Unwritten Literature of Hawaii, by Nathaniel B. Emerson, , at sacred-texts.com
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MAILE PAKAHA NIHI-AU-MOE
I was not a little surprised when I learned that the ancient hula repertory of the Hawaiians included a performance with marionettes, ki’i, dressed up to represent human beings. But before accepting the hula ki’i as a product indigenous to Hawaii, I asked myself, Might not this be a performance in imitation of the Punch-and-Judy show familiar to Europe and America?
After careful study of the question no evidence was found, other than what might be inferred from general resemblance, for the theory of adoption from a European or American origin. On the contrary, the words used as an accompaniment to the play agree with report and tradition, and bear convincing evidence in form and matter to a Hawaiian antiquity. That is not to say, however, that in the use of marionettes the Hawaiians did not hark back to their ancestral homes in the southern sea or to a remoter past in Asia.
The six marionettes, ki’i (pls. VIII and IX, in the writer's possession were obtained from a distinguished kumu-hula, who received them by inheritance, as it were, from his brother. "He gave them to me," said he, "with these words, 'Take care of these things, and when the time comes, after my death, that the king wants you to perform before him, be ready to fulfill his desire.'"
It was in the reign of Kamehameha III that they came into the hands of the elder brother, who was then and continued to be the royal hula-master until his death. These ki’i have therefore figured in performances that have been graced by the presence of King Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) and his queen, Kalama, and by his successors since then down to the times of Kalakaua. At the so-called "jubilee," the anniversary of Kalakaua's fiftieth birthday, these marionettes were very much in evidence.
The make-up and style of these ki’i are so similar that a description of one will serve for all six. This marionette represents the figure of a man, and was named Maka-kú (pl. IX). The head is carved out of some soft wood--either kukui or wiliwili--which is covered, as to the hairy scalp, with a dark woven fabric much like broadcloth. It is encircled at the level of the forehead with a broad band of gilt braid, as if to ape the style of a soldier. The median line from the forehead over the vertex to the back-head is crested with the mahiole ridge. This, taken in connection with the encircling
gilt band, gives to the head a warlike appearance, somewhat as if it were armed with the classical helmet, the Hawaiian name for which is mahi-ole. The crest of the ridge and its points of junction with the forehead and back-head are decorated with fillets of wool dyed of a reddish color, in apparent imitation of the mamo or o-ó, the birds whose feathers were used in decorating helmets, cloaks, and other regalia. The features are carved with some attempt at fidelity. The eyes are set with mother-of-pearl.
The figure is of about one-third life size, and was originally draped, the author was told, in a loose robe, holokú, of tapa cloth of the sort known as mahuna, which is quite thin. This piece of tapa is perforated at short intervals with small holes, kiko’i. It is also stained with the juice from the bark of the root of the kukui tree, which imparts a color like that of copper, and makes the Hawaiians class it as pa’ikukui. A portion of its former, its original, apparel has been secured.
The image is now robed in a holokú of yellow cotton, beneath which is an underskirt of striped silk in green and white. The arms are loosely jointed to the body.
The performer in the hula, who stood behind a screen, by insinuating his hands under the clothing of the marionette, could impart to it such movements as were called for by the action of the play, while at the same time he repeated the words of his part, words sup posed to be uttered by the marionette.
The hula ki’i was, perhaps, the nearest approximation made by the Hawaiians to a genuine dramatic performance. Its usual instrument of musical accompaniment was the ipu, previously described. This drumlike object was handled by that division of the performers called the hoopa’a, who sat in full view of the audience manipulating the ipu in a quiet, sentimental manner, similar to that employed in the hula kuolo.
As a sample of the stories illustrated in a performance of the hula ki’i the following may be adduced, the dramatis personae of which are four:
1. Maka-kú, a famous warrior, a rude, strong-handed braggart, as boastful as Ajax.
2. Puapua-kea, a small man, but brave and active.
3. Maile-lau-lii (Small-leafed-maile), a young woman, who be comes the wife of Maka-ku.
4. Maile-Pakaha, the younger sister of Maile-lau-lii, who becomes the wife of Puapua-kea.
Maka-kú, a rude and boastful son of Mars, at heart a bully, if not a coward, is represented as ever aching for a fight, in which his domineering spirit and rough-and-tumble ways for a time gave him the advantage over abler, but more modest, adversaries.
