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'Ai'a

See Also...
  Hanaaumoe
 
Waiakeakua
  Punahou
 
Kapo'i
  Kahalaopuna
  'Aumakua
  The Wizard Stones
  Pumai'a
  Dog Gods
Ku'ula was the father, Hina the mother, 'Ai'ai the son; Niolapa in Nu'uanu the land where they lived. Ku'ula and Hina were expert fishers and had a pa named Kahuoi, which was guarded by the bird Ka-manu-wai ("The water bird") at Kaumakapili. When Ku'ula went fishing for aku outside of Mamala Bay, the aku came up and filled his canoe. This fish was food for the bird.

Pa

One day when Ku'ula was fishing for aku outside of Mamala, Kipapalaulu, the ali'i of Honolulu, was also fishing and saw the aku coming up and filling Ku'ula's canoe, so the ali'i stole this pa Kahuoi from Ku'ula; the bird Kamanuwai went hungry. There at Kaumakapili, the bird closed its eyes ("ka pili o na maka") from hunger, and from then on, the place was known as Kau-maka-pili ("Perched with eyes closed").

Hina became pregnant and gave birth to a son named 'Ai'ai, whom the parents threw into the stream below Kaumakapili. The stream carried the baby toward the sea to where the bridge at Ho'oliliamanu is today; there above the rock known as Nahakaipuami, 'Ai'ai floated.

At Kapu'ukolo, the ali'i Kipapalaulu lived with his daughter Kauaelemimo. At noon one day, when Kauaelemimo went to bathe with her women, the abandoned child was found, and Kauaelemimo took the child for herself and provided for it. 'Ai'ai grew up to be a very good-looking child, so Kauaelemimo took him for her husband and slept with him.

When she was pregnant, she craved fish, so 'Ai'ai went fishing with a pole at that place where the custom house is today and caught fish to feed his wife. Ten days later, Kauaelemimo craved aku (skipjack tuna), so she asked 'Ai'ai to go fishing for some.

'Ai'ai told her, "Go get a pa from your father."

The woman agreed and went before her father, who asked, "What brings you here?"

"I've come to get a pa for my husband."

"Yes, a pa­here's a pa." The woman returned to 'Ai'ai and gave him the pa; 'Ai'ai told her, "I can't catch anything with this pa; I could fish till my body ached and still no fish would bite."

The woman asked, "So then, where is the pa you want?"

'Ai'ai replied, "Go tell your father that inside the fishing-gear gourd there is a pa that will always attract fish." 'Ai'ai wanted to get back his father's pa, Kahuoi, the one stolen by Kipapalaulu.

When the daughter appeared before Kipapalaulu and asked him again to give her a pa, Kipapalaulu denied he had any more: "There are no more pa; all the pa are gone."

Kauaelemimo replied, "Really? 'Ai'ai said there is a pa inside the fishing-gear gourd."

"Yes, a real pa--I just remembered it." He went and got the gourd and looked into it--the pa!

The wife brought the pa to 'Ai'ai, who seized it and said, "Now that you've returned to me, my bones will live!"

'Ai'ai said to his wife, "Go back and get a canoe for me--not five anana (fathoms) long, not eight anana long, but ten anana long--that's the canoe I spoke to your father about."

The wife went to her father and asked for the canoe ten anana long, and the canoe was brought out. The father asked, "Who will paddle the canoe?"

"My husband."

When 'Ai'ai heard his wife's response, he went and got the canoe, and with the bird Kamanuwai and the pa Kahuoi, he paddled outside of Mamala Bay and displayed the pa. The aku came up and filled the canoe. The bird ate and was revived. 'Ai'ai returned with the canoe filled with aku and gave the catch to his wife; but the pa Kahuoi was taken by the bird Kamanuwai, who now guards it. Such is the legend of 'Ai'ai.

