FOLKLORE is sometimes the outgrowth of a sympathy with nature, resulting in nature myths and sometimes it is an outgrowth of sympathy with history. The imagination loves a truth in nature or in history and weaves around it a web of thoughts of things which might have been.
The story of Moi-keha, the restless, is an historical myth. There are some unquestioned facts and much which was impossible.
Fornander, the omnium-gatherum of Hawaii, thinks Moi-keha lived in the thirteenth century.
The two boys, Moi-keha and Olopana, were born on the island of Oahu.
Their boyhood was like that of other Hawaiian youths of high chief blood. They studied the spear and surf-board exercises. They gambled with hidden stones. They sported with discus and javelin throwing. They raced down green hillsides with their long coasting sleds. They wrestled and fought with their companions and listened to the tales of the sea rovers of the Pacific. They learned the routes to the southern and south-eastern
islands and heard with fired imaginations the descriptions of Tahiti and Samoa. If the Romans believed that an ocean of thick mist, peopled with all imaginable terrors lay to the north of Europe, we can well accept the fact that strange fascinations and the hope of marvellous adventures in the South Pacific might stir the restless minds of young Hawaiian chiefs.
Moi-keha and Olopana gathered a strong band of brave retainers and, bidding farewell to Oahu, as their ancestors had done before them, sailed toward the South.
For some reason the brothers took with them a young chief of high position, whose ancestor, Pau-makua, had made renowned voyages to far-off lands. The story of Laa, who, in late life, was known as "Laa from Tahiti," must be reserved for later record. Moi-keha, however, seems to have taken this young man under his own especial protection as his foster son.
The company from Kauai stopped at Waipio Valley, on the island of Hawaii, one of the most beautiful and inaccessible valleys of the whole Hawaiian group.
Here Olopana was set apart as ruler of the district.
The days and nights were filled with fishing and feasting, ruling and revelling. Olopana soon found a beautiful young chiefess, who was in full sympathy with his ambitions, whom he took from
her home as his life-companion. This woman, Luu-kia, was said to be a descendant of the Nanaulu line of chiefs, originally coming to Hawaii from Tahiti.
Storms, floods and freshets swept Waipio Valley. The people fled from the scene of disasters. The young chiefs found themselves homeless. Again the love of adventure excited them. They prepared provisions for a voyage of many days. They selected the wisest students of the stars. They plotted their proposed route over the ocean. We are not told that they had any one with them who had already been to Tahiti. It is probable, however, that some of the old prophets and astrologers of their fathers were with the young people as their priestly guardians. They never seemed to doubt their ability to find their way. With their selected companions the two brothers sailed for Tahiti.
Olopana and his wife, Luu-kia, occupied one of the large ocean-going canoes and Moi-keha with Laa sailed in another. Some of the legends say that they went away with a fleet of five large canoes.
The Hawaiian story says that the brothers arrived safely in Tahiti, where Olopana soon became chief of a district known in the legends as "The-open-great-red-Moa." One of the harbours of Raiatea of the Tahitian Islands was known as Ava-Moa, the Moa Harbour, or "The Sacred Harbour." Fornander justly argues that there is little doubt
that this was the place selected by Olopana as his permanent home.
Moi-keha appears to have been the priest of the family, for it is said that he built a temple and called it Lanikeha or "the heavenly resting-place."
After a time Moi-keha found that life with his brother was not so pleasant as might be desired, therefore he again prepared for a new voyage, this time returning to his native land. He left Laa with Olopana.
Two of the companions of Moi-keha on this return voyage became famous in the annals of Hawaii. Kama-hua-lele was known through all the ages by his chant in honour of Moi-Keha.
He superintended the building of the strong canoes. He was a kilokilo, an astrologer who understood the places of the stars in the heavens and the proper course to steer, guided by the sun by day and the stars by night. He was the poet and seer and kahu or guardian of his chief Moi-keha. The expedition was practically subject to his directions.
Laa-mao-mao, who aided Moi-keha as priest of the gods of the winds, later dropped out of the story and moved to the island Molokai, where he was supposed to have made his home near a place known as House of Lono, a well-known hill on that island. Here he took his calabash of winds and became the god of the winds, opening his calabash and letting breezes or storms escape according to
the wishes of the one seeking his aid. He controlled the direction in which the winds should travel, by lifting the cover on one side of the calabash. Then the imprisoned winds burst forth and sped away in the desired direction.
It is said that when Moi-keha came back to the Hawaiian Islands he visited all along the island coasts until he came to Kauai. Whenever he landed he seems to have given prominence to one after another of the companions of his long voyage. Places were named after some of them and other places given to others for their future residence.
At last they came to Kauai, the most northerly island of the group. They timed their approach so that the shadows of the night were around them. Then as the light of the morning rose over sea and shore, with his canoes flying the royal banners of a high chief, he drew near.
Kama-hua-lele, standing by the mast which bore the royal colours, sang the chant of Moi-keha. The closing part of the chant is thus translated by Fornander:
This chant had been clearly recited wherever Moi-keha had visited any of the islands, and now fell for the first time on the ears of the curious inhabitants of Kauai. The warm welcome was given to Moi-keha and his companions, which was always extended to high chiefs.
King Kalakaua adds a romantic incident to the coming of Moi-keha to Kauai.
Puna, the king, had a daughter who belonged to the fairy tale period of Europe rather than to the free giving and taking in marriage of the Hawaiians. She had many suitors among the young chiefs, but could not decide upon the one highest in her esteem.
Her father at last had decided that the only way to keep her suitors from always living at his cost was to have a contest. This had been agreed upon before the coming of Moi-keha. When Moi-keha saw Hooipo, the daughter of the king, he determined to have her for his wife and planned to enter into the contest.
The king had sent a human hair necklace and whale tooth ornament to be placed on one of the small islands some distance from Kauai. The first chief to secure the necklace should have the king's daughter.
The fine large canoes of the various chiefs with their strong crews of oarsmen were drawn up in line. Moi-keha had only a small canoe prepared
which still lay on the shore under the care of one of his comrades from Tahiti.
At the given signal the canoes sped on this journey, but Moi-keha lingered. The young princess had now decided that Moi-keha was the chief she desired, but she could not urge him to go, and still he lingered.
After a time, when the other boats were almost lost to sight, he launched his little canoe, and with his companion, paddled out into the ocean. Then he raised his mast and fastened to it his mat-sail.
Soon the boat leaped through the waters. No paddle was needed save for steering. Laa-mao-mao was in the canoe with him, holding strong winds in his calabash. He let loose these servants just behind the sail and they pushed the canoe forward with incredible rapidity. Long before the other chiefs came in sight of the island Moi-keha had found the necklace and had sailed away to Hooipo.
In time Moi-keha became the king of Kauai.