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The Kingship Of Umi


Source: Myths & Legends Of Our New Possessions & Protectorate

When King Liloa died he left his younger son, Hakau, to rule Hawaii
in his place, but an older and natural son, Umi, whose mother had
been a farm-worker among the hills, he appointed as guardian of the
temples and their sacred statues. Umi had not learned of his royal
parentage until he had grown to be a fine stout fellow. He had lived
a lonely though adventurous life, and his kingly origin was shown in
the fact that he could never be induced to work or do anything useful,
unless it might be hunting and fishing. Impulses were his guides. He
was in nowise disturbed when he learned that Liloa was his father. On
the contrary, he took on a new dignity, donned the feather cloak and
helmet of a prince, walked, in a couple of days, to the king's house,
passed the guards without a word, carelessly striking down their
threatening spears with his own; then, gaining the king's presence
unannounced, he plumped himself into the old gentleman's lap. For
one of low descent to venture on a liberty like this was death, and
for a moment Liloa was mightily offended. He sprang up, spilling the
prince upon the earth; then, recognizing on the young man's breast an
ivory necklace clasp that had been his love-token to the girl on the
mountain farm years before, and admiring the courage of the youngster,
he kissed him and welcomed him to his family.

The old king died soon after, his skeleton being duly hidden in
the sea, and Hakau, who from the first had been jealous of his
half-brother, now began a series of slights and rebukes which hardly
justified rebellion, yet were so irritating that after enduring them
for a little, Umi retired to the hills and resumed his old, lonely,
wandering life. Not for long, however. Hakau developed into a tyrant,
narrow-minded, selfish, suspicious, cruel. One by one his followers
left him; treasons were rumored in his own household; his very priests
connived against him. At last, reports came to him of a resort to
arms,--of a company advancing from the other side of Hawaii, led by
Umi and Maukaleoleo, the latter a giant eleven feet high, who wore
a thicket of hair that fell to his shoulders, bore a spear thirty
feet long, and inspired terror by his very aspect, albeit in times
of peace he was one of the gentlest of men. When this giant was a
child the god Kanaloa had given him a golden fish, bidding him eat
it and be strong. He had done so, and on that very night began his
wonderful growth, his strength so increasing that presently he could
hurl rocks no two other men could lift.

Troubled by reports of the uprising, the king consulted the oracles in
a temple he had promised to endow, but never had,--his principal gift
(to be)--consisting of a figure of the war god Akuapaao. This had long
before been taken to Hawaii by a prophet whose canoe had been drawn
to its landing-place by the shark god and the god of the winds. In
darkness he entered the inner chamber of the temple. An unknown voice,
speaking from the holy of holies, bade him send his people to the woods
next day for plumage of birds, with which to decorate the statue, when
he should get it, and thereby atone for the neglect and contempt of the
gods that had done so much to bring him into disfavor with the people.

Clever priests! They were already in league with Umi, and this was
but a ruse to dissipate the king's forces. The oracle was obeyed;
the people were sent out to collect the feathers of bright-hued
birds, grumbling that they should be made to labor because of the
laxity and impiety of their ruler; and while they hunted, Umi, almost
within hearing, was praying before the very statue Hakau had sent
his messengers to fetch. He had imposed a strict taboo on his two
thousand warriors for half a day, the taboo in this instance imposing
silence, fasting, and retirement, the forsaking of all industries,
the extinction of all fires and lights, the muzzling of pigs and
dogs, and quieting of fowls by putting them under calabashes. As
Umi advanced toward the statue to decorate it with wreaths a beam
of light fell through a rent in the temple roof and crowned him and
the god. It was a promise. Fires on the mountain tops that night
assembled all the insurgent forces, who were awaiting these signals,
and a few hours later Umi sat on the throne of his father, and the
hated tyrant Hakau was offered to his neglected gods: a sacrifice.

Next: Keaulumoku's Prophecy

Previous: The Various Graves Of Kaulii

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