The Big Island is a land of myths and legends that are never really far from our minds, since we are always conscious of the mountains, the jungles, the sea and especially the volcano -- the natural elements that gave rise to the legends and myths themselves. Most Hawaiians do not practice their ancient religion today, yet their are few who are not at least a little superstitious. Living on an active volcano can do this to you. I will add legends to this page from time. I hope you find them as fascinating as I do.

The Puna Chief Who Boasted

There was once a Puna chief who could talk of nothing but his own district. Wherever he went he boasted of Puna.

      "Beautiful Puna," he chanted.
      "Its fields and its gardens are shining
      Like a mat spread over the hillside
      And edged above by the forest."

"Be careful," people warned him. "Remember Pele! That goddess does not like boasting!"

"I fear her not!" the chief answered. "She lives above in the pit, tending her fires. Puna is safe from her evil." And he went on boasting:

      "My country is beautiful Puna,
      Land where all food plants are growing,
      Land where bananas hang heavy,
      Where potatoes burst from the earth,
      Where sugar-cane stalks are the sweetest.
      "My country is sweet smelling Puna.
      To the seaman who comes near our coast
      The winds bear the fragrance of hala.
      Birds gather over our trees
      Drinking the nectar of blossoms.
      My country is beautiful Puna."

A wise kahuna heard these  words. "Alas!" he said. "Your boasting has angered Pele. Return to your country. You will finds its beauty laid waste."

"Ho!" shouted the chief. "I do not fear your words! No harm can come to Puna!" But for all his shouting the chief was frightened. As quickly as wind and paddle could take him, he returned. He reached a point of land, beached his canoe, climbed a hillside, and looked toward his beautiful Puna.

Black smoke hung heavy over all his land. As he looked, wind lifted the smoke and he saw no fertile fields and gardens, but a waste of twisted lava. No flowers bloomed in the forest, only spurts of flame. No fragrance of hala was borne on the wind, but the bitter smell of smoke.

Pele had been angered by the chief's boastful words. Now he knew that no land below her fire pit was safe from her power.

The story "The Puna Chief Who Boasted," originally from Hawaiian Legends Pele of Volcanoes by Westervelt), as published in "Hawai'i Island Legends:Piloi, Pele and Others (previously published as Pikoi and Other  Legends of the Island of Hawaii), compiled by Mary Kawena Puku'i, retold by Caroline Curtis and illustrated by Don Robinson, copyright 1949, 1996, by  Kamehameha Schools Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate.

The Water of the Gods
(An O'ahu Legend)

K ane and Kanaloa came from the land of Kuaihelani on a pointed cloud and arrived at Hanauma, O`ahu. Kane was a kindly god, courteous in all ways. As they traveled about the island, Kanaloa complained of hunger and, turning to his older brother, said, Oh Kane! We keep on going and we are dying of hunger! Let us eat. Kane looked about and saw that there was no water for mixing their refreshment of `awa drink. He struck the earth with his staff and water gushed forth. When the two had eaten, they started on again along the highway. They had not gone far when Kanaloa wanted to eat again. The country through  which they were passing had no water. As he had done before, so Kane again struck the earth with his staff and water gushed forth. Wherever they stopped to rest, Kanaloa asked for food, and many were the waterholes made by Kane between Hanauma and Lae`ahi.

When the two reached `Apuakehau (where the Moana Hotel now stands), they went in sea-bathing and then lay on the beach with their backs to the sun to dry. As the sun went down, they set out again to ascend Manoa Valley. Passing through Kamo`ili`ili they washed off the sand from their skin in the Papa`akea Stream. Sand said to have been left by these gods was for many years to be seen there, but today is covered over.

On their way they rested on the Ke`apapa Hill (at the place now called Punahou) and again Kanaloa teased his brother for water and challenged his ability to produce it. Kane smiled, for he could hear the noise of the water within the hill, and he thrust his staff into the ground and the water gushed forth in abundance. It has been a great blessing to the natives of that region and is said to be the source of the water on the McCully tract. This water of Kane was called the new spring, Kapunahou.

Source: The Legend of Kawelo and Other Hawaiian Folk Tales by Laura C.S. Green and Mary Kawena Pukui

The Waters of Hao

The caretakers of Kewalo Springs saw two children coming wearily along the trail. They saw the little girl stumble and fall. The boy, a little older, helped her to her feet and seemed to urge her to reach the spring. "Those two have been neglected," one man remarked. "They look half starved, and their kapa is soiled and torn. "

"May we have water?" asked the boy when the spring was reached at last. "The trail is hot, and our water gourd is empty." The little girl sank down on the grass as if she could go no farther. When her brother had filled his gourd she drank eagerly, then snuggled against him and fell asleep.

The kind-hearted caretakers fed the children. Later they took them into the sleeping house. "These two must come from some poor home where relative are old or lazy," they said to one another. "Here they can rest."

