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Famous men of early days

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

Photo: Ku'

Fornander collection of Hawaiian antiquities and folk-lore. Vol. 5 part 2 Capter 17

Abraham Fornander

Folklore Bishop Museum Press. 1916,1917

Pg. 490- 502


Makoa was a very fast runner in the days of Kamehameha I, and was far-famed, having no equal. Kamehameha was once sojourning at the sea beach at Kawaihae. From there to Hilo, at Waiakea, is a very great distance, interspersed with rough road, gulches and deep ravines. The distance is about eighty miles, going and coming.

When Kamehameha was about to eat his breakfast and the awa was being chewed it was found that there was no accompanying dish for the drinking of the awa; that was the time for Makoa to run to Hilo to get mullet from the pond of Waiakea, on the boundary adjoining Puna. As soon as he received the mullet Makoa returned to Kamehameha, arriving with the fish still quivering, not dead. Then Kamehameha drank his awa down followed by eating the mullet to remove the bitter taste of the awa. The return of Makoa was yet in the morning time, not at noon. The distance to be traveled at the present time would take four days, going quickly and back, without baggage, but with some difficulties, stiffness and soreness.


Kaneakaehu was one of the fastest runners in the days of Kamehameha. He could run from Kailua, in North Kona, to Waiakea, in Hilo, in a very short time. The distance from Kailua to Hilo is about one hundred miles, going and coming, as there were three divisions of land to be traversed, namely, Kohala, Hamakua and Hilo, and the same on the return. Only three divisions, but they abounded in rocks, and very rough. The road was very crooked and the precipices very steep and craggy.

It was habitual with Kamehameha that when it was time to have his meal, the fish, pond-mullet, was to be sent for in Waiakea, Hilo, either in the morning or in the evening; and when the meal was ready and the awa chewed, then Kaneakaehu started to get the fish. And when he got them, he returned and placed the fish, still alive and quivering, on Kamehameha’s plate, which fish Kamehameha ate. That was the speed of Kaneakaehu mentioned in this writing as witnessed by people of old and known to the young people of today.


Keliimalolo was one of the fastest runners of Maui, when Kahekili was king. Hana, in Maui, was the birthplace of Keliimalolo. One day he and his companions left Hana, sailing for and arriving at Kapakai, in Kohala, Hawaii. On arriving at Ka-pakai, Keliimalolo left without helping to draw the canoes up. He went along the beach and arrived at Kawaihae, Puako and Kaniku, successively. Thence4 on to Kiholo, Mahaiula, Kaelehuluhulu, Kailua, Holualoa, Kahaluu, Keauhou, and Kaawaloa. At this place he lost the road (because it was covered by the sea, a fording place until this day). Keliimalolo left two joints of sugar-cane there, and returned.5

On arriving at Kapakai, in Kohala, where their canoes were beached, their baggage was not yet taken to their friends’ house, and the canoes were not covered; his companions had not even washed the sea-salt of the voyage.

His companions then inquired: “Where have you been, Keliimalolo?” Keliimalolo replied: “I went along that direction to a sandy landing away inland, with water near by; there was a temple (heiau) on a hill. From thence to a coconut grove at an open place, where a salt works' implements were piled up.”

While Keliimalolo was relating his tale, the folks declared: “You are a lying man. The sandy landing is Kawaihae, to which belongs the temple on the hill of Puukohola. Mailekini was the name of the heiau. How could you get there? You have just gone and returned this early morning; how could you get there and return? It takes two days to go over, and on the fourth day arrive here again.”

“When I passed the coconut grove, I continued past several alkali plains, and then came to the black volcanic rocks; from there to a sandy stretch with a pond on the upper side. When I passed this I continued on on the volcanic rocks until I came to where kou trees were growing, and a patch of dry sand; from there to a sharp-pointed cape; and I went till I came to where the kou and the coconut were growing. Further on I came to a very large coconut grove, and when I passed this I came upon a bay running far inland. Then the road was lost. There I left my two joints of sugar-cane, and returned and have just arrived.”

By this narration the folks of Kapakai acknowledged its truth, as the places named were correct, the alkali plains being Kalahuipuaa; the rocky land, Kaniku; the sandy stretch and pond were Kiholo; the kou was Mahaiula; the dry sandy patch was Kaelehuluhulu; the long cape, Keahole; Kailua, the kou and coconut; Kahaluu, the coconut grove, and Kaawaloa the bay.

