KU, one of the most widely known gods of the Pacific Ocean, was thought by the Hawaiians to have dwelt as a mortal for some time on the western side of the island Hawaii. Here he chose a chiefess by the name of Hina as his wife, and to them were born two children. When he withdrew from his residence among men he left a son on the uplands of the district of North Kona, and a daughter on the seashore of the same district. The son, Hiku-i-kana-hele (Hiku of the forest), lived with his mother. The daughter, Kewalu, dwelt under the care of guardian chiefs and priests by a temple, the ruined walls of which are standing even to the present day. Here she was carefully protected and perfected in all arts pertaining to the very high chiefs. Hiku-of-the-Forest was not accustomed to go to the sea. His life was developed among the forests along the western slopes of the great mountains of Hawaii. Here he learned the wisdom of his mother and of the
chiefs and priests under whose care he was placed. To him were given many of the supernatural powers of his father. His mother guarded him from the knowledge that he had a sister and kept him from going to the temple by the side of which she had her home.
Hiku was proficient in all the feats of manly strength and skill upon which chiefs of the highest rank prided themselves. None of the chiefs of the inland districts could compare with him in symmetry of form, beauty of countenance, and skill in manly sports.
The young chief noted the sounds of the forest and the rushing winds along the sides of the mountains. Sometimes, like storm voices, he heard from far off the beat of the surf along the coral reef. One day he heard a noise like the flapping of the wings of many birds. He looked toward the mountain, but no multitude of his feathered friends could be found. Again the same sound awakened his curiosity. He now learned that it came from the distant seashore far below his home on the mountain-side.
Hiku-of-the-Forest called his mother and together they listened as again the strange sound from the beach rose along the mountain gulches and was echoed among the cliffs.
"E Hiku," said the mother, "that is the clapping of the hands of a large number of men and
women. The people who live by the sea are very much pleased and are expressing their great delight in some wonderful deed of a great chief."
Day after day the rejoicing of the people was heard by the young chief. At last he sent a trusty retainer to learn the cause of the tumult. The messenger reported that he had found certain tabu surf waters of the Kona beach and had seen a very high chiefess who alone played with her surf-board on the incoming waves. Her beauty surpassed that of any other among all the, people, and her skill in riding the surf was wonderful, exceeding that of any one whom the people had ever seen, therefore the multitude gathered from near and far to watch the marvelous deeds of the beautiful woman. Their pleasure was so great that when they clapped their hands the sound was like the voices of many thunder-storms.
The young chief said he must go down and see this beautiful maiden. The mother knew that this chiefess of such great beauty must be Kewalu, the sister of Hiku. She feared that trouble would come to Kewalu if her more powerful brother should find her and take her in marriage, as was the custom among the people. The omens which had been watched concerning the children in their infancy had predicted many
serious troubles. But the young man could not be restrained. He was determined to see the wonderful woman.
He sent his people to gather the nuts of the kukui, or candlenut-tree, and crush out the oil and prepare it for anointing his body. He had never used a surf-board, but he commanded his servants to prepare the best one that could be made. Down to the seashore Hiku went with his retainers, down to the tabu place of the beautiful Kewalu.
He anointed his body with the kukui oil until it glistened like the polished leaves of trees; then taking his surf-board he went boldly to the tabu surf waters of his sister. The people stood in amazed silence, expecting to see speedy punishment meted out to the daring stranger. But the gods of the sea favored Hiku. Hiku had never been to the seaside and had never learned the arts of those who were skilful in the waters. Nevertheless as he entered the water he carried the surf-board more royally than any chief the people had ever known. The sunlight shone in splendor upon his polished body when he stood on the board and rode to the shore on the crests of the highest surf waves, performing wonderful feats by his magic power. The joy of the multitude was unbounded, and a mighty storm of noise was made by the clapping of their hands.
Kewalu and her maidens had left the beach before the coming of Hiku and were resting in their grass houses in a grove of coconut-trees near the heiau. When the great noise made by the people aroused her she sent one of her friends to learn the cause of such rejoicing. When she learned that an exceedingly handsome chief of the highest rank was sporting among her tabu waters she determined to see him.
