The Project Gutenberg EBook of Legends of Wailuku, by Charlotte Hapai

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Title: Legends of Wailuku

Author: Charlotte Hapai

Illustrator: Will Herwig

Release Date: August 23, 2009 [EBook #29773]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by The Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images
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Copyright 1920-1921 by

Paradise of the Pacific Print
Hina's Spirit Still Lives in the Mists of Rainbow Falls
Drawn by Will Herwig. Paradise Eng.

Hina's Spirit Still Lives in the Mists of Rainbow Falls.


Will Herwig

As told by old Hawaiians and done into the English tongue by Charlotte Hapai

To remember our happy

hours of story-telling,

this printed fragment

is in gratitude dedicated

to my grandmother,

Harriet Kamakanoenoe Hapai.


Fed from the great watershed of Hawaii far up the densely wooded flanks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea—often snow-capped in winter—the Wailuku River roars through the very center of Hilo, principal town of the Island of Hawaii.

There are many vague stories as to why the Wailuku River was so named. In the Hawaiian tongue Wailuku means literally "destroying water."

In olden times before there were bridges and other safeguards the river wrought considerable damage to property and during the rainy season it took its toll of human lives. Legends connected with the Wailuku tend to confirm the belief that it was named for its violent habits.

Long ago, so one legend goes, the much dreaded Kuna (dragon) blocked the gorge below Rainbow Falls with intent to back the waters up and drown the goddess Hina, who dwelt in the great cave for which the falls form a curtain. How her son, the demi-god Maui, came to the rescue, saved his mother, and finally hunted Kuna from his lair up the river and slew him, is told in the legend, "The Last of Kuna."

When Paoa, a very powerful god from Tahiti, came to visit Hawaii he built a grass hut and made his home on the long, low rock—now known as Maui's canoe—in the Wailuku near its mouth.

Local gods viewed this selection of a homesite as foolhardy, but Paoa was unaware of the sudden and rapid rise the river made when heavy rains and cloud-bursts loosed their torrents high upon the slopes of Mauna Kea. Hina, goddess of the river, warned the visitor of his danger and told him how the angry waters would sweep everything before them. In the legend, "The Coming of Paoa," you will find his answer.

In those days there must have been much more water in the river than there is today, for a certain amount is now diverted above Rainbow Falls for water power.

In spite of the decreased volume the river is still very violent and treacherous. At high water big boulders are clumsily rolled down stream and when the river is unusually high even trees are torn from the banks and carried out to sea.

So the Wailuku still lives up to its name, Destroying Water.


King Kamehameha the Great was a very famous warrior. His chief ambition, which he lived to realize, was to become sole ruler of all the Hawaiian Islands. Naturally he had numerous enemies, and he never remained long in one place for fear some of them might learn of his whereabouts and attack him.

One time, when he was encamped near the mouth of the Wailuku, he planned a quiet visit to what is now known as Reed's Island, where lived a particular friend of his. As this friend was a powerful chief, Kamehameha felt safe in going to him without his usual warrior bodyguard.

Before leaving camp he called his servants to him and told them to stand watch over his canoe, that it might not be stolen or carried away by the tide. This they promised faithfully to do.

As time passed and the king did not return or send word to his servants they grew uneasy about him. Perhaps he might have been ambushed, they reasoned; or more likely fallen into one of the caverns formed by ancient lava flows and which are often treacherously concealed by a thin, brittle crust that a man of Kamehameha's bulk might easily break through. Much as they feared for the king's safety, the servants dared not leave the canoe unguarded. They were in a quandary indeed.

"I know what we can do!" cried one of the men. "We can make a rope of ti leaves and tie the canoe so it cannot drift away."

"Make a rope," queried another, "how can we do that?"

"Simple enough," answered the first speaker. "I'll show you. Take the ti leaves and fasten them together. First you make two chains of leaves—like this—and then twist each one. When you place them together they will naturally twine about each other and you have a very strong rope. Such twisting is called hilo."

"I've never seen it done," admitted his fellow sentry, "but it looks very simple."

"And so it is," went on the resourceful one, as he rapidly twisted the ti leaves into serviceable ropes. "Now," he concluded, "these are plenty long enough. Let us make the canoe fast to the beach."

And taking their ropes to the canoe they tied it securely to that point of land—known to the old Hawaiians as Kaipaaloa—near the mouth of the river where the lighthouse stands today. Then they set out in search of the king.

Only a short way up the river they met Kamehameha returning unharmed. Ignoring the spirit of their intent in absenting themselves from their post of duty, the king demanded:

"But where is my canoe? What have you done with my canoe? You promised to guard it. By now it may have drifted out to sea or been stolen!"

"We tied it with ti ropes," answered the servant who had woven them.

"Ti ropes!" roared his majesty. "Why, no one here knows how to make ropes like that. The only place they do know is at Waipio. How did you learn?"

"I came to you from there," the man answered.

"Oh, and that is where you learned. Well and good. Hereafter this place shall be called Hilo."

And so it has been. The town at the mouth of the Wailuku has since that day been known by the Hawaiian word meaning "to twist."


