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

p. 228


The hula pua’a rounds out the number of animal-dances that have survived the wreck of time, or the memory of which has come down to us. It was a dance in which only the olapa took part without the aid of instrumental accompaniment. Women as well as men were eligible as actors in its performance. The actors put much spirit into the action, beating the chest, flinging their arms in a strenuous fashion, throwing the body into strained attitudes, at times bending so far back as almost to touch the floor. This energy seems to have invaded the song, and the cantillation of the mele is said to have been done in that energetic manner called ai-ha’a.

The hula pua’a seems to have been native to Kauai. The author has not been able to learn of its performance within historic times on any other island.

The student of Hawaiian mythology naturally asks whether the hula pua’a concerned itself with the doings of the mythological hog-deity Kama-pua’a whose amour with Pele was the scandal of Hawaiian mythology. It takes but a superficial reading of the mele to answer this question in the affirmative.

The following mele, or oli more properly, which was used in connection with the hula pua’a, is said to have been the joint production of two women, the daughters of a famous bard named Kana, who was the reputed brother of Limaloa (long-armed), a wonder-working hero who piled up the clouds in imitation of houses and mountains and who produced the mirage:


Ko’i maka nui, a
Ike ia na pae moku,
Na moku o Mala-la-walu, b
Ka noho a Ka-maulu-a-niho,
5 Kupuna o Kama-pua’a.

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Ike ia ka hono a Pii-lani; a
Ku ka paóa i na mokupuni.
Ua puni au ia Pele,
Ka u’i noho mau i Kilauea,
10 Anau hewa i ke a o Puna.
Keiki kolohe a Ku ame Hina-- b
Hina ka opua, kau i ke olewa,
Ke ao pua’a c maalo i Haupu.
Haku’i ku’u manao e hoi d i Kahiki;
15 Pau ole ka’u hoohihi ia Hale-ma’u-ma’u, e
I ka pali kapu a Ka-moho-alii. f
Kela kuahiwi a mau a ke ahi.
He manao no ko’u e noho pu;
Pale ’a mai e ka hilahila,
20 I ka hakukole ia mai e ke Akua wahine.
Pale oe, pale au, iloko o ka hilahila;
A hilahila wale ia iho no e oe;
Nau no ia hale i noho. g
Ka hana ia a ke Ko’i maka nui,
25 Ike ia na pae moku.
He hiapo h au na Olopana,
He hi’i-alo na Ku-ula,
Ka mea nana na haka moa;

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Noho i ka uka o Ka-liu-wa’a; a
30 Ku’u wa’a ia ho’i i Kahiki.
Pau ia ike ana ia Hawaii,
Ka aina a ke Akua i hiki mai ai,
I noho malihini ai i na moku o Hawaii.
Malihiui oe, malihini au,
35 Ko’i maka nui, ike ia na pae opuaa.
A pepelu, a pepelu, a pepelu
Ko ia la huelo! pili i ka lemu!
Hu! hu! hu! hu!
Ka-haku-ma’a-lani b kou inoa!
40 A e o mai oe, e Kane-hoa-lani.
Ua noa.



Ax of broadest edge I'm hight;
The island groups I've visited,
Islands of Mala-la-walu,
Seat of Ka-maulu-a-niho,
5 Grandam of Kama, the swine-god.
I have seen Pi’i-lani's glory,
Whose fame spreads over the islands.
Enamored was I of Pele;
Her beauty holds court at the fire-pit,
10 Given to ravage the plains of Puna.
Mischievous son of Ku, and of Hina,
Whose cloud-bloom hangs in ether,
The pig-shaped cloud that shadows Haupu,
An impulse comes to return to Kahiki--
15 The chains of the pit still gall me,
The tabu cliff of Ka-moho-alii,
The mount that is ever ablaze.
I thought to have domiciled with her;
Was driven away by mere shame--
20 The shameful abuse of the goddess!
Go thou, go I--a truce to the shame.
It was your manners that shamed me.
Free to you was the house we lived in.
These were the deeds of Broad-edged-Ax,
25 Who has seen the whole group of islands.
Olopana's firstborn am I,
Nursed in the arms of Ku-ula;

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Hers were the roosts for the gamecocks.
The wilds of Ka-liu-wa’a my home,
30 That too my craft back to Kahiki;
This my farewell to Hawaii,
Land of the God's immigration.
Strangers we came to Hawaii;
A stranger thou, a stranger I,
35 Called Broad-edged-Ax:
I've read the cloud-omens in heaven.
It curls, it curls! his tail--it curls!
Look, it clings to his buttocks!
Faugh, faugh, faugh, faugh, uff!
40 What! Ka-haku-ma’a-lani your name!
Answer from heaven, oh Kane!
My song it is done!

