele would be furious and might seek revenge. Kakuhihewa himself might want to seek out his son for his own service. It was true that Pīkoi had demonstrated his greatness, but the time was not right for him to take his place among the men or the gods for that matter. A father knows these things so pulling his son behind, they stole back to their home deep in the forest of Mānoa and to a lifestyle that he knew would have to end all too soon. ‘Alalā shivered with excitement and pride, but more than a little fear. His son would have to be protected. He looked to the mountains, the sea, and the sky and asked all the gods that were listening to look after his only treasure. There would be much to prepare for and ‘Alalā watched as daylight left the sky, turning from shades of warm pink and orange to the ominous purple of dusk.


Glossary for Pikoiaka‘Alala ali’i nui - high chief ali’i wahine - a chiefesshau (Hibiscus tiliaceus) – indigenous tree of the hibiscus family ‘amakihi – endemic Hawaiian honey creeper with yellowish-green feathers ‘āweoweo – endemic Hawaiian shrub ‘ēlau makani – faint wisp of breeze hāpu’u – endemic Hawaiian tree fern hale ‘aina – women’s eating house ho’oilo – rainy season, usually between the months of November through March ‘iole – Hawaiian rat kāhili – feathered standard, a symbol of royalty kapa – clothing made from wauke or mamaki bark kahu moka – person who cares for the chief ’s excrement so it wouldn’t fall into the possession of a sorcerer kakaka kīko’o - bow kā i mua – ceremonial move of a young boy from babyhood in the hale ‘aina to manhood, around the age of 6 or 7 kauila – endemic Hawaiian tree found only on O’ahu with very hard, dark red wood kaunana pālāmoa – dark clouds developing, portending the likelihood of rain kāwelu – endemic Hawaiian grass ki’i - statue kilihune – delicate, gentle rain koa – endemic Hawaiian tree, noted for its beautiful red wood; used to make canoes and surfboards ko’oko’olau – endemic Hawaiian herb kou – an indigenous tree valued for its use to make calabashes kupua – part human, part god, this creature had magical powers and the ability to change its form lehua – an endemic Hawaiian tree with tufted flowers, sacred to the goddess Pele Muku – thirtieth night of the moon, when there is no moon visible in the night sky olonā - endemic Hawaiian tree ‘o’opu – endemic Hawaiian fish of the mountain pools and streams palapalai – indigenous Hawaiian fern pana‘iole – ancient sport of rat shooting with a bow and arrow pua pana – arrow 23

pueo – endemic Hawaiian owl pūkiawe – endemic Hawaiian shrub Pu’u o Mānoa – old name for Rocky Hill, located now on the Punahou School campus ‘uala – indigenous sweet potato with lavender flowers of South American origin ukana – supplies Welo – approximately the month of April/May


Waiakeakua, where the story of Kahalaopuna takes place. 25

“Aloha mai no, aloha aku; o ka huhū ka mea e ola ‘ole ai.” When love is given, love should be returned; anger is the thing that gives no life. 26



Chapter One : A Legend is born

Kahaukani anxiously paced the floor of the hale mua until he nearly wore a path through

the makaloa mats under his feet. The other men had gone outside, mumbling in low voices under the burning torches to give him some room. Although the front entrance was open to the darkened valley below, through the side door he could make out the light of the kukui candle glittering between the thatching of the hale noa . He paused to listen to the whispers of the kahuna pale keiki as she gently rubbed Kauakuahine’s hugely distended abdomen, coaxing the baby to come. “It will be a girl,” he muttered gratefully, “born on this night of Huna – a good sign,” but his expression was frozen with anxiety as he continued his restless pacing. After so many miscarriages, this would be their first-born, their maka hiapo, and Ka-hau-kani had prayed for a daughter. All the babies born in the kauhale had been boys but when each boy grew into manhood, he would leave to live with his wife and her family. A daughter, then, would bring a husband to their home and they would be cared for in their old age. “Please, Hulu , please, Hina…,” but he didn’t finish his prayer.

The whispering had stopped and so did his pacing. The night was eerily silent except for the

crackling of the flames as the cool night wind blew down the valley walls from the menacing blackness of Konahuanui. Was something wrong? 28

Chapter Two: The Betrothal

A dark figure stooped through the entrance

Kahalaopuna was possibly the most

of the hale noa. The kahuna pale keiki found

beautiful baby anyone had ever seen and her parents

Kahaukani kneeling before the hale, overwhelmed by

recognized their good fortune. The women rolled

fear and huddled against a tidal wave of grief that was

and pulled her tiny fingers so they would lengthen

looming over him, poised to drown him in his sorrow.

and taper gracefully at their tips. They pressed

She bent over him to utter only a few words before she

gently against her upper forehead to flatten it so it

disappeared back into the quiet room.

would slope beautifully into an elegantly rounded

It was a girl. But she didn’t enter the

world of men with a scream or a wail. Nor did she have the crushed face of a newborn. She had only coughed lightly and smiled as she gazed at her mother with eyes that sparkled in the golden light of the warming fire. This was not a normal childbirth and the midwife had told him so. This little girl would be special; she would be famous.

“Kahalaopuna,” the humbled father cried

out loud. She will be named for the most famous hala groves of Puna, with hīnano and hala hua of such exquisite fragrance.

He gave only a passing thought to the

crown. But everything else about her was already perfect; there was no blemish to her perfect skin that always seemed to glow from an inner flame. Her temperament was gentle and kind and when she learned to speak, her voice was as soft and gentle as the breeze that played melodically through the stands of ‘ohe . She could not marry just anybody, her parents agreed. She was destined to be the wife of an important ali’i and nothing less.

Finding a suitable wife for a royal son was

a matter of serious concern. Certainly she must be of at least equal rank and have excellent childbearing possibilities. That was a must. But a beautiful bride was not necessarily high on the list of royal pre-

other meanings of hala - to cause offense…to pass

requisites so when visitors passing through Mānoa

away…to fail…to die.

saw the exceptional nature of Ka-hala-o-puna, it 29

didn’t take long before the parents of ali’i boys throughout the mokupuni of O‘ahu sent their envoys to Ka-haukani and Ka-ua-kuahine to press their suit for her eventual hand in marriage. Weighing their many, many choices, they finally settled on the young chief, Kauhi, of Kailua. The ho’opalau was arranged and the two children were officially betrothed. This was a sacred vow and such a promise could not be broken.