Aku

NOTES

The story of 'Ai'ai was published in Fornander, Vol. 6 (554-59) Kamakau tells the story of a pa which belonged to a high chief named Kahuoi: "On the north side of the church of Kau-maka-pili in Honolulu, there once was a kuahu altar for the fishing lure, the pa hi aku, that belonged to Kahuoi. This was a very famous lure; when it was shown, the aku would fill the canoe. At that time the harbor of Kou was not entered by ships; the aku and 'ahi fish came in there." When Kahuoi goes fishing for uhu at Hana, Maui, the pa is stolen from him by Pu'olo-kalina (Tales 8). See note g below for a description of fishing for aku using a pa hi aku, or aku lure. See "Nihooleki" for a story with a similar incident of a fisherman asking for his pa and a canoe so he can fish.

A longer version of the story of the fishing god Ku'ula and his son 'Ai'ai, appears in Hawaiian Fishing Traditions, a collection of stories by Moke Manu and others (1-44), and in Thrum's Hawaiian Folk Tales (219-249). The story begins in Hana, Maui. The fishing god Ku'ula and his wife Hina present their son 'Ai'ai with some sacred fishing implements, then allow their bodies to be burned by a jealous rival and escape in their spirit forms to dwell in the sea, taking all the fish with them. 'Ai'ai takes revenge on his father's killers and brings the fish back to Hana. He teaches the people how to catch fish and how to worship his father and mother at fishing shrines; he establishes fishing shrines and fishing grounds throughout the islands. The following excerpt describes his work on O'ahu :

'Ai'ai then went to O'ahu, first landing at Makapu'u (beach at the east tip of O'ahu), in Ko'olau, where he founded a pohaku-i'a (fish stone) for red fish and speckled fish and called it Malei. This was a female rock, and the fish of that place is the uhu (parrot fish).

Uhu

The rock is referred to in a mele (song) of Hi'iaka:

I will not go to the stormy capes of Ko'olau,
The sea-cliffs of Moeaau.
The woman watching the uhu of Makapu'u
Dwells on the ledge of Kamakani
At Ko'olau. The living
Offer grass-twined sacrifices, O Malei!(a)

From the time 'Ai'ai founded that spawning-place until now, the fish from Makapu'u to Hanauma has been the uhu. There were also several gathering places for fish established outside of Kawaihoa (present day Portlock). 'Ai'ai next moved to Maunalua, then to Wai'alae and Kahala-ia (places along O'ahu's southern coast going west from Makapu'u). At Ka'alawai (the beach between Black Point and Leahi, or Diamond Head) he placed a white and brown rock. There in that place is an underwater pit filled with aholehole (a silvery perch-like fish), so the name of the area is Ka-lua-hole ("The pit of the ahole"). Right outside of Kahua-hui there is a ko'a where 'Ai'ai placed a large round sandstone that is surrounded by spawning-places for fish; Ponahakeone is its name. In ancient times the chiefs selected a very secret place wherein to hide the dead bodies of their greatly beloved, lest someone should steal the bones to make fishhooks, or arrows with which to shoot mice. For that reason the ancients referred to Ponahakeone as "He Lualoa no Na'li'i" ("A Deep Pit for the Chiefs")(b).

'Ai'ai came to Kalia (in Waikiki) and so on to Kaka'ako (area between Ala Moana and Honolulu harbor). Here he was befriended by a man named Apua, with whom he remained several days, observing and listening to the murmurs of an ali'i named Kou (the former name of Honolulu harbor and vicinity). This ali'i was a skillful hi-aku fisherman, his grounds being outside of Mamala (the sea outside the entrance of Honolulu Harbor) to Moanalua (land division west of Honolulu). No one was as skilled as he, and generous as well, giving aku to the people throughout the district.