Hina, the goddess who in the long ago made her home in the great cave beneath Rainbow Falls, was especially gifted in the art of tapa making. So wonderfully artistic and fine were the tapas of Hina that people journeyed from all parts of the Island to view them and to covet. Even across the mighty shoulders of Mauna Loa from Kona and Kailua and down the rugged Hamakua Coast from Waipio they came, and from the other islands as well.

It was hard, laboring over the tapa every day, and especially hunting for the olona which Hina sometimes used. But she used also the bark of the mamake and wauke trees, which were more plentiful and very good for tapa.

Interested though he was in the manufacture and decoration of this beautiful paper-cloth, Hina's son, the demi-god Maui, held aloof from the work. In the making of tapa man's hand was tabu, yet he could not forbear an occasional suggestion when his mother created mystic designs for decoration of her work.

After the tapa was made it had to be placed for the Sun to dry, but by the time Hina would reach the drying frames, the Sun was far up in the sky. All too soon long shadows would creep across the stream below Rainbow Falls, warning her that night approached and that it was time to take in her tapa.

As Maui Reached the Eastern Rim the Sun Was Disappearing
Drawn by Will Herwig. Paradise Eng.

As Maui Reached the Eastern Rim the Sun Was Disappearing.

Quite often the dyes with which the designs were painted on the tapa were not entirely dry when the tapa was taken in, and many fine pieces were smeared and ruined. Days were short in the narrow walled-in river gorge and the Sun shone directly on the tapa for only a few hours, passing then beyond the high western wall, and gloom would settle about the cave, growing deeper with oncoming night.

It grieved Maui to see his mother's tapa so often spoiled, so he besought the Sun to go more slowly. For one or two days he did moderate his pace and Hina rejoiced in the lovely tapas she was able to make. But soon the heedless Sun hurried past again as fast as ever, entirely forgetting his promise to Maui.

So Maui determined to exact a lasting agreement with the Sun, and set out in his canoe for Maui, the Island which bears his name and on which is situated Haleakala, today the greatest extinct crater in the world and in olden time the Home of the Sun. Maui hoped to catch him there.

As Maui reached the eastern rim of Haleakala the Sun was just disappearing over the other side; but Maui knew he would return in the morning, so he prepared to spend the night in waiting.

As the Sun returned to his home next morning Maui caught him by his rays, which the Sun used as legs, and, wielding the magic club which he always carried on his many expeditions, broke several of them. Thus crippled, the Sun was forced to stay for parley, though crying out in alarm that he must be let go, as there was no time to waste. Day must be carried westward. But Maui hung on and reminded the Sun of his promises.

After much argument they agreed to compromise; so the Sun promised to go slowly six months in the year and then, for the remaining six months, to hurry as fast as before.

Maui was content with this arrangement and sure also that the Sun would not again forget, for he had crippled him considerably. It would take some time, he thought, for the Sun's broken rays to mend.

So, very well pleased with his success, Maui permitted the Sun to proceed on his journey, while himself he prepared to return with all speed, bearing the good news to his mother.


Far above Rainbow Falls there lived a powerful kupua named Kuna. Kuna had the form of a monstrous dragon, unlike anything in these islands today.

Kuna often tormented the goddess Hina in her rocky cave behind Rainbow Falls by sending over great torrents of water or by rolling logs and boulders down the stream. Quite often he would block the stream below the falls with sediment sent down by freshets during the rainy seasons.

But Hina was well protected. Her cave was large and the misty cloud of spray from the falling waters helped to conceal it. So in spite of the frequent floods and many threats from Kuna, Hina paid him not the slightest attention, but with her songs and gay laughter lightly mocked him as she worked.

On many days Hina was quite alone, while her eldest son, the demi-god Maui, was away on one of his numerous expeditions. Even then she did not mind this, for should any danger befall her she had a peculiar cloud servant which she called "ao-opua." If Hina were in trouble this ao-opua would rise high above the falls, taking an unusual shape. When Maui saw this warning cloud he would hurry home at once to his mother's side.

One night while Maui was away from home on the Island of Maui, where he had gone to bargain with the Sun, a storm arose. The angry waters roared about the mouth of Hina's cave. They hissed and tossed in ugly blackness down the narrow river gorge; but Hina heard naught of the wildness without. Being used to the noisy cataract, her slumbers were not disturbed by the heightened tumult of its roar.

But Kuna, quite aware of the situation, was quick to take advantage and to act. Hina's apparent indifference annoyed him. He recalled several failures to conquer her, and rage overwhelmed him. Calling upon his powers he lifted an immense boulder and hurled it over the cliffs. It fitted perfectly where it fell between the walls of the gorge and blocked the rush of the hurrying torrent.

Laughing loudly at his success, Kuna called on Hina and warned her of her plight, but, still unknowing, Hina slept on until the cold waters entered the cave, rapidly creeping higher and higher until they reached her where she slept. Startled into wakefulness she sprang to her feet, and her cries of panic resounded against the distant hills. As the waters rose higher her cries became more terrified until they reached the Island of Maui and the ears of her son.