Now the hard work to maintain their daughter’s mystique and desirability must begin in earnest. A

house was built for her in the fragrant ‘iliahi forest of Ka-hai-a-mano in the quiet recess of Mānoa and it was here she grew into the loveliest maiden that every curious pair of eyes craved to witness. Her playmates were the ‘apapane and the ‘elepaio who would feed from her hands as she chanted songs of loneliness into the wind. Even the wild pua’a would lay peacefully in the sun at her feet as she would tickle their chins, grunting in pleasure and peace. Her guardians would keep a constant watch of the shadowy forest beyond the pūlo’ulo’u , keeping any intruders from approaching their precious ward. But they were also careful to allow those who waited a fleeting glimpse of Ka-hala-o-puna as she walked to the graceful waterfall and pool near her house. Even the emissaries from Kauhi, who brought kalo from Ka-wai-nui and i’a from the ponds of Ka’elepulu were rewarded with a glimpse of the beauty as her handmaidens combed and perfumed her lustrous waves of thick black hair that flowed like pāhoehoe lava to her knees. As Kauhi grew into manhood, he would be continually informed of the exquisite nature of his prized bride and as her legend grew, so did his own curiosity. Many times he fought the urge to spy on her himself, just to see if she truly matched the breathless descriptions he received, but he felt duty-bound to honor his parents’ commitment to the ho’opalau and wait for the time of formal introduction.

As it happened one misty afternoon as the sun was resting on the hill of ‘Ualaka’a, the shafts of sunlight

drew jeweled hues from the tiny raindrops, painting rainbows above Ka-hala-o-puna’s home among the trees. She was already eighteen years of age and the date of her ho’āo was to be very soon. She was thrilled at the thought of becoming the wife of Kauhi, who her servants whispered was as handsome as a god, with wealth and stature 30

that would assure her and her parents a life of prosperity and happiness. She felt the warm flutter of expectation and uncertainty churning deep inside of her but she burned at the thought of looking into her husband’s eyes and inhaling deeply his soft breath against her cheek.

In a moment of giddiness, Kahalaopuna danced from the confines of her house, breaking free from her

sleeping guardians, to the rain bowed bower encircling her little pool. “Oh, Kauhi,� she sang out in her joy, her fingertips reaching for the elusive glittering columns around her. But suddenly, she froze and pulled her damp hair across her body. She felt the stares of strangers boring into her nakedness and she was instantly afraid. Her wide eyes searched 31

through the mist for the invaders of her private moment of jubilation. Then she saw them, two curious young chiefs from Waikīkī that had been hiding among the rocks, waiting for just this moment. They were transfixed as statues as they stared in astonishment at the enchanting beauty just across the pond, standing in a glittering rainbow drape, her golden eyes returning their stares under lashes heavy with dew. Waikīkī that had been hiding among the rocks, waiting for just this moment. They were transfixed as statues as they stared in astonishment at the enchanting beauty just across the pond, standing in a glittering rainbow drape, her golden eyes returning their stares under lashes heavy with dew. In one moment, Ke’awa’awaki’ihelei and Kumauna were incredulous at their phenomenal luck but in the next, they were inflamed with the desire to possess this living goddess. “Who is Kauhi that he should deserve this much beauty?” they asked each other. “We saw her first! She’s rightfully ours!” Cautiously, so as not to startle her, they climbed carefully over the rocks, bringing them nearer the water’s edge and infinitely closer to her.

The curtain of rainbows shuddered and disappeared. A dark shadow had descended from the sky

above Kahala-o-puna and flew between her and the approaching men. It was her ‘aumakua , the pueo , who saw the danger she was in and blocked their path, his beak and talons ready to tear them apart if they took one more step. Without a backward glance, the two men quickly jumped into the stream and followed it as it flowed toward Waikīkī, cursing at how they had come so close to the legendary beauty of Mānoa. By sunrise, they had cleaned themselves up and scrubbed their bodies with fragrant ‘awapuhi kuahiwi from the stream. And by the time the sun rose above the Wa’ahila ridge, they decided that if they couldn’t have her, nobody would.


Chapter Three: The Death of Dreams

The two chiefs knew that Kauhi would be surfing that day at Ka-lehua-wehe and found him on the

beach, preparing to launch his splendid papa he’enalu into the kai po‘i . He was quite striking as the surf splashed against his glistening bronze skin and dripped reluctantly from the curls that fell below his shoulders. But he was irritated that the crowd that had gathered to admire his surfing skills had now moved toward two strangers who were terribly out of place. Even from a distance, he could smell the fragrant ‘awapuhi that could only have come from the uplands and he was certain he heard them say they had spent the night at the invitation of a beautiful girl in the uplands of Mānoa. He edged closer, shivering, although he wasn’t cold, listening to their boastful voices above the crashing waves. Then he heard them say her name. “Kahalaopuna,” they proclaimed triumphantly and then the roar in his ears and the fire in his head consumed him. She had betrayed him. No, she had humiliated him. She had broken her promise. The ho‘opalau was severed and a lifetime of dreams, hopes, and expectations fell to pieces around his shattered heart. Kahalaopuna must die!

For a man of his stature and athletic superiority, it didn’t take long to find her. He just needed to

follow the trail of rainbows. He approached her house from across the stream and was surprised to see several women sitting among the rocks at the edge of a pool. Hiding in a thicket of twisted hau branches, his eyes searched among them for the girl that was to be his most prized possession but none of them could match the image of his dreams. Then there was a sudden sensation of weightlessness and Kauhi forgot to breathe. Kahalaopuna emerged from the shadows of the ‘ohe and unwrapped her pā‘ū , stained with ‘ulei berries in a delicate shade of lavender as she stepped lightly into the cold, dark water. He had never, ever wanted anything or anyone so much in his life before. “No!” he shouted to himself, tormented and anguished. “How could she give herself to those two ridiculous men without thought of her promise to me! No!” This time, the ache in his heart pulled him to his feet as he squeezed his eyes closed to make this impossible vision disappear. It didn’t 33

work because when he opened

they had discreetly removed

obedient girl who had pulled her

his eyes, the vision was staring

themselves to the house, peeking

pā‘ū around her shivering body.

at him.

out in curiosity and fascination.

Dusk was settling upon the

“Kauhi?” She had

Kauhi had regained

also been informed of her future

his focus although he was having

husband’s exceptional features

such difficulty concentrating on

and recognized him instantly.

the terrible deed he was bound

The love and longing that had

to do. He could not look at

been so carefully nurtured for

the gentle creature before him

as long as she could remember

without denying his great sadness

poured unrestrained from the

that they would never be bound

deep well of her soul. She

together in this life but she had

moved toward him, but the

broken a very sacred vow and

tortured look on his face was

death was her only punishment.

unexpected and confusing.

