"THE SELF-RELIANT DRAGON" is frequently mentioned in the oldest Hawaiian legends. This dragon was probably a very old crocodile worshipped as the ancestor goddess of the Hawaiian chief families.
She dwelt in one of the mysterious islands mentioned in the Hawaiian chants as Kua-i-Helani, "the Far-away Helani," lying in the ancient far western home of the Polynesians.
Iku was the chief. He had several sons. The youngest was Aukele-nui-a-Iku, Aukele the Great Son of Iku.
Aukele was a favorite of the Self-reliant Dragon. She gave him a large bamboo stick. Inside she placed an image of the god Lono, and also a magic leaf which could provide plenty of food for any one who touched the leaf to his lips. She put in a part of her own skin.
She said, "This skin is a cloak for you. If you lift it up against any enemies, they will fall to pieces as dust and ashes."
They put all these treasures in the bamboo stick. Then the dragon taught the boy all kinds of magic power.
The brothers, who were great warriors, determined to sail away, find a new land and conquer it by fighting. Aukele persuaded them to take him. Then he sent one to get the stick he had brought from the dragon pit which was near the sea.
After a long time on the sea all their food was gone and they were starving and lying in the bottom of the boat. Aukele fed them from the leaf which he touched to their lips.
Some days passed and Aukele said, "To-morrow we will come to a land where a woman is the ruler. Let me tell why we journey."
They said, "Did you build this boat, and have you its chant?"
He said: "We must not call this a boat for war, but of discovery, to find new land."
The chiefess of that land looked out and saw a boat in the ocean, and sent some birds to see what the boat was doing and learn whether it was a war canoe, or a travelling boat. The birds went out, and Aukele wanted his brothers to say it was a travelling boat. The birds asked and the brothers said: "This is a war canoe." The birds went away. Aukele took up the bamboo stick and threw it in the sea, and leaped in after it. The brothers threw the cloak of Aukele on the beach. The
chiefess found the cloak and shook it toward the boat, then threw it away. The brothers broke into small dust and were destroyed. The boat and the brothers sank to the bottom of the sea.
Aukele swam to the beach, pulled up his stick, found his cloak and lay down under a tree and slept. A watchdog came out, and smelled the man, and barked.
The chiefess called two women, and told them to see who it was, and if they found any one, kill him. They came down and the god of Aukele awakened him, and told him the names of the women.
The women came and he greeted them. They were ashamed because he had found their names, and one said to the other, "What can we give him for naming us?" The other said, "We will let him be the husband of our ruler." So they came and sat down by him, and they talked lovingly together and he won their hearts.
The women told him that they had been sent to kill him, but that they would say they did not find him; then other messengers would be sent. They went home and told the chiefess: "We went to the precipice; there was no one there. Then to the forest and the sea. There was no one there. Perhaps the dog made a mistake."
The chiefess turned the dog out again; at once there was more barking. She told her bird brothers to go and look over the land. Lono saw them
and said; "Here is another death day for us. I will tell you who these birds are. When they come you say their names quickly and welcome them." So he did. They wondered how he knew their names. This knowledge gave him power over them and they could not harm him. The birds also thought they would have to offer their ruler as a wife to this wonderful stranger. They went back to their sister and told her they had found a husband for her. This pleased her. She sent them after Aukele. He told them he would go by and by.
Lono said to Aukele, "Death has partly passed, but more trouble lies before us. When you go up do not sit down or enter the house. Stand at the door. First these two women will come. If they say 'Aloha' it is all right. The dog will come and will try to kill you. When he has passed by, the brothers will come. The food they make and put in old calabashes, do not eat. See if the calabash has anything growing in its cracks. You will find new calabashes scattered over the ground. Food and fish and water are inside. Eat from these."
He made ready to go, and went up to the house, and stood by the door. The two women said "Aloha" and called to him to come in, but he would not enter. The dog ran out, opened her mouth and tried to bite Aukele through the magic cloak. The dog became ashes. The chiefess saw the dog was
dead and was very sorry because he was the watchman for her land.
The brothers came to him with food which they had put in moss-covered calabashes. He never touched it. It was the death food. He went to a place where green calabash vines were growing, took a calabash, shook it, broke it, opened it and found good food inside.
Then they lived as man and wife. The chiefess had been a cannibal but at this time stopped eating men. Soon a son was born.
After a time the bird brothers taught Aukele how to leap into the air and fly as a bird.
The chiefess told her brothers to go away into the heavens and find her father, Ku-waha-ilo, a cannibal god. He was also the father of Pele, the goddess of volcanic fire. They must tell him that she had given all her treasures to her husband
stars, lands, and seas. She told them to take her husband to see the father.
They flew away, Aukele flying faster than the others. The father saw him and thought his daughter was dead. He said, "She is the watch-man for my land, and no man could come here if she were alive," and he was angry.
Lono told Aukele to put on his magic cloak that now covered him from head to foot. Then he understood there must be a battle. The cannibal father made fire, called Kuku-ena (the lightning); then Ikuwa, a stone crashing like thunder.
[paragraph continues] The lightning and the crashing stone were struck by the cloak and rattled into ashes, cracking and breaking, reverberating, sounding like a drum.
The bird brothers saw the fire and heard the thunder. They were far behind Aukele. They saw the lightning and the thunder defeated. After the battle, they all came before their father and told him that the daughter was well and this was her husband.
After this flight to a cannibal land and this victory over the cannibal god, Aukele returned to his wife.
After a time the ghosts of his brothers appeared to him and reminded him of their grave in the sea.
