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p. 190



LOCAL legends abound of the swift retribution visited by Pele upon those who dare to offend her. Presumption and boasting bring immediate punishment. Rivals in love serve as explanatory theme for lava-rock formations. The popular chiefly sport of sled (holua) racing is worked into a number of legends in which a mere mortal dares competition with Pele. Kapapala, after competing successfully with Pele's pretty sisters, ventures to challenge Pele herself upon the waves of the volcano and is consumed. 1 Papa-lauahi is about to win a race to which Pele has challenged him when, looking back over his shoulder, he sees the goddess in her fire form at his back and is overwhelmed in a flood of lava. 2 The most famous of these competition legends is that of Kahawali, localized along a comparatively fresh lava stream running down to the sea from above Kapoho in the district of Puna. Lava rocks are said to mark the fate of members of Kahawali's family and of his favorite pig. The famous tree-molds (Papa-lau-ahi) above Kapoho are introduced as a group of hula pupils caught in the trail of Pele's wrath. For stories of destructive lava flows within historic times in which Pele is believed to have shown her wrath or her favor, see the historic account of the destruction of Keoua's army 3 and of Kamehameha's fishponds. 4


(a) A man with an eel body named Kani-lolou, who lived upon this group of islands before Pele's arrival, visits Kahiki-lani-nui-akea and boasts of the superior beauty of his own land. On his return he finds Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii overwhelmed with lava

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from mountain to sea. It is after this man that eels are called Puhi-kani-lolou.

(b) A man from Puna visits Kauai and boasts of the superior beauty of his own land. The prophet Kane-akalau foresees its ruin and upon the man's return to Puna he finds it overwhelmed with lava. 5


Paula is a beautiful girl who lives in Ka-u district on Hawaii between Naalehu and Honoapu. Pele's lover once finds her with two companions engaged in her favorite sport of kimo (jack-stones) and lingers to play with her. Pele came along looking for her lover, and there at the point called Ka-lae-o-kimo the two may be seen turned to stone just as Pele found them. The other two were also buried in lava, but only the pebbles they tossed are now visible. 6


The handsome young chief Kahawali lives near Kapoho in Puna district on Hawaii in the days of Kahoukapu the chief. He has a wife and two children named Paupoulu and Kaohe, a mother living at Kuki‘i, and a sister Koae at Kula. His father and another sister named Kane-wahine-keaho live on Oahu. Kahawali is an expert in the hula dance and in riding the holua. At the time of the Lono festival, when the hula pupils have gathered for a public appearance, a sled race is arranged with his friend Ahua. Pele in the guise of an old woman offers to compete with him. Angry at the chief's rebuff, she pursues him down the hill in fire form. He flees first to the hill Pu‘ukea, then hastens to bid goodby to his wife and children, pauses to say farewell to his favorite pig Aloi-pua‘a, and has just time to greet his sister at Kula before escaping to the sea in a canoe which his brother has opportunely brought to land. 7

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Pele appears to two girls of Ka-u roasting breadfruit and asks for food and drink. One gives kindly, the other excuses herself on the ground that the food is dedicated to Laka. A flood of fire comes and destroys the home of the stingy girl, but the generous one has been warned and has set up the necessary protection. 8


Many heiaus to the goddess Pele were erected in old days, especially beside lava streams and at the edge of the crater, and the bodies of the dead are still offered to the goddess in the belief that their spirits will live again with Pele in a beautiful home beneath the burning pit which is the goddess's material body, and go forth as her messengers in bodies of flame to avenge any infringement of her tapus and to work her will in the land. Only those connected with the Pele family by being born with a human body from one of the Pele spirits, or a direct descendant of one of these, or one outside the family who has been adopted and given a name (in dream) by Pele herself, have a right to such a burial. Ancestral gods of the Pele family, called kumu-pa‘a (descended from the source), such as Haumea, Kane-hekili, Ka-hoali‘i, Kane-wawahi-lani, Kauila-nui-makeha-i-ka-lani, No-kolo-i-lani, Kamoho-alii, Polo, Hi‘iaka, Na-maka-o-kaha‘i, may bring their direct descendants into the Pele family. These are kumupa‘a who may be worshiped as aumakua. They do not belong among the supreme gods and their kahunas are not in the line of the old priesthood of Hikapoloa. The worship of Pele was not taught in the schools of the priesthood nor was her body deified. Pele's descendants alone worship her. Only actual relatives invoke her and become her keepers. Pele names are given to children born into her family, but such names belong to that individual alone and cannot be passed on to another, even to an own child. One such Pele name, given to an older sister of Mrs. Pukui, is Kukuena-i-ke-ahi-ho‘omau-honua (Kukuena in the fire which fertilizes the earth). Here "Kukuena" is the name of a sister of Pele who acts as guide