So, calling her maidens, she went down to the seashore and first saw Hiku on the highest crest of the rolling surf. She decided at once that she had never seen a man so comely, and Hiku, surf-riding to the shore, felt that he had never dreamed of such grace and beauty as marked the maiden who was coming to welcome him.
When Kewalu came near she took the wreath of rare and fragrant flowers which she wore and coming close to him threw it around his shoulders as a token to all the people that she had taken him to be her husband.
Then the joy of the people surpassed all the pleasure of all the days before, for they looked upon the two most beautiful beings they had ever seen and believed that these two would make glad each other's lives.
Thus Hiku married his sister, Kewalu, according to the custom of that time, because she was the only one of all the people equal to him in
rank and beauty, and he alone was fitted to stand in her presence.
For a long time they lived together, sometimes sporting among the highest white crests of storm-tossed surf waves, sometimes enjoying the guessing and gambling games in which the Hawaiians of all times have been very expert, sometimes chanting meles and genealogies and telling marvelous stories of sea and forest, and sometimes feasting and resting under the trees surrounding their grass houses.
Hiku at last grew weary of the life by the sea. He wanted the forest on the mountain and the cold, stimulating air of the uplands. But he did not wish to take his sister-wife with him. Perhaps the omens of their childhood had revealed danger to Kewalu if she left her home by the sea. Whenever he tried to steal away from her she would rush to him and cling to him, persuading him to wait for new sports and joys.
One night Hiku rose up very quietly and passed out into the darkness. As he began to climb toward the uplands the leaves of the trees rustled loudly in welcome. The night birds circled around him and hastened him on his way, but Kewalu was awakened. She called for Hiku. Again and again she called, but Hiku had gone. She heard his footsteps as his eager tread shook the ground. She heard the branches breaking
as he forced his way through the forests. Then she hastened after him and her plaintive cry was louder and clearer than the voices of the night birds.
"E Hiku, return! E Hiku, return!
O my love, wait for Kewalu!
Hiku goes up the hills;
Very hard is this hill,
O Hiku! O Hiku, my beloved!"
But Hiku by his magic power sent thick fogs and mists around her. She was blinded and chilled, but she heard the crashing of the branches and ferns as Hiku forced his way through them, and she pressed on, still calling:
"E Hiku, beloved, return to Kewalu."
Then the young chief threw the long flexible vines of the ieie down into the path. They twined around her feet and made her stumble as she tried to follow him. The rain was falling all around her, and the way was very rough and hard. She slipped and fell again and again.
The ancient chant connected with the legend says:
"Hiku, is climbing up the hill.
Branches and vines are in the way,
And Kewalu is begging him to stop.
Rain-drops are walking on the leaves.
The flowers are beaten to the ground.
Hopeless the quest, but Kewalu is calling:
'E Hiku, beloved! Let us go back together.'"
Her tears, mingled with the rain, streamed down her cheeks. The storm wet and destroyed
the kapa mantle which she had thrown around her as she hurried from her home after Hiku. In rags she tried to force her way through the tangled undergrowth of the uplands, but as she crept forward step by step she stumbled and fell again into the cold wet mass of ferns and grasses. Then the vines crept up around her legs and her arms and held her, but she tore them loose and forced her way upward, still calling. She was bleeding where the rough limbs of the trees had torn her delicate flesh. She was so bruised and sore from the blows of the bending branches that she could scarcely creep along.
At last she could no longer hear the retreating footsteps of Hiku. Then, chilled and desolate and deserted, she gave up in despair and crept back to the village. There she crawled into the grass house where she had been so happy with her brother Hiku, intending to put an end to her life.
The ieie vines held her arms and legs, but she partially disentangled herself and wound them around her head and neck. Soon the tendrils grew tight and slowly but surely choked the beautiful chiefess to death. This was the first suicide in the records of Hawaiian mythology. As the body gradually became lifeless the spirit crept upward to the lua-uhane, the door by which
it passed out of the body into the spirit world. This "spirit-door" is the little hole in the corner of the eye. Out of it the spirit is thought to creep slowly as the body becomes cold in death. The spirit left the cold body a prisoner to the tangled vines, and slowly and sadly journeyed to Milu, the Under-world home of the ghosts of the departed.
