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Updated: Nov 22, 2022

Photo: Ku'ialuaopuna




Boston, G.H. Ellis Press [1915]

LONG, long ago in the Hawaiian Islands, part of the children of a chief's family might be born real boys and girls, while others would be "gods" in the form of some one of the various kinds of animals known to the Hawaiians. These "gods" in the family could appear as human beings or as animals. They were guardians of the family, or, perhaps it should be said, they watched carefully over some especial brother or sister, doing all sorts of marvelous things such as witches and fairies like to do for those whom they love.

In a family on Kauai six girl-gods were born and only one real girl and one real boy. These "gods" were all rats and were named "Kikoo," which was the name of the bow used with an arrow for rat-shooting. They were "Bow-of-the-heaven," "Bow-of-the-earth," "Bow-of-the-mountain," "Bow-of-the-ocean," "Bow-of-the-night" and "Bow-of-the-day."

These rat-sister-gods seemed to have charge of their brother and his sports. His incantations and chants were made in their names. The real sister was named "Ka-ui-o-Manoa" ("The Beauty of Manoa"). She was a very beautiful woman, who came to Oahu to meet Pawaa, the chief of Manoa Valley, and marry him. He was an aikane (bosom friend) to Kakuhihewa, the kin, of Oahu. They made their home at Kahaloa in Manoa Valley. They also had Kahoiwai in the upper end of the valley.

The boy's name was Pikoi-a-ka-Alala (Pikoi, the son of Alala). In his time the chief sport seemed to be hunting rats with bows and arrows. Pikoi as a child became very skilful. He was very clear and far sighted, and surpassed all the men of Kauai in his ability to kill hidden and far-off rats. The legends say this was greatly due to the aid given by his rat-sisters. At that same time there was on Kauai a very wonderful dog, Puapualenalena (Pupua, the yellow). That dog was very intelligent and very swift.

One day it ran into the deep forest and saw a small boy who was successfully shooting rats. The dog joined him. The dog caught ten rats while Pikoi shot ten.

Some days later the two friends went into a wilderness. In that day's contest the dog caught forty and the boy shot forty. Again and again they tried, but the boy could not win from the dog, nor could the dog beat the boy.

After a while they became noted throughout Kauai. The story of the skill of Pikoi was related on Oahu and repeated even on Hawaii, His name was widely known, although few had seen him.

One day his father Alala told Pikoi that he wanted to see his daughter in Manoa Valley. They launched their canoe and sailed across the channel, leaving the marvelous dog behind.

Midway in the channel Pikoi cried out: "Look! There is a great squid!" It was the squid Kakahee, who was a god. Pikoi took his bow and fitted an arrow to it, for he saw the huge creature hiding in a pit deep in the coral. The squid rose up from its cave and followed the boat, stretching out its long arms and trying to seize them. The boy shot the monster, using the bow and arrow belonging to the ocean. The enemy died in a very little while. This was near the cape of Kaena. The name of the land at that place is Kakahee. These monsters of the ocean were called Kupuas. It was believed that they were evil gods, always hoping to inflict some injury on man.

Pikoi and his father landed and went up to Manoa Valley. There they met Ka-ui-o-Manoa and wept from great joy as they embraced each other. A feast was prepared, and all rested for a time.

Pikoi wandered away down the valley and out toward the lands overlooking the harbor of Kou (Honolulu). On the plain called Kula-o-kahua he saw a chiefess with some of her people. This plain was the comparatively level ground below Makiki Valley. Apparently it was covered at that time with a small shrub, or dwarflike tree, called aweoweo. Rats were hiding under the shelter of the thick leaves and branches.

Pikoi went to the place where the people were gathered. The cheifess was Kahamaluihi, the wife of the king Kakuhihewa. With her was her famous arrow-shooting chiefess, Ke-pana-kahu, who was shooting against Mainele, the noted rat-shooting chief of her husband. The queen had been betting with Mainele and had lost because he was a better shot that day than her friend. She was standing inside tabu lines under a shaded place, but Pikoi went in and stood by her. She was angry for a moment, and asked why he was there. He made a pleasant answer about wishing to see the sport.

She asked if he could shoot. He replied that he had been taught a little of the art, so she offered him the use of a bow and arrow and at that he said, "This arrow and this bow are not good for this kind of shooting."

