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Unwritten Literature of Hawaii, by Nathaniel B. Emerson, [1909], at

p. 221


The hula manó, shark-dance, as its name signifies, was a performance that takes class with the hula kolea, already mentioned, as one of the animal dances. But little can be said about the physical features of this hula as a dance, save that the performers took a sitting position, that the action was without sensationalism, and that there was no instrumental accompaniment. The cantillation of the mele was in the distinct and quiet tone and manner which the Hawaiians termed ko’i-honua.

The last and only mention found of its performance in modern times was in the year 1847, during the tour, previously mentioned, which Kamehameha III made about Oahu. The place was the lonely and romantic valley of Waimea, a name already historic from having been the scene of the tragic death of Lieutenant Hergest (of the ship Dædalus) in 1792.


Auwe! pau au i ka manó nui, e!
Lala-kea a niho pa-kolu.
Pau ka papa-ku o Lono b
I ka ai ia e ka manó nui,
5 O Niuhi maka ahi,
Olapa i ke kai lipo.
Ahu e! au-we!
A pua ka wili-wili,
A nanahu ka manó, c

p. 222

10 Auwe! pau au i ka manó nui!
Kai uli, kai ele,
Kai popolohua o Kane.
A lealea au i ka’u hula,
Pau au i ka manó nui!



Alas! I am seized by the shark, great shark!
Lala-kea with triple-banked teeth.
The stratum of Lono is gone,
Torn up by the monster shark,
5 Niuhi with fiery eyes,
That flamed in the deep blue sea.
Alas! and alas!
When flowers the wili-wili tree,
That is the time when the shark-god bites.
10 Alas! I am seized by the huge shark!
O blue sea, O dark sea,
Foam-mottled sea of Kane!
What pleasure I took in my dancing!
Alas! now consumed by the monster shark!

Who would imagine that a Hawaiian would ever picture the god of love as a shark? As a bird, yes; but as a shark! What a light this fierce idyl casts on the imagination of the people of ancient Hawaii!


221:a Lala-kea. This proper name, as it seems once to have been, has now become rather the designation of a whole class of man-eating sea-monsters. The Hawaiians worshiped individual sharks as demigods, in the belief that the souls of the departed at death, or even before death, sometimes entered and took possession of them, and that they at times resumed human form. To this class belonged the famous shark Niuhi (verse 5).

221:b Papa-ku o Lono. This was one of the underlying strata of the earth that must be passed before reaching Milu, the hades of the Hawaiians. The cosmogony of the southern Polynesians, according to Mr. Tregear, recognized ten papa, or divisions. "The first division was the earth's surface; the second was the abode of Rongo-ma-tane and Haumiatiketike; * * * the tenth was Meto, or Ameto, or Aweto, wherein the soul of man found utter extinction." (The Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary, by Edward Tregear, F. R. G. S., etc., Wellington, New Zealand, 1891.)

221:c Verses 8 and 9 are from an old proverb which the Hawaiians put into the following quatrain:

A pua ka wiliwili,
A nanahu ka manó:
A pua ka wahine u’i,
A nanahu ke kanawai.


When flowers the wiliwili,
Then bites the shark;
When flowers a young woman,
Then bites the law.

The people came to take this old saw seriously and literally, and during the season when the wiliwili (Erythrina monosperma) was clothed in its splendid tufts of brick-red. mothers kept their children from swimming into the deep sea by setting before them the terrors of the shark.

Next: XXXII.--The Hula Ilío