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to travelers 9 and the word "ho‘omau" means literally to dampen or render moist, in allusion to the cool home beneath the volcano to which Pele admits those of her family on earth whose bodies are offered to her at death. An old Kona resident tells the following story:

In old days a man's mother said she was to go to Pele in the volcano. The son took her by the old road around through Kau called Ka-ala-Pele (The Pele road), not by the new road, and left her at a distance along the way and said, "If your god is a true god she will come and take you." As he left he looked back and the fire had flowed out and taken the body. He went back and there was no body to be seen. Napela was the son's name and he lived in Pahala, Kau, in 1881. 10

The struggle between rival schools of sorcery set up by the Pele worshipers is perhaps worked into the legends which show Hi‘iaka fighting the evil mo‘o, who are primarily spirits of the damp woodlands and ponds of water; or the legend of Pele's sister Na-maka-o-kaha‘i, who may have been originally a water spirit in spite of the fiery nature of her various trans-formation forms as the story is told today; or in the strife between Pele and the woman of the mountain top, Poliahu, for the fertile land of Hawaii; or in her fight with the amorous hog-man, Kamapua‘a, whose gods are the storm signs inimical to fire. The legend of Puna-ai-koae and the demon wife carries the same implication. Of the three recorded versions, the Kamakau version is told to explain the origin of certain fishing customs and leaves the denouement incomplete. The Thrum and Westervelt versions, evidently from an identical source, stress the rivalry between the fire goddess and the water mo‘o, whose images are set up in the heiau, one representing Haumea in her human form as Wali-nu‘u, the other the goddess Kalamainu‘u.

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(a) Kamakau version. The mo‘o woman Kalamainu‘u lives in a cave at Makaleha in Laie, Waialua district, on Oahu. Going forth one day in search of a husband she finds the young Kauai chief Puna-ai-koae (Puna tropic-bird eater) surfing on the waves of Ka-lehua-weha, lures him to her own board and carries him away to Kaena point, where they land and, ascending the Waianae mountains to Pu‘u-ka-pele, descend to the stream of Wailea on the west side of which her cave is still to be seen today. After several months of love making and feasting Puna longs again for surf riding and his wife fetches a board from the corner of the cave but warns him against speaking to anyone while he is away. On his way to the sea two relatives of the mo‘o woman, Hinalea and Aikilolo, hail him and warn him of his wife's true nature. They tell him that the board he carries is in reality her mo‘o tongue and that unless he can escape he must ultimately perish. He returns secretly to the cave and spies upon his wife in her mo‘o form. Because of her nature as a spirit she knows what has happened and prepares to eat him, but since he shows no fear when she shows him her terrible forms, she forgives him and goes forth to slay his informants. They evade her for a time by creeping into a crack of the sea floor. Kuao and Ahilea tell her how to set a trap to catch them. Thus the basket trap for catching hinalea fish came to be invented, and Kalamainu‘u is still an aumakua for catching hinalea fish in that vicinity. 11

(b) Emerson and Westervelt versions. Puna is surfing at Waimanalo, Waikiki, when he encounters the mo‘o-woman and is lured by her to Molokai and hidden away in her cave home. Her brother Hinale warns him as he is going to join the surfers, and he peeps in and sees his wife feeding on spiders and their webs. He pacifies her wrath and watches his chance to escape to the pit of Pele and put himself under the protection of his former wife's (Walinu‘u's) family. He pretends to thirst after the ice-cold waters of Poliahu and gives his wife a gourd to fill which he has secretly punched with holes. During her absence he makes