As 'Ai'ai was dwelling with his friend Apua at Kaka'ako, he meandered off one day along the shore of Kuloloia (area from Kaka'ako to Fort Street), and so on to Pakaka (the canoe landing in Honolulu harbor) and Kapapoko (area near Honolulu harbor; Ka'ahumanu's Honolulu house took this name). But he did not return to the house of his friend, for he met a young woman gathering limu (seaweed) and fishing for crabs. This young woman, whose name was Pu'iwa (an area in Nu'uanu valley), lived in the uplands at Hanakaialama and was an unmarried virgin. She rather forwardly asked 'Ai'ai to be her husband; he agreed, and they went up together to her home and met her parents and relatives and soon the couple were married. After they lived together for some time, they had a son whom 'Ai'ai named Puniaiki. During those days, aku was sent up from Honolulu to Nu'uanu and distributed to different dwellings; but while others might each be given a whole fish, 'Ai'ai and his family got only a portion from some neighbor, so Pu'iwa was angry and told 'Ai'ai to go to the brook and get some 'o'opu and 'opae to eat. 'Ai'ai went and dug a ditch and constructed a dam to lead the water from the brook into some pits where he could catch 'o'opu and 'opae (c). He labored some days at this project, and the 'o'opu and 'opae he caught were hung up to dry.

On a following day, 'Ai'ai and his wife went with their child to the brook. She left her son on the bank of the stream while she engaged in catching 'opae and 'o'opu from the pits. Shortly, the child began to cry, so 'Ai'ai told his wife to leave her fishing to care for him, but she answered him saucily, so 'Ai'ai called upon his ancestors, and immediately, a dark, lowering cloud drew near and poured out a flood of water upon the stream, the dam was broken by the freshet and all the 'o'opu and 'opae, along with the child, were swept toward the sea. His wife, however, was not swept away by the flood. 'Ai'ai then rose up and departed, without any further thought of her.

He went down from Nu'uanu valley to Kaumakapili (the area above Beretania street from Nuuanu to the stream), and as he was standing there, he saw some women fishing for 'o'opu on the banks of the stream, Kikihale, the daughter of the ali'i Kou, among them.

The female guardian of the ali'i's daughter caught a very large 'o'opu, and 'Ai'ai recognized it as his own child, changed from a human being into a fish (d). The guardian showed it to Kikihale, who told her to put it into a large calabash with water and feed it with limu, so that it might become a pet fish. This was done and the 'o'opu was tended very carefully night and day.

'O'opu

One day while caring for the pet, the guardian was startled to see in the gourd a human child looking at her. The water in the calabash had disappeared. She was greatly surprised and, as she looked upon this miraculous child, she felt a dark foreboding and a trembling fear.

This woman went and told Kikihale of this child who was formerly an 'o'opu, and after hearing the story, Kikihale hurried to see it, with grave doubts, however, that the report was true; but when she looked into the calabash, she saw a child. She lifted the child in her hands and carefully examined its form and noted its handsome features. She desired to marry the child and said: "Now, my guardian, you and your husband take and rear this child till he is grown, then I will be his wife."

The guardian answered: "By the time this child grows up, you will be old; you will be in the evening of life while he will be in the early morn of his, so won't you two be unhappy?"

Kikihale replied: "You won't be to blame for that; these things are mine to consider because the desire is mine, not yours, my guardian."

The child became known among all the ali'i and attendants. He was nourished and brought up to adulthood, when Kikihale married him as she had said; and for a time they lived together happily. But Kikihale began to notice her husband was not disposed to do anything for their support, so she grew unhappy. Finally, she scolded him angrily: "My husband, can't you go out like the other men to assist our father and the attendants in fishing, instead of eating your fill, then rolling over facing the ridge-pole of the house and counting the 'aho (the rafters)? This may do while my father is alive, but if he should die, who would support us?" Thus she reproached him from day to day, and the words stung Puniaiki's heart.

So one day he said to his wife: "It's unpleasant to hear you constantly criticizing my behavior. Catching fish in the ocean is not as difficult as catching wild animals; the fish are obedient if called, and you may eat wastefully of my catch. I have command over fish, men, pigs, and dogs. If you are a favorite of your father, go and ask him for double canoes, fishing gear, and paddlers."