If one can trust the statement of the Hawaiian who communicated the above mele, it represents only a portion of the whole composition, the first canto--if we may so term it--having dropped into the limbo of forgetfulness. The author's study of the mele lends no countenance to such a view. Like all Hawaiian poetry, this mele wastes no time with introductory flourishes; it plunges at once in medias res.

Hawaiian mythology figured Pele, the goddess of the volcano, as a creature of passion, capable of many metamorphoses; now a wrinkled hag, asleep in a cave on a rough lava bed, with banked fires and only an occasional blue flame playing about her as symbols of her power; now a creature of terror, riding on a chariot of flame and carrying destruction; and now as a young woman of seductive beauty, as when she sought passionate relations with the handsome prince, Lohiau; but in disposition always jealous, fickle, vengeful.

Kama-pua’a was a demigod of anomalous birth, character, and make-up, sharing the nature and form of a man and of a hog, and assuming either form as suited the occasion. He was said to be the nephew of Olopana, a king of Oahu, whose kindness in acting as his foster father he repaid by the robbery of his henroosts and other unfilial conduct. He lived the lawless life of a marauder and freebooter, not confining his operations to one island, but swimming from one to another as the fit took him. On one occasion, when the farmers of Waipi’o, whom he had robbed, assembled with arms to bar his retreat and to deal vengeance upon him, he charged upon the multitude, overthrew them with great slaughter, and escaped with his plunder.

Toward Pele Kama-pua’a assumed the attitude of a lover, whose approaches she at one time permitted to her peril. The incident took place in one of the water caves--volcanic bubbles--in Puna, and at the level of the ocean; but when he had the audacity to invade her privacy and call to her as she reposed in her home at Kilauea she repelled his advances and answered his persistence with a fiery onset, from which he fled in terror and discomfiture, not halting until he

p. 232

had put the width of many islands and ocean channels between himself and her.

In seeking an explanation of this myth of Pele, the volcano god and Kama-pua’a, who, on occasion, was a sea-monster, there is no necessity to hark back to the old polemics of Asia. Why not account for this remarkable myth as the statement in terms of passion familiar to all Hawaiians of those impressive natural phenomena that were daily going on before them? The spectacle of the smoking mountain pouring out its fiery streams, overwhelming river and forest, halting not until they had invaded the ocean; the awful turmoil as fire and water came in contact; the quick reprisal as the angry waves overswept the hand; then the subsiding and retreat of the ocean to its own limits and the restoration of peace and calm, the fiery mount still unmoved, an apparent victory for the volcanic forces. Was it not this spectacular tournament of the elements that the Hawaiian sought to embody and idealize in his myth of Pele and Kama-pua’a? a

The likeness to be found between the amphibious Kama-pua’a and the hog appeals picturesquely to one's imagination in many ways. The very grossness of the hog enables him becomingly to fill the role of the Beast as a foil to Pele, the Beauty. The hog's rooting snout, that ravages the cultivated fields; his panicky retreat when suddenly disturbed; his valiant charge and stout resistance if cornered; his lowered snout in charge or retreat; his curling tail--how graphic-ally all these features appeal to the imagination in support of the comparison which likens hint to a tidal wave.


228:a Ko’i maka nui. The word maka, which from the connection here must mean the edge of an ax, is the word generally used to mean an eye. Insistence on their peculiarity leads one to think that there must have been something remarkable about the eyes of Kama-pua’a. One account describes Kama-pua’a as having eight eyes and as many feet. It is said that on one occasion as Kama-pua’a was lying in wait for Pele in a volcanic bubble in the plains of Puna Pele's sisters recognized his presence by the gleam of his eyes. They immediately walled up the only door of exit.

