'Aka'aka ("Laughter")(a) is a spur of the Ko'olau mountains at the head of Manoa Valley, forming the ridge running back to and above Waiakeakua ["The water of the gods"; photo right]. 'Aka'aka was united in marriage to Nalehua'aka'aka, still represented by some lehua bushes on the brow of the ridge. The couple had twins, a boy named Kahaukani and a girl named Kauakuahine. These children were adopted at birth by an ali'i named Kolowahi and his sister Pohakukala, who were cousins of 'Aka'aka. The brother took charge of the boy and the sister took charge of the girl. When the children were grown up, the foster parents decided to reunite them in marriage; and the children, having been brought up separately and in ignorance of their relationship, made no objections. They were accordingly married,and a girl was born to them and given the name Kahalaopuna (b). Thus Kolowahi and Pohakukala, by uniting the twins in marriage, made permanent the union of rain (Kauakuahine) and wind (Kahaukani) for which Manoa valley is noted; and the fruits of this union was the most beautiful woman of her time. So Manoa girls, foster children of the Manoa rains and winds, have generally been supposed to have inherited the beauty of Kahalaopuna.
A house was built for Kahalaopuna at Kahaiamano on the road to Waiakeakua, and there she lived with a few attendants. The house was surrounded by a fence of 'auki, with a pulo'ulo'u (a pole topped by a ball of white kapa) placed on each side of the gate, indicating kapu, or forbidden, ground, because the person or persons inhabiting the premises were of the highest rank and sacred.
Kahalaopuna was very beautiful from her earliest childhood. Her checks were so red and her face so bright that a glow emanated from them and shone through the thatch of her house when she was inside; a rosy light seemed to envelop the house, and bright rays constantly played over the house. When she went to bathe in the spring below her house, the rays of light surrounded her like a halo. The natives maintain that this bright light is still occasionally seen at Kahaiamano, indicating that the spirit of Kahalaopuna is revisiting her old home.
She was betrothed in childhood to Kauhi, a young ali'i of Kailua, in Ko'olau. His parents realized the great honor the planned union of their son with the Princess of Manoa would bring them. Kahalaopuna was deemed of a semi-supernatural descent. So they always sent the poi of Kailua and the fish of Kawainui for the girl's table, and Kahalaopuna was brought up entirely on the food of her prospective husband.
When she had grown to young womanhood, she was so exquisitely beautiful that the people of the valley would make visits to the outer pulo'ulo'u at the sacred precinct of Lua'alaea, the land adjoining Kahaiamano, just to get a glimpse of the beauty as she went to and from the spring (c). In this way, the fame of her surpassing loveliness was spread all over the valley and came to the ears of two men, Kumauna and Keawaa, both of whom were disfigured by a contraction of the lower eyelids known as makahelei ("drawn eyes") (d). Neither of these men had ever seen Kahalaopuna, but they fell in love with her from hearsay. Not daring to court her because of their disfigurement, they would weave and deck themselves with lei of maile, ginger, and ferns, then go to Waikiki for surf-bathing and indulge in boasting of their conquest of Kahalaopuna, claiming the lei they wore were love-gifts from her.
Now, when the waves of Kalehuawehe at Waikiki were just right for surfing, people from all parts of the island came to enjoy the delightful sport. Kauhi, the betrothed of Kahalaopuna, was one of these. The time set for his marriage to Kahalaopuna was drawing near, but he had not yet seen her. Hearing the frequently repeated claims of the two makahelei men, Kauhi finally believed them, and he was so filled with jealous rage, he was determined to kill her (e)
He started for Manoa at dawn, and when he reached Mahinauli, in mid-valley, he rested under a hala tree growing in a grove of wiliwili. He sat there some time, brooding over the fancied injury to himself and nursing his wrath. As he resumed his walk, he broke off and carried along with him a bunch of hala nuts. At noon he reached Kahaiamano and presented himself before the house of Kahalaopuna. The latter had just awakened from a sleep and was lying on a pile of mats facing the door, thinking of going to the spring, her usual bathing-place.