After her husband spoke, Kikihale hastened to Kou, her father, and told him what Puniaiki had said. The request was promptly granted. Kikihale returned to her husband and told him she had gotten all he had asked for. Going down to the canoe landing, Puniaiki found the men loading the canoes with nets, rods, lines, and pa hi aku (pearl-shell fishhooks for catching aku). He lit a fire and burned up all the pa. His wife got angry and cried loudly for her father's pa, then went and told her father of her husband's mischievous action; but her father didn't say a word about his son-in-law's action, though he had given his son-in-law five gourds filled with pa, a thousand in all, and all his pa were burned up save only two, which Kou had reserved (e).

That night Puniaiki slept apart from his wife, and he told the canoe paddlers to sleep in the canoe sheds, not at their homes that night; and they obeyed his words (f).

It was Kou's habit to arouse his men before daybreak to sail in the malau (light double canoes for fishing in quiet water) for aku fishing at the mouth of the harbor because the aku fed at daybreak, not after sunrise. The canoes would enter the schools of aku and hook the fish, and this ali'i had become famous as a most successful fisherman. But on this day the miraculous work of 'Ai'ai's child would be seen (g).

While Kou and his men always set out before dawn, here was Puniaiki still at home at sunrise. When he woke up, he looked mauka (mountainward) and saw a rainbow at Kaumakapili, with its reddish mist spread out and a human form standing within it. He knew the form was his father, 'Ai'ai, so he went there and 'Ai'ai showed him the place where the pa called Kahuoi was kept, and said to his son: "I will remain here till you return from fishing; be quick."

When Puniaiki reached the canoe landing, the canoes were quickly prepared for departure, and as they reached Kapapoko and Pakaka, at the sea of Kuloloia, they went on to Ulukua, now the lighthouse location of Honolulu harbor. Here Puniaiki asked the paddlers: "What is the name of that surf cresting before the prows of our canoes?"

"Puuiki," replied the men.

Then he said to them: "Point the prows of the canoes straight for the breakers and paddle strongly." The men doubted there were any aku at that place in the surf, but that was none of their business. As they neared the breakers of Puuiki, below the mouth of Mamala, Puniaiki said to his men: "Turn the canoes around and go shoreward." As they returned, he said quickly, "Paddle hard, for here we are on top of a school of aku." When the men looked into the water, they didn't see any fish swimming about, but on reaching Ulukua, Puniaiki took the pa Kahuoi out from its wrapping in the fishing gourd and held the hook in his hand. At this, an unprecedented number of aku fairly leaped into the canoes.

The canoes became so filled with fish, without any labor, that they sank in the water as they reached Kapu'u-kolo (shore between Nu'uanu Street and Honolulu Harbor), so the men jumped off the canoes and carried them to the beach. The canoe men were amazed by this work of Kou's son-in-law; and the people on shore shouted as the aku, which filled the harbor, swam toward the fishpond of Kuwili (in Iwilei) and on into the mouth of Leleo stream.

When the canoes touched shore, Puniaiki seized two fish in his hands and went to join his father, and 'Ai'ai directed him to take them up near where his mother lived. These aku were not gifts for her, but an offering to Ku'ula at a ko'a established just above Kahuailanawai (possibly the pool in upper Nu'uanu called Jackass Ginger). Puniaiki obeyed his father's instructions, and after he returned, 'Ai'ai sent him to give a supply of aku to his mother, Pu'iwa. She was greatly surprised that this handsome young man was her son, and this gift of aku was the first fruits of his labor.

The people marvelled at the quantity of fish throughout the harbor, so that even the stream at Kikihale (area of Honolulu bordered by Maunakea St., King St., and Nu'uanu stream; named after Kou's daughter) was also full of aku. Puniaiki commanded the people to take of them day and night, and the news of this visit of aku traveled all around O'ahu. This unequalled haul of aku was a great humiliation to Kou, diminishing his reputation as a fisherman; but he was neither envious toward his son-in-law, nor angry­he just sat silently. After giving the subject much thought, he finally decided to turn over the duties of fishing to Puniaiki, since the young man could carry them out so effortlessly.

