KUPUAS were legendary monsters which could change themselves into human beings at will. They were said to have come from far-off lands with the early settlers. They had descendants who lived along the seacoast or in out-of-the-way places inland. They were always ready to destroy and often devour any strangers passing near them. Frequently they were sharks which had a shark mouth although appearing like men. This mouth was between the shoulders and was concealed by a cape thrown carefully over the back. As human beings they would mingle with their fellows and go out in the sea, bathing and surf-riding, but when they went into the water they would dive under, assume their shark form, and catch some one of the bathers. They would carry the body to some under-water cave, where it could be devoured. All other sea monsters were given human qualities--some were helpful to men and some were destructive.
Fabled monsters lived on land. Some of these were gigantic lizards, probably the legendary
memory of the crocodiles of their ancient home in India. Some were the great clouds floating in the heavens. Peculiar rocks, trees, precipices, waterfalls, birds, indeed everything with or without life, might be given human and supernatural power and called kupuas. After a time various objects began to have worshippers who became priests supposed to be endowed with the qualities of the objects worshipped. These, in the later days, have been considered sorcerers or witches, receiving the name kupuas.
Hiiaka, the sister of Pele, the goddess of volcanoes, by her magic power was able to find and destroy many of these mysterious monsters. She bad two companions as she journeyed along the eastern coast of the island Hawaii, Their way was frequently very wearisome as they climbed down steep precipices into valleys and gulches and then had to climb up on the other side.
In one valley beautiful clear sea-water invited the girls to bathe. Two of them threw aside their tapa clothes and ran down to the beach. Hiiaka bade them wait, telling them this was the home of Makaukiu, a very ferocious monster. But the girls thought they could see any evil
one, if living in that pure, clear water, so they laughed at their friend and went to the edge of the water. Hiiaka took some fragrant ti-leaves, made a little bundle and threw it into the sea. The girls made ready to leap and swim, when suddenly Makaukiu appeared just below the surface, catching and shaking the leaves.
The girls fled inland to higher ground, but Hiiaka stood at the edge of the sea. The sea monster tried to catch her in his great mouth. He lashed the water into foam, trying to strike her with his tail. He tried to wash her into the sea by pushing great, whirling waves against her, but Hiiaka struck him with the mighty forces of lightning and fire which she had in her magic skirt. Soon he was dead and his body floated on the water until the tide swept it out to sink in the deep sea. The place where this monster was slain was given his name and is still called "The Swimming-Hole of Makaukiu."
The Hawaiians say that the desire for battle was burning in the heart of Hiiaka and she longed to kill Mahiki, who lived near Waipio Valley--one of the most beautiful of all the valleys of the Hawaiian Islands. Mahiki was a whirlwind. When he saw the girls coming he fled
inland, hiding himself in a cloud of dust. Whenever the girls came toward him he fled swiftly to a new place. They could not catch and destroy him.
As they were following the whirlwind they heard some one calling. They stopped and found two persons without bones--the bodies were flesh, soft and yielding, yet of human form. Hiiaka had pity on them, so she took the ribs of a long leaf and pushed them into the soft bodies, where they became bones. Then the two could stand. After a time they could use their new bones in their legs and walk.
Hiiaka remembered that there were two dragons in the river Wailuku, a river of swift cascades and beautiful waterfalls near Hilo, so she turned back filled with the wish to destroy them and free the people from that danger.
At the place where the people crossed the river were two things which looked like large, flat logs tossing in the water. Any person wishing to cross the river would lay fish, sweet potatoes, and other kinds of food on the logs. When these things disappeared the logs would act sometimes as a bridge and sometimes as a boat, taking those who had given presents across the river. These
logs were the great tongues of the dragons Pili-a-moo and Noho-a-moo, i.e., the dragon Pili and the dragon Noho.
Hiiaka and her two companions came to the river side. The travellers called for an open way across.
One dragon said to the other, "Here comes one of our family."
The other said: "What of that? She can cross if she pays. If she does not give our price, she shall not go over in this place."
Hiiaka ordered the dragons to prepare her way, but they refused. Then she taunted them as slaves, ordering them to bring vegetable food and fish. The dragons became angry and thrashed the water into whirlpools, trying to catch the travellers and pull them into the river. The people from far and near gathered to the place of this strange conflict.
