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Updated: Mar 26, 2021



MANY Kawelos are named in the legends of the islands of Oahu and Kauai, but one only was the strong, the mighty warrior who destroyed a gigantic enemy who used trees for spears. He was known as Kawelo-lei-makua when mentioned in the genealogies.

Kawelo's great-uncle, Kawelo-mahamahala, was the king of Kauai. The land prospered and was quiet under him. When he died, the people worshipped him as a god. They said he had become a divine shark, watching over the seacoasts of his island. At last they thought it had become a stone god-one point the head and one the tail, one side red and the other black. His grandson, Kawelo-aikanaka, who became king of Kauai, was born the same day that brought Kawelo-lei-makua into the world. They were always known as Aikanaka and Kawelo. There was also born that same day Kauahoa, who became the giant of Kauai, and the personal enemy of Kawelo. In their infancy the three boys were taken by their grandparents to Wailua, and brought up near each other under different caretakers.

Some of the legends say that Kawelo's oldest brother, Kawelo-mai-huna, was born an eepa--a child poorly formed, but having miraculous powers. When born, the servants wrapped this child in a tapa sheet and thought to bury it, but a fierce storm arose. There were sharp lightnings and loud thunder. Strong winds swept around the house. So they put the bundle in a small calabash, covered it with a feather cloak, and hung it in the top of the house. The grandparents came and prophesied a marvellous future for this child. The father started to take down the calabash, but saw only a cloud of red feathers whirling and concealing all the upper corner. The old people, with heads bowed down, were uttering incantations. There came a sound of raindrops falling on the leaves of the forest trees, and a rainbow stood over the door. The voices of beautiful green birds (the Elepaio) were heard all around, and rats ran over the thatch of the roof. Then the old people said: "This child has become an eepa. He will appear as man or bird or fish or rat."

Other children were born, then Kawelo, and last of all his faithful younger brother, Kamalama. The old people who took care of Kawelo were his grandparents. They taught the signs and incantations and magic of Hawaiian thought. They frequently went inland to the place where

their best food was growing. They always prepared large calabashes full of poi and other food, thinking to have plenty when they returned; but each time all the food was eaten. They decided that it was better to provide sports for Kawelo than to leave him idle while they were away, so they went to the forest with their servants and made a canoe. After many days their work was done, and they returned to prepare food. Poi was made, and all kinds of food were placed in the ovens for cooking. Then they heard a sound like that of a strong wind tearing through the forest. They heard the squeaking voices of many rats. Soon they went to see the canoe in the forest, but it was gone. They returned home to cat the poi and cooked food, but they were all gone--only the leaves in which the food had been wrapped lay in the oven. Kawelo told his grandparents that little people with rat-whiskers had carried the boat down to the river and then had eaten all the food. One, larger than the others, had called to him, "E Kawelo, here is your plaything, the canoe."

Kawelo went down to the river. All day long he paddled up and down the river, and all day long his strength. grew with each paddle-stroke. Thus day by day he paddled from morning until night, and no one in all the island had such renown for handling a canoe.

The other boys were carefully trained in all games of skill, in boxing, wrestling, spear-throwing, back-breaking, and other athletic exercises. Kauahoa was very jealous of Kawelo's plaything, and asked his caretakers to make something for him, so they made a kite (a pe-a) and gave it to their foster-child. That kite rose far up in the heavens. Loud were the shouts of the people as they saw this beautiful thing in the sky. Kawelo asked for a kite, and in a few days took one out to fly by the side of Kauahoa's kite. He let out the string and it rose higher and higher, and the people cheered loudly. Kawelo came nearer and nearer to Kauahoa and pulled his kite down slowly and then let it go quickly. His kite leaped from side to side, and twisted its strings around that held by Kauahoa and broke it, and the kite was blown far over the forest, at a place called Kahoo leina a pe-a (The-kite-falling). Kawelo said the wind was to blame, so Kauahoa, although very angry, could find no cause for fighting. Then the grandparents taught Kawelo to box and wrestle and handle the war spear. Thus the boys grew in stature and in enmity.