She saw a stranger at her door. She looked at him for a while; then guessing from often repeated descriptions of her betrothed that this stranger was he, she asked him to enter. Kauhi refused and asked her to come outside. The young girl had been so accustomed from early childhood to consider herself as belonging to Kauhi and being indebted to him for her daily food that she obeyed him unhesitatingly.
He perhaps intended to kill her then, but the girl's obedience and her extreme loveliness made him hesitate for a while; and after looking intently at her for some time, he told her to go and bathe and then prepare herself to accompany him on a ramble about the woods.
While Kahalaopuna was bathing, Kauhi remained moodily seated where she had left him and watched the bright glow, like rainbow rays, playing above the spring. He was alternately filled with jealousy, regret, and longing for the great beauty of the girl; but he did not relent in his dreadful purpose. He seemed to resent his betrothed's supposed infidelity the more because she had thrown herself away on such unworthy persons, who were, moreover, ugly and disfigured, while he himself was not only a person of rank and distinction, but was also considered very handsome.
When Kahalaopuna was ready, he motioned her to follow him and turned to go without a word. They went across Kumakaha to Hualea, when the girl said, "Why don't you stay and have something to eat before we go?"
He answered rather surlily, "I don't care to eat; I have no appetite."
He looked so sternly at her as he said this that she cried out, "Are you annoyed with me? Have I displeased you in any way?"
He kept on his way, and she followed, till they came to a large stone in 'Aihualama [a stream and trail on the west side of upper Manoa valley; the trail goes over a ridge, from Manoa Valley to Nu'uanu Valley]. Then he turned abruptly and looked at the young girl with an expression of mingled longing and hate. At last, with a deep sigh, he said, "You are beautiful, my betrothed, but, as you have been false, you must die."
The young girl looked up in surprise at these strange words, and saw only hatred and deadly purpose in Kauhi's eyes; so she replied: "If I have to die, why didn't you kill me at home, so that my people could have buried my bones; but you brought me to the wild woods, and who will bury me here? If you think I have been false to you, why not seek proof before believing it?" (f).
But Kauhi would not listen to her appeal. Perhaps it only reminded him of what he considered his great loss. He struck her across the temple with the heavy bunch of hala nuts he had broken off at Mahinauli and still carried. The blow killed the girl instantly, and Kauhi hastily dug a hole under the side of the large stone and buried her; then he started down the valley toward Waikiki. As soon as he was gone, a large owl, who was a god and a relative of Kahalaopuna and who had followed her from home, immediately set to digging the body out. Then brushing the dirt carefully off with its wings and breathing into the girl's nostrils, the owl restored her to life. It rubbed its face against the bruise on the temple and healed it immediately.
Kauhi had not advanced very far on his way when he heard the voice of Kahalaopuna singing a lament over his unkindness and beseeching him to believe her, or, at least, prove his accusation. Hearing her voice, Kauhi returned, and, seeing the owl flying above her, recognized the means of her resurrection. He approached the girl and ordered her to follow him. They went up the side of the ridge which divides Manoa Valley from Nu'uanu. It was hard work for the tenderly nurtured maiden to climb the steep mountain ridge, at one time crawling through a thorny tangle of underbrush, and at another clinging against the bare face of the rocks while holding on to swinging vines for support. Kauhi never offered to assist her, but kept going, only looking back occasionally to see that she was following. When they arrived at the summit of the divide between the two valleys, she was all scratched and bruised, with her pa'u, or skirt, in tatters. Seating herself on a stone to regain her breath, she asked Kauhi where they were going. He never answered, but struck her again with the hala branch, killing her instantly, as before. He dug a hole near where she lay and buried her, then started for Waikiki by way of Kakea ridge.
As soon as he was out of sight, the owl again scratched away the dirt and restored the girl to life. Again she followed after her betrothed, singing a song of love and regret for his anger, and pleading with him to lay aside his unjust suspicions. On hearing her voice again, Kauhi returned and ordered her to follow him. They descended into upper Nu'uanu Valley at Kaniakapupu and crossed over to Waolani ridge, where he killed and buried the faithful girl a third time; and again the owl restored her.