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Puapuakea, a man of genuine courage, hearing of the boastful achievements of Maka-kú, seeks him out and challenges him.
At the first contest they fought with javelins, ihe, each one taking his turn according to lot in casting his javelins to the full tale of the prescribed number; after which the other contestant did the same. Neither was victorious.
Next they fought with slings, each one having the right to sling forty stones at the other. In this conflict also neither one of them got the better of the other. The next trial was with stone-throwing. The result was still the same.
Now it was for them to try the classical Hawaiian game of lua. This was a strenuous form of contest that has many features in common with the panathlion of the ancient Hellenes, some points in common with boxing, and still more, perhaps, partakes of the character of the grand art of combat, wrestling. Since becoming acquainted with the fine Japanese art of jiu-jitsu, the author recognizes certain methods that were shared by them both. But to all of these it added the wild privileges of choking, bone-breaking, dislocating, eye-gouging, and the infliction of tortures and grips unmentionable and disreputable. At first the conflict was in suspense, victory favoring neither party; but as the contest went on Puapuakea showed a slight superiority, and at the finish he had bettered Maka-kú by three points, or ai, a as the Hawaiians uniquely term it.
The sisters, Maile-lau-lii and Maile-pakaha, who had been interested spectators of the contest, conceived passionate liking for the two warriors and laid their plans in concert to capture them for themselves. Fortunately their preferences were not in conflict. Maile-lau-lii set her affections on Maka-kú, while the younger sister devoted herself to Pua-pua-kea.
The two men had previously allowed their fancies to range abroad at pleasure; but from this time they centered their hearts on these two Mailes and settled down to regular married life.
Interest in the actual performance of the hula ki’i was stimulated by a resort to byplay and buffoonery. One of the marionettes, for instance, points to some one in the audience; whereupon one of the hoopaa asks, "What do you want?" The marionette persists in its pointing. At length the interlocutor, as if divining the marionette's wish, says: "Ah, you want So-and-so." At this the marionette nods assent, and the hoopaa asks again, "Do you wish him to come to you?" The marionette expresses its delight and approval by nods and gestures, to the immense satisfaction of the audience, who join in derisive laughter at the expense of the person held up to ridicule.
Besides the marionettes already named among the characters found in the different hula-plays of the hula ki’i, the author has heard
mention of the following marionettes: Ku, Kini-ki’i, Hoo-lehelehe-ki’i, Ki’i-ki’i, and Nihi-aumoe.
Nihi-aumoe was a man without the incumbrance of a wife, an expert in the arts of intrigue and seduction. Nihi-aumoe is a word of very suggestive meaning, to walk softly at midnight. In Judge Andrews's dictionary are found the following pertinent Hawaiian verses apropos of the word nihi:
The marionette Ki’i-ki’i was a strenuous little fellow, an ilamuku, a marshal, or constable of the king. It was his duty to carry out with unrelenting rigor the commands of the alii, whether they bade him take possession of a taro patch, set fire to a house, or to steal upon a man at dead of night and dash out his brains while he slept.
Referring to the illustrations (pl. VIII), a judge of human nature can almost read the character of the libertine Nihi-aumoe written in his features--the flattened vertex, indicative of lacking reverence and fear, the ruffian strength of the broad face; and if one could observe the reverse of the picture he would note the flattened back-head, a feature that marks a large number of Hawaiian crania.
The songs that were cantillated to the hula ki’i express in some degree the peculiar libertinism of this hula, which differed from all others by many removes. They may be characterized as gossipy, sarcastic, ironical, scandal-mongering, dealing in satire, abuse, hitting right and left at social and personal vices--a cheese of rank flavor that is not to be partaken of too freely. It might be compared to the vaudeville in opera or to the genre picture in art.
15 Ka lepe, ka lepe, la!
Ka lepe, ua hina a uwe!
Ninau ka lepe, la!
20 Ke kumu o ka lepe?
Ka lepe hiolo, e?
Of this canoe, la, la!
Mawi inquires, la, la!
Who was her grand-sire? la, la!
10 ’Twas Wewehi-loa, la, la!