A chief laughed at Hiiaka, saying, "These are dragon-gods, and yet you dispute with them!"
Hiiaka said, "Yes, they are dragon-gods, but when I attack them they will die."
The chief offered to make any bet desired that she could not injure the dragons.
Hiiaka said, "I have no property, but I wager my body, my life, against your property that the dragons die."
Then began a great conflict along the banks
and in the swift waters. Hiiaka struck the dragons with her magic skirt in which was concealed the divine power of lightning. They tried to escape, but Hiiaka struck again and again and killed them, changing the bodies into blocks of stone. Then she called the chief, saying, "I have made the way safe for your people and you; I give back your property and the land of the dragons."
Hiiaka and her friends turned north again and hastened to Waipio Valley to catch Mahiki--the demon of the whirlwind. He ran down to meet her and threw dust all over them, then fled inland to the mountains. Hiiaka chanted:
"I am above Waipio,
My eyes look sharply down.
I have gone along the path
By the sea of Makaukiu,
Full flowing like the surf.
I have seen Mahiki,
I have seen that he is evil,
Evil, very evil indeed."
Then Hiiaka thought of Moo-lau, who was the great dragon-god of the district Kohala. He had a great multitude of lesser gods as his servants.
Hiiaka clearly and sweetly called for the dragon-gods to prepare a way for her and also to bring gifts for herself and her companions.
Moo-lau answered, "You have no path through my lands unless you have great strength or can pay the price."
Then began one of the great legendary battles of ancient Hawaiian folk-lore. Hiiaka, throwing aside her flower-wreaths and common clothes, took her lightning pa-u (skirt) and attacked Moo-lau. He fought her in his dragon form. He breathed fierce winds against her. He struck her with his swift-moving tail. He tried to catch her between his powerful jaws, He coiled and twisted and swiftly whirled about, trying to knock her down, but she beat him with her powerful hands in which dwelt some of the divine power of volcanoes. She struck his great body with her magic skirt in which dwelt the power of the lightning. Each pitted supernatural powers against the other. Each struck with magic force and each threw out magic strength to ward off deadly blows. They became tired, very tired, and, turning away from each other, sought rest. Again they fought and again rested.
Hiiaka chanted an incantation, or call for help:
"Moo-lau has a dart
Of the wood of the uhi-uhi;
A god is Moo-lau, Moo-lau is a god!"
This was a spirit-call going out from Hiiaka. It broke through the clouds hanging on the sides of the mountains. It pierced the long, long way to the crater of Kilauea. It roused the followers of the fire-goddess. A host of destructive forces, swift as lightning, left the pit of fire to aid Hiiaka.
Meanwhile Moo-lau had sent his people to spy out the condition of Hiiaka. Then he called for all the reptile gods of his district to help him. He rallied all the gnomes and evil powers he could order to come to his aid and make a mighty attack.
When the battle seemed to be going against her, suddenly the Ho-ai-ku men and the Ho-ai-ka women, the destructive gnomes from the crater, broke in a storm upon Moo-lau and his demons. Oh, how the little people from the pit devoured and destroyed the dragon army! The slaughter of the reptile horde was quickly accomplished and Hiiaka soon saw the body of her enemy the dragon-god trampled underfoot.
When the god Mahiki saw that Moo-lau was slain and his army defeated he raised a great
[1. Smilax Sandwicensis.]
cloud of dust and fled far off around the western side of the island. The whirlwind was one of the earth-monsters which even the sister of the goddess of volcanoes could not destroy.
Many were the evil demi-gods who tried to hinder Hiiaka in her journey along the east coast of the island Hawaii. Sharks fought her from the seas. The gnomes and dragons of valley and forest tried to destroy her. Even birds of evil omen came into the fight against her, but she conquered and killed until the land was freed from its enemies and the people of the districts along the sea could journey in comparative safety.
Pau-o-palae, the goddess of ferns, met the chief of this land which had been freed from the power of the dragon. She saw him swimming in the sea and, forgetting her companions, leaped in to sport with him. They at once decided to be married. Then she turned aside to his new home, leaving Hiiaka and Wahine-omao to go on after Lohiau.