On his way back to Waikiki, Kauhi again heard her singing a song describing the perils and difficulties of their journey, and she again ended by pleading for pardon for the unknown fault. The wretched man, on hearing her voice again, was enraged. His repeated acts of cruelty and the suffering of the girl, far from softening his heart, only served to render him more brutal, and to extinguish what little spark of kindly feeling he might have had originally. His only thought was to kill her for good, and thus obtain some satisfaction for his wasted poi and fish. He returned to her and ordered her, as before, to follow him. He started for Kilohana, at the head of Kalihi Valley, where he beat her to death again.
She was again restored by the owl and made her resurrection known by singing to her cruel lover. This time he took her across gulches, ravines, and plains, until they arrived at Pohakea, on the 'Ewa slope of the Ka'ala Mountains, where he killed her a fifth time and buried her under a large koa tree (g). The faithful owl tried to scrape the dirt away, so as to get at the body of the girl, but his claws became entangled in the numerous roots and rootlets which Kauhi had been careful not to cut away. The more the owl scratched, the more deeply tangled he got, and finally, with bruised claws and ruffled feathers, he had to give up the idea of rescuing the girl; and perhaps he thought it useless, as she would be sure to make her resurrection known to Kauhi and be killed for a sixth time. So the owl left and followed Kauhi on his return to Waikiki.
There had been another witness to Kauhi's cruelties, and that was 'Elepaio, a little green bird, a cousin to Kahalaopuna.
As soon as this bird saw that the owl had deserted the body of Kahalaopuna, it flew straight to Kahaukani and Kauakuahine and told them of all that had happened. The girl had been missed, but, as some of the servants had recognized Kauhi, and had seen the couple leave together for what they supposed was a ramble in the adjoining woods, no one had felt great anxiety. But when 'Elepaio told its tale, there was great consternation, and even positive disbelief; for how could any one in his senses, they argued, be guilty of such cruelty to such a lovely, innocent being, and to one, too, belonging entirely to himself?
In the meantime, the spirit of the murdered girl revealed itself to a party who were passing by; and one of them, a young man, moved with compassion, went to the tree indicated by the spirit, removed the dirt and roots, and found the body, still warm. He wrapped it in his kihei, and then covered it entirely with maile, ferns, and ginger, and, making a ha'awe, or back-load, carried it to his home at Kamo'ili'ili [Mo'ili'ili]. There, he entrusted the body to his elder brother, who called upon two spirit sisters of theirs, with whose aid they finally succeeded in restoring the body to life. In the course of the treatment she was frequently taken to an underground water-cave called Mauoki for kakelekele (hydropathic cure). The water-cave has ever since been known as the "Water of Kahalaopuna" (h).
The young man who rescued her from the grave naturally wanted her to become his bride; but the girl refused, saying that as long as Kauhi lived, she was his, and none other's, as her very body had been nourished on his food, and was as much his property as the food had been.
The elder brother then counselled the younger to seek, in some way, to kill Kauhi. To this end, they conspired with the parents of Kahalaopuna to keep her last resurrection secret. The young man then set to work to learn all the mele (songs) Kahalaopuna had sung to Kauhi during that fatal journey. When he knew these songs well, he sought the houses where the ali'i played kilu (a chanting and kissing game) because he was sure Kauhi would be found there.
One day when Kauhi was playing kilu, this young man placed himself on the opposite side, and as Kauhi's turn ended, he took up the kilu and chanted the first of Kahalaopuna's mele.
Kauhi was very much surprised, and contrary to the etiquette of the game of kilu, stopped the young man in his play to ask him where he had learned the mele. The young man answered he had learned it from Kahalaopuna, the famous Manoa beauty, who was a friend of his sister's and who was now on a visit at their house. Kauhi, knowing the owl had deserted the body of the girl, felt certain she was really dead and accused the young man of lying. This led to an angry, stormy scene, and the antagonists had to be kept apart by order of the King.