After a time the king of Kauai died and Aikanaka became king. The legends say the rats warned Kawelo, and he and his grandparents fled to the island of Oahu. The boat flew over

the sea like a malolo (flying-fish), leaping over the waves at the strong stroke of Kawelo. The rats under their king were concealed in the canoe, and were carried over to the new home. Kawelo's elder brothers and parents had been living for some time on the beach of Waikiki near Ulukou[1] by the mouth of the stream Apuakehau. The grandparents took Kawelo and Kamalama inland and found a beautiful place among taro patches and cultivated fields for their home. It was said that when they came to the beach one young man went down into the water and carried the canoe inland. Kawelo called him and adopted him as one of the family. The boy's name was Kalaumeke (A-kind-of-ti-leaf). The boy said he was not as strong as he appeared to be, for he had the aid of many little long-whiskered people; his real power lay in spear-throwing and club-fighting. There was only one other young man who was his equal--a youth from Ewa, whose name was Kaeleha. Kawelo sent for this man and took him into his family. They dwelt for some time, cultivating the place where the royal lands now lie, back of the Waikiki beach.

One day they heard great shouting and clapping of hands on the beach, and Kawelo went down to see the sport. His brothers had been well taught all the arts of boxing and wrestling, and they

[1. Site of Moana Hotel.]

were very strong; but they were not able to overthrow a very strong man from Halemanu. Kawelo challenged the strong man. His elder brothers ridiculed him, but Kawelo persevered. The strong man was much larger and taller than Kawelo. He uttered his boast as Kawelo came before him. "Strong is the koa[1] of Halemanu. The kona [wind] cannot bend it." Kawelo boasted in reply, "Mauna Waialeale will try against Mauna Kaala." Then the strong man said: "When I call 'swing your hands' we will fall against each other." With this word he advanced and struck at Kawelo, bending him over, but not knocking him down. Kawelo, returned the blow with such force that the mighty boxer fell dead. Kawelo, gave the body to the king of Oahu to be carried as a sacrifice to the gods in the heiau, or temple, Lualualei at Waianae. "This is said to have been a very ancient temple belonging to the chief Kakuhihewa."

Kawelo's brothers were greatly mortified to see their younger brother accomplish what they had failed to do, so in their shame they returned to Kauai with their parents.

The king of Oahu gave Kawelo lands. His grandparents built him a house. It was well thatched except the top. He was a high tabu chief, and the kahunas (priests) said he must

finish it with the work of his own hands. This he thought he would do with the beautiful feathers of the red and yellow birds. He lay down and slept. When he awoke he saw his rat-brother, who had miraculous power, finishing all the roof with most beautiful feathers of red and gold. The king of Oahu came to see this wonderful place, and blessed it, and lifted his tabu from it so that it would belong fully to Kawelo, although it was more beautiful than that of the king himself.

Kawelo, learned the hula (dance), and went around the island attending all hula gatherings until the people called him "the great hula chief." At the village of Kaneohe he met the most beautiful woman of that part of the island, Kane-wahine-ike-aoha. He married her, gave up the hula, and returned home to learn the art of battle with spears and clubs. No one was more strong or more skilful than his wife's father. Kawelo sent his wife to the other side of the island to ask her father to teach him to fight with the war-club. She went to her father and persuaded him to aid Kawelo. For many days they practised together, until Kawelo was mighty in handling both spear and club.

After this Kawelo, learned the prayers and incantations and offerings upon which good fishing depended. Then he took the fisherman and went out in the ocean to do battle with a

great fish which had terrified the people of Oahu many years. This was a kupua, or magic fish, possessing exceeding great powers. As they went out from Waikiki, with one stroke of the paddle Kawelo sent the canoe to Kou, with another stroke he passed to Waianae, and then began to fish from the shore far out to the sea, using a round, deep net. This method of fishing continues to the present day. A fish is caught and a weight tied to it so that it must swim slowly. Other fish come to see the stranger, and the net is drawn around them. Many good fish were caught, but the great fish did not come. Again Kawelo came to hunt this Uhumakaikai, but the Uhu sent fierce storm-waves against the canoe to drive it to land. Kawelo held the boat strongly with his paddle. Soon the Uhu appeared, trying to strike the boat and upset it. Kawelo and his fisherman carefully watched every move and balanced the boat as needed. Kawelo's net was in the water, its mouth open, and its full length dragging far behind the boat. The Uhu was swimming around the net as if despising its every motion, but Kawelo swept the net sideways and the fish found himself swimming into the net. Kawelo swiftly rushed the net forward until the Uhu was fully enclosed. Then came a marvellous fish-battle. The waves swept high around the boat. Kawelo and the

fisherman covered it so that the water poured off rather than into it. Then the Uhu swam swiftly out into the blue waters. The fisherman begged Kawelo to cut the cord which held the net. Far out they went--out to the most distant island, Niihau. Kawelo saw a great battle in the net which held the Uhu. There were many fish inside attacking the Uhu. They were a kind of whiskered fish, biting like rats, digging their teeth into the flesh of the great fish. Kawelo uttered incantations, and the fish became weaker and weaker until it ceased to struggle. Kawelo paddled with strong strokes back to Oahu.