Through the darkness Maui could see the strange warning cloud, unusually large and mysterious. With his mother's cries ringing in his ears he bounded down the mountain to his canoe, which he sent across the sea to the mouth of the Wailuku with two strong sweeps of his paddle. The long, narrow rock in the river below the Mauka Bridge, called Ka Waa o Maui (The Canoe of Maui), is still just where he ran it aground at the foot of the rapids.

Seizing his magic club with which he had conquered the Sun, Maui rushed to the scene of danger. Seeing the rock blocking the river he raised his club and struck it a mighty blow. Nothing could resist the magic club! The rock split in two, allowing the strong current to rush unhindered on its way.

Hearing the crash of the club and realizing his attempt on the life of Hina had again failed, Kuna turned and fled up the river.

The remains of the great boulder, now known as Lonokaeho, overgrown with tropical plants and with the river rushing through the rift, lies there to this day as proof of Maui's prowess.


So great was the wrath of the demi-god Maui at the fell intent of Kuna to drown his mother that he vowed never to relent in his search for the monster, and to kill him on sight.

Kuna evidently sensed Maui's intentions, for as soon as he saw his great mischief undone he fled to a hiding-place far up the river. He realized then how great had been his folly and trembled at the thought of capture by the mighty demi-god. In spite of his magic powers Kuna knew Maui's anger to be far greater than all of them put together; still, he had countless secret hiding-places where it would be difficult to find him.

He did not have long to wait in his secret lair before he heard the thundering voice of Maui commanding him to come forth. The earth shook with the heavy tread of the vengeful demi-god and the dreadful blows he dealt all obstacles he passed which might possibly conceal the form of his enemy.

The thundering voice and quaking earth became more horrible and terrifying as Maui approached. Soon he stood before the hole in which Kuna lay hiding. Catching sight of the ugly monster within, Maui let out a deafening yell, poised his magic spear, and with one sweep of his mighty arm hurled it into the depths of Kuna's hiding-place. But the dragon was sly and agile, notwithstanding his huge bulk, and slipped out in time to save himself.

Even today you can see the long hole—puka o Maui—which the demi-god's spear made through the lava beyond the cavern; sufficient evidence of the Herculean strength with which the weapon was driven. Small wonder Kuna so feared a meeting with this outraged son of the goddess he had sought to drown.

Wasting no time, Kuna started down stream, with Maui in hot pursuit. Often the dragon tried to conceal himself in some sheltered spot, or evade his pursuer by hiding behind a rock, but Maui gave him no rest, spearing him from one hole to another.

Diving into one of several deep pools in the river, Kuna hoped that at last he was safely hidden. Maui was not to be thus easily fooled. He could see the grotesque bulk of his enemy far below the surface of the gloomy water. Kuna was cornered.

Calling upon Pele, goddess of the Volcano, to send him hot stones and molten lava, Maui cast these into Kuna's retreat until the waters boiled furiously, sending a vast column of steam far above the rim of the gorge.

Known today as the Boiling Pots, although time has cooled their waters, they still bubble and surge as vigorously as ever, especially when the heavy rains come and remind them of the time when Kuna the Dragon sought refuge within their depths.

Tough as the hide of Kuna was, it could not save him from the terrific heat generated by the red-hot rocks and lava cast into the pool by Maui. Nearly exhausted, the monster managed to drag himself from the cauldron and, shrieking horribly, he again took up his flight down stream. Maui sent torrents of boiling water after him, scalding at last the life from his ugly body.

Then Maui rolled the huge carcass down the river to a point below Rainbow Falls, within sight of his mother's home, where she could view daily the evidence that none might threaten her and live. And there the ungainly form lies today—a long, black-rock island known as Moo Kuna, between the rapids—where every freshet, every heavy rain, beats upon it as though in everlasting punishment for plotting the death of Hawaii's beloved goddess, Hina.


Many years ago there lived on the Island of Tahiti several brothers, all very gifted and powerful gods of that land. One was by name Paoa.

Now Tahitian customs were very like those of Hawaii at that time, in that the Tahitians offered human sacrifices when a canoe or a heiau was in process of construction. How the observance of this custom caused the flight of Paoa to Hawaii, you shall see.

It so happened that one of the brothers was having a canoe built, and they were all undecided as to whom should be offered in sacrifice. A quarrel ensued. Paoa and the owner of the new canoe grew very bitter towards each other over it. When the time came for the sacrifice Paoa's only son was taken and offered to the flames.

Grief-stricken at the loss of his son and furious at the cruelty of his brother, Paoa decided to leave it all and seek peace on some other island. In preparation for the long journey by canoe he took only three things with him: two kinds of fish—the aku and opelu—and some pili grass.

Journeying northward he encountered a terrific storm which grew more terrible as the days passed until it seemed the low canoe could no longer breast the great mountains of angry water that bore down upon it as though to drive it under and swallow it into the black depths.

Paoa Stood Upon the Little Plot of Pili Grass As He Answered Her
Drawn by Will Herwig. Paradise Eng.

Paoa Stood Upon the Little Plot of Pili Grass As He Answered Her.