He reached to her and pulled her

Did she disappoint him? She

from the water, scorching her

wished she had been prepared

hand with the fire building inside

for his coming so she could

his smoldering soul.

have adorned herself with lehua mamo and maile to please him. She looked to her guardians for help but recognizing the groom,

“Follow me,” he

ordered and refused to allow himself a sideward glance at the


forest but she was more afraid of the darkness of his behavior. She struggled to keep up with him as she admired but feared the flexing of the muscles of his shoulders. She stumbled among the rocks and roots and the sharp, broken stems of the uluhe cut into her bare thighs. Kauhi never stopped to help her or pick her up when she fell. Finally, she fell in exhaustion against the trunk of a hala tree and clinging to its tangled roots, she begged Kauhi to explain his anger so she could somehow make amends.

Kauhi knelt beside the

wretched girl but even the blood that stained her lovely cheeks

or the ugly welts that covered her tender arms could not lessen the affect her beauty had on him. But now the anger of her betrayal welled up in his throat and he took her face between his hands, his cold eyes mirroring the frigid sliver of the rising moon. He brought his face closer and putting his nose next to hers, he inhaled her warm, frightened breath. For the last and only time, he thought. Then he stood above her, a dark heavy object in his hand. He raised it over his head and brought the heavy hala hua down upon the innocent child. Kahalaopuna was dead.

There was no joy in the act, no satisfaction of a task completed.

There was only the emptiness that comes from unrequited anger. He turned without looking at her, afraid her frozen eyes would betray his hopelessness, and he ran down the pathway under the grotesque shadows of the hau trees. Their twisted branches seemed to reach toward him, to force him to stay and see the beauty he had destroyed. It was too quiet, yet he distinctly heard the flutter of wings behind him. How odd that a bird would be flying after sunset, he wondered. Then he heard something else. A faint voice, haunting and plaintive in its sadness, lifted into a chant of loneliness that echoed off the walls of the valley. He heard his name. Could it be? Was Kahala-o-puna still alive? He ran back up the path to the hala tree.

This time, he didn’t even speak but turning toward the path that

led mauka , he signaled for her to follow. It was a little disconcerting to him that she made no sound behind him and if he hadn’t heard her footsteps, he might have thought she was ‘uhane . At last they came to the end of the path overlooking Nu‘uanu Valley and he turned to see her sitting on a rock, her 35

pale eyes staring into the darkness beyond him with

disappeared up the path followed by silence and then

such sadness that it stunned him how her beauty

the unmistakable sound of claws scratching through

was even more devastating in the pale moonlight.

leaves and soil. Not again! His anger was rising and

Now, almost empty of anger or any emotion at all,

he raced back to the grave only to find Ka-hala-o-puna

he picked up a rock and mechanically, struck the

sitting in the center of the shallow pit, the familiar

helpless girl on her temple and again, she fell lifeless

chant of sadness and now accusation on her lips.

at his feet. This time, to be certain she was really dead, he scraped a shallow grave into the soft dirt and covered her quickly and methodically.

It would take longer to get to Waikiki

“GET UP! GET UP!” he screamed. He

was delirious with fury and fatigue but he pulled her to her feet and dragging her behind him, he ran across valleys and ridges, even as the sky was

from the mountain ridge, but the moonlight lit the

threatening to expose his crime to the light of day.

way. The tall grasses and bushes seemed to part for

When he could run no more, he finally turned to

him as if to hurry his unwelcome presence out of

look at the battered and bruised girl at his feet.

their peaceful domain. The silence around him had

Consumed with hatred and wary of her unseen

become deafening and he thought he might be going

protector, he pushed her to the ground beneath

quite mad with the entire affair but he was tired

an ancient koa tree. Beneath the canopy of lau

now and wanted nothing more than to go home.

kakala , he hit her with a force so great that her

He would tell his parents about his intended bride’s

death was immediate and sure. Her grave would

unfaithfulness and to prevent any bad blood between

under the roots of the old tree would be nearly

their families, he would tell them that she ran away

impossible for anyone to find easily and in spite of

with her lover and in their shame, would not doubt

his overwhelming weariness, he ran as fast and as

his story. Something flew just over his head, the

far as he could until he collapsed in the ‘uala fields

disturbance knocking him to the ground. He lay where he was, listening as the whoosh of wings

of Mo‘ili‘ili where he slept fitfully, his nightmares filled with golden eyes and the beating of wings, and always, always, that haunting chant. 36

Chapter Four: The Death of Life

Kahaukani and Kauakuahine were worried. Kahalaopuna’s guardians had told them that their

daughter had gone off with her intended husband, but it had been two days now without word from anyone, including his family, of their whereabouts. The wedding feast had been prepared and the bountiful ho‘okupu were piling up in the hale ho‘ao that had been built just for the young couple. By the time a week had gone by, they were frantic and together, they went to Ka-hala-o-puna’s pālama hoping to find a clue to her disappearance. The house was still now and there were no rainbows to paint the thatching in shades of indigo and violet. Her little pond was lifeless and even the flowers refused to bloom without the little maiden that brought the sun. So together they sat on the rocks their little girl had played on, holding each other and crying the desperate tears of parents who found a part of their souls had gone missing and there was no cure for the emptiness.

A tiny movement in the branches above brought them back. It was a little ‘elepaio bird that was a

family relative and he told them the horrible story of their daughter’s ordeal. He had always assumed the role of Ka-hala-o-puna’s forest guardian and had followed her, watching each murder in horror from the trees above. After each death blow, the little bird had flown directly to her ‘aumakua, the pueo and together, they immediately returned to bring her back to life. However, neither bird could dig through the large, tangled roots of the koa tree where she was finally buried and they had to give up hope of bringing her back again. ‘Elepaio offered to 37

guide her grief-stricken parents to her resting place

morning in Kaulua and after a filling breakfast

and sadly, they began their journey across the ridges

of fresh fish, everyone had gathered at the lo‘i

and valleys until they reached the stately tree that

with happy spirits and lighthearted conversation.

guarded their precious daughter’s spirit.