Meanwhile the brothers and parents, who had gone to Kauai, were in great trouble under the persecutions of Aikanaka and his strong man Kauahoa. At last the mother sent the brothers to Oahu after Kawelo. They came to Waikiki while Kawelo was away trying to kill the Uhu. The youngest brother, Kamalama, received them and sent two messengers to find Kawelo. He recited a family chant, in which the names of the visiting brothers as well as the name of Kawelo's gods were honored. He charged them to remember the brothers' names or they would have trouble. They paddled out on the ocean calling for Kawelo and repeating the names from time to time. Suddenly a

caught their canoe and overturned it, leaving them to struggle in the fierce waters. Soon they saw Kawelo coming with his great fish near his canoe. "O Kawelo!" they cried. "We had the names of your friends from Kauai--but our trouble in the water made us forget." Then Kawelo, recited his chant, giving his brothers' names and also those of the tabu gods. Only the chiefs to whom the gods belonged could speak their names. When Kawelo uttered their names, the two men cried out, "Those are the men, and Kuka-lani-ehu is their god." Kawelo was very angry at the desecration of the name of his family god in the mouths of the common men. He stuck his paddle deep into the sea, tearing the coral reef to pieces, but the great fish caught on the coral and Kawelo could not row to the men. They rushed their boat to the beach and escaped. Kawelo, then took a part of the captured fish and offered it for sacrifice in the temple at Waianae. The rest he brought to his people at Waikiki.

As he came near the shore he called for his spear-throwers to meet him on the beach. Seven skilled men stood before him as he landed. They hurled their spears at one time straight at him, but he moved himself skilfully from side to side and threw the ends of his malo (loincloth) around them and caught them all

together. Then he called his two adopted boys to throw. This they did with great skill, but he caught both spears in one hand. Kamalama took two spears, and Kawelo's wife stood on one side with a fishhook and line in her hand. As the spears flew by her she threw out the hook and caught each one.

The story of the Kauai trouble was soon told. The king of Oahu furnished a large double canoe. From his father-in-law Kawelo secured the historic battle-weapons--war-club and spear--with which he had learned to fight. Food in abundance was placed on the boats, and the household went back to Kauai to wage war with Aikanaka and Kauahoa, stopping at the heiau Kamaile--afterward called Ka-ne i ka pua lena (Ka-ne of the yellow flower)--to offer sacrifices. Some legends say this temple was at Makaha, and that Kane-aki was the name. This Ka-ne was one of the gods of Kawelo. Kawelo, according to one legend, had his people tie him in a mat as if dead as they approached Wailua, the home of Aikanaka. The beach was covered with people--the warriors of Aikanaka. As the double canoe came to the beach, the people made ready to attack. They waited, however, for the newcomers to land and prepare for fight. This was a formal courtesy always demanded by the ethics of olden times. When all was ready, Kamalama

stood by the apparently dead body of Kawelo, and pulled a cord which unloosed the mats. Kawelo rose up with his war-club and spear in hand and rushed upon the multitude. He struck from side to side, and the people fell like the leaves of trees in a whirlwind.

Again new bodies of warriors hastened from Aikanaka. Kamalama, the seven spearmen and the two adopted boys fought this army and drove it back under a cliff where Aikanaka had his headquarters. The seven spearmen, known in the legends as Naulu (the-seven-bread-fruit-trees), were afraid and retreated to the boat.

Two noble chiefs asked Aikanaka for two large bodies of men (two four-hundreds), but Kawelo and his handful of helpers defeated them with great slaughter. Thus several larger bodies of soldiers were destroyed, and Aikanaka became cold and afraid in his heart.

Then Kahakaloa, the best skilled in the use of war-clubs in all the islands, rose up and went down with the two hundred warriors to fight with Kawelo and his family. The father-in-law of Kawelo knew this chief well and thought that by him Kawelo might be killed if he went to Kauai, but Kawelo had learned strokes of the club not understood on Kauai. Soon all the warriors were slain, and Kahakaloa stood alone against Kawelo. As they faced each other Kahakaloa

swiftly struck Kawelo, but Kawelo while falling gave his club an upward stroke, breaking his enemy's arm. In the next struggle Kawelo's swift upward stroke killed his foe.