The course of Keliimalolo the folks acknowledged to be true, but his reaching these places was a wonder to them, and they doubted that he did soon account of the shortness of time taken to travel it. Therefore they disputed, and the dispute being at intense heat, they made a wager. And when the stakes were up, inquirers went to the places that Keliimalolo had gone over, and when they came to Kawaihae, the people of the place acknowledged that they had seen the runner going along the beach in the early morning. Thus they went questioning along all the sea beaches until they came to Kaawaloa. There they found the two joints of sugar-cane that Keliimalolo had left. Then they found that all the words of Keliimalolo were true, and that they all had lost their wagers to him.

The distance traveled in going and coming, was about ninety miles. It is a very bad place to this day; full of rocks; tortuous up and down; zigzagging in and out, up and down; a very long cape in some places, a hot burning sun in another place. And if people were traveling in their natural speed without baggage, it would take about one week to go and return. But to Keliimalolo, it was only the time of a breakfast, not a whole day, nor days. After this Keliimalolo, with his wife and his sisters dwelt up in Keolewa, a place in Kohala adjoining the hill of Puuhue.

While Keliimalolo was residing there, he afterwards, together with his wife and a sister went down to Koaie to fish for hinalea. They were about ready to go home in the evening, but a shower was coming windward which frightened his wife and sister. He therefore grabbed hold of his sister in one hand and his wife in the other, and ran with great speed and entered their dwelling house at Keolewa. Then the rain fell. The distance from the beach at Koaie to Keolewa was five miles.


Kawaaiki was noted for his dexterity in cliff climbing. He could climb the most abrupt precipice. Kawaaiki was a resident of Molokai, and the cliffs that he climbed in Molokai were those at Pelekunu. These cliffs are very precipitous and very high, measuring about two hundred fathoms from the base to their crest. The top of the cliffs careened outwards, making a curve inwards at the base. Just a little below the summit of the cliffs, there stood a palm tree, and this was the object that allured Kawaaiki to climb that precipice. During his ascent the sea below was covered with canoes, because the cliffs rose abruptly from the sea. Kawaaiki’s hold against the cliffs was made with his chin, his toe-nails and his finger-nails. In this way he ascended till he came to the trunk of the palm tree. Near by where the palm tree was growing was a cave, and in it was the home of a demi-god of olden days, which was Koloea by name. When Kawaaiki reached the mouth of the cave, he held on to it with his chin, his body and limbs hanging down. He then seized hold of the trunk of the palm tree and climbed up. As he landed, in the mau9 sphere perhaps, he observed that Koloea had the body of a bird with a human head. He took hold of the palm tree, cut it and threw it down. After cutting the palm tree he descended.


Kaohele was most renowned for bravery and his great speed at running; he was without an equal. He belonged to Molokai. During the reign of Kahekili as king of Maui, he (Kahekili) came to make war upon Molokai. In this war the king and people of Molokai were defeated, therefore certain warriors pursued Kaohele, and if caught were to kill him. While they were pursuing him, he showed wonderful speed, running and jumping, running and jumping. Therefore the pursuers were stationed in relays. As for instance: one at Honolulu, one at Kulaokahua, and one at Waikiki. If the first pursuer chasing after Kaohele did not catch him, then the next would continue the pursuit, and so on; hence the utterance: “Combine the speed in order to catch Kaohele.” While thus running before his pursuers, he came to a certain Niheu cliff called Kawa, which is in Molokai to this day. There was at this place a bathing pool for the people. The ground below was very wide, and the cliffs quite lofty by casual observation. Below were crowded the warriors and chiefs from Maui, armed with lances and spears, ready to kill Kaohele. When Kaohele arrived at this place he made a great leap from one bank to the other, and escaped, without the pursuers ever coming near to him. Many of the older people saw the place where Kaohele made the leap, and they asserted that the distance from bank to bank was thirty-six feet. Therefore Kaohele was quite famous in this and that place throughout these Islands from Hawaii to Niihau, on account of his speed in running and his bravery.


