Sacred Texts  Pacific  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

Unwritten Literature of Hawaii, by Nathaniel B. Emerson, [1909], at

p. 120


The hula íli-íli, pebble-dance, was a performance of the classical times, in which, according to one who has witnessed it, the olapa alone took part. The dancers held in each hand a couple of pebbles, ili-ili, hence the name of the dance--which they managed to clash against each other, after the fashion of castanets, thus producing a rude music of much the same quality as that elicited from the "bones" in our minstrel performances. According to another witness, the drum also was sometimes used in connection with the pebbles as an accompaniment to this hula.

The ili-ili was at times a hula of intensity--that is to say, was acted with that stress of voice and manner which the Hawaiians termed ai-ha’a; but it seems to have been more often performed in that quiet natural tone of voice and of manner termed ko’i-honua, which may be likened to utterance in low relief.

The author can present only the fragment of a song to illustrate this hula:


A lalo maua o Wai-pi’o,
Ike i ka nani o Hi’i-lawe.
E lawe mai a oki
I na hala o Naue i ke kai,
5 I na lehua lu-lu’u pali;
Noho ana lohe i ke kani o ka o-ó,
Hoolono aku i ka leo o ke kahuli.



We twain were lodged in Wai-pi’o,
Beheld Hi’i-lawe, the grand.
We brought and cut for our love-wreath
The rich hala drupe from Naue's strand,
5 Tufted lehua that waves on the cliff;
Then sat and gave ear to song of o-ó,
Or harked the chirp of the tree-shell.

Wai-pi’o, the scene of this idyl, is a valley deep and broad which the elements have scooped out in the windward exposure of Hawaii, and scarce needs mention to Hawaiian tourists. Hi’i-lawe is one of


Click to enlarge



p. 121

several high waterfalls that leap from the world of clouds into the valley-basin.

Kahuli is a fanciful name applied to the beautiful and unique genus of tree-shells (Achatinella), plate XII, that inhabit the Hawaiian woods. The natives are persuaded that these shells have the power of chirping a song of their own, and the writer has often heard the note which they ascribe to them; but to his ear it was indistinguishable from the piping of the cricket. This is the song that the natives credit to the tree-shells:


Kahuli aku,
Kahuli mai,
Kahuli lei ula,
Lei akolea. a
5 Kolea, kolea, b
Ki’i ka wai,
Wai akolea.


Song of the Tree-shell

Trill a-far,
Trill a-near,
A dainty song wreath,
Wreath akolea.
5 Kolea, Kolea,
Fetch me some dew,
Dew from pink akolea.

This little piece of rustic imagination is said to have been used in the hula, but in connection with what dance the author has not been able to learn.


121:a The akolea is a fern (by some classed as a Polypodium) which, according to Doctor Hillebrand (Flora of the Hawaiian Islands), "sustains its extraordinary length by the circinnate tips which twine round the branches of neighboring shrubs or trees."

121:b Kolea. The red-breasted plover.

Next: XVII.--The Hula Ká-éke-éke