Shortly afterwards, 'Ai'ai arranged with Puniaiki to establish the following ku'ula, ko'a, and pohaku i'a around the island of O'ahu: the Kou stone for Honolulu and Kaumakapili; a ku'ula at Kupahu; a fish stone at Hanapouli, 'Ewa; the ku'ula Ahuena for Waipi'o; two for Honouliuli; the ko'a Hani-o outside of Kalaeloa (Barber's Point); Kua and Maunalahilahi for Wai'anae; Kamalino for Waimea; and Kaihukuuna for La'ie-malo'o, Ko'olau. 'Ai'ai and his son also visited Kaua'i and Ni'ihau on this work, then turned around and went together to Hawai'i. The principal fishing grounds there are Poo-a, Kahaka, and Olelomoana at Kona; Kalae at Ka'u; Kupakea at Puna, and I at Hilo.

In former times at these fishing grounds around all the islands, great numbers and varieties of fish were seen, and occasionally deep sea kinds came close in shore; but in this new era there are not so many. Some people say it is on account of the changing times.

 

NOTES TO THE SECOND VERSION OF "'AI'AI"

(a) According to a woman named Kanaloa, the rock Malei, along with other supernatural rocks, came with Pele, the volcano goddess, to Hawai'i from Kahiki (Green 64-5); hence Hi'iaka, Pele's sister, offers a chant to Malei when she visits O'ahu. Another translation of Hi'iaka's mele is found in N.B. Emerson's Pele and Hiiaka (88).

The Pukui-Elbert dictionary notes that Malei was the guardian of the uhu, or parrot fish, and offerings of lipoa seaweed were placed on her altar to assure successful fishing. McAllister records from N.B. Emerson the following traditions concerning Malei: "'Malei was a female kupua (supernatural being) who assumed various bodily forms. Offerings were necessary, not for her physical but for her spiritual sustenance. The burnt offering was not merely for its sweet smelling savour; it was an aliment necessary to the creature's continued existence. For the same or a parallel reason, songs of praise and adulation (kanaenae) were equally acceptable and equally efficacious. Cut off the flowers of speech as well as the offerings of its worshippers, and a kupua would soon dwindle into nothingness. A few years ago, as I am told, a Hawaiian woman on entering a certain cave in the region of Waimanalo, found herself confronted with a stone figure, from which glowed like burning coals a group of eight flaming eyes, being set in deep sockets in the stone. This object was soon recognized as the bodily dwelling of the kupua Malei. This little monolith at a later time came into the possession of Mr. John Cummins of Waimanalo.'"

McAllister adds, "Lahilahi Webb states that after his death, Mr. Cummins wanted Malei brought to Bernice P. Bishop Museum. This, however, was not done. Malei was taken back to her promontory at Makapu'u Point and cemented to the cliff. Now only the cement base remains, for Malei has disappeared and no one knows what has become of her. It is said that one of the lighthouse keepers was married to a Hawaiian woman who was constantly ailing. It was suggested that probably Malei was angry and that the husband removed the stone, throwing it into the sea, or burying it, or breaking it. Not long after he was supposed to have committed this offense he died. Others think that some soldiers removed the stone. Possibly with the removal of the worshipers, Malei 'dwindled to nothingness'" (58-9).

(b) In "The Legend of the Fishhook, called Na-iwi-o-Pae, now in the Government Museum" (Honolulu Almanac 1884, 39-40), E.M. Beckley tells the story of a fishhook made from the bone of an ali'i unfortunate enough to have his burial cave in Waipi'o valley (behind Hi'ilawe Falls) discovered: "One of the thigh bones of Pae, after his enraged spirit had been properly propitiated, was fashioned into a fishhook for deep-sea fishing. It was an extremely lucky hook and seemed to have a kind of power to attract fish. It has always been an object of strong desire to the chiefs of those and subsequent days. Battles have been fought, lost, and gained for the possession of this fishhook.