When Kahekili was reigning as king of Maui, and Kahahana was king of Oahu, it was during this period that Kahahawai with a number of warriors came to make war on Oahu. In this battle the people of Oahu were defeated and slaughtered at Niuhelewai,10 and the waters of the stream were turned back, the stream being dammed by the corpses of the men. After the battle of Niuhelewai, the chiefs and the men retreated and encamped on the mountains of Kaala. They were well supplied with war implements and other things necessary for the destruction of their enemies. So Kahahawai contrived a means of destroying them, thus: They were a little more than forty men, and Kahahawai told them to prepare torches. When these were ready they went one evening to the top of a hill which was near to the rendezvous of the enemies where they lighted their torches. After the torches were lit they moved away to a cliff called Kolekole11 and hid themselves there, leaving their torches burning at the former place until they (the torches) died out. The enemies thought that Kahahawai and his men had gone off to sleep. They therefore made a raid on the men of Kahahawai. But Kahahawai and his men arose and destroyed all the people who were asleep on the hills and the mountains of Kaala. Thus the enemies were annihilated, none escaping. Those who raided the torch encampment were captured, there being no avenue for escape from death and destruction by Kahahawai and his men. Therefore, the conquest of Oahu by Kahekili was complete through the bravery and great ingeniousness of his warrior, Kahahawai, in devising means for the destruction of the enemy. Thus Oahu remained in subjugation until the reign of Kalaikupule, Kahekili’s son, when it was conquered by Kamehameha.


Uma was a daring and very small midget, looking at his person (about two cubits and a half in height).12 He was very skillful in the art of bone-breaking, one of the principal things taught in Hawaii. During the time of Kamehameha I, the king of Hawaii, there was much robbery amongst the people, in lonely places, in ravines and in forests of tall timbers. Uma belonged to Kohala, and Puehuehu was his place of abode. From there he went to Puuhue, a hill which stands at the southern part of Kohala, a place thickly covered with woods and shrubbery.13 When Uma came to this place (he was carrying a piece of salt meat) and on entering the forest he found four men resting.14 Two were on the edge of the road, one toward the center, and one standing. Uma greeted them but they did not respond, and as Uma turned to go, a man

grasped him on the back. Uma faced about and threw the end of a rope15 (about three feet long), which encircled and held fast one of the men. Another man with an iron spade16 leaped forward to stab him. But Uma got hold of the first man he had caught, by the hair, and held him as a shield. This man was hit by the spade of the other man and killed. Another man leaped up to stab Uma with the iron spade but Uma dodged and caught him on the throat; that was his last moment. Three were killed and one ran away, thus escaping from Uma.

Thence he went on the way down to Kapia, at Waimea, looking toward Mau-nakea mountains, and continued on to Manauea stream to have a drink of water. While he was drinking, ten men appeared from down stream. When they came up to Uma, he saluted them, but they did not respond. He then arose and turned to go when one of the men sprang forward to seize him, but he slipped from under the man and caught the man by the throat, which made the man’s tongue hang out. Another man also sprang forward, but he got a kick from Uma that sent him into the water. Thus Uma dealt with the men, save two, who escaped by running away.

Uma went on to Mahiki,17 a place between Waimea and Hamakua, where he met an old man sitting in the road, at a resting place in the Hill of Moeawa (Puu o Moeawa). He saluted Uma, and Uma did the same to him. He then took a smoke from his pipe, handing it to Uma after an interval. And while Uma was smoking the old man pushed the back of the pipe, but it did not go down because Uma was on the look-out, and therefore did not receive the misfortune intended for him. Uma, however, had in a loop of his girdle some salt which he threw in the eyes of the old man. And while he was rubbing his eyes which were burning Uma threw the pikoi at end of a three-foot cord, which encircled and held the man fast, and his limbs were broken in pieces. Uma then went on his way.

While on his way, having passed Hamakua and upper Hilo, he came to Kaupa-kuea where a little further on, was a ravine full of neneleau18 shrubbery. When Uma arrived at that place, he found a great big man sitting in the stream. Uma saluted him, but the other did not make any answer. In this meeting Uma came near losing his life by that man, because of the man’s great size and his proficiency in the art of bone-breaking. It was when Uma was about to turn and go on his way that the man jumped on his back and grabbed his neck, swinging Uma up. Therefore Uma slipped down and behind the man’s leg. He got hold of the man’s testicles and tore them from the body, and the man was killed. Thus Uma. escaped.