Kahaukani would raise his head from time to time

But what was this? Where her body had

been buried, there was now a gaping hole. Someone had taken Kahalaopuna! Torn between the horror that wild animals had destroyed her body and the desperate hope that someone else had found her

to smile at a joke but nobody expected him to join in. Even the women, who were stringing lei of hala for the workers, were sensitive to Ka-ua-kuahine’s numbness as she sat quietly amidst the chattering crowd.

and she was still alive, Kahaukani and Kauakuahine

turned back to their home in Mānoa, in shock,

tree near the edge of the forest and landed with

disbelief, and uncertainty. Days and nights were

dramatic flair on Ka-hau-kani’s shoulder, everyone

endured, not lived, but together they offered the

stopped what they were doing, acutely aware that

gods their eternal servitude if they would return

something of great importance had happened. And

their child to them and it was that hope that kept the

each person within earshot could hear the excited

blood pulsing in their lifeless bodies.

twitter of the little bird. Ka-hau-kani had dropped

So when the ‘elepaio darted from a kou

his ‘ō‘ō and when he began running to a startled Ka-

Chapter Five: A New Beginning

On a day like every other day over the

past few weeks, Kahaukani was mechanically going about his business and today he was in his lo‘i kalo

ua-kuahine with tearful eyes, the words had already reached her.

Kahalaopuna was alive!

planting the huli for the next harvest. It was tedious

but joyous work that everyone in the kauhale joined

to Ka-hau-kani that a young chief of Mo‘ili‘ili had

in to do and the men with their long ‘ō‘ō had been

been crossing the mountain ridge on his return

working since sunrise. It was an unusually glorious

from a visit to Wai‘anae when he heard the spirit 38

‘Elepaio had quickly related the story

of Kahalaopuna calling for help. He dug her body up and finding that it was still warm, he quickly carried her to his home where his brother, a kahuna, and his two spirit-sisters brought her back to life. This chief, Mahana, had taken her to the curative waters of the underground cave of Mauoki and after some time, she became herself again. Mahana had fallen deeply in love with this gentle, extraordinarily beautiful girl and wanted to marry her but she told him that she was still betrothed to Kauhi and while he lived, she could marry no other. Mahana was determined that Kauhi should pay for his murderous deeds and lured Kauhi into a game of kilu when he chanted the songs he had learned from Ka-hala-o-puna that she sang to Kauhi in the mountains. When Mahana told him that he had learned those 39

chants from none other than Ka-hala-o-puna herself, Kauhi challenged him to produce this imposter and was so sure that Kauhi was trying to trick him that he offered to die if he were proven wrong. Now the king himself had become involved and Mahana was ordered to produce a living woman or forfeit his own life for his part in this tragedy. The losing chief would be roasted alive. ‘Elepaio had come to tell them the trial would be the following day.

The entire kauhale made preparations to leave early the next morning and ‘Elepaio led them to

Mahana’s home. It was quiet when Ka-hau-kani and Ka-ua-kuahine approached the house. “O!” the anxious father called from a respectful distance. Then they heard the soft, musical voice that was never absent from their thoughts. “He mai!” she called, “Come!” her kahea infused with the soft wind and rains of the uplands; the fiery tufts of lehua that bloomed in the forest; the love and light that came from her beloved home of Mānoa welcomed her cherished family. Then she burst through the doorway and the parents and child held each other with an uwē of love lost and now love re-gained. The tears flowed freely from everyone gathered and even the gods seemed pleased by sending an elaborate double rainbow that arched from ‘Ualaka‘a to Wa‘ahila and a delicate misty uakoko to soften their salty tears. They would have been content to remain in each others arms but Mahana gently lifted them to their feet and told them that they had to leave for Waikīkī immediately. The love in Kahalaopuna’s eyes for this tall, handsome man was undeniable and for the first time in weeks or months, they weren’t even certain of the time that had passed, they could say they were truly happy.

An elaborate set-up had been designed for the trial. Wary that Ka-hala-o-puna may actually be a spirit 40

trying to impersonate a living being, delicate ‘ape

two malicious chiefs who started the whole series

leaves were placed on the ground over which she

of events, it was over. The king declared his belief

would enter. If she were human, the leaves would

that Ka-hala-o-puna had been murdered by Kauhi

be crushed. Thousands had gathered to witness the

and had been brought back to life by Mahana. Now

event, some to see if this young maiden had truly

Kauhi must repay his debt to his innocent victim and

been risen from the dead, but most came to see the

would face execution.

legendary beauty of Manoa for themselves. There was a sudden hush from the clamoring crowd when Ka-hala-o-puna stepped into the enclosure that had been prepared for her. She had been dressed in her favorite lavender colored pa‘ū and lei of fragrant maile lau li‘ili‘i were draped around her neck. Her mother’s favorite lei po‘o of rare mamo feathers handed down from generations of chiefly women was placed regally upon her head and indicated her royal station. As she stepped regally forward to face the king, tearing the carpet of ‘ape leaves as she walked, there were gasps of admiration and awe from the spectators. She was everything they had imagined and more. As she turned to look into the face of Kauhi, standing below the king, everyone saw the look of blame on her face and even more telling, the look of guilt on his. The beautiful princess of Mānoa told her story and plying the truth from the

The imu was very, very hot and Kauhi

could not have suffered very long. With Kauhi’s death, the king proclaimed the marriage of Kahalaopuna and Mahana. As everyone followed the newly married couple to a night of feasting and joy at their home in Mo‘ili‘ili, only the smell of burned flesh lingered behind at Waikīkī. The sound of embers crackling in the sea breeze and the gentle wash of waves over the white sand belied the horrific events of the day and a sense of peace settled on the quiet arena beneath the towering niu now swaying gracefully to a wind that was building offshore. The ocean began to churn in response to the wind and gradually the waves began to rise.

There was nobody left to witness the

huge wave that suddenly crashed onto the shore, extinguishing the smoldering fire in the imu and pulling the bones of Kauhi into the sea. 41

Chapter Six: The End of a Beginning

As fishermen returned home with their catch, they began reporting

of a new, especially vicious manō that began menacing their canoes as they fished the rich grounds off Waikīkī. Suspecting the work of an ‘aumakua, some of Kauhi’s family paddled out on surfboards to confirm their suspicions. As the long, dark shape approached, each man pulled his legs up onto his board, grasping a long kao , fearing that the beast may not actually be who they thought he was. But as the powerful animal moved slowly between the surfboards, each man spat a mouthful of kukui oil to smooth the surface of the water, and they could see the large black eyes that they immediately recognized as their cousin’s. Paddling slowly back to shore, they quietly rejoiced that the young chief had been transformed into a fierce and powerful creature. It almost vindicated the shame they had felt upon learning of his murderous acts. Upon landing, they relayed to the group that had gathered on shore the news they had feared - Kauhi had been transformed into a shark by his ‘aumakua.