The lust of the forest had taken possession of Hiku. He felt the freedom of the swift birds who had been his companions in many an excursion into the heavily shaded depths of the forest jungles. He plunged with abandon into the whirl and rush of the storm winds which he had called to his aid to check Kewalu. He was drunken with the atmosphere which he had breathed throughout his childhood and young manhood. When he thought of Kewalu he was sure that he had driven her back to her home by the temple, where he could find her when once more he should seek the seashore.
He had only purposed to stay a while on the uplands, and then return to his sister-wife.
His father, the god Ku, had been watching him and had also seen the suicide of the beautiful Kewalu. He saw the spirit pass down to the kingdom of Milu, the home of the ghosts. Then he called Hiku and told him bow heedless and thoughtless he had been in his treatment of
Kewalu, and how in despair she had taken her life, the spirit going to the Under-world.
Hiku, the child of the forest, was overcome with grief. He was ready to do anything to atone for the suffering he had caused Kewalu, and repair the injury.
Ku told him that only by the most daring effort could he hope to regain his loved bride. He could go to the Under-world, meet the ghosts and bring his sister back, but this could only be done at very great risk to himself, for if the ghosts discovered and captured him they would punish him with severest torments and destroy all hope of returning to the Upper-world.
Hiku was determined to search the land of Milu and find his bride and bring her back to his Kona home by the sea. Ku agreed to aid him with the mighty power which he had as a god, nevertheless it was absolutely necessary that Hiku should descend alone and by his own wit and skill secure the ghost of Kewalu.
Hiku prepared a coconut-shell full of oil made from decayed kukui nuts. This was very vile and foul smelling. Then he made a long stout rope of ieie vines.
Ku knew where the door to the Under-world was, through which human beings could go down. This was a hole near the seashore in the valley of Waipio on the eastern coast of the island.
Ku and Hiku went to Waipio, descended the precipitous walls of the valley and found the door to the pit of Milu. Milu was the ruler of the Under-world.
Hiku rubbed his body all over with the rancid kukui oil and then gave the ieie vine into the keeping of his father to hold fast while he made his descent into the world of the spirits of the dead. Slowly Ku let the vine down until at last Hiku stood in the strange land of Milu.
No one noticed his coming and so for a little while he watched the ghosts, studying his best method of finding Kewalu. Some of the ghosts were sleeping; some were gambling and playing the same games they had loved so well while living in the Upper-world; others were feasting and visiting around the poi bowl as they had formerly been accustomed to do.
Hiku knew that the strong odor of the rotten oil would be his best protection, for none of the spirits would want to touch him and so would not discover that he was flesh and blood. Therefore he rubbed his body once more thoroughly with the oil and disfigured himself with dirt. As he passed from place to place searching for Kewalu, the ghosts said, "What a bad-smelling spirit!" So they turned away from him as if he was one of the most unworthy ghosts dwelling in Milu. In the realm of Milu he saw the people in the
game of rolling coconut-shells to hit a post. Kulioe, one of the spirits, had been playing the kilu and had lost all his property to the daughter of Milu and one of her friends. He saw Hiku and said, "If you are a skilful man perhaps you should play with these two girls." Hiku said: "I have nothing. I have only come this day and am alone." Kulioe bet his bones against some of the property he had lost. The first girl threw her cup at the kilu post. Hiku chanted:
Are you known by Papa and Wakea,
O eyelashes or rays of the sun?
Mine is the cup of kilu."
Her cup did not touch the kilu post before Hiku. She threw again, but did not touch, while Hiku chanted the same words. They took a new cup, but failed.
Hiku commenced swinging the cup and threw. It glided and twisted around on the floor and struck the post. This counted five and won the first bet. Then he threw the cup numbered twenty, won all the property and gave it back to Kulioe.
At last he found Kewalu, but she was by the side of the high chief, Milu, who had seen the beautiful princess as she came into the Underworld. More glorious was Kewalu than any other of all those of noble blood who had ever
descended to Milu. The ghosts had welcomed the spirit of the princess with great rejoicing, and the king had called her at once to the highest place in his court.
She had not been long with the chiefs of Milu before they asked her to sing or chant her mele. The mele was the family song by which any chief made known his rank and the family with which he was connected, whenever he visited chiefs far away from his own home.
Hiku heard the chant and mingled with the multitude of ghosts gathered around the place where the high chiefs were welcoming the spirit of Kewalu.
