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Kekuhaupiʻoʻs battle of Maui

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

Photo: owned by Umi Gordon kai

Fornander collection of Hawaiian antiquities and folk-lore. Vol. 5

Abraham Fornander

Folklore Honolulu, H. It., Bishop museum press, 1916/17

v.front (port.) (Memiors of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. Vol. IV, V, VI,

Pgs. 452-457

KEKUHAUPIO was a very famous warrior, and was moreover a high chief of Hawaii. He excelled in courage and in skill. He could contend against the government1 and a countless number of men. Here is Kekuhaupio’s bravery as herein narrated: The spears were as bath water2 for Kekuhaupio, for he could dodge the spears, whether four hundred, or four thousand. Furthermore, he could escape being hit by the javelins, spear points, long spears, or stones within the same interval, for which fact, Kekuhaupio was much feared by every one of the chiefs and celebrated warriors of that period. His prowess even continued unto the days of Kalaiopuu3 and his reign. Likewise during Kamehameha's rule.


Oulu was a famous warrior of Maui at the time of the reign of Kahekili, a great king of Maui. Oulu is very widely known even to this day on all the islands of this Hawaii, because of his great skill in throwing the sling-stone. The stone of Oulu never missed man, pig, dog, chicken, or any bird. If Oulu should cast his sling-stone, the fire would ignite,4 and the soil would be furrowed when the ala fell. Oulu could contend with a collective body (that is, a very great number of men, and corresponds to six lau5 men and more). He could fight against a whole army. Since Oulu was very skillful in casting the sling-stone, therefore, he was much dreaded by the whole of Maui and all the district chiefs. For that reason, Oulu was highly esteemed by Kahekili up to the time of his death.


Kalaiopuu sailed from Hawaii and arrived at Maui with his men, very many in number, and countless canoes. In this journey, Kekuhaupio had also accompanied Kalaiopuu to Maui. The place where the battle occurred was at Waikapu, in Maui. In this struggle, Kekuhaupio was not in the first engagement, because he was at Kalepolepo at that time. Only Kalaiopuu and the entire forces of Hawaii entered into the conflict. In this battle, all the Hawaii forces and the king, Kalaiopuu, were defeated. At this defeat, Kalaiopuu and all his men retired to the plain of Kamaomao, between Wailuku and Kalepolepo. On retreating, they were breathless because the Maui army gave chase. Their feet were becoming limp and not fleet in running; they were utterly exhausted. While they were retreating, Kekuhaupio started out from Kalepolepo and arrived at the plain of Kamaomao. On approaching the plain, Kalaiopuu met him, whereupon Kekuhaupio asked him: “What is this?” .Kalaiopuu answered: “We are defeated.” Kekuhaupio said: “Stand there to rest while I combat.”


At this point, we shall witness the incomparable bravery of Kekuhaupio and his not being killed by the multitude. When Kekuhaupio had finished speaking to Kalaiopuu, he planted himself between the Hawaii and the Maui forces. Whereupon the Mauiites fought against Kekuhaupio single-handed, but they were not victorious. In this struggle, Maui’s javelins, long spears, spear points, spikes, clubs, and every kind of pain-inflicting implement were thrust at Kekuhaupio. Nevertheless, those things were merely bathing water, for he was neither struck, nor hit by the stone. In this combat of Kekuhaupio with Maui, the javelin, spear point, lance, and stones were stacked up high on his side, and the Mauiites were without weapons. Because they were then without war implements, they hastened to the presence of Kahekili and said: “How strange is this man of Hawaii! The javelin and all weapons are as mere bathing water to him. He is not a man, but a god.6 Kalaiopuu and all Hawaii were defeated by us, and we gave chase until reaching the plain of Kamaomao. When we looked, behold! this brave warrior was standing. That man was the one that contended against us; he wavered not, nor did he dodge. He stood there perfectly calm and confronted us with coolness; still he could not be struck by us.”


Here we shall notice the courage of Oulu and Kekuhaupio. When Kahekili heard all the men of Maui’s report relative to Kekuhaupio “because of his superior bravery and skill, he then inquired of Oulu: “How is that?” Oulu answered: “He is your god’s.” (Here is the meaning of Oulu's remark: His sling and missile never missed, when cast at a man, pig, bird or dog. For which fact, the sling and the stone were deified in his estimation.) Whereupon, Oulu took up his sling and missiles and went forth to meet Kekuhaupio. Whilst they were standing, some six fathoms being the space between them, Oulu reached for his stone and placed it in the sling. On casting the first shot, the wind blew furiously, fire ignited, and the dirt where it fell was deeply furrowed. It sped with tremendous force and fell under the feet of Kekuhaupio. The reason for this escape of Kekuhaupio was his skill in evading. As he raised his foot, that was the time the place where he has been standing become a deep furrow, and the spot was permeated with heat, as if it were fire. Oulu's first stone having missed Kekuhaupio, Oulu reached for another, and placed it in the sling, that being the second. He then shot at Kekuhaupio. At this missile of Oulu’s, fear and dread entered Kekuhaupio . Wherefore, Kekuhaupio offered that pebble to the god, Lono. This is the manner in which he petitioned the god, Lono:

O Lono eh! O Lono eh!

Yours is Oulu's stone,

Take you the unerring aim,

The force of the sling stone.

Turn it hither, thither; let it miss.

Have compassion on the priest,

On the great warrior of the east.

Let me live! Let me live!

The prayer is heard! Amen! 'T is released!

Whilst Kekuhaupio was entreating his god Lono, Oulu's stone came flying; Kekuhaupio dodged and it went astray. Two of Oulu's stones had wandered off. Then, Oulu took another stone and placed it in the sling. Whereupon Kekuhaupio besought Oulu, saying: "That is my stone."7 Oulu consented. It was his third and last stone in this contest of theirs, Kekuhaupio was victorious over Oulu;8 and on account of the defeat of Oulu on that occasion, Hawaii was successful that day.

1Aupuni okoa, which in modern usage signifies entire kingdom or government, more likely refers to the division or district, ruled over by king or chief; the contest and many men, implies added forces from other sections, 1. e. he was able to cope with the army of a district even though increased by numerous allies.

2Wai auau, bath or lathing water. This phrase in a spear contest-or other practice fraught with danger, as

(452)often met with in Hawaiian story‒implies that it was his or their delight; in the crux of which he was not only cool and unexcited, but, thoroughly enjoyed it.

3Known also as Kalaniopuu, and Kaleiopuu, the king of Hawaii at the time of Cook's discovery of the islands.

4Ignition through swiftness, as a meteor.

5Lau, four hundred; six lau a oi aku, is 2,000 and over.

6To no other than divine power could such a charm against injury be attributed. 7Na’ u ia ala. Kekuhaupio claiming the stone is a victorious taunt, while the reply of Oulu meant it for him decidedly.

8Another case of single opposing champion’s contest deciding the fate of contending armies.

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