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Punahou

See Also...
  Hanaaumoe
 
Waiakeakua
 
Kapo'i
  Kahalaopuna
  'Aumakua
  The Wizard Stones
  Pumai'a
  'Ai'ai
  Dog Gods

Gecko: lizzard petroglyph

The Ka'ala Mountains were the home of a chief named Kahaakea. He had a boy and a girl, twins, whose mother had died at their birth. The brother was called Kauawa'ahila ("The Wa'ahila Rain")(a), and the girl Kauaki'owao ("The Mountain Mist"). Kahaakea was very tenderly attached to his motherless children, and after a while remarried in order to provide his children with a mother's care and love.

His new wife, Hawea, had a boy by her former husband. This boy was deformed and ugly, while the twins were very beautiful. The stepmother was jealous of their beauty and resented the universal admiration expressed for them while no one noticed her boy except with looks of aversion. She was very considerate toward the twins when their father was present, but secretly hated and detested them.

When the twins were about ten years old, their father had occasion to go to Hawai'i, and remained away a long time. He felt perfectly safe in leaving his children with his wife, as she had always pretended great love for them. But as soon as her husband was away, Hawea began to persecute the poor children.

After the death of the mother of the twins, certain prayers, invocations, fasting, and humiliations had been performed by her relatives, and quantities of 'awa, unblemished black pig, red fish, and all other customary foods of the gods had been prepared and offered to strengthen her spirit and give it some power and control over mundane events. So when the stepmother began to persecute the twins, the spirit of their mother came to assist and protect them.

But the persecutions became unbearable. Hawea not only deprived the twins of food, clothing, and water, but subjected them to all sorts of indignities and humiliations. Finally, they fled in desparation to Konahuanui, the mountain peak above the Nu'uanu Pali, to hide. But they were soon discovered and driven away from there by the cruel Hawea. They then went to the head of Manoa Valley. The stepmother was not at all pleased at their escape and searched for them everywhere. She finally tracked them down by the constant appearance of rainbows, those unfailing attendants of rain and mist, at the head of Manoa Valley. The children were ordered to return to Ka'ala, where they would be constantly under her eyes; instead, they fled and hid themselves in a small cave on the side of Kukaoo Hill, which is crowned by a menehune temple (b). Here they lived for some time cultivating a patch of sweet potatoes, which they ate with grasshoppers and greens. The greens were the leaves and tender shoots of the popolo, 'aheahea, pakai, laulele, and sweet potato vines cooked by rolling hot stones around and among them in a covered gourd. (This steaming method is called puholoholo.)

When the potato tubers were ready for harvest, the brother dug a double imu (earth oven) with a kapu (sacred) side for his food and a noa (free) side for his sister's. Their little cave was also divided into two, a sacred side for the boy and a free side for his sister. (In olden times females were not allowed to appear at any eating-place for males. The cave of the twins can still be seen today, and the stone wall dividing it in two was intact a few years ago, as also was the double imu.)

Soon after the crops of the twins had ripened, the stepmother found the children again, drove them from their cave, and took the fruits of their labors. The children then fled to the rocky hills just back of Punahou, where they found two small caves, one for each of them. The rolling plains and small ravines of the surrounding country and of what was later known as the Punahou pasture were not then covered with manienie grass (bermuda grass), but with indigenous shrubs and bushes­ilima, 'aheahea, popolo, and so on­making close thickets. Here and there were open spaces covered with manienie-'aki'aki, the medicinal grass of olden times used for exorcising spirits. These shrubs and bushes bore edible fruits or flowers; or the leaves and tender shoots made nourishing and satisfying food when steamed. The poor children lived on these and grasshoppers, and sometimes wild fowl.

One day the sister Kauaki'owao told her brother that she wanted to bathe and complained of the lack of water around their home. Her brother hushed her complaint by telling her that it was a safe place where their stepmother would not be likely to look for them; then he promised he would try to get her some water.

In his trips around the neighborhood for fruits and greens, he had noticed a large rainwater pond called Kanawai to the east of the hill on which they lived. At this pond, he would sometimes snare wild ducks. He also met the Kakea water god, a mo'o (lizard), who controlled all the water sources of Manoa and Makiki Valleys. The god was a maternal ancestors of the children and was on the best of terms with Kauawa'ahila. The boy paid him a visit and asked him to assist in opening a watercourse from the pond of Kanawai to a place he indicated just below the caves he inhabited with his sister. The old water god not only consented to help his young relative, but promised to divide the water supply of the neighboring Wailele spring and let it run into the watercourse that the boy would make, thus insuring a permanent water supply (c).