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his escape. Kiha-wahine summons the mo‘o gods and fills the pit of Pele with their phlegm, but the place sacred to Ka-moho-ali‘i is unharmed and the mo‘o gods are many of them consumed with fire and Kiha-wahine is obliged to escape to the pond called Loko-aka (Shadow pond). Ounauna is the fellow who shows her how to make the fish basket to trap Hinale. 12


The story of the escape from a cannibal wife is widespread throughout Polynesia, often connected with the trick of sending the monster on a fruitless errand (generally after water) in order to gain time for escape. The widespread motives of death by feeding with hot stones or by drawing up to a height on a rope and then cutting the rope, common in southern Polynesia (and throughout Africa), are not found in Hawaii, nor are the tricks, also well known, of substituting a dummy for the body or providing a speaking substitute. These are no doubt later embellishments. On the other hand, there is little doubt that the characteristically Polynesian motive of the woman who has a back which opens and devours all the fish while her family sleep was once a part of Hawaiian stories of a demon wife. 13

Maori. (a) Ruru-teina is on his way home with his wife when he goes to fetch fire and is seized by a reptile-woman named Ngarara-hu-ora. The rat people tell him that she is not a woman; then, to escape her revenge, they run, one into a stone, the other into the gable of the house. While the demon tries to get at them, Ruru runs away and with the help of his brother succeeds in burning the reptile-woman in a house prepared for the purpose and returns home to his wife. 14

(b) Te-ruahine-mata-maori is a witch who recites incantations for the yam crop. Paowa goes to her house (presumably to learn the incantations). To escape her he sends her for water and by incantations dries up the streams. He burns her house and flees; she pursues swimming and he kills her by pretending

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to feed her and pouring hot stones down her throat. From her armpits he recovers "sacred red garments." 15

(c) Kurangai-tuku catches Hatupatu while he is out after birds. To escape her he sends her for food "at the sixth range" of hills and, when she pursues, takes refuge in a rock and she finally falls into a boiling hot spring and dies. 16

(d) Houmea is the wife of Uta, whom she leaves to starve while she swallows his whole catch and pretends that fairies have taken it. She swallows her children, but they carry, one a carved staff, the other a barbed spear, and at their father's incantation come out alive. To escape her Uta sends her for water, dries up the springs by incantations so that she may have far to go, and escapes with the boys in the canoe, after directing the various parts of the establishment to answer for him when she calls. She pursues, is fed with fish, and finally with a hot stone which causes her death. The name Houmea is today applied to evil women, adulteresses, and thieves who dwell among men. Tu-tawake is her child, with whom come evil and daring. 17

(e) Tu who dwells in Reiapanga is taken for a husband by a monster woman who comes swimming up to his canoe and is taken on board. He tries to escape but is brought back. Finally his sons come to find him and they succeed in burning her in the house. 18

(f) Titipa by a trick makes off with Tautini's canoe. Tautini goes to Titipa's settlement and sends Titipa's wives after water, then dries up the springs and makes off with his canoe. 19

(g) Rate sends Poua-haa-kai for water. By means of incantations he causes the water to recede, then kills Poua by feeding him red-hot stones. 20


Tahiti. (a) Ro‘o-nui, husband of Haumea, leaves her to return to the lower world (Po). Haumea is angry and turns cannibal. When their son Tuture-i-te-a‘u-tama (Tuture the child

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swum for) eats cooked food, she eats her food raw. To escape her, Tuture sends her to fill water gourds in which he has bored holes, and himself sails away in the ship which he has built at the base of the mountain Viriviri-i-te-rai on the northeast coast of Tahiti. Haumea follows swimming. He kills her by pouring red-hot stones down her throat under pretence of food. Her body comes ashore at Haavai and she lives again as Nona-nihoniho-roa (Nona of the long teeth). 21

(b) Hono-ura in jest sends his brother for a drink and pierces the water gourd. Three girls laugh at him and he is angry. 22


Marquesas. (a) Huuti boasts that he will send his arrow into the ear of the mo‘o woman at Otua named Te-mo‘o-nieve. She conceals the arrow and when he comes to fell a tree for a canoe claims him for her husband. He objects to her food and, pretending to go away to prepare some for himself, returns to his companions and makes fun of her. She discovers his treachery and, throwing his companions into a sleep, brings him back to her cave. When he awakes he is terrified. As a beautiful woman she accompanies him home and bears him three boys and a girl before he dies. 23

