Legends of Maui, A Demi-God of Polynesia, by W. D. Westervelt, , at sacred-texts.com
HERE are two rivers of rushing, tumbling rapids and waterfalls in the Hawaiian Islands, both bearing the name of Wailuku. One is on the Island of Maui, flowing out of a deep gorge in the side of the extinct volcano Iao. Yosemite-like precipices surround this majestically-walled crater. The name Iao means "asking for clouds." The head of the crater-valley is almost always covered with great masses of heavy rain clouds. Out of the crater the massed waters rush in a swift-flowing stream, of only four or five miles, emptying into Kahului harbor. The other Wailuku river is on the Island of Hawaii. The snows melt on the summits of the two great mountains, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. The water seeps through the porous lava from the eastern slope of Mauna Loa and the southern slope of Mauna Kea, meeting where the lava flows of centuries from each mountain have piled up against each other. Through the fragments of these volcanic battles the waters creep down the mountain side toward the sea.
At one place, a number of miles above the city of Hilo, the waters were heard gurgling and splashing far below the surface. Water was needed for the sugar plantations, which modern energy has established all along the eastern coast of the large island. A tunnel was cut into the lava, the underground stream was tapped-and an abundant supply of water secured and sluiced down to the large plantations below. The head waters of the Wailuku river gathered from the melting snow of the mountains found these channels, which centered at last in the bed of a very ancient and very interesting lava flow. Sometimes breaking forth in a large, turbulent flood, the stream forces its way over and around the huge blocks of lava which mark the course of the eruption of long ago. Sometimes it courses in a tunnel left by the flowing lava and comes up from below in a series of boiling pools. Then again it falls in majestic sheets over high walls of worn precipices. Several large falls and some very picturesque smaller cascades interspersed with rapids and natural bridges give to, this river a beauty peculiarly its own. The most weird of all the rough places through which the Wailuku river flows is that known as the basin of Rainbow Falls near Hilo. Here Hina, the moon goddess of the Polynesians, lived in a great open cave, over which the falls hung their misty, rainbow-tinted veil. Her son Maui, the mighty demi-god of Polynesia, supposed by some writers to be the sun-god of the Polynesians, had extensive lands along the northern bank of the river. Here among his cultivated fields he had his home, from which he went forth to accomplish the wonders attributed to him in the legends of the Hawaiians.
Below the cave in which Hina dwelt the river fought its way through a narrow gorge and then, in a series of many sinall falls, descended to the little bay, where its waters mingled with the surf of the salt sea. Far above the cave, in the bed of the river, dwelt Kuna. The district through which that portion of the river runs bears to this day the name "Wai-kuna" or "Kuna's river." When the writer was talking with the natives concerning this part of the old legend, they said "Kuna is not a Hawaiian word. It means something like a snake or a dragon, something we do not have in these islands." This, they thought, made the connection with the Hina legend valueless until they were shown that Tuna (or kuna) was the New Zealand name of a reptile which attacked Hina and struck her with his tail like a crocodile, for which Maui killed him. When this was understood, the Hawaiians were greatly interested to give the remainder of this legend and compare it with the New Zealand story. In New Zealand there are several statements concerning Tuna's dwelling place. He is sometimes represented as coming from a pool to attack Hina and sometimes from a distant stream, and sometimes from the river by which Hina dwelt. The Hawaiians told of the annoyances which Hina endured from Kuna while he lived above her home in the Wailuku. He would stop up the river and fill it with dirt as when the freshets brought down the debris of the storms from the mountain sides. He would throw logs and rolling stones into the stream that they might be carried over the falls and drive Hina from her cave. He had sought Hina in many ways and had been repulsed again and again until at last hatred took the place of all more kindly feelings and he determined to destroy the divine chiefess.
Hina was frequently left with but little protection, and yet from her home in the cave feared nothing that Kuna could do. Precipices guarded the cave on either side, and any approach of an enemy through the falling water could be easily thwarted. So her chants rang out through the river valley even while floods swirled around her, and Kuna's missiles were falling over the rocky bed of the stream toward her. Kuna became very angry and, tittering great curses and calling upon all his magic forces to aid him, caught a great stone and at night hurled it into the gorge of the river below Hina's home, filling the river bed from bank to bank. "Ah, Hina! Now is the danger, for the river rises. The water cannot flow away. Awake! Awake!"
Hina is not aware of this evil which is so near. The water rises and rises, higher and higher. "Auwe! Auwe! Alas, alas, Hina must perish!" The water entered the opening of the cave and began to creep along the floor. Hina cannot fly, except into the very arms of her great enemy, who is waiting to destroy her. Then Hina called for Maui. Again and again her voice went out from the cave. It pierced through the storms and the clouds which attended Kuna's attack upon her. It swept along the side of the great mountain. It crossed the channel between the islands of Hawaii and Maui. Its anguish smote the side of the great mountain Haleakala, where Maui had been throwing his lassoes around the sun and compelling him, to go more slowly. When Maui heard Hina's cry for help echoing from cliff to cliff and through the ravines, he leaped at once to rush to her assistance.
