Kane and his Shadow

Kane and his Shadow - Art by Dan Mcpharlin

Kane and his Shadow Art by Dan Mcpharlin

The great gods sometimes came to earth. They surfed in rolling waves and wandered over plain and mountain. They drank form bubbling springs and picked Hala fruit or Ohelo berries.

Once the four great gods Kane, Ku, Lono and Kanaloa – came to Oahu. They walked through forests and fertile valleys and along the beaches. “This is good land,” Kane said. “There is fish for food and roots and berries. In the forest are great trees for canoes. There is rock and shell for tools. Let us make man to use these things and to rule them as their chief. Let us make him in our image.”

The other gods agreed. Then Kane took his staff and drew a man in the red earth of the mountainside. He made a handsome god-like figure while the other gods stood watching.

“I too shall make a man, “said Kanaloa. With his staff he drew a figure beside his brother’s.

“Make your man live,” challenged Kane, but Kanaloa could not.
“Make yours live!” he said at last, looking at his brother.

Then Kane turned to Ku and Lono who watched him silently. “Will you repeat the words I say?” he asked them. “We will”
Then Kane spoke to his rock drawing. “Live!” he commanded in a ringing voice.
“Live! Live!” the words of Ku and Lono rang like an echo.

The Rock figure stirred as if in sleep then woke to life. Slowly the man rose. looked about in wonder and knelt before his gods.

The gods built for him a house of strong timber thatched with grass. “The man has all things that he needs,” said Kane and the gods returned to their islands deep in the blue sky.

Now and then one or another visited the earth and watched their man. He drank form springs, he ate roots and shellfish. He prepared awa drink and thanked the gods for their good gifts. He learned to swim and surf. He fashioned tools and made for himself bowls and garments.

The gods saw that he had one companion. When he surfed, dug for food or chipped stone tools his shadow played or worked beside him. The gods heard him talking to his shadow but the shadow did not answer. It surfed or dug beside him, it lay beside him on the sunny beach to sleep,but it never laughed and talking with him. “He is lonely,” Kane said. “Let us give him a companion.”

The man woke from a deep seep, beside him he saw a woman, perfectly formed. He greeted her and the woman smiled and answered “You have grown from my shadow!” the man cried joyfully. “I shall call you Shadow-made-of-heaven.”

As for the figure drawn by Kanaloa, it turned to rock and remained for many years on the mountain slope above Mokapu.

Translated by Mary Kawena Puku’i from a Hawaiian newspaper.


Ke Ala Nui O Ka Make

After the rout of the army of Kalanikuple, the king of Oahu at Nuuanu, April 29,1795 by the invading army of Kamehameha Nui, the conquered Oahuans were driven from their homes, their lands seized and divided amongst the friends of Kamehameha. The despoiled people in large numbers fled to Waianae and settled there.

This part of Oahu being hot, arid isolated, with little water, was not coveted by the invaders; the sea off the coast of Waianae has always supplied abundance of fish, hence the name Wai-water, anae-large mullet.

The Kilokilo Hoku, or astrologers. To preserve the folk-lore of their homeland, Oahu, the exiled high class priests or Kahunas founded a school at Pokai bay for instructing the youth of both sexes in history, astronomy, navigation, and the genealogies of their ancient chiefs and kings; romance and sentiment hovers round Mount Kaala (the mount of Fragrance), and three valleys extending from its western base to the Waianae shore, Makaha, the valley of robbery; Po-kai, the valley of the dark sea; Lualualei, the valley of the flexible wreath, is the meaning given in Hawaiian dictionaries. This is a vague definition, the true meaning is cryptical allegory relating to the clever strategy of the famous Maile-kukahi, a high chief of Oahu, whose flexible flanks of warriors surrounded four invading armies from Hawaii and Maui at the great battle of Kipapa(Kipapa, paved). Where the corpses of the slain paved the bottom of the ravine, about A.D 1410.