228:b Mala-la-wale. A celebrated king of Maui, said to have been a just ruler, who was slain in battle on Hawaii while making war against Lono-i-ka-makahiki, the rightful ruler of the island. It may be asked if the name is not introduced here because of the word walu (eight) as a reference to Kama-pua’a's eight eyes.

229:a Pi’i-lane. A king of Maui, father-in-law to Umi, the son of Liloa.

229:b Hina. There were several Hinas in Hawaiian mythology and tradition. Olopana, the son of Kamaulu-a-niho (Pomander gives this name as Ka-maunu-a-ního), on his arrival from Kahiki, settled in Koolau and married a woman named Hina. Kama-pua’a is said to be the natural son of Hina by Kahiki-ula, the brother of Olopana. To this Olopana was attributed the heiau of Kawaewae at Kaneohe.

229:c Ao pua’a. The cloud-cap that often rested on the summit of Haupu, a mountain on Kauai, near Koloa, is said to have resembled the shape of a pig. It was a common saying, "The pig is resting on Haupu."

229:d Ho’i. To return. This argues that, if Kama-pua’a was not originally from Kahiki, he had at least visited there.

229:e Hale-ma’u-ma’u. This was an ancient lava-cone which until within a few years continued to be the most famous fire-lake in the caldera of Kilauea. It was so called, probably, because the roughness of its walls gave it a resemblance to one of those little shelters made from rough ama’u fern such as visitors put up for temporary convenience. The word has not the same pronunciation and is not to be confounded with that other word mau, meaning everlasting.

229:f Kamoho-ali’i. The brother of Pele; in one metamorphosis he took the form of a shark. A high point in the northwest quarter of the wall of Kilauea was considered his special residence and regarded as so sacred that no smoke or flame from the volcano ever touched it. He made his abode chiefly in the earth's underground caverns, through which the sun made its nightly transit from West back to the East. He often retained the orb of the day to warm and illumine his abode. On one such occasion the hero Mawi descended into this region and stole away the sun that his mother Hina might have the benefit of its heat in drying her tapas.

229:g Hale i noho. The word hale, meaning house, is frequently used metaphorically for the human body, especially that of a woman. Pale thus acknowledges her amour with Kama-pua’a.

229:h Hiapo. A firstborn child. Legends are at variance with one another as to the parentage of Kama-pua’a. According to the legend referred to previously, Kama-pua’a was the son of Olopana's wife Hina, his true father being Kahiki-ula, the brother of Olopana. Olopana seems to have treated him as his own son. After Kama-pua’a's robbery of his mother's henroosts, Olopana chased the thief into the mountains and captured him. Kama eventually turned the tables against his benefactor and caused the death of Olopana through the treachery of a priest in a heiau; he was offered up on the altar as a sacrifice.

230:a Ka-liu-wa’a. The bilge of the canoe. This is the name of a deep and narrow valley at Hauula, Koolau, Oahu, and Is well worth a visit. Kama-pua’a. hard pressed by the host of his enemies, broke through the multitude that encompassed him on the land side and with his followers escaped up this narrow gorge. When the valley came to an abrupt end before him, and he could retreat no farther, he reared up on his hind legs and scaled the mountain wall; his feet, as he sprang up, scored the precipice with immense hollowed-out grooves or flutings. The Hawaiians call these wa’a from their resemblance to the hollow of a Hawaiian canoe. This feat of the hog-god compelled recognition of Kama-pua’a as a deity; and from that time no one entered Ka-liu-wa’a valley without making an offering to Kama-pua’a.

230:b Ka-haku-ma’a-lani. A name evidently applied to Kama-pua’a.

232:a "The Hawaiian tradition of Pele, the dread goddess of the volcanic fires," says Mr. Fornander, "analogous to the Samoan Fe’e, is probably a local adaptation in aftertimes of an elder myth, half forgotten and much distorted. The contest related in the legend between Pele and Kamapua’u, the eight-eyed monster demigod, indicates, however, a confused knowledge of some ancient strife between religious sects, of which the former represented the worshipers of fire and the latter those with whom water was the principal element worthy of adoration." Abraham Fornander, The Polynesian Race, pp. 51, 52, Trubner & Co., London.)

Next: XXXIV.--The Hula Ohelo