While Hiku and Kewalu had been living together one of their pleasures was composing and learning to intone a chant which no other among either mortals or spirits should know besides themselves.
While Kewalu was singing she introduced her part of this chant. Suddenly from among the throng of ghosts arose the sound of a clear voice chanting the response which was known by no other person but Hiku.
Kewalu was overcome by the thought that perhaps Hiku was dead and was now among the ghosts, but did not dare to incur the hatred of King Milu by making himself known; or perhaps Hiku had endured many dangers of the
lower world by coming even in human form to find her and therefore must remain concealed.
The people around the king, seeing her grief, were not surprised when she threw a mantle around herself and left them to go away alone into the shadows.
She wandered from place to place among the groups of ghosts, looking for Hiku. Sometimes she softly chanted her part of the mele. At last she was again answered and was sure that Hiku was near, but the only one very close was a foul-smelling, dirt-covered ghost from whom she was turning away in despair.
Hiku in a low tone warned her to be very careful and not recognize him, but assured her that he had come in person to rescue her and take her back to her old home where her body was then lying. He told her to wander around and yet to follow him until they came to the ieie vine which he had left hanging from the hole which opened to the Upper-world.
When Hiku came to the place where the vine was hanging he took hold to see if Ku, his father, was still carefully guarding the other end to pull him up when the right signal should be given. Having made himself sure of the aid of the god, he tied the end of the vine into a strong loop and seated himself in it. Then he began to swing back and forth, back and forth, sometimes rising
high and sometimes checking himself and resting with his feet on the ground.
Kewalu came near and begged to be allowed to swing, but Hiku would only consent on the condition that she would sit in his lap.
The ghosts thought that this would be an excellent arrangement and shouted their approval of the new sport. Then Hiku took the spirit of Kewalu in his strong arms and began to swing slowly back and forth, then more and more rapidly, higher and higher until the people marvelled at the wonderful skill. Meanwhile he gave the signal to Ku to pull them up. Almost imperceptibly the swing receded from the spirit world.
All this time Hiku had been gently and lovingly rubbing the spirit of Kewalu and softly uttering charm after charm so that while they were swaying in the air she was growing smaller and smaller. Even the chiefs of Milu had been attracted to this unusual sport, and had drawn near to watch the wonderful skill of the strange foul-smelling ghost.
Suddenly it dawned upon some of the beholders that the vine was being drawn up to the Upper-world. Then the cry arose: "He is stealing the woman!" "He is stealing the woman!"
The Under-world was in a great uproar of noise. Some of the ghosts were leaping as high
as they could, others were calling for Hiku to return, and others were uttering charms to cause his downfall.
No one could leap high enough to touch Hiku, and the power of all the charms was defeated by the god Ku, who rapidly drew the vine upward.
Hiku succeeded in charming the ghost of Kewalu into the coconut-shell which he still carried. Then stopping the opening tight with his fingers so that the spirit could not escape he brought Kewalu back to the land of mortals.
With the aid of Ku the steep precipices surrounding Waipio Valley were quickly scaled and the journey made to the temple by the tabu surf waters of Kona. Here the body of Kewalu had been lying in state. Here the auwe, or mourning chant, of the retinue of the dead princess could be heard from afar.
Hiku passed through the throngs of mourners, carefully guarding his precious coconut until he came to the feet, cold and stiff in death. Kneeling down he placed the small hole in the end of the shell against the tender spot in the bottom of one of the cold feet.
The spirits of the dead must find their way back little by little through the body from the feet to the eyes, from which they must depart when they bid final farewell to the world. To try to send the spirit back into the body by
placing it in the lua-uhane, or "door of the soul," would be to have it where it had to depart from the body rather than enter it.
Hiku removed his finger from the hole in the coconut and uttered the incantations which would allure the ghost into the body. Little by little the soul of Kewalu came back, and the body grew warm from the feet upward, until at last the eyes opened and the soul looked out upon the blessed life restored to it by the skill and bravery of Hiku.
No more troubles arose to darken the lives of the children of Ku. Whether in the forest or by the sea they made the days pleasant for each other until at the appointed time together they entered the shades of Milu as chief and chiefess who could not be separated. It is said that the generations of their children gave many rulers to the Hawaiians, and that the present royal family, the "House of Kalakaua," is the last of the descendants.