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The Cannibals


Source: Myths & Legends Of Our New Possessions & Protectorate

Despite the denials of Hawaiians that their ancestors ever ate the
flesh of men, it is admitted that a large company of cannibals, strong,
dark, tattooed, and speaking a strange language, were storm-blown
to Kauai in the seventeenth century. It is guessed that they were
Papuans. The daughter of Kokoa, their chief, a beautiful girl of
eighteen or so, with braided hair that almost touched the ground,
and strings of pearls at her neck and ankles, found an admirer and a
husband in an island chief who tried to instruct her in the taboo,
for he had seen with horror and apprehension that the new-comers
allowed their women to eat bananas, cocoanuts, and certain fish, and
even to take them from the dishes used by the men. The bride promised
to reform and live on poi, but she had not been bred to this sort of
victual, and had never been reproved by the gods for eating other,
so it was almost inevitable that she should backslide in her virtuous
intention, and when she so far defied public opinion, and thunders,
and earthquakes as to eat a banana in view of the priests, the public
arose as one man and demanded punishment. The chief begged that he
might be allowed to send her back to her father, but the high priest
told him that the gods had been flouted beyond endurance, and would
be satisfied only with her death. The beautiful and hapless woman was
therefore torn from the arms of her afflicted husband, strangled, and
thrown into the sea,--a warning to all the sex against forbidden fruit.

Then trouble began. Women's appetites might be restrained, but not
those of men,--especially the appetite for blood. Kokoa revenged
himself for his daughter's murder by killing a relative of her
husband and serving him hot to an eager, because long abstemious,
congregation. The taste of Hawaiian chops and shoulders revived a greed
for this sort of meat, and they preyed openly on the populace of Kauai
until those who remained arose as several men and drove them out of
the island. The cannibals fled in haste to Oahu, taking possession
of the plateau of Halemanu, which was high, reachable by only one
or two paths, and those of steepness, difficulty, and under constant
guard, and here they established themselves as a sort of Doone band,
literally living upon the people in the country below. They had their
temple,--oh, yes, indeed, they could pray as long and as loud as any
one,--and a creditable piece of masonry it was, with its walls two
hundred feet by sixty, and seven yards high. Near it was an oven
where five human bodies could be roasted at a time, and a carving
stone six feet long, lightly hollowed, where the hungry were served,
Kokoa claiming the hearts and livers as a chief's right.

It did not take long for the Oahuans to become bashful about visiting
the neighborhood of Halemanu, and the man-eaters then took to eating
one another. One big, savage fellow, named Lotu, began to kill off
his wife's relatives. This roused one of her brothers to revenge. He
strengthened himself in exercises of all kinds until his muscles were
like steel, and encountered with Lotu on the edge of the precipice
near the principal path. They fought hand-to-hand until both were
covered with blood, then, finding that he was about to be forced
over the brink, Lotu clasped his brother-in-law and enemy about the
neck and both went to their death together. The wife and sister of
the two combatants either fainted at the verge and fell or wilfully
cast herself from the same cliff. It is not recorded whether these
victims of an unruly passion were interred in earth or conveniently
disposed of otherwise, but the affair created such a gloom in the
neighborhood that the cannibal colony moved away to parts unknown,
to the vast relief of the community in the more peaceful districts.

Next: The Various Graves Of Kaulii

Previous: Hawaiian Witches

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