Then Kauahoa, the strongest, tallest and most skilful man of Kauai, arose and went down to meet Kawelo. Kauahoa took a magic koa-tree, root, stem and branches, for his club with which to fight Kawelo. His heart was full of anger as he remembered the troubles between Kawelo and himself in their boyhood. As he passed the multitude of his dead people he became beside himself with rage and rushed upon Kawelo. Kawelo stationed his wife on one side with her powerful fishhooks and lines to catch the branches of the mighty tree and hold them fast. Some of the legends say that she was very skilful in the use of the ikoi. This was a straight, somewhat heavy, stick with a strong cord fastened around the middle. It was said that she was to throw this stick over the branches, whirling and twisting the cord around them, greatly entangling them, so that she could pull the tree to one side. Kawelo ordered his warriors to watch the spots of sunlight sifting through the branches. As the tree was hurled down upon them they must leap into the open places and seize the branches, holding on as best they could. When the giant struck down with

{p. 186}

his strange war-club, Kawelo's friends followed his directions, while he leaped swiftly to one side and ran around back of Kauahoa while he was bending over trying to free his tree from its troubles. Kawelo struck down with awful force, his war-club cutting Kauahoa in pieces, which fell by the side of the koa-tree.

Somewhere in the battles waged by Kawelo along the coasts of Kauai he was fighting with his giant enemy and struck his spear against the mountain ridge at Anahola, piercing it through and through, leaving a great hole through which the sky is always to be seen.

Aikanaka fled to the region near Hanapepe, where he dwelt in poverty. Kawelo divided the districts of Kauai among his warriors. Kaeleha received the district in which Aikanaka was sheltered. Soon this adopted son of Kawelo met the daughter of Aikanaka and married her. After a while he wanted Aikanaka to again rule the island. He proposed rebellion and told Aikanaka that they could destroy Kawelo because he had never learned the art of fighting with stones. He only understood the use of the war-club and spear. They ordered the women and children to gather great piles of stones to hurl against Kawelo.

When Kawelo heard about this insurrection, he was very angry. He seized his war-club

Kuikaa, and hastened to Hanapepe. As he came near he saw that the people had barricaded his way with canoes, and that back of these canoes were many large piles of stones in the care of warriors. He raised his war-club and leaped toward his enemies. A sling-stone reached him. Then the stones came like heavy rain. He dodged, but there were so many that when he avoided one he would be struck by others. He was bruised and wounded and stunned until he sank to the ground unconscious under the fierce shower.

The people rejoiced, and, to make death sure, threw off the stones and beat the body with clubs until it was cold and they could detect no sign of breathing.

Aikanaka had built a new unu, or heiau, at Mauilli {sic}, in the district of Koloa, but no man had been offered as a sacrifice upon its altars. He thought he would take Kawelo as the first human sacrifice. The people carried the body of Kawelo to the pa, or outside enclosure, of the temple, but it was dark when they arrived, and they laid the body down, covering it with banana leaves, saying they would come the next morning and place the body on the altar, where it should lie until decomposition had taken place.

Two watchmen had been appointed, one of whom was a near relative to Kawelo. He soon discovered that Kawelo was not dead. He told Kawelo about the plan to place him on the altar in the morning. He covered Kawelo again, placing his war-club by his side. In the morning the chiefs and people came to the heiau with Aikanaka and Kaeleha. When all were gathered together the watchman whispered to Kawelo. The leaves were thrown off, and Kawelo attacked the multitude and destroyed all who had rebelled against him.

Some of the legends say that Aikanaka had placed Kawelo on the sacrificial platform and in the morning had begun to offer the prayer consecrating the dead body to the gods, when Kawelo struck him dead before his own altar.

When this rebellion had been overcome, Kawelo gave a large district with good lands to the watchman who had befriended him. He retained his younger brother Kamalama in the district of Hanamaulu and committed their parents to his care.

Kawelo, as was his right, ruled over all the island, passing from place to place, establishing peace and prosperity. He made his home at Hana, planting and fishing for himself, not burdening chiefs or people, but beloved by all. Thus he gained the honored name Kawelo-lei-makua (Kawelo, garland-of-his-parents).

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