Kaala, is adored and named–Kaala nani O! ahu melemele a Kane, Beautifull Kaala, Oh! (with) the golden cloak of Kane, the sun Kane was the first deity of the Hawaiian panthenon. Kaala was the guardian or sentinel of the Komohana or west–Kaala was a resting place on the great road of Death, Ke Ala nui o ka make, along which the spirits of the dead returned to their former homeland.
The Komohana or west is where the tired sun lies down to sleep. The west is Kane ne’e ne’e the departing son. The west is the much traveled road to Kanaloa, Ke ala nui maa-we-ula a Kanaloa (The second deity of the Hawaiian pantheon).
A Mouritz,
Thermal Terrene Waters in Hawaii Nei,
July 5,1934, p128
Bishop Museum Scrap Book VOL 1931


The Naming Of Nanakuli

It was Kanui, a native woman of Wai’anae who told him why this place was so named. In the olden days, this place was sparsely inhabited because of the scarcity of water. The fishing was good but planting very poor. When it rained, some sweet potatoes would be put into the ground, but the crops were always poor and miserable.

There were a few brackish pools from which they obtained their drinking water and it is only when they went to the upland of Wai’anae that they were able to get fresh water. They carried the water home in large calabashes hung on mamaka or carrying sticks and used their water very carefully after they got it home. They spent most of their time fishing and most of the fish they caught were dried as gifts for friends and relatives in the upland. Sometimes they carried dried and fresh fish to these people in the upland in exchange received poi and other vegetable foods. And as often as not it was the people of the upland who came with their products and went home with fish.

Because of the great scarcity of water and vegetable food, they were ashamed to greet passing strangers. They remained out of sight as much as possible. Sometimes they met people before they were able to hide, so they just looked at strangers with expressionless faces and acted as though they were stone deaf and did not hear the greeting. This was so that the strangers would not ask for water which they did not have in the locality.

The strangers would go on to other places and mention the peculiar, deaf people who just stared and they would be told that the people were not deaf but ashamed of their inability to be hospitable. So the place they lived was called Nana, or look, and Kuli, dead. Deaf mutes who just look.

Ku – Stand
Nana – looking
Kuli – Deafening

Mary Pukui, as told to her by Simeona Nwaa
March 6 1945
HEN, p 2740


The Eel Boy Of Pilimoo

The Eel Boy of Pilimoo

When I went to visit the Pearl City Mormon Church, I met a native there who told some interesting stories. One of these was the Eel boy of Pilimoo, a pool in Pearl City. This pool had an underground tunnel that led to the sea. For a long time there was no danger to the children that came to swim in the pool until a man-eating shark discovered the tunnel and slipped in and out at will.

One day, a boy went to the pool and disappeared, no trace was of him was found. His father was so worried that he went to consult a Makuala or prophet. The makaula asked his gods, who told him that it was the will of the gods to change him into a small eel, so that he could live in the depth of the pool and warn the children of danger.

The father of the boy went to the pool to see if it were so. He sat there a long time and neither saw nor heard anything. Then the children gathered at the opposite side of the pool from him and began to dive and play.

Suddenly he heard a whistle which sounded so like the whistling of his son when he went home every day after playing. “That sounds very much like my son’s whistling.” he said to himself. He looked around and saw nothing. The whistling was repeated. Then looking toward a ledge under some hau trees, he noticed the head of an eel. Every now and then it whistled. He drew closer to it and spoke to it, “Can it be that you are my son? How did your human body change to an eel?” The boy replied, “Yes, I was once a boy, now I am an eel because the gods have willed it, so that I may save human lives from the wicked sharks of the deep that come here. Go and tell those children to go home. Tell them to listen and if they hear whistling that is a warned that they are in danger.

The man went as he was told to do so. He told them to listen for a shrill whistle every now and then. That was a signal to go away at once.

The eel whistled again so loudly that the children heard him and went away. The father remained to see if a shark would appear. A little while later he saw the dark form of a big shark swim about in the pool.

So it was that ever after, a whistle was a signal that danger was near.

— Makahonu Naumau (informant)
May 22, 1940
HEN: VOL I, P 1595




Uncanny Hawaii is honored by an article submission from Hawaiian author Mike Limatoc on the Mo’o Dragons of Hawaii. Mike has dedicated his life to the research and study of Dragon lore.

When one conjures up images of Hawai`i in the mind, more often than not you see rolling white sand beaches covered from end to end in spanning beach lounge chairs and painfully sunburned visitors. Perhaps the skyline of Waikiki and the lanes of unending traffic that snake between the city’s cement obelisks to the modern day tourism trade. If you’re lucky enough, perhaps you’re able to envision the days of old, when royal ali`i walked tall and proud amidst their courts when Hawai`i was still untouched by the western world. But surely, the thought a fire-breathing, ageless reptile that guarded the land and ate humans on a whim never even came close to crossing your mind. No, never dragons in paradise. Right?