Wewehi is dead, la, la!
Wounded with spear, la, la!
The same old wound, la, la!
Wound made by Mawi, la, la!
The author has met with several variants to this mele, which do not greatly change its character. In one of these variants the following changes are to be noted:
Line 4. Pikaka a e ka luna, ke, ke!
Line 5. Ka luna o ka hale, Re, ke!
Line 8. Ka puka o ka hale, a ke, ke!
Line 9. E noho i anei, a ke, ke!
To attempt a translation of these lines which are unadulterated slang:
Line 4. The roof is a-dry, la, la!
Line 5. The roof of the house, la, la!
Line 8. The door of the house, la, la!
Line 9. Turn in this way, la, la!
The one who supplied the above lines expressed inability to understand their meaning, averring that they are "classical Hawaiian," meaning, doubtless, that they are archaic slang. As to the ninth line, the practice of "sitting in the door" seems to have been the fashion with such folk as far back as the time of Solomon.
Let us picture this princess of Maui, this granddaughter of Wahieloa, Wewehi, as a Helen, with all of Helen's frailty, a flirt-errant, luxurious in life, quickly deserting one lover for the arms of another; yet withal of such humanity and kindness of fascination that, at her death, or absence, all things mourned her--not as Lycidas was mourned:
but in some rude pagan fashion; all of which is wrought out and symbolized in the mele with such imagery as is native to the mind of the savage.
The attentive reader will not need be told that, as in many another piece out of Hawaii's old-time legends, the path through this song is beset with euphuistic stumbling blocks. The purpose of language, says Talleyrand, is to conceal thought. The veil in this case is quite gauzy.
The language of the following song for the marionette dance, hula ki’i, as in the one previously given, is mostly of that kind which the
Hawaiians term olelo kapékepéke, or olelo huná, shifty talk, or secret talk. We might call it slang, though it is not slang in the exact sense in which we use that word, applying it to the improvised counters of thought that gain currency in our daily speech. until they find admission to the forum, the platform, and the dictionary. It is rather it cipher-speech, a method of concealing one's meaning from all but the initiated, of which the Hawaiian, whether alii or commoner, was very fond. The people of the hula were famous for this sort of accomplishment and prided themselves not a little in it as an effectual means of giving appropriate flavor and gusto to their performances.
The translation has to he based largely on conjecture. The author of this bit of fun-making, which is couched in old-time slang, died without making known the key to his cipher, and no one whom the present writer has met with is able to unravel its full meaning.
The following mele for the hula ki’i, in language colored by the same motive, was furnished by an accomplished practitioner who had traveled far and wide in the practice of her art, having been one of a company of hula dancers that attended the Columbian exposition in Chicago. It was her good fortune also to reach the antipodes
in her travels, and it was at Berlin, she says, that she witnessed for the first time the European counterpart of the hula ki’i, the "Punch and Judy" show:
Mele no ka Hula Ki’i
Song for the Hula Ki’i
This translation is the result of much research, yet its absolute accuracy can not be vouched for. The most learned authorities (kaka-olelo) in old Hawaiian lore that have been found by the writer express themselves as greatly puzzled at the exact meaning of the mele just given. Some scholars, no doubt, would dub these nonsense-lines. The author can not consent to any such view. The old Hawaiians were too much in earnest to permit themselves to juggle with words in such fashion. They were fond of mystery and concealment, appreciated a joke, given to slang, but to string a lot of words together without meaning, after the fashion of a college student who delights to relieve his mind by shouting "Upidee, upida," was not their way. "The people of the hula," said one man, "had ways of fun-making peculiar to themselves."
When the hula-dancer who communicated to the author the above song--a very accomplished and intelligent woman--was asked for information that would render possible its proper translation, she replied that her part was only that of a mouthpiece to repeat the words and to make appropriate gestures, he pono hula wale no, mere parrot-work. The language, she said, was such "classic" Hawaiian as to be beyond her understanding.
Here, again, is another song in argot, a coin of the same mintage as those just given:
This is the language of symbolism. When Venus went about to ensnare Adonis, among her other wiles she warbled to him of mountains, dales, and pleasant fountains.