The next night found them both at the kilu house, and when the young man sang the second of Kahalaopuna's mele, another angry discussion took place. Again the two antagonists were separated by others. On the third night, the third mele was sung, and the dispute between the two men became so violent that Kauhi finally said that the Kahalaopuna his rival knew must be an impostor, as he himself was certain the real young woman of that name was dead. Kauhi then dared his rival to produce Kahalaopuna; and if the woman was not the genuine one, then his rival should be killed; on the other hand, if the woman proved to be Kahalaopuna, then Kauhi should be declared the liar and pay for his insults with his life.
This was just what the young man had been scheming for, and he quickly assented to the challenge, calling on the King and the other ali'i to take notice of the terms of the bet and see that the terms were enforced.
On the appointed day Kahalaopuna went to Waikiki, attended by her parents, relatives, servants, and the two spirit sisters, who had assumed human form for that day so as to accompany their friend and advise her if necessary. 'Aka'aka, the grandfather, who had been residing in Waikiki some little time previous to the dispute between the young men, was appointed one of the judges at the approaching trial.
Kauhi had consulted the priests and sorcerers of his family as to the possibility of the murdered girl having assumed human shape for the purpose of working him some injury. Kaea, a famous priest and seer of his family, told him to have large leaves of 'ape spread where Kahalaopuna and her party were to be seated. If she were a spirit, she would not be able to tear the 'ape leaf on which she would be seated; but if she were human, the leaf would be torn. With the permission of the King, the leaves were spread. The King, surrounded by the highest chiefs and a vast assemblage from all parts of the island, was there to witness the test.
When Kahalaopuna and her party were on the road to the scene of the test, her spirit friends informed her of the 'ape leaves, and advised her to trample on them so as to tear them as much as possible, as they, being spirits, would be unable to tear the leaves on which they would be seated, and if anyone's attentions were drawn to them, they would be found out and killed by the po'e po'i 'uhane (spirit catchers).
The young girl faithfully performed what was required of her. Kaea, seeing the torn leaves, remarked that she was evidently human, but that he felt the presence of spirits and would watch for them, certain they were in some way connected with the girl. 'Aka'aka then told him to look in a calabash of water, where he would in all probability see the spirits. The seer, in his eagerness to unravel the mystery, forgot his usual caution and ordered a vessel of water to be brought. Looking in, he saw only his own reflection. 'Aka'aka at that moment caught the reflection of the seer (which was his spirit), and crushed it between his palms; at that moment the seer dropped down dead. 'Aka'aka now turned around and opened his arms and embraced Kahalaopuna, thus acknowledging her as his own beloved granddaughter.
The King now demanded of the girl and of Kauhi an account of all that had happened between them and of the reported death of the maiden. They both told their stories, Kauhi ascribing his anger to hearing the claims of the two disfigured men, Kumauna and Keawaa. These two, on being confronted with the girl, confessed that they had never seen her before and that all their words had been idle boasts. The King then said: "As your fun has cost this innocent girl so much suffering, you two and Kauhi must be killed at once, as a matter of justice; and if your gods are powerful enough to restore you, so much the better for you."
Two large imu (earth ovens) had been heated by the followers of the two rivals, in anticipation of the judgment. Kauhi and the two mischief-makers, Kumauna and Keawaa, were baked therein, along with those of their followers and retainers who preferred to die with their chiefs.
The greater number of Kauhi's people were so incensed with his cruelty to Kahalaopuna that they transferred their allegiance to her, offering to be her vassals as restitution, in part, for the undeserved sufferings borne by her at the hands of their cruel chief. The King gave her for a bride to the young man who had not only saved her, but had been the means of avenging her wrongs.