Next morning the men woke early and went to tend their garden. As the sun rose mist blew from the mountains, and over the sleeping house and a rainbow hung. "A rainbow!" said one. "Over our sleeping house! No chief--"

"The children! " his companion answered. "Who can they be?"

That day the caretakers of the spring were greatly puzzled. The children stayed as if glad of food and rest, but they did not tell their names or family, and no one came for them. Should the boy and girl be treated as young chiefs? A rainbow was a chiefly sign. The men were puzzled.

The children stayed for several days. They were quiet and often slept. The little girl especially seemed always tired.

One evening, after they had entered the sleeping house, a farmer from Makiki stopped at the spring to drink and talk. "The children of Ha`o have run away," he said.

"The children of the district chief?"

"Yes. Their mother died some time ago, and the new chiefess has no love for them. When Ha`o, their father, is away she gives them little food and she is always scolding."

"No wonder they have run away!"

"Yes," said the man. "They are good children, a boy and little sister. We hoped that they might find a better home, but now the chieftess is sending men to hunt for them. She has seen a rainbow down this way and says it is the rainbow of those children. Her men will find and punish those who help them."

The caretakers of the spring looked at each other. "It may be those who help the children will not give them up," said one in a determined voice.

"No common man can stand against the anger of that chieftess," was the answer.

After the visitor had gone the two sat talking in low voices, trying to make a plan to hide the children. At last they slept.

When all was still the boy, who like his father was called Ha`o, rose from his mats. He took his sister in his arms and staggered with her into the moonlight. There he set her on her feet. As she woke she began to cry, but her brother hushed her. "You are the daughter of a chief," he whispered. "You must be brave. Come."

"Where are we going?" she asked. "I don't want to go. I'm sleepy."

"By and by we shall sleep," he answered. "The chieftess is sending men to get us. Do you want to be scolded and punished again? Besides if she finds us here she will be cruel to those who helped us. Come, O my sister. We must be far away."

"Yes," the little girl agreed, "she must not find us." They followed the moonlit trail across the plain toward Kou at the mouth of the Nu`uanu Stream. Several times the little girl said, "I am very tired," but walked bravely on. Suddenly, she stopped. "I'm thirsty," she whispered to her brother. "O Ha`o, I must have a drink."

Ha`o shook his water gourd, but heard no sound. "It is empty," he said. "I thought only that we must get away and forgot to fill my gourd. Let us go on and find another spring."

But now the little girl was crying with weariness and thirst. When she tripped over a stone and fell, Ha`o gave up, made her comfortable on dry grass and patted her gently until she slept. But the boy did not sleep. He too was tired and thirsty and he was deeply troubled. Where should they go? How could he get food for his sister? And water? They must have water!

With a last thirsty thought he fell asleep and, in a dream, he heard a call, "Ha`o, O Ha`o!" It was his mother's voice. He saw her standing beside him just as she used to do. "You are thirsty, my children," she said. "Pull up the bush close to your feet." Then the form faded, and Ha`o awoke.

"It was a dream!" he thought. "Our mother came in a dream. I must obey her words." He took hold of the bush growing near him, but it hurt his hands. He took big leaves for protection, braced himself and pulled with all his might. Up came the bush and, where it had been, water flowed. A spring! Ha`o filled a gourd, then woke his sister and gave her a cool drink. "It is the water of the  gods," he said. Then he too drank. "Our mother watches over us," he whispered and, comforted, slept soundly.

When next the children woke the sun was shining. Men stood looking at them and at the spring--their father's men! Ha`o sprang up and greeted them with joy. He told them of his dream, and all drank from the spring.

"Come home," the men said. "Your father longs for you."

"The chieftess?" asked the girl in a troubled voice.

"Have no more fear of her," the men replied. "The gods showed you this spring because of their love for you. You are the chosen ones, and the chiefess will not dare to do you harm."

For many years that spring flowed. Its waters bubbled into a pool edged by ferns and fragrant vines. At one time a house was built over the pool to make it the bathing place for a chieftess. She too was Ha`o, a decendant of the one who found the spring. She was a high chieftess and very sacred, very kapu. No one except her family and servants might even look at her. She might not set foot upon the ground. If she did so, the place where she had stepped would be kapu and no common person could step on it. So her servants brought her to the spring in a manele, curtained with fine kapa. She bathed in the fern-edged pool and then was carried home. Because it was the bathing place of this young chieftess the spring came to be called The Water of Ha`o.

That spring no longer flows for a city has grown all about it, and people pipe their water from deep wells and mountain reservoirs. Today a church stands near the place where the thirsty children drank and where the kapu chiefess bathed. The church bears the name of the spring, The Water of Ha`o, Kawaiaha`o.

The first part of this story was told by Emma K. Nakuina in "The Friend" . The second part is from a translation by Mary Kawena Pukui from a Hawaiian newspaper.


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