SOMETIME during the fifth or sixth century of the Christian era--according to estimates based on Hawaiian genealogies--two brothers, Ulu and Nanaulu, came to the Hawaiian Islands and established a dynasty of high chiefs. Their father was Kii, a king in the Southern Pacific Islands. Tahiti, the chief island of the Society group, furnishes the only ancient king of that name. We have the additional fact that in Hawaiian legends the place to which Hawaiian Vikings frequently sailed for centuries was usually Kahiki or Tahiti, the old home of the family of ruling chiefs.
It has been suggested that Ulu remained in the southern islands and that Nanaulu alone found his way to Hawaii; but the frequent use of the name Ulu in the genealogies of the chiefs of the two large islands, Hawaii and Maui, would support the position taken in the story that follows--that the brothers, sailing together, found Hawaii.
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Two strong young men, about six feet in stature, were hastening together along a mountain spur
leading down to the harbour of Papeete. They had met but a short time before, one coming around the base of the turreted crags of an extinct volcano known as "La Diademe"--The Diadem, or crown of Tahiti. The other had left his house in the hills from which the beautiful river of the Vai-ta-piha valley takes its source. They had given each other the universal Polynesian greeting--"Love to you," with the reply, "Love indeed."
Soon they came to the seashore where a long boat, the waa of Ulu, had been built. Large crowds of natives were watching the workmen as the stone adzes rang for the last time on the boarded-up sides of the boat.
As the two young chiefs drew near they saw a small company of solemn, dignified men, evidently of high rank, emerge from the door of a. large grass house and march slowly to the side of the long boat.
A trumpet shell was sounded. The people fell with their faces toward the ground. Another blast, and there could be seen a number of gigantic slaves coming from the door of a stone temple not far away. Each slave was leading a prisoner. In a few minutes they surrounded the boat. Two prisoners were held at the prow of the boat, two at the stern, four along the boat sides and others in a line extending to the beach.
A priest stepped forth from the little company of leaders. In a strong and yet monotonous tone he
began a chant of praise of Kii and his sons. He sang of the boat building and the protecting care of the gods.
He chanted the charms which would control the action of the gods of the seas over which the boats might sail. He invoked the gods of the home land to make friendly the gods of any new country to which the sailors might go. He pleaded for the acceptance of the human sacrifice about to be made to the gods.
Executioners with sharp-edged clubs of heavy hardwood then struck down the prisoners as the boat was rushed to the sea.
Human sacrifices at the launchings of the canoes of chiefs were not at all unusual, but the two young chiefs from the mountains had never before known such wholesale slaughter. The importance of the plans of the high chiefs was made evident by this large human sacrifice. The new boat of the king's son, Ulu, was evidently destined for some very important expedition.
"E Taunoa," cried a chief to the two latest arrivals, calling one of them by the name of his district. "Make haste or you will be too late to hear the voice of the king."
"How is it, Taunoa," said another, "that you, a chief of Nanaulu, should be present at the call of Kii in the interest of Ulu?"
Taunoa replied: "We shall soon see Nanaulu with a cloud of boats. I was sent to announce his
coming to his father, the king. His heart is with his brother Ulu in the observance of the plans of Kii. I found this young chief of Vai-ta-piha on his way hither, and made him my companion. Take me at once to Kii, the king."
Okela, the chief who had called to Taunoa, at once preceded the crowd thronging hastily behind, giving Taunoa the post of honour after Okela. As they approached the dignified high chiefs they all prostrated themselves to the ground except Okela and Taunoa.
Taunoa drew from under his cloak a feathery frond of the cocoanut, and raising it above his head, asked for an interview with the king.
The trumpeter with his large pu or conch shell sounded the call of the coming of the king. Trumpet shells responded from the temple and from the king's residence. A terrific beating of drums followed, the people fell upon their faces; even the high chiefs prostrated themselves. Only the messenger from Nanaulu remained partially upright.
