AMONG the legendary characters of the early Hawaiians was Ka-ehu--the little yellow shark of Pearl Harbor. He had been given magic power and great wisdom by his ancestor Ka-moho-alii the shark-god, brother of the fire goddess Pele.
Part of his life had been spent with his parents, who guarded the sea precipices of the Coast of Puna in the southern part of the island Hawaii. While at Pearl Harbor he became homesick for the beauty of Puna, so he chanted:
O my land of rustling lehua-trees!
Rain is treading on your budding flowers,
It carries them to the sea.
They meet the fish in the sea.
This is the day when love meets love,
My longings are stirring within me
For the spirit friends of my land.
They call me back to my home, I must return."
[1. Ohia-lehua. Metrosideros polymorpha.]
Ka-ehu called his shark friends and started along the Oahu shores on his way to Hawaii. At Waikiki they met Pehu, a shark visitor from Maui, who lived in the sea belonging to Honoka-hau. Pehu was a man-eating shark and was swimming back and forth at Kalehua-wike. He was waiting for some surf-rider to go out far enough to be caught.
Ka-ehu asked him what he was doing there. He replied, "I am catching a crab for my breakfast."
Ka-ehu said, "We will help you catch your crab."
He told Pehu to go near the coral reef while he and his large retinue of sharks would go seaward. When a number of surf-riders were far out he and his sharks would appear and drive them shoreward in a tumultuous rush; then Pehu could easily catch the crab. This pleased the shark from Maui, so he went close to the reef and hid himself in its shadows.
Ka-ehu said to his friends: "We must kill this man-eating shark who is destroying our people. This will be a part of our pay to them for honoring us at Puu-loa (Pearl Harbor). We will all go and push Pehu into the shallow water."
A number of surf-riders poised on the waves,
[1. Near the Moanu Hotel.]
and Pehu called for the other sharks to come, but Ka-ehu told him to wait for a better chance. Soon two men started on a wave from the distant dark blue sea where the high surf begins.
Ka-ehu gave a signal for an attack. He told his friends to rush in under the great wave and as it passed over the waiting Pehu, crowd the men and their surf-boards to one side and push the leaping Pehu so that he would be upset. Then while he was floundering in the surf they must hurl him over the reef.
As Pehu leaped to catch one of the coming surf-riders he was astonished to see the man shoved to one side, then as he rose almost straight up in the water he was caught by the other sharks and tossed over and over until he plunged head first into a deep hole in the coral. There he thrashed his great tail about, but only forced himself farther in so that he could not escape.
The surf-riders were greatly frightened when they saw the company of sharks swimming swiftly outside the coral reef--but they were not afraid of Pehu. They went out to the hole and killed him and cut his body in pieces. Inside the body they found hair and bones, showing that this shark had been destroying some of their people.
They took the pieces of the body of that
great fish to Pele-ula, where they made a great oven and burned the pieces.
Ka-ehu passed on toward Hawaii as a knight-errant, meeting many adventures and punishing evil-minded residents of the great sea.
[1. Near corner Nuuanu and Beretania Streets.]