Fearing for his safety, Paoa took the two kinds of fish and threw them overside. Almost at once the mighty waves were calmed and the canoe went safely on its way surrounded by an area of calm, peaceful water while the storm raged on all sides a little distance away.

Even today if you see a smooth area of water in the midst of a rough sea you will know that there is a school of aku or opelu very near the surface.

So Paoa sailed safely through the storm. As soon as it subsided he called back the fish and placed them in his canoe once more. They had been very helpful and might be of use should the storm arise again.

At last Paoa came to an island which appeared very large and was covered with vegetation. Paddling his canoe into a great crescent-shaped bay, he observed a river emptying into it and turned the nose of his tiny craft that way. Not far up the river he came to a long, low rock which he called Waa Kauhi, and landed on the southeastern side of its point.

So great was the joy of Paoa upon reaching this beautiful island that he decided to make it his home. To commemorate his safe landing he at once planted on the rock the pili grass he had brought with him. Also he liberated his aku and opelu fish in the new waters, where today their progeny teem in countless millions.

Very soon he built himself a grass hut for a home, and was careful to protect the pili grass, which grew rapidly and before long spread to other parts of the big island, where it throve even better than on the scant soil of the pahoehoe rock.

Hawaiians soon learned to use the pili grass in house building, as it made a tighter thatch and lasted longer than the lauhala or the grasses to which they had been accustomed. The stems of the flowers were later used in weaving hats, as they, too, were firm and strong.

Farther up the river, which Paoa learned was called the Wailuku, there lived the goddess Hina. Soon after the arrival of this stranger from Tahiti, Hina heard of him and his chosen home. Evidently he had not come to wage war or do harm to the people, for he had already made friends with many of the fishermen living near him.

So Hina decided to see him for herself and went down to his home. She was surprised to find that he really had established himself on that low rock.

"Why," she exclaimed, "you must not stay on this rock! Can't you see the waters above here are high? When the rains come you will be washed away and drowned. It is not safe!"

Paoa stood upon the little plot of pili grass as he answered her. "No, I will not go away, for no matter how high the waters come they shall never cover this spot."

From that day Paoa's word has held true. No matter how high the Wailuku rises, it never has covered the little plot of pili grass which still grows on the long, low rock at the river's mouth.


Maui, the eldest son of the goddess Hina, lived with his mother and two brothers in the cave behind Rainbow Falls, in the Wailuku River Gorge, a short distance mauka of what is today the town of Hilo. Often the brothers would go fishing in the harbor.

At this time the Hawaiians knew nothing about fire. All their food was eaten raw. Occasionally Maui had found in his various wanderings some bits of cooked banana and pondered over their delicious flavor. He could not understand what had been done to them until one day he came upon a group of little alae birds cooking bananas over a fire.

He was so amazed at the scene that the birds had plenty of time to put out their fire and take wing before he could bring himself to action. This only aroused his ambitious nature and he vowed he would learn the secret of fire.

In the days that followed he devised many cunning schemes to trap one of the alae birds, but they, too, were cunning and carefully refrained from building any fire when Maui was near. Once or twice while he was out fishing he had seen white puffs of smoke among the trees and knew the birds were preparing a feast, but he could never reach the place in time to catch any of them.

One day he thought of a clever trick and took his brothers into his confidence. They fixed up a kalabash covered with tapa to resemble a man and placed it in the middle of Maui's canoe. Then the two brothers took their seats at either end of the canoe and paddled out into the harbor while Maui ran back and concealed himself in the woods.

Soon the alae birds came circling overhead and Maui heard them say, "At last we can make our fire and have a good feast. Maui and his two brothers are out for a day's fishing."

Quivering with excitement, Maui crouched in his hiding-place and waited. Soon he heard the birds talking quite near him and, peeping out, saw them pushing fresh bananas into a blazing fire. Rushing into their midst he caught one of the birds.

"Tell me how you make fire or you shall never go free!" he demanded.

At first the bird was sullen and refused to answer, but at Maui's rough treatment resorted to trickery and replied, "Rub two taro stalks together and you shall have fire."

Holding the bird closely, Maui did so, but only little drops of water came from the stalks. Very angry, Maui punished the bird again and demanded the truth. Helpless and exhausted, the poor alae told Maui to take two hau sticks and rub them together.

Maui found the hau sticks, but fearing the bird was not telling the truth, he rubbed its head with one of the sticks until a drop of blood trickled out, staining the tuft of feathers on its crest. But the bird persisted in this statement, so Maui began rubbing the sticks together. Little sparks appeared and caught fire to the dead leaves on which they fell.

Overjoyed at his discovery, Maui set the bird free. But to this day every alae bird wears the symbol of punishment for telling its secret—a tuft of red feathers on the top of its head.


Maui, the great demi-god of Hawaii, was restless. Time hung heavy on his hands. Uneventful days of quiet had fallen upon the land. Adventure seemed to be in hiding, and no exploit invited to service this active youngster's shining spear or magic club. Idleness grew more and more unbearable.