From the king's house came the royal retinue. King Kii was borne on the shoulders of a stalwart slave, supported by two other slaves, while ranks of trusted chiefs walked by his side. Following the king, riding in the same way upon the shoulders of slaves, was Ulu, the king's son, surrounded also by his chosen chiefs.
To the king Taunoa at once presented his tuft
of the cocoanut and was ordered to give his message.
"O King," he said, "Nanaulu, the high chief, your son, has heard of the boat of Ulu and your purpose of sending Ulu upon a mysterious mission. Nanaulu, the elder brother, was the kahu (caretaker) of Ulu in the days past. He desires to still stand by his brother's side and care for him in the place of Kii, the royal father. He has searched the forests of the sharp-peaked mountain and has fashioned a boat, the Mano-nui (great shark), and soon expects to come to Papeete with a royal fleet to do honour to the king, his father."
The king had turned his eyes for a moment toward Ulu and had caught the joy flashing from his eyes when he heard of his brother's speedy coming, then, looking down upon Taunoa, who had prostrated himself as soon as his message was delivered, simply said:
"Your message gives joy," and then was borne into the midst of the group of high chiefs.
The king's herald then made proclamation:
"Where are you, O chiefs? Where are you, O nobles of Tahiti? Where are you, O servant people? For the message is to all, from the highest to the lowest. Listen, O men of Tahiti, to the will of Kii, your king.
"It is his wish that Ulu, his son, should sail toward the west and should find the land of our fathers. He will have many companions, but these
will be selected from only the most worthy. His prophets and priests, his teachers, have already been chosen. But now choice must be made of chiefs and warriors and common people. Two days will be given you for rest. On the third day the king and his high chiefs will be judges of wrestling contests. On the fourth day will be struggles in the surf; or, if the sea gods are not propitious the chiefs will contest on the hillsides and in the games of physical strength. On the fifth day there will be the exercise with the spears and clubs. The skill and strength of the Tahitians will be manifest during these days."
Then followed such a scene of unbridled revelry as could occur only in a land given up to physical pleasures and passions. Feasting and the heiva dance and drinking kava occupied the time of the common people.
The chiefs gave themselves up to gambling and rioting until the night was wearied with their excesses and the new day sent the revellers to needed rest wherever any tree or grass house afforded even a little shade.
As the afternoon of the first day began to cast its long shadows, a large fleet of hundreds of canoes filled the entrance to Papeete Bay. They were preceded by a very large war canoe with a prow shaped into a rude resemblance of a shark's head, with shark's teeth fastened in the open jaws. The body of the boat was of polished wood, well oiled. The
multitude of canoes following were painted and stained with as many brilliant dyes as possible. Not a torn or weather-beaten sail hung by the masts. Sails of dyed kapa cloth and woven matting, new and beautifully painted, had been made ready long before, that Nanaulu's homecoming might have no blot upon its impressive appearance. As the large boat came near the shore the oars-men leaped into the surf; chosen men from the other canoes joined them. Passing strong cords of cocoanut fibre under the keel, they lifted the boat, with several chiefs resting upon a small deck which partially covered the canoe. Then they bore the great burden up the beach toward the grass house of Kii. Standing by the mast of the canoe was Nanaulu, a chief of splendid physical appearance, about thirty years of age, before whom all the people prostrated themselves as he was carried by.
Midway between the beach and the king's house a young chief rushed down to meet Nanaulu. As he came near the canoe he leaped over the heads of the bearers, landing on the deck by the side of Nanaulu and catching the mast gracefully, steadied himself for a moment and then, throwing his arms around Nanaulu, began the loud Polynesian wailing, with which in sorrow or in joy alike they were accustomed to greet one another. This was Ulu, the younger brother, not over twenty-five years old, and his warm-hearted greeting of his elder brother, who during his boyhood had been his steadfast
friend and caretaker, showed the deep love which bound them together. Ulu was of higher chief rank than his elder brother. Sons of Kii, they were nevertheless sons of different queens of unequal rank; therefore Nanaulu owed allegiance to his brother. After the wailing was over the boat was carried to the king's house, while the two brothers discussed plans. Nanaulu requested that his own retainers might be given an opportunity to contest in the games and athletic exercises of the coming days. To this his brother readily acceded.