In fact, like many other cultures worldwide, the ancient Hawaiians also harbored myths and stories of dragons in their legends and oral histories. Perhaps they weren’t the knight-crunching devil beasts of the old world, or the benevolent water serpents of the far east, but they were indeed powerful creatures that were not to be trifled with. Because of the vast menagerie of cultures that have spanned the globe over the past few thousand years, let us begin at the beginning of beginnings, and define exactly what is a dragon.

Gentle Golden Dragon-pamela-m-steveson

The word ‘dragon’ in the English language comes from the Greek word draco which means ‘to guard’, bearing some grain of truth to the western dragon’s notoriety for protecting great hoards of treasure. While this term is applied generally to a number of creatures, great and powerful nonetheless, this behavior is not necessarily shared by all dragons on a culture spanning basis. For instance, the great feathered serpent-like dragons of South America were more akin to gods, and occasionally even demanded human sacrifices in their honor. So, to be fair and even within reason, the definition of a dragon in reference to our current topic can be read as follows: a chimeric creature, with mostly reptilian characteristics, that has a definitive innate ability for the supernatural, and a definable relationship with mankind, whether it be positive or negative. This generalized description covers the majority of dragon-like entities in any number of different cultures, from Japanese sea dragons to the great wyrms of the Celtic druids. But because we are being culturally specific as well, it is only logical to define the dragons of Hawai`i within the boundaries of their own linguistic nomenclature.

The Hawaiian word for dragon, in its most general sense, is Mo’o. While this term has been used throughout the centuries to define any number of creatures, from very real animals of immense proportions (such as large moray eels or particularly massive sea turtles and sharks), to natural landmarks that held cultural and legendary significance, its actual meaning can be defined as ‘lizard’, and it has been applied to several supernatural entities in the annals of Hawaiian legend. For instance, the goddess Hi`iaka is known to have slain several monsters, many of them Mo’o, most notably the mo’o whom she slain when he denied her entrance to the island of Oahu from its eastern shore, and whose tail tip she cast back into the sea once he was killed, creating the small island Mokolii, or modern day Chinaman’s Hat. The goddess is also known to have a fought a Mo’o witch, in human form, who was one of the first entities to attempt at impeding her path through the dream world to save the soul of her lost lover. This characteristic of the dragon being able to take on another physical form is shared by countless other cultures.

 Rick Sardinha-etsy-dragon-fossil

The Mo’o is also known to have an affinity for water, staking claims, to this day, on many of the freshwater bodies across the island of Oahu. This is another feature very common with the image of the dragon: being associated with the most important of all life-giving elements, water. Across Asia, dragons in multiple cultures were seen as protectors and givers of water at times of great need. Even in Europe, scaled beasts were commonly seen spewing forth great tumultuous spouts of water. But from where does this association arise? It’s theorized that the ancient Hawaiians may have carried these legends with them from their home of origin, which is also believed to be a coastal region of South America, which is home to several water-dwelling species of crocodilians. This could have easily lead to future legends of great lizards that dwelt in streams and ponds. Or perhaps, without written historical record, sailors from China or Japan made it as far as ancient Hawai`i, and shared their own culture’s legends with the natives, leading to a similar shared mythos. Or maybe, just maybe, there really were, and possibly still are, great slumbering dragons dwelling on the Hawaiian island chain, just waiting to see the light of day yet again.

Written by Mike Limatoc
Michael Limatoc studied English/Creative Writing at the University Of Hawaii.

Mike’s contact information


Lapalapa – Oceanic Rift


Lapalapa: Phosphorescence on the beach at night, believed by the Hawaiians to be the souls of the dead. Also believed to be a portal or rift into the next world.


Ha – Spirit Of Life

Ha - Breath Of Life

“The Word for breath, Ha, also means life, and is found again and again in chants of old Hawaii. Prayer and communication with the gods are associated with the breath of life. In Breath was the life force and the individual spirit, considered so elemental that the greeting in old Hawaii was a close face-to-face sharing of the breath of life( Honi). When a kahuna was dying, he passed on the power and knowledge that he had acquired in a lifetime by literally breathing into his protege. Other Hawaiians passed on their gifts in their professions-talents and mana to a family member through their breath. Mana vital life force could also be imparted to objects by breathing on them”

Fundamentals Of Hawaiian Mysticism.

Charlotte Berney