Charlotte Hapai.

Legends of the Wailuku, as told by old Hawaiians online

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Martha Beck with





Copyright ig2o-ig2i by



Paradise of the Pacific cprint

Drawn by Will Herwig.

Paradise Eng.

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




/TS told by old

Hawaiians and

done into the

English tongue

Illustrated . by Charlotte

Will Her^wig *■


To remember our happy

hours of story-telling,

this printed fragment

is in gratitude dedicated

to my grandmother,

Harriet Kamafyanoenoe Hapai.

thf: v/ailuku.

FED from the great watershed of Ha-
waii 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 be-
lief that it was named for its violent

Long ago, so one legend goes, the
much dreaded Kuna (dragon) blocked
the gorge below Rainbow Falls with in-
tent 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."


Page FiT?

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

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, god-
dess 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

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.


was a very famous warrior. His
chief ambition, which he lived to realize,
was to become sole ruler of all the Ha-
waiian Islands. Naturally he had nu-
merous 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 serv-
ants 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 rea-
soned; 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 nat-
urally 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 resource-
ful one, as he rapidly twisted the ti
leaves into serviceable ropes. "Now,"
he concluded, "these are plenty long
enough. Let us make the canoe fast to
the beach."

And taking their ropes to the canoe
they tied it securely to that point of land
— known to the old Hawaiians as Kai-

Page Eight

paaloa — near the mouth of the river
where the lighthouse stands today.
Then they set out in search of the king.

Only a short way up the river they met
Kamehameha returning unharmed. Ig-
noring the spirit of their intent in absent-
ing themselves from their post of duty,
the king demanded:

"But where is my canoe? What have
you done with my canoe? You prom-
ised 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

"I came to you from there," the man

"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 es-
pecially 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 plen-
tiful and very good for tapa.

Interested though he was in the manu-
facture 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 mys-
tic 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


As Maui Reached the Eastern Rim the Sun
Was Disappearing.

sky. All too soon long shadows would
creep across the stream below Rainbow
Falls, warning her that night approached
and that it was time to take in her tapa.

Quite often the dyes with which the
designs were painted on the tapa were
not entirely dry when the tapa was tak-
en 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 last-
ing 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

Page Twelve

Haleakala the Sun was just disappear-
ing 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, wield-
ing 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

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 arrange-
ment and sure also that the Sun would
not again forget, for he had crippled him
considerably. It would take some time,
he thught, for the Sun's broken rays .to

So, very well pleased with his suc-
cess, 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.

Page Thirteen


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

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 atten-
tion, 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 expe-
ditions. 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

Page Fourteen

wculd hurry home at once to his mother's

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 situa-
tion, was quick to take advantage and
to act. Hina's apparent indifference an-
noyed 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 terri-
fied 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 Wai-
luku with two strong sweeps of his pad-
dle. 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.

Page Sixteen


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 mon-
ster, and to kill him on sight.

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

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

The thundering voice and quaking
earth became more horrible and terrify-
ing as Maui approached. Soon he stood
before the hole in which Kuna lay hiding.
Catching sight of the ugly monster with-
in, 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 Her-
culean 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,

Page Eighteen

sending a vast column of steam far above
the rim of the gorge.

Known today as the Boiling Pots, al-
though 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, shriek-
ing horribly, he again took up his flight
down stream. Maui sent torrents of boil-
ing 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 Rain-
bow 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 everlast-
ing punishment for plotting the death of
Hawaii's beloved goddess, Hina.

\ ineteen



ANY years ago there lived on the
land of Tahiti several brothers.
all \erv sifted and powerful gods of I
land. One was by name Paoa.

Now I an:t;an cu$te:r.> w;
like those of Hawaii at that time, in
that the Tahitians offered huma
fices when a canoe or a h
process of construction. How the

ance of this custom caused the fl
of Paoa to Hawaii, you shall see.

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

Grief-stricken al die loss of his son and
furious at the cruelty of his brother. Paoa
decided to leave it all and seek peace
some other island. In preparation for die
y by canoe he took only three
things with him: two kinds : the

aku and opelu — and some pili grass.

Jov::::-:\ ::>_: northward he encountered
r. :-. . : : r s:er:u which grew more tc
as the davs passed until it seemed the

Paoa Sto :he Little Plo:

Ai He Answered Her.

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.

Fearing for his safety, Paoa took the
two kinds of fish and threw them over-
side. 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 in-
to a great crescent-shaped bay, he ob-
served 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.

Page Twenty -two

So great was the joy of Paoa upon
reaching this beautiful island that he
decided to make it his home. To com-
memorate 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 count-
less 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

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. Evi-
dently 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 es-
tablished 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

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.

Page Twenty-four

mammm -"HHHAi


MAUI, the eldest son of the goddess
Hina, lived with his mother and
two brothers in the cave behind Rain-
bow 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 noth-
ing 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 under-
stand 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 cun-
ning 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 broth-
ers 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. Rush-
ing into their midst he caught one of the

"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 treat-
ment resorted to trickery and replied,
"Rub two taro stalks together and you
shall have fire."

Holding the bird closely, Maui did so,

Ph'ao Twenty-six

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 fear-
ing the bird was not telling the truth, he
rubbed its head with one of the sticks
until a drop of blood trickled out, stain-
ing 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.

i ".wiity-sfvc


MAUI, the great demi-god of Ha-
waii, was restless. Time hung
heavy on his hands. Uneventful days of
quiet had fallen upon the land. Adven-
ture seemed to be in hiding, and no ex-
ploit invited to service this active young-
ster's shining spear or magic club. Idle-
ness grew more and more unbearable.

Now Laamaomao, god of the winds,
dwelt not far above Rainbow Falls in

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Online LibraryCharlotte HapaiLegends of the Wailuku, as told by old Hawaiians → online text (page 1 of 3)