Early in the morning of the next day the con-tests were opened by the chiefs of the various districts of Tahiti, who called their best wrestlers together and chose the champions to contest with other champions from other districts.
After the king had taken his place the ceremonies of the day were introduced by the royal ceremonial dance. Over a hundred chiefs, throwing aside their cloaks and putting on tall helmets making the average stature about eight feet and, taking slender, thin paddles, ranged themselves before the king in lines, and then passed through a series of gymnastic exercises, gracefully moving the paddles in exact harmony, at the same time changing their positions, passing in and out between one another, sometimes forming squares, circles and semi-circles. The music for the rhythmic motion was furnished by rude drums, upon which musicians beat time. The dance ended by two chiefs taking war clubs
and, while in motion, keeping time with the drums, twirling the clubs and striking rapidly at each other, circling the clubs over each other's heads and yet avoiding all injury to one another.
One of the chiefs stepped to the centre of the open arena and began to chant:
The champion wrestler from Matavia Bay very slowly walked into the arena, trying to appear utterly oblivious of his antagonist. He looked into the sky, glanced along the sand, then shouted:
It was the custom of the Polynesians to throw out a taunt in a half-shouting, defiant tone. Each combatant approached the other, trying to make the audience think that he considered his antagonist so far beneath his notice that he only needed to move his arm and the match would be over. Thus in lordly dignity they ignored each other until, standing side by side, each made a sudden movement
as if expecting to find the other off his guard. In a moment there was a confused mass of squirming limbs and arms and writhing bodies. A cloud of sand obscured the struggle. For a time there was no motion, and people saw the champions bending around each other with strained muscles, neither having any advantage, but each apparently exerting all his strength to make the other give way in response to brute strength. Each endeavoured to learn the trick by which his antagonist would change the order of battle. The least loosening of muscles on the part of one was interpreted in a moment by the other, and neither one hastened to carry out a move which might place him at the other's mercy. It was a splendid exhibition of statuesque athletics. Doing his very best to prevent betrayal by any loosened grasp in any direction, Opale suddenly swept one foot with terrific force against his antagonist's leg, at the same time pulling him to one side; but the half second's unconscious loosening of the muscles preparatory to Opale's action gave Makima notice, and even as Opale's foot struck him, he raised the unbalanced chief and whirled him over his head, at the same time by a whirlwind motion preserving his own equilibrium. Opale lay for a moment unconscious, while Makima received the applause of the multitude.
Then followed match after match, sometimes interspersed with boxing. In the boxing contests
severe blows were given until one of the boxers was stricken senseless to the earth or an arm was broken. Sometimes both wrestling and boxing contests resulted in the death of a chief. At such times the chief's retainers quietly carried away the body, while the shouts which greeted the victor filled the air. Such deaths were taken as incidental, and no wailing showed the grief of stricken friends.
In this way the forenoon passed, and at last a few noble chiefs, exquisite in the beauty of perfect muscular manhood, stood before the king, chosen to be the special bodyguard of Ulu in the mysterious journey of the coming days. In the afternoon the followers of Nanaulu were tested and a like bodyguard selected for this young prince.
During that night a heavy wind tossed the sea waves into foam, but as the morning broke the wind died away, leaving ideal surf waves rolling in from the far-off coral reef, through the harbour, up to the beach.
A number of chiefs, taking long boards, thinned and smoothed by stone knives and polished with the rough skin of the shark, swam far out into the ocean. There where the surf waves began to form as the tide rolled landward each chief turned his surf board to follow the tidal pathway. Canoes were stationed at the point from which the older chiefs had decided that the swimmers must start. Groups of ten or fifteen contestants were allowed
to start together. The rider with the swiftest and most skilfully managed surf board was chosen from each group. Hundreds of natives having any kind of claim to chief's blood had presented themselves for this contest.
