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The Misdoing Of Kamapua


Source: Myths & Legends Of Our New Possessions & Protectorate

When a child was born to Olopana, a lord of Oahu, in the twelfth
century, he conceived a dislike to it, and freely alleged that his
brother was its father. Such as dared to speak ill of dignitaries, and
there were gossips in those days, as in all other, chuckled, at safe
distance, that if Olopana's suspicions were correct, the boy should
have somewhat of his--er--uncle's good looks and pleasant manner,
whereas he was hairy, ill-favored, and, as his nature disclosed itself
with increasing years, violent, thievish, treacherous; in short, he was
Olopana at his worst. Every day added to the bad feeling between the
boy and his father, for when he had grown old enough to appreciate
the position to which he had been born, the youngster repaid the
hate of his parent, and strove to deserve it. Vain the attempt of
the mother to make peace between them and direct her offspring into
paths of rectitude. In contempt, the chief put the name of Kamapua,
or hog-child, on the boy, and in some of the older myths he actually
figures as a half-monster with a body like that of a man, but with
the head of a boar.

Kamapua gathered the reckless and incorrigible boys of the neighborhood
about him, and the band became a terror by night, for in the dark they
broke the taboo and heads as well, stripped trees of their fruit,
stole swine and fowls, staved in the bottoms of canoes, cut trees,
and in order to look as bad as he felt, the leader cropped his hair
and his beard (when one came to him) to the shortness of an inch,
tattooed the upper half of his body in black, and wore a hog-skin
over his shoulders with bristles outward. On attaining his majority he
left his parents, taking with him some of his reprobates, and set up
in life as a brigand, making his home in lonely defiles of the hills,
and subsisting almost entirely by pillage. Several attempts were made
to catch him, and a local legend at Hauula has it that when close
pressed by an angry crowd he turned himself into a monstrous hog,
made a bridge of himself across a narrow chasm, so that his companions
could run over on his back, scrambled on after them, and so escaped.

The neighbors endured these goings-on until Kamapua had added murder
to his other crimes, when they resolved that he was no longer a
subject for public patience. An army was sent against him, most of his
associates were killed, he was caught, and was taken before his father
for judgment. Olopana sternly ordered that he be given as a sacrifice
to the gods. His mother was in despair at this, for though he was a
most unworthy fellow, a nuisance, a danger, still, he was her son, and
she loved him better than her life. She bribed the priests, whose duty
it was to slay him, and they, having smeared him with chicken-blood,
laid him on the altar. The eye that was gouged from the body of
a victim, and offered to the chief who made the sacrifice, was in
this case the eye of a pig. Olopana did not even pretend to eat this
relic, as he should have done, to follow custom, but flung it aside
and gazed with satisfaction at the gory features of the man who was
shamming death. He had turned to leave the temple when Kamapua leaped
from the altar, picked up the bone dagger with which a feint had been
made of cutting out his eye and stabbed his father repeatedly in the
back. At the sight of a corpse butchering their chief the people fled
in panic, the priests, awe-struck at the result of their corruption,
hid themselves, and the murderer, so soon as he was sure that Olopana
was dead, hurried away, assembled the forty surviving members of his
band, leaped into his canoe, and left Oahu forever.

He landed at Kauai, on the cliff of Kipukai, and remembering a well
of sweet water on its side, he sought for it, up and down, and back
and forth, for he had a raging thirst. Two spirits of the place,
knowing him to be evil, had concealed the spring under a mass of
shrubbery that he might not pollute it; but he found it, and as he
drank he saw their figures reflected in the surface, despite their
concealment in the shadow, and heard their laughter at his greed and
his uncouthness. That angered him. He sprang up, chased them through
the wood, caught them, and with a swing of his great arms hurled them
to the hill across the valley, where they became stone and art seen
to this day. So ill did he behave in Kauai, assailing innocent people
and destroying their taro patches, that they determined to despatch
him, and in order to have him under their advantage it was resolved
to fence him in near Hanalei. The wall of mountain now existing there
is the fence. Just before it was finished the prince in charge of the
work sat to rest in a gap which admits the present road. He heard a
harsh laugh, and looking up saw Kamapua sitting on the top of Hoary
Head. A running fight ensued, in which the outlaw escaped across the
mountain, and the prince, hurling his spear, but missing his mark,
sent the weapon through the crest of the peak, making the remarkable
window that is one of the sights of the island. And now, when a cloud
rests on this mountain, the people say that Kamapua is sitting there.