(b) Tuapuu is a demon wife who opens up her back and devours the whole catch of fish. The children discover this and give her eels to eat which kill her. . . . They flee but she comes to life and pursues. They climb a rock, the daughter lets down her hair for the mother to climb up, and when she is almost up they cut the girl's hair and the mother is killed. 24


Rotuma. A man has a demon wife. He flees from her. She follows, overhears his talk with his first wife arranging a fishing expedition, and carries him away herself in place of the first wife, having roused him at midnight by crowing like a cock. 25


Malay. A baboon carries a girl away to his home in the tree

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and she has a child. She sends the baboon to fill a bamboo with water and pierces a hole in the bottom, then runs away. 26


Three other folktales of demon wife or husband have been collected in Hawaii, most of them from the island of Maui, where an excellent story of a pursuing head was early set down by a student at the Lahainaluna school.


Mahikoa and his brother-in-law Pilikana go up to a place in the woods above Kaana-pali on Maui called Wahikuli to cut battens for a house. The wood catches from the fire they have kindled for warmth in the cave where they sleep. Pilikana awakes and tries to waken his brother-in-law, but Mahikoa is burned up to his head before he awakes. Pilikana flees, the head (po‘o) pursues, calling out to him to wait and they will go home together. He runs toward the sea, where a prophet stands ready to help him, and as he falls exhausted the prophet spears the blazing head with splits of bamboo.

The spirit of the husband seeks his wife Keiki-wai-uli, but she, warned by the kahuna, refuses to go out to him or to send the children out. When the spirit enters the house, she slips out with the children and the house is burned to the ground with the demon spirit shut inside. 27


(a) Wahiako version. Waiolola lives with his wife Kukui-ula at the place where the auto road to Kipahulu now ends. When his wife dies, he buries her by the front door and builds a small structure above her grave, where he goes to mourn for her. One night of the full moon a figure like his wife rises and asks that one of the children be sent to her. He sends the youngest and she devours the child and asks for another. He sends her the oldest and, taking the only remaining child in his arms, he flees, calling upon his sister Manini in chant as he goes. If he can reach the kahuna at the heiau called House-of-Lono (which stands today

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a heap of ruins seaward of the road that turns down to Hamoa bay) he will be safe. His sister goes out and fights the spirit and he falls upon the threshold of the heiau with the child and is protected by the priest. The Kaupo end of Kipahulu is named Kukui-ula after this demon wife. 28

(b) Kekela version. A man of Kipahulu loses his wife after she has born him five children. Instead of putting her body into a cave (lua-pao) he places her in front of the house. Some years later at night a voice calls to him from without to send out one of the children. He does so and she devours it. This happens each night until he has but one child left. A kahuna from Kauai gives him a couple of dogs to set upon the demon after persuading it into the house. The demon flees, he burns his wife's body, and the spirit never troubles him again. 29


(a) Maui version. Kokole the husband and Kokole the wife live at the beach near Kipahulu, Maui. The wife sends her husband to the uplands after kukui nuts to string for torch fishing. Each time that she goes after fish she returns unsuccessful and complains that she is "robbed of her fish by the owner of the sea." A seer warns Kokole that his wife is not what she seems. He spies upon her and sees her throw out her eyes as bait. He catches the eyes and threatens to destroy them. She devours one of the children, he flees to the kahuna with the other, and the woman and her eyes are thrown into the fire. 30

(b) Oahu version. At Na-maka-lele (Flying eyes) live Keawe and his wife Keana-haki. He plants in the hills and fishes at the sea. After the sixth child is born the woman's nature changes and she undertakes the business of fishing. Sending out her eyes as bait she makes a big catch, all of which she devours except a single fish with which she returns complaining of ill luck. Warned by a kahuna, Keawe follows and detects her. He catches her eyes and wraps them up in a small bundle and takes them

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home with the load of fish. The sixth child sees where he puts the eyes, answers the mother's inquiries, and she can see again. 31