Kahalaopuna was told of Kauhi’s transformation and for two years,

she lived happily with her husband and her parents, enjoying the wonderful life she had been raised to live. Surrounded by family and friends, she was finally, truly, eternally fulfilled. She knew she would never again enjoy playing in the surf with her husband or catching fish with the women, but it was a small price to pay for contentment.

Mahana awoke one day and rolled to his side to look at his sleeping

wife. He gently pulled her kapa blanket from her face and he stared gratefully 42

at her impossible beauty. A tiny smile was on her lips and he knew she was awake. She grabbed his hand and held it to her heart and looked at him with such love, that he almost decided not to go hunting that day but they would need meat for dinner and even more to trade for fish.

“You are such a distraction, my love,” he whispered into her sweet hair. “But my sisters are coming

for a visit so we need to prepare. Lay down some extra mats for their bedding and I’ll be back before noon.” He nudged her gently with his nose, slowly breathing in her exquisite fragrance, memorizing her golden eyes that melted his resolve. But they had a lifetime of enjoying each other, he assured himself and rose from their warm bed to leave.

He stood at the door, looking back at his beloved wife, finding it especially hard to leave her today.

Finally, he turned, joining the other men down the roadway, looking back once to see Ka-hala-o-puna in the doorway, her glorious face smiling at him, bidding him farewell.

His sisters arrived early and excitedly told her of a surfing competition at the beach that they wanted

badly to see. There was no harm in that, she thought, because she would stay on the beach and the surfers would know if there was danger in the water. The women quickly gathered their retinue and some refreshment and within the hour, they were sitting beneath the shade of a large ‘ulu tree, clapping in appreciation after each surfer rode each wave with skill and dexterity. When the contest ended, crowds of people were on the beach, congratulating each surfer and covering them with lei. Soon, everyone was in the water, enjoying the warm surf and camaraderie, everyone except Ka-hala-o-puna. Mahana’s sisters called to her to join them. Even the surfers had not seen a single shark inside the reef, and the water was so inviting. There were so many people in the water. Maybe she could just wade in a little and get her feet wet. Maybe she could just dive under the little waves breaking on the shore. Even if a shark was near, someone would shout out a warning and she would stay close to shore. Maybe… 43

With a little squeal of excitement, Ka-hala-o-puna dove into a wave that swelled gently, but didn’t

crest. She didn’t come up. Instead, a stream of red water was flowing from where she went into the water and was flowing out to sea through a natural channel through the reef. Someone saw a tail. Then everyone saw the snout of a great shark and in its jaws, the lifeless body of Kahalaopuna. Kauhi had seen her on the shore and had stolen in close to where she would dive. As soon as she had entered the water, she had opened her eyes and had seen him. He was pleased with that because she would know before her death that it was him that had finally claimed her. There was no time to scream, no time to say good-bye to her mother, her father, and most of all, her husband. Time had ended for Kahalaopuna. Now and forever.

Chapter Seven: Memories

It’s not possible to join the living after losing a child…again. Kahaukani and Kauakuahine did

not want to wake each day and feel the warmth of the sun or the coolness of the moon without their beloved daughter. The gods pitied the grieving couple and allowed them to take supernatural forms, bearing eternal witness to their undying love. Kahaukani became the wind of Mānoa that still blows down from the mountain peaks and circles the valley walls, cool and relentless in its pacing. Kauakuahine became the distinctive Mānoa rain that even today weeps for her child, bringing new life from those tears but never releasing death from a shroud of sadness. The spirit of Kahalaopuna, free from its earthly body also returned to Mānoa. In the quiet twilight of Kaho‘iwai, she moves between the whispering stands of ‘ohe and sits among the rocks encircling her ancient pond, chanting a song of fathomless sorrow. Born to be famous, the maiden of Mānoa’s legend lives in the rainbows, radiantly displayed in fleeting beauty until the sun sleeps in the west.


Glossary for Kahalaopuna ali‘i – chief or chiefess; royalty ‘apapane – native Hawaiian honey creeper with crimson feathers, black wings and tail ‘ape - relative of taro, introduced by early Polynesian settlers, thought to ward off evil spirits ‘awapuhi kuahiwi – commonly called “shampoo ginger,” introduced by early settlers; mature flower head has sudsy, slimy highly aromatic sap ‘aumakua – a family or personal god ‘elepaio – O‘ahu flycatcher believed to be the goddess of canoe makers hala – indigenous pandanus or screw pine tree hale ho‘ao – house built for a newly married couple for privacy hale mua – men’s eating house, kapu to women and children hale noa – sleeping house for the family, free from the kapu that separated men from women hau – indigenous much-branched tree, related to the ornamental hibiscus hīnano, hala hua – male flower and female fruit of the hala tree ho‘āo – marriage ho‘okupu – ceremonial gift-giving as a sign of honor and respect ho‘opalau – betrothal; engagement huli – the planting material for kalo, consisting of a thin slice of the top of the kalo root and 6-10 inches of the leaf stem Hulu – the akua kā‘ai or idol that was the deity that helped women in labor Huna – 11th night of the moon, a girl born then would be kind, modest, have enemies that plot against her, but whose name will be famous i‘a – fish; certain fish such as kumu (goatfish) and ulua (jack) were forbidden to women ‘iliahi – endemic evergreen shrub or tree known for its scented heartwood imu – underground oven kalo – Taro introduced by early Polynesian settlers whose corm is used to make poi kao – spear for catching fish kauhale – a group of houses comprising a Hawaiian household Kaulua – approximately the month of March kilu – a game where someone tosses a small gourd or coconut shell at an object before someone else, chanting as he plays, the object is to be rewarded by a kiss from that person koa – an endemic forest tree with wood that resembles mahogany; favored for canoes, surfboards 45