She laughed at him. "You are only a boy; what can you know about rat-hunting? "

He was a little nettled, and broke the bow and arrow, saying, "These things are of no use whatever."

The chiefess was really angry, and cried out, "What do you mean by breaking my things, you deceitful child? "

Meanwhile Pikoi's father had missed him and had learned from his daughter that the high chiefess was having a rat-shooting contest. He took Pikoi's bows and arrows wrapped in tapa and went down with the bundle on his back.

Pikoi took a bow and arrow from the bundle and persuaded the high chiefess to make a new wager with Mainele. The queen, in kindly mood, placed treasure against treasure.

Mainele prepared to shoot first, agreeing with Pikoi to make fifteen the number of shots for the first trial.

Pikoi pointed out rat after rat among the shrubs until Mainele had killed fourteen. Then the boy cried: "There is only one shot more. Shoot that rat whose whiskers are by a leaf of that aweoweo tree. The body is concealed, but I can see the whiskers. Shoot that rat, O Mainele!"

Mainele looked the shrubs all over carefully, but could not see the least sign of a rat. The

people went near and thrust arrows among the leaves, but could see nothing.

Then Mainele said: "There is no rat in that place. I have looked where you said. You are a lying child when you say that you see the whiskers of a rat."

Pikoi insisted that the rat was there. Mainele was vexed, and said: "Behold all the treasure I have won from the chiefess and the treasure which we are now betting. You shall have it all if you shoot and strike the whiskers of any rat in that small tree. If you do not strike a rat I will simply claim the present bet."

Then Pikoi took out of the bundle held by his father a bow and an arrow. He carefully strung his bow and fixed the arrow, pointing the eye of that arrow toward the place pointed out before

The queen said, "That is a splendid bow." Her caretaker, however, was watching the beautiful eyes of the boy, and his general appearance.

Pikoi was softly chanting to himself. This was his incantation or prayer to his sister-gods:

"There he is, there he is, O Pikoi! Alala is the father, Koukou is the mother. The divine sisters were born. O Bent-bow-of-heaven! O Bent-bow-of-earth! O Bent-bow-of-the-mountain! O Bent-bow-of-the-ocean! O Bent-bow-of-the-night! O Bent-bow-of-the-day! O Wonderful Ones! O Silent Ones! Silent. There is that rat-- That rat in the leaves of the aweoweo, By the fruit of the aweoweo, By the trunk of the aweoweo. Large eyes have you, O Mainele; But you did not see that rat. If you had shot, O Mainele, You would have hit the whiskers of that rat-- You would have had two rats--two. Another comes--three rats--three!"

Then Mainele said: "You are a lying child. I, Mainele, am a skilful shooter. I have struck my rat in the mouth or the foot or any part of the body, but no one has ever pierced the whiskers. You are trying to deceive."

Pikoi raised his bow, felt his arrow, and said to his father, "What arrow is this?"

His father replied, "That is the arrow Mahu, which eats the flower of the lehua-tree."

Pikoi said: "This will not do. Hand me another." Then his father gave him Laukona (The-arrow-which-strikes-the-strong-leaf), but the boy said: "This arrow has killed only sixty rats and its eye is smooth. Give me one more."

His father handed him the Huhui (The-bunched-together),

an arrow having three or four sharp notches in the point.

Pikoi took it, saying, "This arrow wins the treasure," and went toward the tree, secretly repeating his chant.

Then he let the arrow go twisting and whirling around, striking and entangling the whiskers of three rats.

Mainele saw this wonderful shooting, and delivered all the treasures he had wagered. But Pikoi said he had not really won until he had killed fourteen more rats, so he shot again a very long arrow among the thick leaves of the shrubs, and the arrow was full of rats strung on it from end to end hanging on it by forties.

The people stood with open mouths in silent astonishment, and then broke out in wildest enthusiasm.

While they were excited the boy and his father secretly went away to their home in Manoa Valley and remained there with Ka-ui-o-Manoa a long time, not visiting Waikiki or the noted places of the island Oahu.

Kakuhihewa, the king, heard about this strange contest and tried to find the wonderful boy. But he had entirely disappeared. The caretaker of the high chiefess was the only one who had carefully observed his eyes and his general appearance,

but she had no knowledge of his home or how he had disappeared.