Samoa. Lauti, jealous of Sina, steals her soul, places it in a basket, and gives it to her elders to keep for her. In the morning Sina is found dead. Her brother overhears Lauti's chant to her elders when she asks for the basket, imitates it and, having thus secured the basket, restores Sina to life. He finds Lauti fishing with her eyes, catches the eyes and puts to death the demon. 32

Maori. Hatupatu finds an ogress using her lips as a spear to cast at birds. He throws his dart at the same bird she has thus speared, and when he goes to recover it, finds it stuck in her lips. He is handsome and she forgives him and takes him as her husband. 33


The Hawaiian Kalamainu‘u legend has a close variant in the Tahitian story of the cannibal woman Nona, grandmother by her daughter Hina of Hema, father of Kaha‘i, and of Pu‘a (Puna) who is the Maori Punga, ancestor of the eel family and their kin in the sea. As such it is associated with the Aikanaka-Hina cycle localized in the same district on the island of Maui from which most of the demon-wife folktale versions have been drawn. On the other hand it is connected with the Oahu story of how Haumea in the person of Walinu‘u (Papa) lived with Makea (Wakea) up Kalihi valley on Oahu and saved him from death by entering into a tree. Puna is identified with Wali-nu‘u's lover, and the two kupua women, Kalamainu‘u and Haumea, are shown as rivals in love. They fight with their kupua bodies, fire and water, but their human bodies also enter into the scrap, as, according to Thrum, their images are represented in the heiau, Walinu‘u with a broken nose and Kalamainu‘u with blinded eyes. The wrappings of yellow tapa seem to indicate that they belong to the Kane worship.



190:1 Westervelt, Volcanoes, 33-34.

190:2 Ibid., 29-30.

190:3 Ellis, Tour, 186-187; For. Pol. Race 2: 324-326; Kamakau, Kuokoa, April 27, 1867; Westervelt, Volcanoes, 146-151.

190:4 Ibid., 146-151; Kamakau, Kuokoa, July 13, 20, 1867.

191:5 Remy-Brigham, 36; Westervelt, Volcanoes, 31-32; For. Col. 5: 534.

191:6 Green, 55.

191:7 Ibid., 3-9. See also Ellis, Tour, 219-223; Marcuse, 125-128; Thrum, Tales (from Ellis), 39-42; Kalakaua, 501-507; Westervelt, Volcanoes, 37-44.

192:8 Green and Pukui, 166-167; related also in North Kona.

193:9 N. Emerson, Pele, 221 note k.

193:10 Given by Daniel Ho‘olapa. See also Ellis, Tour, 183-187, 228-231, 262-263; Kamakau, Ke Au Okoa, March 31, 1870; Kalakaua, 139-140; Green and Beckwith, AA 28: 185-186; For. Col. 5: 572-575; Westervelt, Volcanoes, 63.

194:11 Ke Au Okoa, January 6, 1870.

195:12 Thrum, More Tales, 185-196; Westervelt, Gods and Ghosts, 152-162.

195:13 Compare Dixon, 62, 69.

195:14 White 2: 26-30.

196:15 White 2: 55-59.

196:16 Taylor, 154-157; Grey, 116-118.

196:17 White 2: 167-172.

196:18 JPS 5: 195-200; 6:97-106; 29: 136-138. The story is known also by the Moriori in the Chatham islands and in Manihiki.

196:19 White 2: 158-160.

196:20 Ibid. 3: 3-4.

197:21 Leverd, JPS 21: 1-3; cf. Henry, 554.

197:22 Ibid., 526.

197:23 Handy, Bul. 69: 21-25.

197:24 Ibid. 37-45.

197:25 Romilly, Letters, 139-146.

198:26 RASSB 46: 65-71.

198:27 For. Col. 5: 528-533; Thrum, More Tales, 242-247.

199:28 Told by Sheriff Wahiako, June 11, 1930.

199:29 MS. by Rachel Kekela.

199:30 MS. by Joseph Kaiwaaea of Kipahulu, 1930.

200:31 McAllister, Bul. 104: 94-95.

200:32 Krämer 1: 136-139.

200:33 Grey, 116-118.

Next: XIV. Kamapua‘a