kou - evergreen tree brought by early Polynesian settlers with orange flowers kukui – candlenut tree with oily kernels used to make lamps and candles lau kakala – thorny leaf of the hala tree lehua mamo – a variety of Metrosideros polymorpha with yellow tufted blossoms lei po‘o – lei worn around the had lo‘i kalo – taro pond; kalo was introduced by the early Polynesian settlers maile – an endemic vine with bark and leaves that are highly fragrant, used for lei maile lau li‘i – form of the endemic twining shrub with small, fragrant leaves and stems makaloa – indigenous sedge used to make highly prized mats mamo – black Hawaiian honey creeper with yellow feathers used in the choicest featherwork. manō - shark mauka – towards the mountain; inland mokupuni - island niu – coconut palm tree ‘ohe – bamboo introduced by early Polynesian settlers ‘ō‘ō – digging stick pāhoehoe – smooth, satiny, unbroken lava pālama – a sacred and kapu enclosure, especially for royal women papa he‘e nalu - surfboard pā‘ū – woman’s skirt about 2 or more yards long, less than a yard wide and worn around the waist to the knees pua‘a – pig introduced by early Polynesian settlers; women were forbidden to eat pork pueo – Hawaiian short-eared owl, sometimes regarded as a deity pūlo‘ulo‘u – a kapa-covered ball on a stick placed in the presence of royalty as insignia of kapu uakoko – rainbow-sparkling rain ‘uala – introduced sweet potato vine with pinkish lavender flowers ‘ulu – breadfruit tree, introduced by early Polynesian settlers ‘uhane – spirit or ghost uwē – wail or cry


Pahao, where the story of Kapo‘i takes place. 47

“A ‘ ’ohe lokomaika‘i i nele i ka pāna‘i ” No kind deed has ever lacked it’s reward. 48



Chapter One: Living in the Spirit World

Above the sound of the crashing waves, I can hear the cry of the ‘alae ‘ula somewhere behind me. I

turn to look for the crying bird, but I see only yellow eyes as liquid as the molten lava that glows in hidden tunnels. They are everywhere, hundreds, maybe thousands of them in the blackness of the night and although they move as if floating on the wind, they stare at me, angry, threatening, even accusing. What do you want? I try to scream my demand above the roar of the surf but my lips can’t form the words. So I force them to get out of my way by willing them to disappear. I’m running through tall grass that whip at my legs but I don’t feel any pain. There is only confusion that I don’t know where I am and I don’t know where I’m going.

Now, I’m at the water’s edge and my feet are cut and bleeding from the millions of pieces of shattered

seashells that have been strewn across the sand as though they had been chewed by Kanaloa and spat out in distaste. I will be, too, if I go into the black water but surely the round yellow moon sitting on the horizon will guide me back to shore. The water is furious and I can barely make out the white foam as the waves crest, crashing and crushing the white coral like splintered bones. What do you want? I scream again but this time my voice is coming from a huge black shape that has covered the moon. Wings sprout from the pulsating shape and beat against the stillness. The gust of wind they produce knocks me into the water just as the creature explodes into a myriad of tiny winged shrews that beat at my body in panic, tearing my malo from around my waist. The 50

‘ōpe‘ape‘a turned inland and I could hear, rather than see, them seeking the safety of the forest deep in Mānoa. They’re afraid of me and I don’t know what kind of monster I have become.

What do you want? I’m terrified now because I’m in

the water and the waves are holding me under. My last breaths are cries for mercy. There is danger above and danger below and Pahulu has caught me in his ‘upena mākini, a web of glittering mesh that surrounds me, suffocating even my soul. No one will find me and nobody can answer my question.

What do you want? Whatever I have done or I am

going to do, it wants me. I fight against the net. I push against the rocky bottom of the sea. I twist and turn and fall, into the sleeping eyes, streaming through the blood, sensing the heat of life returning.

Kapo‘i awoke with a shudder and a low moan. He

could remember every detail of his nightmare, the same dream he had lived through again and again in the spirit world. Still, he was deeply unsettled by the setting moon that cast ghostly shadows through the gaping holes in the thatching of his hale. He wouldn’t sleep again until sunrise, fearful of the day ahead. This was a dream of warning. He did not need a wehewehe moe ‘uhane to tell him that his life was about to change. 51

Chapter Two: The Signs

The sun was nowhere in sight but the grey morning light, filtered through heavy clouds was enough

of a warning as Kapo‘i inspected the dilapidated thatching of his roof. His small hale was enough to suit his needs but the constant drenching from the Ua-kī-o-wao rain that swept down Nu‘uanu Valley was the price he grudgingly paid for the solitude. The cold mountain stream that ran alongside his house at Kahe-huna brought deliciously sweet water and tasty ‘o‘opu right to him. The expanse of fertile land at the foot of Pu‘u-o-waina provided him with enough ‘uala and kalo to meet his minimal daily requirements. But a house made simply of pili grass required some maintenance and he had hoped to survive the rainy season before having to make any repairs. Living alone had its advantages, but keeping a house in proper order was not one of them. With only the smallest grimace of regret for never having married, he decided that the impending doom he felt nagging at his na‘au would have to wait. Seeking among the clouds above the Pauoa Valley for any portent of impending doom, he found none, and he strode off with purpose toward the seashore.

By the time Kapo‘i had reached the marsh at Kewalo, the sun had made its unfortunate appearance.

The resulting humidity reminded him of the reason he had procrastinated for so long. His constant thoughts were of the mountain stream and even the cooling valley rains so he worked rapidly to cut and bundle the grass. The afternoon heat would soon cook the unsheltered plains. Already, there was little relief from the rancid smells of stagnant water and decaying grasses that filled the heavy air. He drained the last of the water from his hue wai, gathered his pūpū pili and paused to search again among the clouds for any hō‘ailona of danger. In the distance, he could see the pala-moa clouds that curtained the deep emerald mountains with rain-shrouds of purple and silvery-blue. A brilliant uakoko rainbow blanketed the south-western flank of Pu‘u-o-waina with crimson.

Kapo‘i stared at the ominous beauty directly ahead of him. He was certain the rainbow had settled

over his house and the sheets of rain were moving toward Kahu-wena like waves of approaching warriors, relentless in their purpose. The sun, now racing to the western horizon cast backward shafts of rays in its retreat, intensifying the hues of the rainbow. With sudden clarity, he watched as those colors blended into a dazzling 52

cloak, emblazoned with feathers of koko. “Auwē!”

unlikely that there would be so many. His work

he cried. There was the omen he feared. His hale

today had not allowed him any time to find fish for

was covered in blood.

dinner, so these eggs would be a fine substitute. He scanned the skies quickly for the mother bird,

Chapter Three: The Choice

fearing her talons and sharp beak but the air was silent except for a muted “croak” from an ‘alae‘ula

As quickly as the scene before him

somewhere nearby. Tucking the eggs into the

appeared, it was gone. In an instant, the clouds

pūpū pili, he hoisted the bundle again on his back.

parted above the valleys, dissolving the rainbow and

Carefully weaving through the grass and rocks, he

withdrawing the watery onslaught into its billowy

left the marshland, dusty plains, and his worries

folds. This was a very good sign. Afraid his luck


might change at any moment, he threw the pūpū pili

on his back and began running through the clumps

hale when he came to the end of the path but he

of grass. Suddenly, he tripped over a hidden rock

didn’t have time to linger on that odd sensation.

and landed heavily on the muddy path. A startled

The sun hadn’t set yet, but it was getting late and he

ae‘o shrieked an angry “keek” as it flew out of harm’s

had not yet prepared the imu to cook his meal. It

way and an ‘iole ran in confusion across his bloodied

had not rained heavily for three days and he hoped

knee, frightened from its burrow by the commotion.

he wouldn’t have to put in the effort to start a fire.