Aukele was very sorry and ate nothing for days. His wife, with great sympathy, told him if he had strength enough to find the living water of Kane he could still restore his brothers. He was encouraged and ate. He asked what path he should take to find the land of the water of life. She made a straight line toward the East, the sunrise, and told him to fly straight, not swerving to either side.
He took his bamboo stick with all his aid inside and put it under his arm, put on his magic cloak, and said "Aloha." A long time passed.
He thought he was flying in a straight line, but one arm became tired because the stick was under it. He changed the stick, and this moved his direction. His god saw this and told him he was
leaving the straight line and was flying to some other place. There was fire far below. All the people had fled except one. The god said, "Let us go straight till we come to that one; then you catch him and hold him fast. We shall have life." This was the moon, who was an ancestress of his wife. The moon had been cooking food. She arose to take up her food and get ready to go. But Aukele caught her, held her and ate her food. She thus became thin--a new moon--and the traveller gained strength to return to his home.
Aukele thought he would try again, according to his wife's line. She made a line from the door of the house toward the sunrise, and warned him. He flew straight a long time until he found a strange land with a deep pit lined with trees and wonderful plants. At the bottom was the spring of the water of life. He leaped down upon the back of a watchman on the edge of the pit, who had been put there by the guardian to kill any one coming after the water. He tried to shake Aukele off, saying: "Who are you? What do you mean, O proud man? My grandchild, the brother of Pele, never got on my back. Who are you?" He gave his name and ancestors, and told the watchman he had come for the water of life for his brothers. The watchman said: "Go straight out from where I stand. Do not turn to the side or you will strike bamboo which will make a great noise, and my grandchild, Pele's brother, will hear
and will cover the water tight, and you cannot get it."
So Aukele flew and leaped straight on the second watchman, who told him not to go to the left or he would strike the lama trees (very hard wood, used for building houses for the gods). These trees would make a great noise and the guardian would cover the water tight and he could not get it.
He flew to another watchman, who told him to go straight to the bottom of the pit. "There a blind woman will be sitting. Look at the place where she is cooking bananas. She will take them one by one. You eat all her bananas. Then she will become angry and throw ashes. If she throws on the right side, you must fly to the left. Watch if she strikes with a stick, then run quickly, sit in her lap, and tell her who you are."
When he had done all these things and all attempts to kill him had failed, Aukele made the old blind woman lie down under a cocoanut tree. He got two young cocoanuts and told her to turn her eyes toward the sky. He dropped the cocoanuts in her eyes. She wept sorely because of the pain. He told her to rub the water out of her eyes and not cry. She did so, and said: "I can see you." He came down from the tree and she told him what he must do to get the water of life: "Go and break the stem of a water plant, and near it a bush with white flowers. Bring them to me." This he did and laid the plants before her. She squeezed the
water from the plants into a cup, took charcoal and other things and mixed them together until black; then she painted Aukele's hands very black, like the hands of the brother of Pele. His hands were black, and those watching the water of life would look at the hands reaching for water and make no mistake. They would tightly cover up the water if a white hand came down. "Wait until the guardian god is asleep and the servants are preparing drink for him when he should awake. Then go to the door and one will give you some water. The first will be dirty water; throw it away. Put your hand down again. They will give you another calabash of water. This will be the living water of Kane; take it."
He went down and put his hand in for the water. The watchman handed out a calabash of dirty water. He threw it away and again thrust his black hand down the pit.
The watchman gave him a calabash of the pure water of life.
He flew rapidly along the path to the outside world. In his haste he struck the leaves of the groves of trees and the noise was that of strong winds thrashing the branches and leaves back and forth, up and down. The sound swept through the land of the water of life like rolling thunder.
The brother of Pele and his servants awoke and followed, but he fled through the heavens to the place where the ghosts of his brothers lay in the
sunken ship by the home of the goddess of the sea.
They all went down to the sea. The chiefess told her husband to pour the water of life in his hand. She put her fingers in the water and sprinkled drops over the sea.
Out in the ocean under the moving surface was a boat, its mast coming up through the waves. In a little while they saw men standing in the boat. These were the brothers of Aukele. After the welcome, he gave them lands and homes.
In that strange far-off land of the ancestors--the mysterious "Floating Island"--the "Hidden Island of Kane," it is said they still live under the rule of their younger brother.
Aukele thought he would like to see his parents once more, so he went to the far-away Helani--but the land was desolate. The parents were gone, the people had disappeared, the houses had all decayed, and the land was covered with a forest.
Only a dragon was left--one of the family of the "Self-reliant Dragon." He discovered her body fast in the coral reef near the shore. He thought she was dead, but he stood up and stamped with full strength and broke the coral so that the dragon was free. He saw the body moving, but the dragon was very weak and near death.
He was sorry for her, remembering that it was by the aid of dragon powers he had gone into the heavens and from the deep pit of the skies secured the water of life. Therefore he provided food
and gave new life to the dragon. He asked about his parents and their gods, and the desolation of the land.
The dragon told him how the entire household of gods, dragons and men had found a new home, in the Islands of Oahu and Hawaii. She told how "the child adopted or brought up by the gods," and the Maiden of the Golden Clouds, had been taken by the Self-reliant Dragon to Oahu, and how all the rest had gone, leaving her as a guard in the old land of his birth and childhood.
Aukele went back to the legendary land, the "Hidden Island of Kane," and there lived among the ghost gods who welcome the dead as they escape from wandering over the islands and fly by the path of the sunset back to the home of the most distant ancestors--the mysterious lands in the skies of the western seas.
Here he and his brothers are high chiefs of the au-makuas, the ghost gods of Hawaii, who wait to welcome and give peace to the spirits of the dead.
24:1 This is one of the most ancient legends in Hawaiian annals.