In those days, chiefs as well as commoners went fishing and took great pride in their skill as fishermen; in fact, fishing was looked on as one of the necessary manly accomplishments of warriors and statesmen. In using Na-iwi-o-Pae, fishermen call on the spirit of Pae, which had long before been entirely propitiated by the numberless offerings made to it, to assist in attracting the fish, and to keep it when hooked until landed­from which arose the famous saying of 'E Pae e! paa ia a paa ka kaua-i-a' ('O Pae! hold our fish securely').

The natives of these islands formerly held the belief that the bones of persons of quality had an especial attraction for fishes, and the higher the rank, the greater the attraction, so such bones were much sought after by high- and low-born alike." (Another version of the legend of Pae's bones appears in Kamakau's Ruling Chiefs 215-217).

(c) Beckley writes: "The natives had a very ingenious method of catching 'o'opu, small fresh-water fish found mostly in our mountain streams and having the flavor of trout. They built a platform of large logs placed side by side across our larger streams on the mountain slopes. The platform is placed at about or just above the high water mark towards the end of the dry season when the water is low. When the first heavy rains of the season fall, and the streams get full, the water becomes so muddy with the wash from the sloping ground adjoining the banks that the 'o'opu of the previous dry season are driven away from their usual haunts in water holes, under large rocks, logs, etc., and are carried down by the hurrying waters. The 'o'opu always try to keep in the surface water as it is comparatively clear and are swept in immense quantities onto the platform, and from there into a ditch leading out to a plain where they are gathered up in immense quantities" (8).

(d). Such metamorphoses, common in Hawaiian legends, are based on the belief that a human being could be transformed into the kinolau, or body form, of his or her family god ('aumakua), whether this form was a natural phenomenon (e.g., volcanic fire, thunder, lightning), a plant (e.g., wauke, bitter gourd, 'ohi'a lehua), or an animal (e.g., shark, lizard, owls, cutworm, or, in the case of 'Ai'ai's son, an 'o'opu, or goby fish). Such transformations could take place not only in life, but after death (see Kamakau's discussion of "Kaku'ai­Transfiguration" in Ka Po'e Kahiko, 63-91); or if an 'aumakua slept with a person, the child of the union could be born in an other-than-human form of the 'aumakua: "In this case [the child] either took itself away or was carried by a relative to the stream, the sea, or wherever it properly belonged. It in turn became one of the family 'aumakua" (Handy and Pukui 122).

Why would 'Ai'ai teach people how to catch 'o'opu, a kinolau, or body form, of his family? (See note c above.) In New Guinea, only family members could catch family members who were fish. In his Autobiography Kiki: Ten Thousand Years in a Lifetime (Melbourne: Longman Cheshire 1968), Albert Maori Kiki explains that only members of his father's clan could catch the larovea fish because only they knew the fish's secret name, passed down in the family from the ancestor, an ugly man who became the first larovea fish (26). Other fish belonged to other clans through such ancestral connections. For example, the Kauri clan was related to the Maria fish and knew its secret name, and only this clan was allowed to catch it (27). Of course, because the fish was an ancestor, the clan could not eat it and had to give it away when it was caught. (In the Hawaiian belief system, a dead family member could be preyed into an animal, which became the family's çaumakua; family members were prohibited from partaking of the animal's flesh.) Such prohibtions against eating the fish that one caught seem to have encourageed the distribution and exchange of food so vital to the integrity of Pacific island societies: "Only my father's people were allowed to catch [larovea fish] but could not eat them. All the fish they caught were distributed among the other people of the village. [My father's people] were not given anything directly in exchange. But there is so much exchange of food going on in Orokolo that the people do not bother even to have a market. When a man has a big catch of fish or a large yam harvest, he will automatically distribute some of the food to neighbours, friends, and relatives" (26).