There was an unusual stillness about his

Lifting the heavy, worn lau hala mat that covered

As he rolled over to right himself, he

the small pit, he dug around with a stick and found

nearly crushed seven pure white eggs that were

some buried embers that were still glowing. With

neatly arranged in a nest. He sat up in wonder.

his ‘ohepuhiahi, he blew life into them, adding new

“These are pueo eggs!” he whispered aloud. Maybe

wood to the hungry flames. As the stones heated

his fortunes had changed! It was unusual to find a

in the underground oven, he pulled some large kī

clutch of eggs like this unprotected and even more

leaves from the plants near the entrance of his hale. 53

Working expertly, he began to fashion a pū‘olo large enough to hold the pueo eggs so they could be steamed to delicious perfection.

He was suddenly overcome with the sensation of being watched

as the stillness around him grew. There wasn’t even the slightest breeze to skip across the treetops and as the shade deepened with the setting sun, the slope of Pu‘uowaina was stained in ‘ōlena tones. On any other day this would have been breathtaking. Kapo‘i found himself listening for something, anything, that would break the spell. Something was going to happen. He knew this and he was afraid. Someone or something was behind him. He didn’t want to look. He had nobody to help him and there was nowhere to run but he could feel the power of the creature that held even the air in its grip. He slowly rose to his feet, fully understanding now the meaning of his recurring nightmare. Somehow, he had offended a god and he was going to be punished. The murmuring of his empty stomach belied his resignation to a death he wasn’t sure he deserved, but staring at the pebbles at his feet, he found he couldn’t move. He could imagine the fire that would soon envelop him and suddenly the nausea of fear overcame him. If he had known any prayers, he would have said them but he had no personal god that could protect him now.

“Kapo‘i,” a soft musical voice gently broke the silence. “Kapo‘i,

you have taken my treasures and I would like to have them back.” Kapo‘i was shocked by the unexpected warmth in the tone of his executioner, yet he couldn’t find his voice to reply. There was a soft flutter of wings 54

and then the voice spoke again. “You have taken my eggs, Kapo‘i, which would soon become my babies. Perhaps you cannot understand the love a mother has for her children, but my sadness is unbearable. Please, Kapo‘i, return them to me.”

Moved by her gentle

pleas and aware that she could have destroyed him and retaken her eggs at will, Kapo‘i turned to face the pueo. Regally seated atop the stump of a fallen tree, the glow from the sunset burnished her feathers with ‘ehu tinges of ‘ulalena. He was overwhelmed by such majestic and magnetic beauty and he knew he was in the presence of a goddess. Still carrying the bundle of eggs that he had nearly forgotten, he walked half the distance to her 55

and without a word, placed the pū‘olo gently on

could sleep soundly tonight and he was certain his

the ground. Watching him carefully with eyes of

nightmares were over. At first light, he would pack

candlelight, she waited until he had backed away

up his belongings and move his home and his future

from them. Spreading her magnificent wings, she

to Mānoa.

soundlessly floated to the ground.

compassion, Kapo‘i and to repay your kindness, I will be your ‘aumakua, to guide and protect you from this day on. But you must build a special kuahu for me with an altar for sacrifices. Build it in the spiritual valley of Mānoa. Hold this place sacred to me and establish the days of dedication and prohibition. Do this, Kapo‘i, and you can call on me in time of need. I am Kū-ka-ua-kahi. Do not wait until the rain pours down and washes everything away in its fury. Call upon me at the first sign of rain.” He wanted to question her cryptic command, but she carefully picked up the heavy bundle with her beak and flew silently on the winds into the moonless twilight.

Chapter Four: The Promise

“I am eternally grateful for your

Kapo‘i had not eaten all day, but he felt

Working alone from dawn to dusk, it

took Kapo‘i only three days to build a small shrine that was a labor of honor and respect for his new personal god. Each stone was carefully selected and fit together precisely so the raised platform was perfectly proportioned and level. Suspending his offering of a bunch of ripe bananas from an ‘ōhi‘a lehua pole, Kapo‘i declared the structure to be dedicated and he declared the days of kapu, from beginning to end. His home was now a small cave, hidden in the undergrowth behind the kuahu on the windswept hilltop but well protected from the showers that drifted down from the valley head. A small waterfall that trickled from the ridge of Pu‘u

as if he had just consumed a feast. He had done

Laula provided him with water and he could find

the right thing and made the right choice. He

most anything else he needed to live well enough. 56

His work was done and he felt whole again.

But he was not refreshed. He spent each night among the spirits, reaching for air from the depths of a

black sea. It wasn’t the same nightmare as before, but a condensed version that started and ended in terror. He lay in the cool darkness of his cave pondering the meaning of the nightmare when he was jolted from his bed by the sound of voices approaching. It had been awhile since he had seen or spoken to anyone but the hurried footsteps and the loud voices made him increasingly uneasy. Without warning, two large men pushed through the entrance. Once their eyes had adjusted to the darkness, they demanded to know if he was the builder of the kuahu just outside. When he answered shakily that he was, they immediately grabbed him, one under his arms and the other by his feet and they carried him quite without ceremony or explanation down the hill and out of the valley.

Kapoi wasn’t dreaming this time. Reaching Waikīkī, Kapo‘i was petrified with horror when they had

entered the enclosure of a luakini po‘okanaka commissioned by the ali‘i nui, Kākuhihewa. Throwing him upon the ground before the kahuna po‘o, the warriors stripped him of his malo. He could only lay prostrate on the hard ground as the case against him was made. Kapo‘i had unknowingly committed a crime that was punishable only by death. Without contact with other people, he did not know that the ali‘i nui had just built the sacred heiau and had declared that no one may build, dedicate, and place a kapu period on another place of worship until the proper protocol had been completed on his own heiau. Kapo‘i had done just that. He was a condemned man. Again, he was picked up and shoved into a small stone enclosure. There was no door to keep him in and no ropes to hold him there, but yet there was no escape. Tomorrow, there would be pua‘a, mai‘a, niu, i‘a, and the finest white ‘oloa to place upon the sacrificial lele. And there would be a kane, a man, among them.

