The Misdoing Of Kamapua

: 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 h
iry, 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.