Compare the Hawaiian story of the origin of the hina'i hinalea, a fishing basket for catching hinalea (a wrasse): Kalamainu'u, the sister, angry at her brother Hinale, learns from Hermit Crab how to make and bait the basket to capture him (See "Kalamainu'u," Manu 63-75).

(e) Te Rangi Hiroa describes a Samoan "Hook obtaining custom": "A master fisherman could call on another master fisherman to obtain aku hooks. The fisherman who had hooks could exempt any hooks in active use, i.e., tied to the rod, but spare hooks (kept in a basket) had to be displayed to the caller, who looked them over and chose one or two he thought might be effective" (Samoan Material Culture 520).

(f) Canoe fishing was generally restricted to men in traditional times. Aku fishermen slept in a sanctuary the night before going fishing in order to purify themselves. "It was strictly forbidden for any one to sneak away secretly to his own house to lie with his wife" (Malo 210). E.S. Craighill Handy gives the following explanation of this Polynesian taboo: "Consecration of canoes, nets, spears, lines, and hooks was an essential element in the success of fishing, for fish and fishermen, like all else were under the control of tapu and the mana atua [supernatural power]. This explains why women in former days never, and now rarely, went out in the fishing canoes. The women being common (noa) would have neutralized the tapu of the craft, gear, and fishermen" (Houses, Boats, and Fishing in the Society Islands 73-4). In Satawal, Mircronesia, pregnant and menstruating women were thought to be especially dangerous to the success of fishing and were forbidden from eating certain fish because "the sea god hates the smell of blood" (Tomoya 21). Polynesian fishermen believed human blood drove away fish.

(g) Schools of aku and 'ahi used to come near shore at the mouth of Mamala (Honolulu Harbor). Kamakau writes that there were two ways of catching aku: the first method involved taking out to sea a malau (bait tank) of live i'ao (a small silvery fish); after locating a school of aku with the help of noio (Hawaiian terns) which fed on the piha (herring), nehu pala (anchovy) and other small fish that aku ate, one man threw out the live fish to attract the aku to the canoe. As more and more live bait was tossed into the water, the hungry aku worked themselves into a feeding frenzy. Then the bamboo fishing poles were cast; the hooks, baited with the i'ao, were dropped onto the water and shaken: "When a fish took the bait and broke the water, the fisherman stood up straight and grasped the pole with both hands. The fish came completely out of the water and slapped against the right side of the fisherman's chest, sounding like the dashing of one wave against another as its head smacked against the fisherman's armpit. He ran his right hand along its head and with a quick push with his open palm he freed the hook and shoved the aku forward into the canoe. From the i'ao in his mouth, he rebaited his hook and cast again. If he used forty i'ao, he would catch forty aku" (Works 73).

The other, more ancient method of catching aku, was called pa hi aku and required "hard" bait--a pa, or lure, made from "the shell of an uhi, or thick mother-of-pearl bivalve (papaua manoanoa). A choice uhi is iridescent [like a rainbow] and, like a red cowry, leho 'ula, its choiceness can be seen. The pa­like the leho 'ula was a choice "chiefess" (ali'i wahine maika'i) and the lure, the pa hi aku, was desired by the aku as a beautiful chiefess is desired by men" (Works 74-5). Kamakau says that the two methods (live-bait and hard-bait) of catching aku were incompatible: "With the malau, all stayed in one place; in fishing with the pa lure, each canoe was paddled strongly in a different direction. Since this would interfere with the malau fishing, it was not wise for the two kinds to go on at the same time, as those trolling with a lure would drive away the fish of the malau fishermen" (75).