The mele now presented is of an entirely different character from those that have just preceded. It is said to have been the joint composition of the high chief Keiki-o-ewa of Kauai, at one time the kahu of Prince Moses, and of Kapihe, a distinguished poet--haku-mele--and prophet. (To Kapihe is ascribed the prophetic and oracular utterance, E iho ana o luna, e pii ana o lalo; e ku ana ka paia, e moe ana kaula; e kau ana kau-huhu--o lani iluna, o honua ilalo--"The high shall be brought low, the lowly uplifted; the defenses shall stand; the prophet shall lie low; the mountain walls shall abide--heaven above, earth beneath.")
This next poem may be regarded as an epithalamium, the celebration of the mystery and bliss of the wedding night, the hoáo ana of a high chief and his high-born kapu sister. The murmur of the breeze, the fury of the winds, the heat of the sun, the sacrificial ovens, all are symbols that set forth the emotions, experiences, and mysteries of the night:
The mele next given takes its local color from Kauai and brings vividly to mind the experiences of one who has climbed the mountain walls, pali, that buffet the winds of its northern coast.
5 Two giant backs stand the cliffs Hono-pu;
The falls Wai-aloha mate with the sea:
An overhung pali--the climber's back swings in
Its mouth--to face it makes one a child--
Makua, whose arms embrace Kalalau.
The mind of the ancient bard was so narrowly centered on the small plot his imagination cultivated that he disregarded the outside world, forgetting that it could not gaze upon the scenes which filled his eyes.
The valley of Kalalau from its deep recess in the northwestern coast of Kauai looks out upon the heaving waters of the Pacific. The mountain walls of the valley are abrupt, often overhanging. Viewed from the ocean, the cliffs are piled one upon another like the buttresses of a Gothic cathedral. The ocean is often stormy, and during several months in the year forbids intercourse with other parts of the island, save as the hardy traveler makes his way along precipitous mountain trails.
The hula ala’a-papa, hula ipu, hula pa-ipu (or kuolo), the hula hoo-naná, and the hula ki’i were all performed to the accompaniment of the ipu or calabash, and, being the only ones that were so accompanied, if the author is correctly informed, they may be classed together under one head as the calabash hulas.
93:a Ai, literally a food, a course.
94:a Punana. Literally a nest; here a raised couch on the pola, which was a sheltered platform in the waist of a double canoe, corresponding to our cabin, for the use of chiefs and other people of distinction.
94:b Kai-oa. The paddle-men; here a euphemism.
95:a Wa’a. A euphemism for the human body.
95:b Mawi. The hero of Polynesian mythology, whose name is usually spelled Maui, like the name of the island. Departure from the usual orthography is made in order to secure phonetic accuracy. The name of the hero is pronounced Máh-wee, not Mów-ee, as is the island. Sir George Gray, of New Zealand, following the usual orthography, has given a very full and interesting account of him in his Polynesian mythology.
95:c Wewehi-loa. Another name for Wahie-loa, who is said to have been the grandfather of Wewehi. The word luau’i in the previous verse, meaning real father, is an archaic form. Another form is kua-u’i.
95:d Puka kahiko. A strange story from Hawaiian mythology relates that originally the human anatomy was sadly deficient in that the terminal gate of the prima viæ was closed. Mawi applied his common-sense surgery to the repair of the defect and relieved the situation. Ua olelo ia i kinohi na hana ia kanaka me ka hemahema no ka nele i ka hou puka ole ia ka okole, a na Mawi i hoopau i keia pilikia mamuli o kana hana akamai. Ua kapa ia keia puka ka puka kahiko.
96:a Pikaka (full form pikakao). Dried up, juiceless.
97:a Kau-kau. Conjectural meaning to point out some one in the audience, as the marionettes often did. People were thus sometimes inveigled in behind the curtain.
97:b Hala-le. Said to mean a sop, with which one took tip the juice or gravy of food; a choice morsel.
97:c Ku-pou. To stoop over, from devotion to one's own pursuits, from modesty, or from shame.
97:d The meaning of this line has been matter for much conjecture. The author has finally adopted the suggestion embodied in the translation here given, which is a somewhat gross reference to the woman's physical charms.
99:a Punohu. A compact mass of clouds, generally lying low in the heavens; a cloud-omen; also a rainbow that lies close to the earth, such as is formed when the sun is high in the heavens.
