THIS is a story of Waipio Valley, the most beautiful of all the valleys of the Hawaiian Islands, and one of the most secluded. It is now, as it has always been, very difficult of access. The walls are a sheer descent of over a thousand feet. In ancient times a narrow path slanted along the face of the bluffs wherever foothold could be found. In these later days the path has been enlarged, and horse and rider can descend into the valley's depths. In the upper end of the valley is a long silver ribbon water falling fifteen hundred feet from the brow of a precipice over which a mountain torrent swiftly hurls itself to the fertile valley below. Other falls show the convergence of several mountain streams to the ocean outlet offered by the broad plains of Waipio.
Here in the long ago high chiefs dwelt and sacred temples were built. From Waipio Valley Moikeha and Laa-Mai-Kahiki sailed away on their famous voyages to distant foreign lands. In this valley dwelt the priest who in the times of Maui was said to have the winds of heaven concealed in his calabash. Raising the cover a little,
he sent gentle breezes in the direction of the opening. Severe storms and hurricanes were granted by swiftly opening the cover widely and letting a chaotic mass of fierce winds escape. The stories of magical powers of bird and fish as well as of the strange deeds of powerful men are almost innumerable. Not the least of the history-myths of Waipio Valley is the story of Nanaue, the shark-man, who was one of the cannibals of the ancient time.
Ka-moho-alii was the king of all the sharks which frequent Hawaiian waters. When he chose to appear as a man he was always a chief of dignified, majestic appearance. One day, while swimming back and forth just beneath the surface of the waters at the mouth of the valley, he saw an exceedingly beautiful woman coming to bathe in the white surf.
That night Ka-moho-alii came to the beach black with lava sand, crawled out of the water, and put on the form of a man. As a mighty chief he walked through the valley and mingled with the people. For days he entered into their sports and pastimes and partook of their bounty, always looking for the beautiful woman whom he had seen bathing in the surf. When he found her he came to her and won her to be his wife.
Kalei was the name of the woman who married the strange chief. When the time came for a
child to be born to them, Ka-moho-alii charged Kalei to keep careful watch of it and guard its body continually from being seen of men, and never allow the child to eat the flesh of any animal. Then he disappeared, never permitting Kalei to have the least suspicion that he was the king of the sharks.
When the child was born, Kalei gave to him the name "Nanaue." She was exceedingly surprised to find an opening in his back. As the child grew to manhood the opening developed into a large shark-mouth in rows of fierce sharp teeth.
From infancy to manhood Kalei protected Nanaue by keeping his back covered with a fine kapa cloak. She was full of fear as she saw Nanaue plunge into the water and become a shark. The mouth on his back opened for any kind of prey. But she kept the terrible birthmark of her son a secret hidden in the depths of her own heart.
For years she prepared for him the common articles of food, always shielding him from the temptation to eat meat. But when he became a man his grandfather took him to the men's eating-house, where his mother could no longer protect him. Meats of all varieties were given to him in great abundance, yet he always wanted more. His appetite was insatiable.
While under his mother's care he had been
taken to the pool of water into which the great Waipio Falls poured its cascade of water. There he bathed, and, changing himself into a shark, caught the small fish which were playing around him. His mother was always watching him to give an alarm if any of the people came near to the bathing-place.
As he became a man he avoided his companion, in all bathing and fishing. He went away by himself. When the people were out in the deep sea bathing or fishing, suddenly a fierce shark would appear in their midst, biting and tearing their limbs and dragging them down in the deep water. Many of the people disappeared secretly, and great terror filled the homes of Waipio.
Nanaue's mother alone was certain that hie was the cause of the trouble. He was becoming very bold in his depredations. Sometimes he would ask when his friends were going out in the sea; then he would go to a place at some distance, leap into the sea, and swiftly dash to intercept the return of his friends to the shore. Perhaps he would allay suspicion by appearing as a man and challenge to a swimming-race. Diving suddenly, he would in an instant become a shark and destroy his fellow-swimmer.
The people felt that he had some peculiar power, and feared him. One day, when their high chief had called all the men of the valley to prepare
the taro patches for their future supply of food, a fellow-workman standing by the side of Nanaue tore his kapa cape from his shoulders. The men behind cried out, "See the great shark-mouth!" All the people came running together, shouting, "A shark-man!" "A shark-man!"
Nanaue became very angry and snapped his shark-teeth together. Then with bitter rage he attacked those standing near him. He seized one by the arm and bit it in two. He tore the flesh of another in ragged gashes. Biting and snapping from side to side he ran toward the sea.
The crowd of natives surrounded him and blocked his way. He was thrown down and tied. The mystery had now passed from the valley. The people knew the cause of the troubles through which they had been passing, and all crowded around to see this wonderful thing, part man and part shark.
The high chief ordered their largest oven to be prepared, that Nanaue might be placed therein and burned alive. The deep pit was quickly cleaned out by many willing hands, and, with much noise and rejoicing, fire was placed within and the stones for heating were put in above the fire. "We are ready for the shark-man," was the cry.
During the confusion Nanaue quietly made his plans to escape. Suddenly changing himself to
a shark, the cords which bound him fell off and he rolled into one of the rivers which flowed from the falls in the upper part of the valley.
None of the people dared to spring into the water for a hand-to-hand fight with the monster. They ran along the bank, throwing stones at Nanaue and bruising him. They called for spears that they might kill him, but he made a swift rush to the sea and swam away, never again to return to Waipio Valley.
Apparently Nanaue could not live long in the ocean. The story says that he swam over to the island of Maui and landed near the village Hana. There he dwelt for some time, and married a chiefess. Meanwhile he secretly killed and ate some of the people. At last his appetite for human flesh made him so bold that he caught a beautiful young girl and carried her out into the deep waters. There he changed himself into a shark and ate her body in the sight of the people.
The Hawaiians became very angry. They launched their canoes, and, throwing in all kinds of weapons, pushed out to kill their enemy. But he swam swiftly away, passing around the island until at last he landed on Molokai.
Again he joined himself to the people, and again one by one those who went bathing and fishing disappeared. The priests (kahunas) of the people at last heard from their fellow-priests of the island
of Maui that there was a dangerous shark-man roaming through the islands. They sent warning to the people, urging all trusty fishermen to keep strict watch. At last they saw Nanaue change himself into a great fish. The fishermen waged a fierce battle against him. They entangled him in their nets, they pierced him with spears and struck him with clubs until the waters were red with his blood. They called on the gods of the sea to aid them. They uttered prayers and incantations. Soon Nanaue lost strength and could not throw off the ropes which were tied around him, nor could he break the nets in which he was entangled.
The fishermen drew him to the shore, and the people dragged the great shark body up the hill Puu-mano. Then they cut the body into small pieces and burned them in a great oven.
Thus died Nanaue, whose cannibal life was best explained by giving to him in mythology the awful appetite of an insatiable man-eating shark.