The imu in which Kauhi and his companions were baked were on the side of the stream of 'Apuakehau in the famous Ulukou grove [in Waikiki], and very near the sea. The night following their deaths, a great tidal wave, sent in by a powerful old shark god, a relative of Kauhi's, swept over the site of the two imu and in the morning, their contents were gone. The bones had been taken by the old shark into the sea. The chiefs Kumauna and Keawaa were, through the power of their family gods, transformed into the two peaks at the eastern corner of Manoa Valley(i), while Kauhi and his followers were turned into sharks.
Kahalaopuna lived happily with her husband for about two years. Her grandfather, knowing of Kauhi's transformation and aware of his vindictive nature, strictly forbade her from ever going into the sea. She remembered and heeded the warning during those two years. But one day, her husband and all their men went to Manoa to cultivate kalo, and she was left alone with her maid servants.
The surf was in fine sporting condition, and a number of young women were surf-riding. Kahalaopuna longed to join them. She disregarded her grandfather's warning, and as soon as her mother fell asleep, she slipped out with one of her maids, went to the beach, and paddled out on a surfboard. Kauhi saw his opportunity, and when she was fairly outside the reef, he bit her in two and held the upper half of the body up out of the water, so that all the surf-bathers would see and know that he had at last obtained his revenge.
Immediately on her death, the spirit of the young woman went back and told her sleeping mother of what had happened. The mother woke up, and, noticing her daughter was missing, gave the alarm. Her alarm was soon confirmed by the terrified surf-bathers, who had all fled ashore at seeing the terrible fate of Kahalaopuna. Canoes were launched and manned, and chase given to the shark and his prey, which could be easily tracked by a trail of blood.
Kauhi swam just far enough below the surface of the water to be visible, and yet too far to be reached by the fishing-spears of his pursuers. He led them on a long chase to Wai'anae; then, in a sandy opening in the bottom of the sea, where everything was visible to the pursuers, he ate up the young woman, so she could never again be restored to life.
Her parents, on hearing of her end, retired to Manoa Valley, and gave up their human life, resolving themselves into their supernatural elements. Kahaukani, the father, is known as the Manoa wind, but his usual and visible form is the grove of hau (hibiscus) trees, below Kahaiamano. Kauakuahine, the mother, assumed her rain form, and is very often to be met with about the former home of her beloved child.
The grandparents also gave up their human forms and returned to Manoa, the one to his mountain form, and the other into the lehua bushes still to be found on the very brow of the hill from which they keep watch over the old home of their petted and adored grandchild(j)
(d) Makahelei, "drawn eyes" was an affliction that could be a punishment for breaking the kapu of one's 'aumakua: the wrongdoer "would become humpbacked, or his eyelids would be drawn down, or he would fall lame, or suffer with chronic stomach ache or consumptionor he might be killed outright." (Kamakau, The People of Old 90).
(e) "Legends suggest a high value was placed on virginity. However, this was true only among the ali'i.Hawaii's aristocratic maidens were supposed to be untouched, not because of morality or prudery, but because genealogy of a possible child was all-important. Mrs. Pukui sums up the traditional viewpoint: 'Hawaiians placed very high value on virginity when a girl was reserved for the ali'i. Ali'i were considered to be under the keeping of the gods. After a woman married to an ali'i gave birth to the wanted child, then she was not prohibited from having other love affairs. But the genealogy of this important first child must be perfectly clear. There must be no doubt about his blood lines'" (Pukui, Haertig, and Lee 201).
(f) Kahalaopuna's pleading is related to a tradition of the owl clan to which she belongs: at Pu'u Pueo ("Owl Hill") in Manoa valley, "an avenging spirit in the form of a pueo sought to execute judgment upon a culprit for some alleged transgression, but upon the pleading of the accused for a hearing before executing punishment, it thereafter became the established custom that none should be condemned till tried and proven guilty" (Sterling and Summers 285).
(g) Kauhi takes Kahalaopuna on a westward journey away from the protection of her owl god, her family and her home in Manoa valley and toward the setting sun, associated in Hawaiian and Polynesian traditions with death.