Some say that Hina, the goddess, had a cloud servant, the "ao-opua," the "warning cloud," which rose swiftly above the falls when Hina cried for aid and then, assuming a peculiar shape, stood high above the hills that Maui might see it. Down the mountain he leaped to his magic canoe. Pushing it into the sea with two mighty strokes of his paddle lie crossed the sea to the mouth of the Wailuku river. Here even to the present day lies a long double rock, surrounded by the waters of the bay, which the natives call Ka waa o Maui, "The canoe of Maui." It represents to Hawaiian thought the magic canoe with which Maui always sailed over the ocean more swiftly than any winds could carry him. Leaving his canoe, Maui seized the magic club with which he had conquered the sun after lassoing him, and rushed along the dry bed of the river to the place of danger. Swinging the club swiftly around his head, lie struck the dam holding back the water of the rapidly-rising river.
"Ah! Nothing can withstand the magic club. The bank around one end of the dam gives way. The imprisoned waters leap into the new channel. Safe is Hina the goddess."
Kuna heard the crash of the club against the stones of the river bank and fled up the river to his home in the hidden caves by the pools in the river bed. Maui rushed up the river to punish Kuna-mo-o for the trouble he had caused Hina. When he came to the place where the dragon was hidden under deep waters, he took his magic spear and thrust it through the dirt and lava rocks along one side of the river, making a long hole, through which the waters rushed, revealing Kuna-mo-o's hiding place. This place of the spear thrust is known among the Hawaiians as Ka puka a Maui, "the door made by Maui." It is also known as "The natural bridge of the Wailuku river."
Kuna-mo-o fled to his different hiding places, but Maui broke up the river bed and drove the dragon out from every one, following him from place to place as he fled down the river. Apparently this is a legendary account of earthquakes. At last Kuna-mo-o found what seemed to be a safe hiding place in a series of deep pools, but Maui poured a lava flow into the river. He threw red-hot burning stones into the water until the pools were boiling and the steam was rising in clouds. Kuna uttered incantation after incantation, but the water scalded and burned him. Dragon as he was, his hard, tough skin was of no avail. The pain was becoming unbearable. With cries to his gods he leaped from the pools and fled down the river. The waters of the pools are no longer scalding, but they have never lost the tumbling, tossing, foaming, boiling swirl which Maui gave to them when he threw into them the red-hot stones with which he hoped to destroy Kuna, and they are known today as "The Boiling Pots."
Some versions of the legend say that Maui poured boiling water in the river and sent it in swift pursuit of Kuna, driving him froin point to point and scalding his life out of him. Others say that Maui chased the dragon, striking him again and again with his consecrated weapons, following Kuna down from falls to falls until he came to the place where Hina dwelt. Then, feeling that there was little use in flight, Kuna battled with Maui. His struggles were of no avail. He was forced over the falls into the stream below. Hina and her women encouraged Maui by their chants and strengthened him by the most powerful incantations with which they were acquainted. Great was their joy when they beheld Kuna's ponderous body hurled over the falls. Eagerly they watched the dragon as the swift waters swept him against the dam with which he had hoped to destroy Hina; and when the whirling waves caught him and dashed him through the new channel made by Maui's magic club, they rejoiced and sang the praise of the mighty warrior who had saved them. Maui had rushed along the bank of the river with tremendous strides overtaking the dragon as he was rolled over and over among the small waterfalls near the mouth of the river. Here Matii again attacked Kuna, at last beating the life out of his body. "Moo-Kuna" was the name given by the Hawaiians to the dragon. "Moo" means anything in lizard shape, but Kuna was unlike any lizard known in the Hawaiian Islands. Moo Kuna is the name sometimes given to a long black stone lying like an island in the waters between the small falls of the river. As one who calls attention to this legendary black stone says: "As if he were not dead enough already, every big freshet in the stream beats him and pounds him and drowns him over and over as he would have drowned Hina." A New Zealand legend relates a conflict of incantations, somewhat like the filling in of the Wailuku river by Kuna, and the cleaving of a new channel by Maui with the different use of means. In New Zealand the river is closed by the use of powerful incantations and charms and reopened by the use of those more powerful.
In the Hervey Islands, Tuna, the god of eels, loved Ina (Hina) and finally died for her, giving his head to be buried. From, this head sprang two cocoanut trees, bearing fruit marked with Tuna's eyes and mouth.
In Samoa the battle was between an owl and a serpent. The owl conquered by calling in the aid of a friend.
This story of Hina apparently goes far back in the traditions of Polynesians, even to their ancient home in Hawaiki, from which it was taken by one branch of the family to New Zealand and by another to the Hawaiian Islands and other groups in the Pacific Ocean. The dragon may even be a remembrance of the days when the Polynesians were supposed to dwell by the banks of the River Ganges in India, when crocodiles were dangerous enemies and heroes saved families from their destructive depredations.