Now Laamaomao, god of the winds, dwelt not far above Rainbow Falls in the beautiful gorge of the Wailuku and to him Maui confided his discontent. The old fellow admitted that times were dull. Not for a long time had he been called upon for blasts from his greater windpot, Ipunui. On the heels of this remark came inspiration, and he suggested that Maui fashion a large kite. He, Laamaomao, would see to it that a suitable wind be forthcoming and excitement sufficient to break the dull monotony of too peaceful days.

So Maui set about the construction of an enormous kite. His mother, the goddess Hina, made for him a beautiful and strong tapa, and twisted fibres of the olona into a stout cord. From the rich red wood of the koa expert and willing hands put together a graceful frame, and in due time the big plaything was ready. Laamaomao, having fathered the idea, manifested a keen interest in the proceedings and had his windpots in readiness for the initial flight.

Calling Ipuiki, smaller of his two windpots, into action, Laamaomao directed a steady, gentle breeze up the gorge against the breast of the great kite, cautioning those who held it to be in readiness to let go at the proper moment and reminding Maui to have a care lest the olona cord slip through his hands.

Gracefully the birdlike thing rose into the brilliant turquoise sky—that same sky which today so enchants the malihini—and as it tugged at the line, dipped, rose again and circled about, the thrill of it came down the cord to Maui's hands and his delight knew no bounds.

Often in the quiet days that followed did Maui amuse himself with the big kite. As he grew more familiar with its handling the impetuous demi-god would ask Laamaomao for winds from Ipunui and glory in the tussle his kite gave him when buffeted by these stronger blasts—even though wise old Laamaomao was careful to moderate their power.

Sometimes Maui would tire of his sport and, drawing its cord through a round hole in a rock which lay in the center of a small lake near the wind caves, would leave his kite to its own devices while he slept.

Old Laamaomao, the Wind God, Admitted That Times Were Dull
Drawn by Will Herwig. Paradise Eng.

Old Laamaomao, the Wind God, Admitted That Times Were Dull.

On one such occasion Laamaomao, having received an order for a great storm, forgot all about Maui's kite and turned loose his most powerful wind from Ipunui. All night long it howled through the creaking trees, driving the rain before it in lashing sheets. Stout as it was, the olona cord with which Maui's big kite was moored could not long withstand the strain and finally parted, leaving the kite to the mercy of the winds. Tossed madly about in the storm, it was carried far across the flank of Mauna Loa and dropped into the sea off the shore of Kau.

Now Puuanuhe, the much-dreaded lizard-woman, made her home on the shores of the Kau desert, and to her ears had come the wonderful story of Maui's kite, fanning an already hot jealousy of the young demi-god and his doings. Puuanuhe was the only creature of those days who had fiery red hair, and her temper was none the less caloric.

So when she saw this strange object floating in the water near her home on the morning after the storm she recognized it as Maui's kite. Chuckling in vicious satisfaction at this chance opportunity to make trouble for the handsome son of Hina, Puuanuhe hid the kite in the rough hills back of Hilea.

Great was Maui's surprise and consternation when he found his kite gone. He at once set out in search of it. Days passed without trace of it, but one day news came to him that Puuanuhe had been seen with a large kite. He knew it must be his, as there was none other so big.

Arriving at Hilea he discovered the hideous red-headed lizard-woman, who admitted she had found his kite, but refused to enlighten him as to its whereabouts. This same creature had lured many a poor fisherman to death on the rocky coast of Kau, and Maui thought it high time to put an end to such a pest, so he killed her.

Once more he took up his search for his beloved kite and soon found it cleverly hidden in the hills. Ironically he named the spot Puuanuhe, and returning home with his precious toy he fastened it securely to its moorings again.

Even today you can see the immense kite, now turned to stone, just as Maui hauled it in for the last time and left it. It is seventy-five feet long and about forty-five feet wide, narrowing to eighteen feet at one end. At the narrow end is a crystal-clear lake, very deep and smooth as glass. In its center is a large, round stone projecting above the surface with a two-inch aperture in the middle where Maui used to make his kite string fast.

Near this lake are the two windpots, Ipunui and Ipuiki, and a little way below are three very distinct foot-prints, each fifteen inches long, showing where Maui stood while flying his great kite.


Maui, the powerful young demi-god who dwelt with his mother, the goddess Hina, in the great cave behind Rainbow Falls, had succeeded in so many hazardous undertakings, and had the welfare of his people so much at heart, that he resolved upon what was to be his greatest deed of prowess and beneficence.

Now Maui had a magic fish-hook which he cleverly used while fishing with his brothers. Maui was very sly and quick, but he was never a good fisherman. He would sit in the canoe and drag his hook through the water, catching no fish himself but snagging those his brothers caught and laughing merrily at their bewildered expressions when they pulled in their lines and found nothing.

They distrusted Maui, for he would never let them see his hook, yet they knew it was shaped differently from theirs. It was more complicated and had a double barb, while the common fish-hook had but one. But his brothers could never catch him at his tricks.

At last they no longer allowed him to accompany them on their fishing trips, as he took all the fish and honors, and they all knew—Maui included—that he did not deserve them. So Maui would go alone to the bay, but the hook remained idle in the bottom of his magic canoe which, as related in the legend of Kuna, he drove from the shores of the Island of Maui to the mouth of the Wailuku with two sweeps of his paddle.

