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Kiha's Trumpet


Source: Myths & Legends Of Our New Possessions & Protectorate

Waipio, in Hawaii, is claimed by people who live thereabout to be
the loveliest valley on the island. It was a low and marshy stretch
until a great fish that lived there begged the god Kane to give him
sweeter water and more of it. Kane therefore tumbled rocks across the
stream, so as to dam it into wide pools, and also opened new springs
at the source. The marks of his great hands are still seen on the
stone. In this valley, now so peaceful and so rich in charm, lived
Kiha, king of Hawaii, in the earlier years of the fifteenth century,
a great and dreaded monarch. Of all his possessions he valued none more
highly than his war-trumpet, a large shell adorned with the teeth of
chiefs who had been killed in war. The roar of this instrument could
be heard for ten miles, for it was a magic shell, and when blown in
battle it reproduced the cries of victory and shrieks of the dying;
when blown to summon the people it was like the gale in the forest,
and when it called a sea-god to listen to a prayer it was like surges
thundering against the cliffs.

That day was long remembered when the horn was stolen. It had been
taken from its wrapping and its box, and a hideous mask of stone had
been found in its place. Search availed nothing, and the only comfort
that the priests could offer was a promise of restoration by a being
without cloak or hands, when a cocoa palm, to be planted by the king
at the next full moon, should bear fruit. The tree was planted, but
seven years passed before the nuts appeared. These were eaten by the
king, and on that very night a strange man was arrested on a charge
of thieving and taken before the king for sentence. All through the
questioning a dog with one white eye and a green one kept close beside
the prisoner, appearing to understand every word that was spoken. The
intelligence of this animal was so remarkable as to divert all thought
of punishment for the time, and when the robber had given instances of
the creature's more than human cleverness, Kiha realized suddenly that
this was the agency whereby the magic horn was to be restored to him.

If the dog could find and restore that shell the captive should not
merely be set free, but should be fed at the royal table for the rest
of his life. On hearing this promise, the dog, who had been watching
the king so fixedly out of his green eye as to make his Majesty
uncomfortable, sprang up with a joyous bark, and capered about with
every token of enthusiasm for the task that was to be put upon him.

At the time when the trumpet disappeared from Kiha's house a band of
mountebanks and thieves disappeared from Hawaii. They had camped in
the woods above Waipio, and had been stealing pigs, fowls, fruit, and
taro from the farmers, and had occasionally visited the settlements
to show their skill in juggling and hanky-panky, hoping to earn as a
reward some drinks of the native beer, and perhaps a weapon or a strip
of cloth. It was the chief of this band who had stolen the trumpet. He
had learned its history,--how the god Lono had blown it on the top of
Mauna Kea until trees were uprooted in the blast that came from it,
until the fires kindled in the crater below and threw a red light
against the stars, until the earth shook and the sea heaved like a
monster sighing. It had the voice of a god from that hour, and other
gods obeyed it. The band fled to Oahu with the prize and there led a
graceless life until the populace drove them out, and they returned
to Hawaii.

The arrival of these suspicious characters had been reported to
the king, and he suggested that the dog seek the shell in their
camp at the head of the valley. No sooner was the suggestion made
than the animal rushed away in that direction with the speed of the
wind. Some hours passed, and the night was wearing on wearily, when
a tremendous burst of sound issued from the hills, echoing far and
wide. The king leaped to his feet, the men of his village roused and
grasped their spears, for this was the call to arms,--the first time
they had heard it in seven years. But who was blowing it? Nearer and
nearer came the sky-shaking peal, and presently the dog, bearing the
magic shell in his mouth, ran in, sank at his master's feet, gasped,
shook, stiffened. He was dead from exhaustion.

His master, overcome with grief for the loss of his little friend,
was liberated at once; then, confident that the returned thieves had
had the trumpet in their possession, the king led his forces against
them without waiting for the sun to rise, and slew nearly all. From
one or two survivors of the band he learned that their captain had
offended them by his arrogance and selfishness until they were forced
to reduce him to their own state by silencing the instrument whereby
he called to the gods and gained their help. During one of his drunken
sprees they carried the shell to a wizard, who put a secret taboo
mark on its lip, and when the pirate blew it, on regaining his wits,
it made only a low, dull moaning. Try as he would, he could never
restore it. It was chiefly to propitiate the gods and give its notes
back to the trumpet that he had returned to Hawaii.