(h) Mauoki was also a heiau located in Mo'ili'ili, at the foot of the ridge between Manoa and Palolo valleys. The underground pool of the same name was possibly nearby. The young man who rescues Kahalaopuna is called "Mahana" in the Kalakaua version of the story.
(i) In a later version of the Kahalaopuna story, Nakuina writes: "In the eastern corner of Manoa Valley can be seen the peak of Kumauna, with a hump on the back of the ridge leading up to the peak, and alongside of it the ravine of Keawawa-Kiihelei. These places belonged to and are called after the two wicked men who were the cause of the sad death of Kahalaopuna" (Hawaii Its People, Their Legends 45). "Awawa" is a gulch or ravine; "Ki'ihelei" means "to straddle."
When Kauhi heard that Kahalaopuna was his, he provided her with all sorts of goods; but after several anahulu (ten-day periods), he discovered an offense. Some people who wanted Kahalaopuna dead slandered her. They traveled from Manoa to Ko'olau, and when Kauhi received them, they told him this lie: "How strange is your woman, Kahalaopuna! Two nights of hula, and on each night a new lover." When Kauhi heard this lie from these men, he said to himself: "I'll kill her, for she has consumed the goods of my haku (lord), and now, her ma'i has been broken and cleaved."
Kauhi climbed over to Manoa and found Kahalaopuna, and told her to go with him to Pohakea, in the uplands 'Ewa near the mountain of Ka'ala. On the way, she wondered why they were going there. They took the mountain trail where people seldom passed, going over Pauoa and Waolani, then along the uplands of Kalihi and so on to Manana, where they slept overnight. Kahalaopuna's hands were bound together securely by Kauhi, so when her leaf-skirt began falling apart, she was unable to repair it.
At daylight, they resumed their journey until they reached Pohakea, where they climbed up the slope to a large ohi'a lehua tree. There, Kauhi called Kahalaopuna to him. She thought his calling meant things were all right, but no! As she stood in front of Kauhi, he said: "Lie down." Kahalaopuna laid down, and Kauhi said "I am going to kill you, for you have consumed the goods of my haku, yet you have been deflowered, broken into and cleaved open, but not by me."
Kahalaopuna answered: "My husband, lie with me; if the ma'i has been broken, I deserve to die; but if it hasn't been broken, don't kill me." Kauhi tore off an ohi'a lehua branch and began striking Kahalaopuna with it; while he was striking her a second and third time, Kahalaopuna chanted the following:
Kauhi again said to her: "You shall not live because your ma'i has been broken." Kahalaopuna answered: "Sleep with me, my husband, and if the ma'i has been broken, I deserve to die." Kauhi leaped at her again and beat her until she was almost dead; again Kahalaopuna chanted:
At this Kauhi leaped at her again, beating her with the stick. On the verge of death Kahalaopuna called out: "May you be loved! Let's touch noses, my husband, before I die. Tell our parents of my love for them." Kauhi then said: "Don't give me any messages; you've been defiled, so you must be killed." He struck her again and again with the stick and killed her. Kauhi dragged the corpse under the lehua tree and covered the body with leaves, sticks, and other debris, so it could not be found. Then he returned home. The spirit of Kahalaopuna flew to the top of the 'ohi'a lehua tree and chanted the following:
Kahalaopuna had seen a company of people passing along the trail, which was why she chanted thus. At the end of the chant, the people stood and listened, uncertain whether the voice was a person speaking, or the wind, or the squeak of trees rubbing together.
Kahalaopuna chanted a second time, and the people recognized it was the spirit of a dead person speaking, so they went to Manoa and told the parents of Kahalaopuna what they had heard. After listening to them, the parents went to the place where their daughter had been killed. When they arrived at Pohakea at the lehua tree where the body had been buried, they dug the body up and returned to Manoa, where they worked over it until Kahalaopuna was alive again, just as before.
When the news of the restoration of Kahalaopuna reached Kauhi at Ko'olau, he came up to see her, to greet her [have sex with her], to show her kindness; but Kahalaopuna rejected him.