While drifting about Maui watched some of his people who were not blessed with magic canoes, and considered the hard paddling required to send them through the water.

One day as he sat in his canoe watching another pass by, evidently on its way to a neighboring island, the demi-god wondered if it might not make things easier to have all the islands joined together, so people could travel to any part of the kingdom without the laborious canoe voyages.

Calling a meeting of Hawaii's chiefs and strong men Maui informed them of a plan to draw all the islands together. He told them he would need their help in pulling the islands, but no matter how hard or how long they pulled they must never look back to see how much was being accomplished until the islands were firmly joined together.

The men solemnly promised to obey Maui and at once proceeded to their new task. The island now known as Maui was selected for the first attempt. Maui fastened his magic fish-hook into that part of the land nearest Hawaii, and at his command the strong men and chiefs paddled with all their might. Slowly the island moved behind them.

No one dared look around, though all were burning with curiosity to see the result of their struggles. Long and steadily they paddled until the two islands were only a few feet apart. Then one of the chiefs could no longer control his curiosity and looked around.

In an instant the charm was broken. The island slid back through the sea to its former position in spite of all that Maui, chiefs and strong men could do to stop it. Only a small piece of land was left—that in which the fish-hook was still deeply imbedded. Today that bit of land is covered with lauhala trees and coconut palms, and is known as Coconut Island.

So great was Maui's disappointment at this his first failure in any important enterprise that he would not try again. He said his fish-hook had lost its charm and sorrowfully he took it away with him in his canoe. He carried it up the Wailuku River to his home behind Rainbow Falls, where he grieved for many days over the unsuccessful attempt. Later, having no more use for the hook, he carried it away from the cave and threw it into the forest near his home, where it lay undisturbed until the haole came.

To those early settlers the magic fish-hook of Maui was of less interest as such than as material for masonry, and not a piece of it remains. At the forks of the Piihonua-Kaumana road one may, however, see the peculiar-shaped depression where it lay for so long before civilization's vanguard swept the tangled jungle of Maui's time from its hiding-place.

But the Strange Woman Smiled and Told Them to Uncover the Imu
Drawn by Will Herwig. Paradise Eng.

But the Strange Woman Smiled and Told Them to Uncover the Imu.


Just mauka of the Hilo Boarding School are three large, rounded hills which, centuries ago, were mud craters. Covered with the green of rustling cane-tops, at a distance they appear to be soft, grassy mounds. Many a tourist, gazing from the deck of an incoming ship, has yearned to "stroll over those smooth, rolling hills," only to find the pastime quite impossible on nearer view, which revealed the "velvety grass" as lusty sugar cane stalks ten to fifteen feet high and closely interwoven.

But now the last crop of cane has been harvested from these graceful mounds and their slopes are being prepared to receive the dwelling-houses of any who choose—and can afford—to live in the rarified atmosphere of romance that hangs about this Hawaiian Olympus.

Nor is the term Olympus as applied to these hills a redundant flight of fancy. Long ago—many, many years before the haole came to plant his sugar cane in their deep, rich soil—these hills were the homes of several beautiful goddesses.

The makai and largest hill, called Halai, was the home of Hina Keahi, eldest daughter of the goddess Hina, who lived at Waianuenue—the cave behind Rainbow Falls in the Wailuku River—and sister of Maui the demi-god. To Hina Keahi was given power over fire.

In many ways this young goddess aided her people, bestowing upon them the blessing of protection from fire while teaching them many ways in which to use it. The remarkable fact has often been noted, by the way, that although the Hawaiians always lived in grass houses, seldom was one known to be destroyed by fire. Hina Keahi was well beloved by her people and her lightest commands were obeyed meticulously.

Food had always been plentiful in Hawaii. The people cultivated their fields, which yielded bountifully. But one time the crops failed—grew smaller and smaller—and began to shrivel up and die. Soon a famine spread over the land. Crops were allowed to wholly perish because none was strong enough to tend them.

Hina Keahi saw that unless something was done at once her beloved followers would all die. Calling them about her she commanded that an immense imu be dug in the top of Halai Hill. "Prepare a place for each kind of food as though you were ready to fill the imu, then bring as much firewood as you can," she ordered.

The starving people summoned new strength at this promise and worked for many days preparing the enormous imu. Knowing a human sacrifice would be offered as the only possible result of their labors, they lived in fear and wondered who would be chosen. Still, they never once thought of deserting their work and finally everything was in readiness.

"Fill the imu with wood and heat it," commanded Hina.

As soon as this was done she turned to the wondering people and said: "Listen to what I tell you, and follow my instructions. It is the only way you can be saved from starvation. I will step into the imu and you must quickly cover me with earth. Do not stop throwing earth over me until the last puff of smoke disappears. In three days a woman will appear at the edge of the imu and tell you what to do."

Bidding them farewell, Hina Keahi stepped quickly into the red-hot imu. Immediately a dense white cloud of smoke surrounded and concealed her. For a moment the people stood transfixed at the sight; but remembering instructions they at once began covering the imu with earth.