100:a Wanahili. A princess of the mythological period belonging to Puna, Hawaii.
100:b Manu’a. A king of Hilo, the son of Kane-hili, famous for his skill in spear-throwing, maika-rolling, and all athletic exercises. He was united in marriage, ho-ao, to the lovely princess Wanahili. Tradition deals with Manua as a very lovable character.
100:c Pu kau kama. The conch (pu) is figured as the herald of fame. Kau is used in the sense of to set on high, in contrast with such a word as waiho, to set down. Kama is the word of dignity for children.
100:d Pu leina. It is asserted on good authority that the triton (pu), when approached in its ocean habitat, will often make sudden and extraordinary leaps in an effort to escape. There is special reference here to the famous conch known in Hawaiian story as Kiha-pu. It was credited with supernatural powers as a kupua. During the reign of Umi, son of Liloa, it was stolen from the heiau in Waipio valley and came into the hands of god Kane. In his wild awa-drinking revels the god terrified Umi and his people by sounding nightly blasts with the conch. The shell was finally restored to King Umi by the superhuman aid of the famous dog Puapua-lena-lena.
100:e Kiha-nui a Piilani. Son of Piilani, a king of Maui. He is credited with the formidable engineering work of making a paved road over the mountain palis of Koolau, Maui.
100:f Kauhi kalana-honu’-a-Kama. This Kauhi, as his long title indicates, was the son of the famous king, Kama-lala-walu, and succeeded his father in the kingship over Maui and, probably, Lanai. Kama-lala-walu had a long and prosperous reign, which ended, however, in disaster. Acting on the erroneous reports of his son Kauhi, whom he had sent to spy out the land, he invaded the kingdom of Lono-i-ka-makahiki on Hawaii, was wounded and defeated in battle, taken prisoner, and offered up as a sacrifice on the altar of Lono's god, preferring that death, it is said, to the ignominy of release.
100:g I-olena. Roving, shifty, lustful.
100:h Kanaka hoali mauna. Man who moved mountains; an epithet of compliment applied perhaps to Kiha, above mentioned, or to the king mentioned in the next verse. Kekaulike.
100:i Ku’i hono i ka moku. Who bound together into one (state) the islands Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Kahoolawe. This was, it is said, Kekaulike, the fifth king of Maui after Kamalala-wale. At his death he was succeeded by Kamehameha-nui--to he distinguished from the Kamehameha of Hawaii and he in turn by the famous warrior-king Kahekili, who routed the invading array of Kalaniopuu, king of Hawaii, on the sand plains of Wailuku.
100:j I waihona kapuahi kanaka ehá. This verse presents grammatical difficulties. The word I implies the imperative, a form of request or demand, though that is probably not the intent. It seems to be a means, authorized by poetical license, of ascribing honor and tabu-glory to the name of the person eulogized, who, the context leads the author to think, was Kekaulike. The island names other than that of Maui seem to have been thrown in for poetical effect, as that king, in the opinion of the author, had no power over Kauai, Oahu, or Hawaii. The purpose may have been to assert that his glory reached to those islands.
100:k Keawe enaena. Keawe, whose tabu was hot as a burning oven. Presumably Keawe, the son of Umi, is the one meant.
100:l Naulu. The sea-breeze at Waimea, Kauai.
101:a Hale-lii. A sandy plain on Niihau, where grows a variety of sugar-cane that lies largely covered by the loose soil, ke ko eli o Hala-lii.
101:b Li’u-la. The mirage, a common phenomenon on Niihau, and especially at Mana, on Kauai.
101:c Lawa-kua. A wind in Kalalau that blows for a time from the mountains and then, it is said, veers to the north, so that it comes from the direction of a secondary valley, Kolo-kini, a branch of Kalalau. The bard describes it as continuing to blow for twelve nights before it shifts, an instance, probably, of poetic license.
102:a Ko’a-mano. A part of the ocean into which the stream Wai-aloha falls.
102:b Waha iho. With mouth that yawns downward, referring, doubtless. to the overarching of the pali, precipice. The same figure is applied to the back (kua) of the traveler who climbs it.
102:c Elision of the final a in ana.