Some of the surf-riders contented themselves by simply lying on the board, endeavouring by skilful use of hand and foot to hasten their passage on the crest of the huge surf waves. This was by no means an easy thing to do. Success consisted in gaining on the surf. Ordinarily many surf waves passed from beneath the surf-riders before they could complete the long distance over the sea. To hang to a wave, cling to its white mane, to have such mastery over it as not to be thrown back to the next wave, was a trial of strength and judgment, and might easily bring the sought-for reward. These, of course, were the first to reach the shore.
Others pushed their boards rapidly through the first waves encountered. Then, balancing the board on the crest of the largest inrolling waves, leaped to their feet, and standing upright guided the board by the swaying of their bodies, adjusting themselves to the changing forces of the surf. Sometimes a very skilful surf-rider would go through the motions of fighting a battle--throwing the javelin, pushing with a spear, striking with a war-club or stabbing with a dagger. This was seldom attempted without an ignominious over-throw of board and rider as the undertow from the
beach struggled with the incoming surf. Then the acrobat received the jeers of the people as he and his boat rolled under the foam. A successful completion of such a ride marked a high degree of combined courage and training and judgment. During the course of the entire test of the men of both Ulu and Nanaulu only two men perfectly performed this difficult task. These were the two young high chiefs Okela and Taunoa. The highest honours for surf-riding were, however, given by all to Vai-ta-piha, the inferior chief who had come to the contest with Taunoa.
Soon after the group of riders in which he was placed started shoreward a squall broke over them. The surf ceased rolling for a few moments in continuous waves. The boards and their riders were thrown against and over one another. Then a large wave swept the confused and struggling company toward the beach. Vai-ta-piha easily extricated himself, and balanced upon his surf board was about to dash to land, but he saw in front of his board the body of an insensible chief roll from between two boards and begin to sink. In a second he leaped ahead of his board, caught the chief with one hand and with the other secured the surf-board floating by. He drew the chief and himself up until he rested upon the board. Leaping to his feet he held the body in his hands, balancing him-self and guiding his frail craft until the wave was about to take its final plunge upon the sand, when
he dropped off into the water and carried his burden to the massage or lomilomi women, who by skilful kneading of the body soon restored the injured chief to his friends. The unselfish rescue as well as the skill displayed in bringing the body to land, all in a few moments, won the approval of the judges.
The fourth day the chiefs rested and the common people gave an exhibition of their attainments, and a sufficient number of canoe-makers, house-builders, fishermen and other helpers were easily secured. These were to be the oarsmen of the expedition.
The fifth day brought a new order of contestants. Around Papeete Bay are some beautiful hills, with sloping, grassy sides. Here the chiefs gathered with sleds which were from six to twelve feet long. These were made by taking finely polished hardwood for runners, usually about twelve inches apart.
Long sticks were placed lengthwise over these runners and fastened tightly to cross pieces. Frequently a board was tied between the sticks and a piece of matting laid upon it for the benefit of the rider. Holes were bored through these boards with sharp-pointed bones or shells, and they were strongly tied to the runners.
The riders of shorter sleds would grasp the sticks along the edges, using them as handles, raise the sled and run along the brow of the hill, giving the
sled a hard push down the declivity as they threw themselves flat on the narrow board. Sometimes this resulted in a mortifying overthrow of the rider at the first leap of the sled downward. The rider with the longer sled was content to push his sled rapidly a few feet and then dash down the hillside. The slides or paths for the sleds were so well worn that little ridges formed along the sides, sometimes keeping the sled in the path, and just as often catching a runner and causing an overthrow of the rider.
The slides were frequently well covered with cut grass or leaves. Often the chiefs preferred the carefully kept, grass-covered, smooth hillside where but few marks of sleds appeared.