Napuelua was a celebrated warrior of Kauai, when he was living at his birthplace in Waiakalua, Koolau, Kauai. That was the time that Kaumualii was reigning as king of Kauai. Napuelua was taught to be a warrior and also all the acts in old- When Kaumualii died, Humehume reigned over the kingdom of Kauai. At that time a battle was fought between Humehume and Kahalaia. In this battle Kauai was defeated, and many people were taken prisoners by the Hawaii people. And Kahalaia made a decree over the whole of Kauai, thus: If a man was black-skinned from the feet to the thighs, he was considered completely black, and should be killed. Not one of them was to escape. Thus was the decree on any and every one found with the mark. When the fort at Waimea was subdued by the Hawaii warriors, they hunted the defeated of Kauai to destroy and kill them. And when they arrived at Waiaka-lua, Napuelua was hiding in a woman's sacred house. The searchers entered the house and found Napuelua, and looking on him saw that he was black. Then the soldiers were mustered up in five rows with muskets, to shoot Napuelua. Just then Napuelua stood up watching his chance. The guns were pointed and fired at him. He, however, fearlessly ran forward and seized the guns which were being fired at him. He got four guns, and after that the soldiers’ ranks were broken; and in the confusion Napuelua escaped, thereby deriving his name, the two guns.


Hawae was famous all over Hawaii for his great strength and power. That was the origin of the lines, “Only one Hawae but Kona is desolated.” Here is the meaning: An expert in the art of killing by prayer, which is the death prayer of the Hawaiian to this day”. When he was residing in Kona, not one man on his land escaped death, and he never let one pass before his face. He was so very sacred. The lauhue was the only thing that grew about his place, and the chickens and the pigs and the dogs were his regular companions.


Kahauolopua was noted for his strength at lifting lauhala bundles for his house up the Kupehau precipice, which is between Honokane and Pololu, in Kohala, Hawaii. With one load of lauhala two large houses were enclosed, one a dwelling, the other a canoe shed. On this load that he was carrying were his wife and child. The reason for this method was because the precipice, Kohewaawaa by name, projected into the sea, the waves coming up and breaking against it then subsiding. As Kahauolopua was going along with his load the waves dashed over him, then he would brace himself against them by thrusting his staff against the precipice, then went on when the waves receded. While walking thus the load was made heavier by being wet through his wading in the sea, but it was nothing compared to his great strength. And the distance that he carried his load of lauhala was nearly three miles in length, and very bad and precipitous, not mentioning the dancing waves; and for this feat he became noted throughout Kohala until this day.

4.Thence, for maila aku ; maila an abbreviation of mai laila, from thence.

5.Hoi maila, returned.

6. Inamona, kernels of roasted kukui nuts, a table delicacy.

7 .Limu, a variety of seaweed (Algae).8Young taro leaves called luau when cooked, hence the name given to Hawaiian feasts, which would not be complete without a supply of that commodity.

8Young taro leaves called luau when cooked, hence the name given to Hawaiian feasts,

which would not be complete without a supply of that commodity

9Mau, name of a region on the sides of the mountains next next below the waoakua (dwelling place of the god); also called waokanaka, place where men may live.

10Niuhelewai is the name of the locality of the Pa-lama cane field between the Fire and Pumping stations.

11Kolekole is the name of a pass in the Waianae range of mountains.

12A little short of four feet, English measure.

13Not so like a forest section in these days.14Bands of professional robbers infested the lonely places of travel throughout the islands in the olden time, some of them as lawless bands on their own account, others again in the interest of a chief who would thus enrich himself by impoverishing his neighbors.

14Bands of professional robbers infested the lonely places of travel throughout the islands in the olden time, some of them as lawless bands on their own account, others again in the interest of a chief who would thus enrich himself by impoverishing his neighbors.

15This was likely a pikoi, an elongated ovoid weapon of stone, or hard wood, at the end of a cord, to entangle an opponent on being thrown.

16Iron spades, oo hao, were unknown in the robber days of Hawaii. This iron implement is an introduction of civilization to take the place of their woodenspade of kauila, uhiuhi, koaie and such like hard, close-grained woods. en times relating to battle, such as spear-dodging, slinging, bone-breaking and all other things.

17Mahiki, the traditional mud lane of the WaipioWaimea road.

18Neneleau, sumach (Rhus semialata).

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