Kauawa'ahila then went to the pond of Kanawai and dove in. The water god caused a passage to open underground, and the boy swam through this passage until he came out at the place now known as Ka Punahou ("The New Spring"). The force of the rushing waters as they burst through the ground soon made a small basin, which the boy then banked and walled up, leaving a narrow outlet for surplus water. With the help of the old water god, he immediately set to work to excavate a good-sized pond for his sister to swim in, and when she awoke from a noonday nap, she was astonished to behold a lovely sheet of water where in the morning there was only dry land. Her brother was swimming and splashing about in it, and gaily called to his sister to come and try her bathing-place.

Kauawa'ahila afterward made some kalo patches, and people attracted by the water and consequent fertility of the place, came and settled about, voluntarily offering themselves as vassals to the twins. More and more kalo patches were excavated, and the place became a thriving settlement. The spring, known as Ka Punahou, gave its name to the surrounding area (d).

About this time Kahaakea returned from Hawai'i, and hearing of the persecutions to which his beloved children had been subjected, killed Hawea and then himself. Rocky Hill, as the home of the children is known today, was named after him. Hawea has ever since then been a synonym in the Hawaiian mind for a cruel stepmother.

Kauaki'owao and Kauawa'ahila afterward returned to the home of their infancy, Ka'ala, where they would stay a while, occasionally visiting Konahuanui and upper Manoa Valley, where in their rain and mist form, they may be met with today.

They also occasionally visited Punahou, which was under their special care and protection. But when the land and spring passed into the hands of foreigners, who did not pay homage to the twins, and who allowed the spring to be defiled by the washing of unclean articles and by the bathing of unclean persons, the twins indignantly left the place and retired to the head of Manoa Valley.

They sometimes pass swiftly over their old home on their way to Ka'ala or Konahuanui, and on such occasions will sometimes linger sorrowfully for a few minutes about Rocky Hill. The rainwater pond of Kanawai is now always dry, and the shrubs and bushes which supplied the food of the twins favored of the gods have disappeared. Old natives say that there is now no inducement for the gentle rain of Uaki'owao and Uawa'ahila to visit those bare hills and plains, as they would find no food there(e).

 

NOTES
"Punahou," by Emma M. Nakuina, first appeared in Thrum's Hawaiian Annual for 1893 (101-104) under the title "The Punahou Spring"; it was reprinted in Thomas G. Thrum's Hawaiian Folk Tales (133-128). "Kahalaopuna," another famous story of Manoa by Nakuina, can be found in Nanaue the Shark Man and Other Hawaiian Shark Stories (Honolulu: Kalamaku Press 1994).

(a) Wa'ahila is the ridge on the eastern side of Manoa Valley.

(b) Kukaoo Heiau is on the premises of 2859 Manoa Road. "This is a small heiau 50 by 40 feet, said to have been built by the menehune, from whom it was wrested by Kualii [an ali'i of O'ahu; see "Pumaia"] and rebuilt" (Sterling and Summers, 285).

(c) Kanawai suggests "Kanewai," a pool in the quarry area of the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. This pool is said to be connected to the ocean by an underground passage. Kakea, the mo'o god, is the name of a hill called "Sugarloaf" on the ridge extending down from the Ko'olau Mountains to Ualaka'a (Round Top), which overlooks Manoa and Makiki valleys. Wailele is a spring near Mid-Pacific Institute; its water was believed to originate in the heights of Kakea.

(d) Before urbanization, the land in and around Punahou School was extensively cultivated with taro, watered by the spring from which the area and the school take their name.

(e) See "Waiakeakua" for another story about the origin of Punahou. The following story is found in Sterling and Summers (283-4):

Long ago an aged couple dwelled near the present spring. At a time of drought and famine, the people were obliged to search the mountains for ti root and wild yams for food, and to trudge to Kamo'ili'ili to fill their calabahses with drinking water. One night the old woman dreamed that a man appeared to her, to whom she complained bitterly about having to go so far for water, whereupon he said: "He wai no" ("There is water") and told her that beneath the trunk of an old hala tree nearby she would find it. She awoke her husband and told him the dream, but he made light of it. The next night he had a similar dream. The apparition directed him to go to the sea and catch some red fish, to roast them in ti leaves, reserving a part as an offering to the family deities, and then to pull up the old hala tree by the roots. He awoke, and lo! it was a dream. But the impression it made on him was so strong that in the morning he hastened to carry out the directions which he had received, and when at last he pulled up the hala tree, water oozed out from beneath its roots. He dug out the place, and thus formed the spring, which was named Kapunahou. A pond was formed below the spring, and by it were irrigated a dozen or more taro patches.

From this legend, Punahou School has adopted for her seal the hala tree with two taro leaves in the water flowing under it.

 

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