Beckley, on the other hand, says live-bait and hard-bait were used together in aku fishing, and a report by E.S. Craighill Handy of aahi [albacore] fishing seems to confirm this: "When the school of aahi is reached the ouma [a small silver fish] are taken out [from the basket bait container] and cast about on the water ahead of the canoe to attract the aahi as the canoe paddles on following the school. The pearl-shell hooks skimming the water evidently resemble­to the aahi at least­the small fry, for [the hooks] are snapped up by the big fish (Houses, Boats, and Fishing in the Society Islands, 104).

Beckley describes pa hi aku as follows: "Aku was formerly caught using muhe'e for bait, a kind of squid found floating on the surface of the sea in great quantities. A mother-of-pearl hook, or pa, is also used in place of bait. Small mullets and 'i'iao (a small fish that comes in immense schools) are now the favorite bait, and must always be used in connection with the pa. These bait fish are taken out alive in large gourds or tubs to the fishing ground (that is, any place where aku are seen, usually three to ten miles out on the open sea) and are thrown overboard, a handful at a time; they will immediately take shelter in the shadow of the canoe. The aku, chasing the bait fish, are attracted in great numbers around the canoes, which, for this kind of fishing are generally double ones. The pa are then thrown in the water without being baited and are mistaken for fish by the aku because the hooks shimmer and glisten like the 'i'iao. The pa, are of two kinds, the pa-hau (snowy pa) and the pa-anuenue (rainbow pa). The pa-hau is used from morning till the sun is high, as the sun's rays striking it obliquely makes it glisten with a white pearly light which looks like the shimmer from the scales of the smaller kinds of fish on which the aku lives, but at midday when the sun's rays fall perpendicularly on it, it appears transparent and is not taken by the aku. The pa-anuenue is then used. This hook has rainbow refractions, and the perpendicular rays of the sun make it shimmer and glisten like a living thing. Sometimes shells are found uniting the two characters, and such are always highly prized, as they can be used all day. The shell is barbed on the inner side with bone, and two tufts of hog's bristles are attached at the barbed end at right angles to it to keep the inner side up so the shell will lie flat on the surface of the sea" (9-10).

In his account of aku fishing in the Society Islands, Nordhoff lists a variety of shells used in the making of pa, or lures, with each of the islands having one or more varieties (15 on the largest island, Tahiti): "When one considers the fact that each variety is obtainable in three, four, five, or more shadings of colour, the complexity of this shell-lore becomes evident. Each shade has its technical name, like iri ahi'a (skin of the rose-apple)--the flush of pink pearl; or pua fau (Hibiscus flower)--tinged with the canary yellow of the wild hibiscus blossom.

"All of these kinds of shell, of course, are local varieties of the black-lipped pearl-'oyster'­differently slightly in appearance after the dark outer surface of the valve has been ground away to expose the full lustre of the nacre. This is a fitting place to state my firm belief that the bonito recognizes these differences in colour and what I can only call 'texture' of the mother-of-pearl­differences so small in many cases that they are scarcely perceptible to the human eye. At one time I was sceptical. But eight years of fishing with the natives have convinced me that the fish recognize instantly the correct shell for the conditions of weather, time of day, and the small fry on which they are feeding. Often, out of a dozen hooks available aboard a canoe, there will be only one at which the fish will strike freely" (241-243).

As the fisherman trolls for aku from his canoe, he tries different shells to find the right one: "As the hook skitters on the surface in the wake of the canoe, he moves the tip of his rod back and forth laterally causing the hook to follow a zigzag course. This increases its speed through the water and is believed to be tempting to the fish. A bonito makes the water boil a foot behind the shell, but refuses to take hold. Up comes the rod, the hook is made fast to the netting, and another one goes overboard. A moment, in the midst of the fish, suffices to try each shell, and no time must be lost. Sometimes when only an occassional bonito will strike, the expert hastily opens the fish he has caught, in search of roe. If roe is found, he compares its colour with his hooks until he finds one of precisely the same shade. Such a bit of shell, it is thought, will be seized without hesitation" (253).

 

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