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Legends of the Wailuku   By:

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Paradise of the Pacific Print

[Illustration: Drawn by Will Herwig. Paradise Eng.

Hina's Spirit Still Lives in the Mists of Rainbow Falls.]




As told by old Hawaiians and done into the English tongue by Charlotte Hapai

Illustrated by Will Herwig

To remember our happy hours of story telling, this printed fragment is in gratitude dedicated to my grandmother, Harriet Kamakanoenoe Hapai.


Fed from the great watershed of Hawaii far up the densely wooded flanks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea often snow capped in winter the Wailuku River roars through the very center of Hilo, principal town of the Island of Hawaii.

There are many vague stories as to why the Wailuku River was so named. In the Hawaiian tongue Wailuku means literally "destroying water."

In olden times before there were bridges and other safeguards the river wrought considerable damage to property and during the rainy season it took its toll of human lives. Legends connected with the Wailuku tend to confirm the belief that it was named for its violent habits.

Long ago, so one legend goes, the much dreaded Kuna (dragon) blocked the gorge below Rainbow Falls with intent to back the waters up and drown the goddess Hina, who dwelt in the great cave for which the falls form a curtain. How her son, the demi god Maui, came to the rescue, saved his mother, and finally hunted Kuna from his lair up the river and slew him, is told in the legend, "The Last of Kuna."

When Paoa, a very powerful god from Tahiti, came to visit Hawaii he built a grass hut and made his home on the long, low rock now known as Maui's canoe in the Wailuku near its mouth.

Local gods viewed this selection of a homesite as foolhardy, but Paoa was unaware of the sudden and rapid rise the river made when heavy rains and cloud bursts loosed their torrents high upon the slopes of Mauna Kea. Hina, goddess of the river, warned the visitor of his danger and told him how the angry waters would sweep everything before them. In the legend, "The Coming of Paoa," you will find his answer.

In those days there must have been much more water in the river than there is today, for a certain amount is now diverted above Rainbow Falls for water power.

In spite of the decreased volume the river is still very violent and treacherous. At high water big boulders are clumsily rolled down stream and when the river is unusually high even trees are torn from the banks and carried out to sea.

So the Wailuku still lives up to its name, Destroying Water.


King Kamehameha the Great was a very famous warrior. His chief ambition, which he lived to realize, was to become sole ruler of all the Hawaiian Islands. Naturally he had numerous enemies, and he never remained long in one place for fear some of them might learn of his whereabouts and attack him.

One time, when he was encamped near the mouth of the Wailuku, he planned a quiet visit to what is now known as Reed's Island, where lived a particular friend of his. As this friend was a powerful chief, Kamehameha felt safe in going to him without his usual warrior bodyguard.

Before leaving camp he called his servants to him and told them to stand watch over his canoe, that it might not be stolen or carried away by the tide. This they promised faithfully to do.

As time passed and the king did not return or send word to his servants they grew uneasy about him. Perhaps he might have been ambushed, they reasoned; or more likely fallen into one of the caverns formed by ancient lava flows and which are often treacherously concealed by a thin, brittle crust that a man of Kamehameha's bulk might easily break through. Much as they feared for the king's safety, the servants dared not leave the canoe unguarded. They were in a quandary indeed.

"I know what we can do!" cried one of the men... Continue reading book >>

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