Followed then three long days of waiting fraught with mingled hopeful expectancy and anxiety for their goddess. On the third day everyone repaired to the edge of the imu and awaited the appearance of the woman of whom Hina Keahi had spoken.

In the meantime Hina Keahi had not remained in the imu for long. The fire had not harmed her, for she had complete power over it. Going underground she made her way toward the sea, coming to the surface of the earth somewhere near the spot on which the Hilo Boarding School stands today. The place was marked by a bubbling spring.

Once more she disappeared underground and again came to the surface, creating another spring near the present location of the Hilo Hotel. A third time the goddess followed her subterranean route, coming up in a third spring at the place now occupied by the American Factors' lumber yard. Refreshing herself in the clear waters, she started back to her home, this time traveling above ground.

Thus on the third day from the disappearance of Hina Keahi those gathered about the imu saw a strange woman approaching from the direction of the sea. As she drew near they noticed a striking resemblance to their own goddess, yet she, they knew, was buried in the imu. In fear they drew away, but the strange woman smiled and told them to uncover the imu.

Reluctantly they set to work, dreading the sight which all had in mind. But when the imu was uncovered they found it filled with cooked food—enough to supply their needs until the rains came and new crops could be grown and harvested. In gratitude they turned to thank the strange woman, but she had vanished.

And to this day one may see the immense imu in the top of Halai Hill, now overgrown with a thicket of feathery bamboo, which the people left open in memory of their timely deliverance.


Hina Kuluua was the second daughter of the goddess Hina, who lived behind Rainbow Falls. Hina Keahi, the elder sister, had received the best of the gifts which their mother could bestow—power over fire and ownership of the largest of the Halai hills. Known as the goddess of fire, Hina Keahi was indeed very powerful and one time gave spectacular evidence of it in saving her people from starvation, as told in the legend, Hina Keahi.

Naturally everyone looked upon her thereafter as the most wonderful goddess in the Islands. Even her sister's little band of followers did not refrain from open admiration of the beautiful fire goddess.

This made Hina Kuluua exceedingly angry. Her jealousy overwhelmed her; she could not bear to let her sister claim so much glory, and she have none at all.

It was not long after this that another famine swept the land. Hina Kuluua thought fortune was at last coming her way. Here was the very opportunity she craved. Now she would prove her power superior to her sister's and all the people would sing her praises and worship her alone.

In her excitement she entirely overlooked the fact that she was goddess of rain, and not of fire. She ordered an immense imu to be dug in her own hill, Puu Honu. Comprehending her intentions the people at once realized the utter futility of her proposed action and pleaded with her against it; but to no avail.

"Do you mean to tell me that my power is less than Hina Keahi's?" she demanded angrily. "Do you think that I, Hina Kuluua, cannot do as much for my people in their time of need? I will show you! Then you shall recognize Hina Kuluua as the greatest goddess in Hawaii."

"You can help as well and perhaps better than your sister," they argued, "but you cannot do it in the same way. Your power, though it may be as great, is nevertheless entirely different from hers."

Then Hina Kuluua would order them out of her sight and command them to hurry the completion of the imu.

At last all was ready. A group with tear-stained faces were gathered about the smoking imu. Hina Kuluua approached, her head held high in an air of triumph. She stepped to the edge of the imu, cast a glance of disdain toward the wailing women and said, "Cover me quickly. Watch near the imu and in three days a young woman will appear. She will give you further instructions."

Stepping into the imu she was quickly covered with soil. The people had expected a cloud of smoke to appear, but were somewhat surprised to see the little there already was become even thinner and dwindle away to mere nothingness.

Slowly the long days of waiting passed. The third day dawned. All morning the people watched for signs from the imu. Late in the afternoon found their vigilance unbroken; night closed in and still no sign. Dawn once more, another day of anxiety. On the fifth day they could no longer restrain themselves and cautiously uncovered the great oven.

A dark greyish cloud rose over the imu—that was all. Within, the people could distinguish the charred remains of their proud goddess. With reverence they covered the imu once more and carefully smoothed it over.

That is why today you cannot see a deep crater in Puu Honu as in Halai, and why the dark, gloomy cloud—a sure sign of rain—often hangs low over the one-time home of Hina Kuluua.


Following one of his great victories King Kamehameha I established his court on the largest island of the Hawaiian group, Hawaii, and prepared to make his headquarters there for the time. Of course a heiau must be built, and he ordered construction to begin immediately, selecting a site near the mouth of the Wailuku where today stands the armory of the National Guard of Hawaii.

This heiau was unusually large and considerable time was consumed in building it. Finally it was completed, but before it could be used the customary human sacrifice had to be offered. Not willing to take one of his own men, the king went in search of another.

Early one morning, accompanied by a small body of his warriors, Kamehameha set out in his canoe, sailing along the coast in the direction of Puna. As the royal party neared Leleiwi Point, two fishermen in a small outrigger were discovered, busy with their nets. The king's big war canoe bore down upon them, but recognizing the royal craft from afar, they paddled lustily for the shore. Knowing the heiau was nearing completion the fishermen guessed the reason for the king's early morning visit and had no intention of remaining to receive him.