When the dog seized the shell, as it lay on the earth near the
sleeping chief, he bit off the edge that had been marked by the
wizard and instantly its voice came back. The wind blown into it
long before by the robber chief was now liberated in quantities in
those tremendous blasts that had roused the king and his people and
appalled the robbers. In this respect it resembled the post-horn of
Baron Munchausen's story, which, on being hung before a fire, allowed
the notes that had been played into it (but not heard) to thaw out
and entertain the company. And if the story of the shell is doubted,
one has only to look at it in the Honolulu Museum to be convinced.

How Moikeha Gained a Wife

Puna, lord of Kauai, was a well-beloved and merciful man. Though he
would not brook insolence, he was always ready to pardon a fisherman
or servant who, in ignorance of his personality, broke the taboo
by stepping on his shadow. His love for Hooipo, his daughter, was
so strong that he delayed her marriage until the gallants began to
complain, and the girl herself became uneasy, lest her charms should
expand to a maturity that might hurt her matrimonial chances. As she
had no preference, however, she agreed that her father might name the
happy man. He, loth to incur the enmity of any at his court, resolved
to offer her as a prize, and the fairest contest seemed in his mind to
be a run to Kaula and back, each contestant to be allowed to use sail
and carry four oarsmen, and the winner of the race to marry Hooipo.

A couple of days before the race was undertaken there arrived at Kauai
a sturdy mariner, one Moikeha, who had just returned from a voyage
to Raiatea, two thousand five hundred miles to the southward. Long
trips of this sort were not unusual among the adventurous islanders,
and there is a tradition that one of them brought to Hawaii two
white men who became priests, and on a later exploration secured
four "foreigners of large stature, bright, staring, roguish eyes, and
reddish faces," who may have been American Indians. Moikeha became the
guest of Puna. He had not been long in the daughter's company before
Hooipo regretted the arrangement for a race, for she had found a man
whom she could love. It was too late to argue with the candidates;
there could be no hope of peace if the princess were withdrawn as
an object of competition and thrown at the head of this stranger. By
general consent he was allowed to take part in the race, provided he
could cite an honorable parentage. This he did, for he was the son of
a former chief in Oahu, and he rattled off the names of his ancestors
for sixteen generations, ending the catalogue in this fashion,
"Maweke and Niolaukea, husband and wife; Mulilealii and Wehelani,
husband and wife; Moikeha and Hooipo, husband and wife." This little
joke, his assumption that the girl was already his, made everybody
laugh and put the company in good humor.

At the word of command a score or more of lusty fellows pushed their
boats through the surf, hoisted sail, and pointed their prows for
Kaula, fifty miles away. Moikeha alone showed no haste. He bade a
cheerful farewell to his host and the pretty daughter, marked with
delight her serious look as he took his leave, then, with a single
attendant and the smallest boat in the fleet, he set off across the
blue water. Directly that her sail was up the little craft sprang
through the sea as if blown by a hurricane, while the other boats slid
over the glassy waves under the push of oars. "It is the fish-god,
Apukohai, who drags his canoe," declared the rowers, as he passed. In
twenty-four hours he was at the side of Kooipo with the whale-tooth,
proof of his voyage, that was delivered to him at Kaula by a servant
who had been sent there with it in advance. He was easily the victor,
the other contestants arriving from one to three days later. No
objection being offered, the couple were married with rejoicings, and
on the death of Puna the husband became chief, and married off eight
or ten youngsters of his own. Not for a long time was it known that in
the race for a wife his lone but potent companion was Laamaomao, the
wind-god, who, loosing favorable breezes from his magic calabash, that
blew whither he listed, carried him swiftly past all other competitors.

Next: The Sailing Of Paao

Previous: The Great Famine

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