Dark clouds gathered above, the first sign of rain. Kapo‘i did something he had never done before.

He began to pray. In the distance, the sound of a pahu, beating in time to his heartbeat, echoed off the valley walls of Mānoa.


Chapter Five: Out of the Night

In the soft grey light of dawn, Kapo‘i could

see a cloudless sky. A gentle sea breeze blew in from

dazzling brilliance. The ceremony would begin very soon and the kāhuna were ready for him. Kapo‘i stepped out onto the warm pebbles of the platform. He kept his eyes down as he moved forward.

above the stone walls and the smell of limu and salt

filled his lungs. He stood and stretched his legs. His

a whirring sound coming from all directions as the

feet had fallen asleep in the cramped space and he

darkness spread. Then there were shouts of alarm

wanted to be ready when they came.

and the sounds of running and falling. He dared

When they came.

There was a flutter in the corner of the

A cloud passed over the sun. There was

himself to look up and when he did he saw he saw the sky was filled with pueo. Hundreds, maybe thousands of them were flying into the faces of the

room. Yellow eyes stared at him from under a small

men that had gathered for the preparations. Kū-ka-

rocky ledge, the color of the full moon sitting low on

ua-kahi had fulfilled her promise and had gathered

the horizon. He knew those eyes. He reached into

the pueo from every island to help save the man who

the crevice and the little ‘ōpe‘ape‘a crawled onto his

had acted with respect and honor.

finger, clinging to his warmth in the familiarity of a shared experience. He lifted the tiny creature to the sky. It circled above him for a few moments then darted toward the safety of Mānoa. It would tell them where he was and they would come.

The sun was rising and Kapo‘i could hear

Within minutes, it was over. Kākuhihewa

saw firsthand the power of Kapo‘i’s god and he was set free. To commemorate the site of the battle between the pueo and men, it was given the name Ku ka ‘eu nāhi o ka pueo (“because of the uprising of the owls”).

the footsteps of men beginning the preparations for the final feast of dedication. The golden light of morning bathed the rocks around him with a 58

Chapter Six

Kapo‘i returned to the quiet solitude of his valley cave in Mānoa. Each day, he would place a new

offering on the kuahu of his ‘aumakua and clean any fallen leaves off the rocks. Kū-ka-ua-kahi had flown out of the darkness of his dreams and into the light of day. He would see many pueo in the valley as they hunted for food, but he did not see his goddess anymore. Perhaps one day, if he needed her, but he was certain he could take care of himself.

He sat on a rock overlooking the wide expanse of the valley below. Sometimes in the late afternoon,

a single ‘ōpe‘ape‘a would float on the wind currents to a single tree that stood along the stream bed. They would watch each other for awhile and then Kapo‘i would return to his cave to sleep.



Glossary for Kapo‘i ‘alae‘ula – endemic Hawaiian gallinule or moorhen, living in freshwater ponds, marshes and taro patches; thought to have brought fire from the gods to the Hawaiians. ali‘i nui – high chief. ‘aumakua – family or personal god. ‘ehu – reddish tinge of hair. hale – Hawaiian house. heiau – pre-Christian place of worship. Many different types of heiau existed, constructed according to their use and the class of men that would worship there. hō‘ailona – a sign, an omen. hue wai – gourd water container. i‘a – fish. imu – underground oven kahuna – priest. Kahuna po‘o – high priest. kalo – staple food (poi) made from the underground stem (corm), introduced by early Polynesian settlers. Kanaloa – one of the four great gods considered to be the god of the sea. kane – man. kapu – prohibited, sacred, holy. kī – simple branched plant introduced by early Polynesian settlers. koko – blood. kuahu – altar. Kū-ka-ua-kahi – name of a famous owl god. Lit. Kū the first rain. lauhala – leaf of the hala tree, used to plait floor mats. lele – sacrificial altar or stand; also the name of a banana (Musa sapientum) used as an offering in a heiau. limu – general name for fresh or salt underwater plants. luakini po‘okanaka – sacrificial heiau, for religious ceremonies in preparation of war. mai‘a (Musa sp.) – Banana plants introduced by the early Polynesian settlers. malo – man’s loincloth made of wauke (Broussonetia papyrifera). na‘au – intestines, guts, heart. niu – Coconut, in the palm family, introduced by the early Polynesian settlers. 61

‘ōhi‘a lehua – endemic Hawaiian plants ranging from low shrubs to tall trees with tufted flowers or red and more rarely, salmon, pink, yellow, or white. ‘ōlena – a kind of ginger used to make a yellow/gold dye for kapa. ‘oloa – fine white tapa, used to decorate or dress an image in a heiau. ‘o‘opu – general name for fishes in the Eleotridae and Gobiidae families, considered a delicacy for those varieties found in the freshwater mountain streams. ‘ōpe‘ape‘a – Hawaiian bat, Hawai‘i’s only endemic land mammal; once found in Mānoa Valley. Hawaiian bats are solitaryroosting and hunt in late afternoon into the evening. pahu – Hawaiian drum used to accompany the hula or chant. Pahulu – a god whose sould enchanted fish such as weke (goatfish) so anyone who at it would get nightmares. Lit. nightmare. pālā moa – blue-black rain clouds that shut in the mountains. pili – indigenous perennial grass found in open, dry land, no longer common on O‘ahu. pua‘a – pig introduced by early Polynesian settlers. pueo – endemic Hawaiian short-eared owl. pū‘olo – bundle or container. pūpū pili – bundle of pili grass. Pu‘u-o-waina – Hawaiian name for Punchbowl crater. Lit. hill where water is found. uakoko – low-lying rainbow. Lit. blood rain. ‘uala – sweet potato introduced by early Polynesian settlers. ‘ūpena mākini – a net used for destruction, as by robbers to snare victims. wehewehe moe ‘uhane – interpreter of dreams.



Thank you for reading The Legends of Manoa. I hope by reading this book you’ve learned a little more about Hawaiian mythology.



The Legends of Manoa  

Three legends retold by Napua Wong that take place in Manoa Valley

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