This was an exciting and sometimes dangerous sport. Fearful velocities were sometimes attained. Sleds swerved against slight unevennesses almost imperceptible until struck by a runner on one side or the other. The sudden shock swept the sled out of its course against the sled or in the pathway of an opponent, and in a moment a confused mass of broken sleds and stunned riders would be dashed down the hillside. Many times a sled thus turned spilt its runner on one side. It was considered evidence of great skill when a rider instantaneously adjusted himself to a broken sled, kept it in its course and finally landed safely in the smooth plain below.
Where the slopes were sufficiently gradual some
of the chiefs chose the slower ride, but took it in a standing position, when the dangers would be intensified, a broken sled being accompanied by broken limbs or a broken neck.
During the day messengers of the chiefs competed for a place in the expedition. The contest required the men to go around the mountain which formed the larger part of the Island of Tahiti, usually a two days' journey, with allowance for a few hours' rest along the way. The first and second runners to win in this race were to go as the messengers of Ulu and Nanaulu.
The contests among the chiefs had resulted in the selection of a much larger number of chiefs than could possibly go with the two young princes. New trials of skill were instituted to sift out the least skilful or the most unlucky.
The first test applied was that of javelin throwing. The high chiefs had prepared for their own sport a long, smooth path, beaten down until it was hard as a rock. Here they were accustomed to throw heavy hardwood darts, which, sliding along the path, would either pass between two marks at a given distance from the thrower or sometimes strike a small stick set upright at the end of a straight line drawn along the centre of the path. This was called the Pakee or the play with the darts or javelins.
A second test was made along the same beaten track in the game called Ulu-maika. In this contest
Click to enlarge
SPEAR THROWING CONTEST.
By courtesy Paradise of the Pacific.
were used circular stones, flat-sided, of different sizes, according to the pleasure of the contestants. The smaller stones were about an inch thick and about six inches in circumference. The larger maika-stones were frequently two inches thick and a foot and a half in circumference. The ordinary stone used by most of the chiefs was an inch thick and about ten inches in circumference. These stones were smoothed and polished to a very high degree.
Those who had stood the test of javelin-throwing were formed in line that each one might, without delay, step to the head of the track and roll his disc, pass on and permit another to take his place.
This trial was, by virtue of a suggestion of Nanaulu, made a triple test. The stone was to be rolled more than the ordinary distance, made to pass between two upright sticks, then between two more posts, and then some distance beyond strike a mark set up in the centre of the track. Those accomplishing the entire feat would not be required to stand further trial in order to secure the coveted membership in the expedition. Those passing the posts should be entitled to another trial. It was not very difficult to roll the stone between the posts, but very few were able to keep the disc in the centre of the track and strike the far-distant mark.
The spear-catching contest was instituted as one of the final struggles. A difficult condition was attached to this spear-catching. Six spears were
to be hurled at once by six chiefs not over sixty feet distant from the catcher. He was required to catch or stop at least four of these spears, not permitting more than two to pass by him.
Thus the contests ended, and thus by a skilful use of Polynesian games companions were selected for the sons of Kii in their long journey to Hawaii.
The wives of the young princes and some of the chiefs and warriors and boatmen were given places by the side of their husbands.
So from Tahiti, in the long ago, a voyage of many days to many lands, through many strange experiences, was undertaken by brave men and women in a small fleet of the larger kind of Polynesian boats. So the sons of Kii sailed away toward the west to find the home from which their ancestors had come to found the dynasty of Tahitian kings which held rule over Tahiti until the white man controlled the beautiful islands of the. Pacific. Instead of the original home of the Polynesians on the coast of Asia, the sons of Kii probably made their way to the new Hawaii and there founded two races of kings. The descendants of Ulu ruled the larger southern islands until over-thrown in the eleventh century by Paao on the Island of Hawaii. The descendants of Nanaulu ruled the northern islands until a few years after Captain Cook discovered the Hawaiian group and called it "The Sandwich Islands."