Mamalahoa Kanawai o na Alii" Kamehameha Called After Them
Drawn by Will Herwig. Paradise Eng.

"Mamalahoa Kanawai o na Alii" Kamehameha Called After Them.

Landing safely, yet with the prow of the big canoe not a spear's length behind, the poor fellows made all speed over the open lava beds that lie between the shore and the jungle at this point. The king, standing in the bow of his canoe, was first ashore and in hot pursuit, but, unfamiliar with the footing there, made poor progress. These lava beds are full of treacherous pukas and into one of them Kamehameha stumbled, sinking to his armpits. There chanced to be a sizeable stone within reach of his hand, and this he hurled after the fleeing men, but his aim was bad and he missed them. This very stone, and the hole into which the king fell, may still be seen just mauka of Leleiwi Point.

Glancing over his shoulder, the hindmost fugitive observed the king was trapped and that his retainers were still some distance to the rear. Here was a chance for revenge. Swinging his heavy canoe paddle, which he had been too frightened to drop, the fisherman turned and dealt his majesty a cruel blow on the head and, leaving him for dead, made off at top speed after his companion.

When his men came up, the king was just regaining consciousness. One look at their wounded monarch sent them like a pack of hungry wolves after the fishermen.

"Mamalahoa Kanawai o na alii!" Kamehameha called after them. "Whoever purposely murders a fellowman shall be hanged."

And thus the very first law was made in Hawaii.

"Let them go," he said, as his men reluctantly abandoned the chase. "I am not much harmed and they are badly frightened now. They may never do violence again to anyone. If any man hereafter wilfully take the life of another he shall be hanged. Come, let us go back. My heiau will not require a human sacrifice, for it shall never be used."

So it happened that this was the first heiau ever built without its human sacrifice, and the last one constructed on the Island. Once the law forbidding murder was enforced heiaus were no longer needed.

For the first time on Hawaii trails became safe for travelers. Always theretofore one never knew at what moment an enemy in ambush might rob him or take his life. Women and children could now go abroad at all times in safety.

Peace reigned in the land and the people became more prosperous and progressive. Years passed before the law was broken, and, true to his word—for the king's word was law—Kamehameha ordered the murderer hanged. The scene of his execution was the unusually crooked coconut tree which until recent years stood near the present site of a cracker factory on what is now Kamehameha Avenue.

Today a careful observer may, by peering beneath the Armory Hall, make out the few remaining stones which were once a part of the foundation of the last heiau built on Hawaii.



This volume of Hawaiian Legends is bound in genuine tapa, a cloth—or more properly speaking a strong paper—made by hand from the inner bark of the wild mulberry. Briefly, the process of manufacture is as follows:

When full of glutinous sap, the bark of the mulberry is stripped and steeped in running water until the outer layer is softened. This is scraped away and the inner bark beaten with corrugated paddles of palm wood until strips two or three inches broad are widened to ten or twelve inches.

The edges of these strips are then pasted together with a strong vegetable glue and laminated with more beating. So skillfully is this done that it is impossible to detect the lines of jointure.

The tapa used in binding this book is of the stout, heavy grade; but that used for clothing and scarfs is often as sheer as fine muslin.

Tapa making is confined entirely to the women, men never occupying themselves with any of its processes.


Hawaiian words may be easily pronounced correctly by using the Spanish alphabet. There are no silent letters, and all syllables are stressed equally.

Alae (Hawaiian gallinule): Native bird figuring largely in Hawaiian legends.

Ao-opua: Talisman, guardian spirit.

Haleakala: House (hale) of the Sun (la).

Haole: White man.

Hau: Native tree much favored for lanais (arbors) and the wood for outriggers on canoes and floats for its cork-like lightness. (Hibiscus arnottianus).

Heiau: Ancient Hawaiian temple.

Honu: Turtle, turtle-shaped.

Imu: Underground stove made by scooping a hole in the ground, lining it with rocks, and building a fire in it. The food to be cooked is placed in the heated cavern, which is then covered tightly with leaves and earth.

Kaipaaloa: Inlet or estuary where the sea is quiet.

Keahi: Of the fire.

Kuluua: Of the (gentle) rain.

Lauhala: Leaf (lau) of the puhala tree (Pandanus odoratissimus).

Makai: Toward the sea.

Malihini: Stranger, foreigner.

Mamake: Shrub about ten feet high (Pipturus albidus).

Mamalahoa kanawai o na alii: Your king proclaims this the law of the land (free translation).

Mauka: Toward the mountains.

Olona: Native flax (Touchardia latifolia).

Pahoehoe: The sterile, flintlike lava as distinguished from aa, the friable and highly fertile lava.

Pau: The end, finished.

Pili: Grass yielding stout fibres (Andropogon contortus).

Puka: Doorway, entrance, hole.

Puu: Small hill, usually of rounded form.

Ti (formerly written ki): Plant of lily family having bright green leaves three feet long and six inches wide (Cordyline terminalis).

Waianuenue: Shimmering waters, as a rainbow effect.

Wauke: Native mulberry tree (Broussonetia papyrifera).

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