She suggested that all the men of Oahu be called, district by district, to bring offerings to the king, two months being allowed each district, lest there should be a surplus of gifts and the people impoverished and reduced to a state of famine.

Five years passed. In the sixth year the Valley of Manoa was called upon to bring its gifts.

Pikoi had grown into manhood and had changed very much in his general appearance. His hair was very long, falling far down his body. He asked his sister to cut his hair, and persuaded her to take her husband's shark-tooth knives. She refused at first, saying, "These knives are tabu because they belong to the chief." At last she took the teeth--one above, or outside of the hair, and one inside--and tried to cut the hair, but it was so thick and stout that the handles broke, and she gave up, saying, "Your hair is the hair of a god." However, that night while he slept his rat-sister-gods came and gnawed off his hair, some eating one place and some another. It was not even. From this the ancient saying arose: "Look at his hair. It was cut by rats."

Pawaa, the chief, came home and found his wife greatly troubled. She told him all that she had done, and he said: "Broken were the handles, not the teeth of the shark. If the teeth had broken, that would have been bad."

Pikoi's face had been discolored by the sister-gods, so that when he appeared with ragged hair no one knew him--not even his father and sister. He put on some beautiful garlands of lehua flowers and went with the Manoa people to Waikiki to appear before the king.

The people were feasting, surf-riding and enjoying all kinds of sports before they should be called to make obeisance to their king.

Pikoi wandered down to the beach at Ulu-kou[1] where the queen and her retinue were surf-riding. While he stood near the water the queen came in on a great wave which brought her before him. He asked for her papa (surf-board) but she said it was tabu to any one but herself. Any other taking that surf-board would be killed by the servants.

Then the chiefess, who was with the queen when Pikoi shot the rats of Makiki, came to the shore. The queen said, "Here is a surf-board you can use." The chiefess gave him her board and did not know him. He went out into the sea at Waikiki where the people were sporting. The surf was good only in one place, and that [ Near the present Moana Hotel.] was tabu to the queen. So Pikoi allowed a wave to carry him across to the high combers; upon which she was riding. She waited for him, because she was pleased with his great beauty, although he had tried to disguise himself.

She asked him for one of his beautiful leis of lehua flowers, but he said he must refuse because she was tabu. "No! No!" she replied." Nothing is tabu for me to receive. It will be tabu after I have worn it." So he gave her the garland of flowers. That part of the surf is named Kalehua-wike (The-loosened-lehua).

Then he asked her to launch her board on the first wave and let him come in on the second. She did not go, but caught the second wave as he swept by. He saw her, and tried to cut across from his wave to the next. She followed him, and very skilfully caught that wave and swept to the beach with him.

A great cry came from the people. "That boy has broken the tabu!" "There is death for the boy!"

The king, Kakuhihewa, heard the shout and looked toward the sea. He saw the tabu queen and that boy on the same surf-wave.

He called to his officers: "Go quickly and seize that young chief who has broken the tabu of the queen. He shall not live."

The officers ran to him, seized him, tossed him tore off his malo, struck him with clubs, and began to kill him.

Pikoi cried: "Stop! Wait until I have had word with the king."

They led him to the place where the king waited. Some of the people insulted him, and threw dirt and stones upon him as he passed.

The king was in kindly mood and listened to his explanation instead of ordering him to be killed at once.

While he was speaking before the king, the queen and the other women came. One of them looked carefully at him and recognized some peculiar marks on his side. She exclaimed, "There is the wonderful child who won the victory from Mainele. He Is the skilful rat-shooter. "

The king said to the woman, "You see that this is a fine-looking young man, and you are trying to save him."

The woman was vexed, and insisted that this was truly the rat-shooter.

Then the king said: "Perhaps we should try him against Mainele. They may shoot here in this house." This was the house called the Hale-noa (Free-for-all-the-family). The king gave the law of the contest. "You may each shoot like the arrows on your hands [the ten fingers] and five more-fifteen in all."

Pikoi was afraid of this contest. Mainele had his own weapons, while Pikoi had nothing, but he looked around and saw his father, Alala, who now knew him. The father had the tapa bundle of bows and arrows. The woman recognized him, and called, "Behold the man who has the bow and arrow for this boy."