Some years before this Pele and her brothers had migrated from the
far southern islands and had made their home in Hawaii, close to the
crater of Kilauea,--so close that they were believed to be under
the special protection of the gods; and from that belief no doubt
grew the later faith that Pele and her family were gods themselves;
that they lived in the cones thrust up from the floor of Kilauea by
gas and steam while it was in a viscid state; that the music of their
dances came up in thunder gusts, and that they swam the white surges
of lava in the hell-pit.

Having heard of the beauty of this woman, Kamapua resolved to abduct
her, and after a visit, in which the usual courtesies and hospitalities
were observed, but which he paid in order to estimate the strength of
her following, he attacked the outlying huts of the village in the
night and killed their occupants, intending to follow this assault
by surrounding Pele's house and forcing the surrender of all within:
but hearing the outcry in the distance and divining its meaning, she
and her brothers hastily gathered weapons and provisions and fled to
a cave in the hills three miles away. There was a sufficient spring
in this place, and the entrance was defended by heavy blocks. The
fugitives could have endured a siege of a week with little likelihood
of loss. In the morning a dog, following their scent, led Kamapua
to this stronghold. An attack costing several lives on his side, and
making no effect on those entrenched within, convinced him that it was
useless to expect success from this method, so he piled fuel against
the entrance and set it afire, hoping to suffocate the defenders
to unconsciousness, when he would force his way to the interior and
rescue Pele. Here again he failed, for a strong draft blowing from
the cave carried the smoke into his own face. Then he ordered a hole
to be cut in the cavern roof, for this appeared to be not more than
fifteen or twenty feet thick, and being friable was easily worked by
the stone drills and axes of his men. The workers plied their tools
industriously, while Kamapua shouted threats and defiance through
the chinks in the wall before the cavern door.

His taunts were vain. While the sinking of the shaft was in progress,
a strange new power was coming upon Pele. The gods of the earth and
air had seen this assault and had resolved to take her part. The sky
became overcast with brown, unwholesome-looking clouds, the ground
grew hot and parched, vegetation drooped and withered, birds flew
seaward with cries of distress, and a waiting stillness fell upon
the world. Kamapua had cut away ten feet of rock, when the voice of
Pele was heard in long, shrill laughter, dying in far recesses of the
mountain, as if she were flying through passages of immense length. The
hills began to shake; vast roarings were beard; a choking fume of
sulphur filled the air, dust rolled upward, making a darkness like
the night; then, with a crash like the bursting of a world, the top
of Kilauea was blown toward the heavens in an upward shower of rock;
a fierce glow colored the ash-clouds that volleyed from the crater,
and down the valley came pouring a flood of lava, a river of white
fire, crested with the flame of burning forests, as with foam.

Kamapua and his bandits fled, but again he heard the laughter, this
time from the crater, which Pele had reached from within, and was now
mounting, free, vaulting through the clouds, revelling in the heat and
blaze and din, and hurling rocks and thunderbolts at the intruder. At
the ocean's edge the lava was still close at his heels. Its heat
blistered his skin. He had no time to reach his boats. With his spear
he struck a mighty blow on the ground and cracked the mountain to its
base, so that the ocean flowed in, and a fearful fight of fire and sea
began. Steam shot for miles into the air, with vast geysers leaping
through it, and the hiss and screech and bellow were appalling. The
crater filled with water, so that Pele and her brothers had to drink
it dry, lest the fires should be quenched. When they had done this
they resumed the attack on Kamapua, emptying the mountain of its
ash and molten rock, and hurling tons of stone after the wretch,
who was now straining every muscle to force his boat far enough to
sea to insure his safety. He did not retaliate this time, but was
glad to make his escape; for Pele had come to her godhood at last.

Next: Pele's Hair

Previous: The Three Wives Of Laa

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