Pikoi told Mainele to shoot at some rats under the doorway. He pointed them out one after the other until twelve had been killed.

Pikoi said: "There is one more. His body cannot be seen, but his whiskers are by the edge of the stone step."

Mainele denied that any rat was there, and refused to shoot.

The king commanded Pikoi not to shoot at any rat under the door, but to kill real rats, as Mainele had done.

Pikoi took his bow, bent it, and drew it out until it stretched from one side of the house to the other. The arrow was very long. He called to his opponent to point out rats.

Mainele could not point out any. Nor could the king see one around the house.

Pikoi shot an arrow at the doorstep and killed a rat which had been hiding underneath.

Then Pikoi shot a bent-over, old-man rat in one corner; then pointed to the ridge-pole and chanted his usual chant, ending this time:

"Straight the arrow strikes Hitting the mouth of the rat, From the eye of the arrow to the end Four hundred--four hundred!"

The king said: "Shoot your 'four hundred--four hundred.' Mainele shall pick them up, but if the eye of your arrow fails to find rats, you die."

Pikoi shot his arrow, which glanced along the ridge-pole under the thatch, striking rat after rat until the arrow was full from end to end,--hundreds and hundreds.

The high chief Pawaa knew his brother-in-law, embraced him, and wailed over his trouble. Then, grasping his war-club, he stepped out of the house to find the men who had struck Pikoi and torn off his malo. He struck them one after the other on the back of the neck, killing twenty men. The king asked his friend. why he had done this. Pawaa replied, "Because they evilly handled my brother-in-law,--the only brother of my wife, 'The Beauty of Manoa.'"

The king said, "That is right."

The people who had insulted Pikoi and thrown dirt upon him began to run away and try to hide. They fled in different directions.

Pikoi caught his bow and fixed an arrow and again chanted to his rat-sister-gods, ending with an incantation against those who were in flight:

"Strike! Behold there are the rats--the men! The small man, The large man, The tall man, The short man, The panting coward. Fly, arrow! and strike! Return at last!"

The arrow pierced one of the fleeing men, leaped aside to strike: another, passed from side to side around those who had pitied him, striking only those who had been at fault, searching out men as if it had eyes, at last returning to its place in the tapa bundle. The arrow was given the name Ka-pua-akamai-loa (The-very-wise-arrow). Very many were punished by this wise arrow.

Wondering and confused was the great assemblage of chiefs, and they said to each other, "We have no warrior who can stand before this very skilful young man."

The king gave Pikoi an honorable place among his chiefs, making him his personal great rat-hunter. The queen adopted him as her own child.

No one had heard Pikoi's name during all these wonderful experiences;. When he chanted his prayer in which he gave his name, he had sung so softly that no one could hear what he was saying. Therefore the people called him Ka-pana-kahu-ahi (The-fire-building-shooter), because his arrow was like fire in its destruction.

Pikoi returned to Manoa Valley with Pawaa and his father and sister. There he dwelt for some time in a great grass house, the gift of the king.

Kakuhihewa planned to give him his daughter in marriage, but opportunity for new experiences in Hawaii came to Pikoi, and he went to that island, where he became a noted bird-shooter as well as a rat-hunter, and had his final contest with Mainele.

Mainele was very much ashamed when the king commanded him to gather up not only the dead bodies of all the people who were slain by that very wise arrow, but the bodies of the rats also. He was compelled to make the ground clean from the blood of the dead. He ran away and hid himself in a village with people of the low class until an opportunity came to go to the island Hawaii to attempt a new record for himself with his bow and arrow.

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18 lip 2022

Mahalo for this moʻolelo.. I live in an apartment in Makiki these days and very rarely see moʻolelo set in the area. This may be a bit of an overshare, but years ago a rat got into our family house that kept eluding capture. In the past, I'd usually catch a rat on the first or second night of setting a trap, but this one kept escaping. It sounds crazy, but I swear, I prayed to Pikoiakaalala for help and caught it that night! I somehow didn't remember that his sisters were rats -- it's really interesting to me that they'd help him kill other rats. A couple questions that came to mind -- are there stories of Pikoi ever…

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