The Legend of Puna and the Dragon Goddess

A long time ago in the old Hawaii, there were two goddesses who were worshipped in the temples, Kihawahine and Haumea.When it was time for Haumea to marry, she took Puna, the chief of Oahu, as her husband. What Haumea did not know, however, was that Kihawahine wanted to take chief Puna for herself.

One day Puna and his people were traveling around the island looking for a good surf spot. They found a fine surf place where a beautiful woman, Kihawahine, was floating on the sea. She called to the chief and said that it was not a good place for surfing, but that if he followed her, she would take him to the perfect place far outside the reef. Thus, the goddess lured Puna out to sea, far out of sight of his people and even the sharp peaks of the mountains of Oahu, all the way to Molokai.

Here, the couple lived together in a cave for a long time. Kihawahine took care of him and prepared his food, and although life was not difficult for him there, Puna was, in essence, a prisoner, as leaving the island would surely mean death for him. His new wife and captor was in fact a dragon goddess and could be very cruel if she was angered.

Puna missed life by the sea and begged Kihawahine to let him go down to the water. Eventually, she granted his request and Puna was allowed to leave the cave and go to the ocean. Down on the shore, he happened upon his brother-in-law Hinole, who recognized him and invited him to his house to eat and talk.

Hinole told Puna of the true nature of Kihawahine and explained how he could escape her. He was to send her to Mauna Kea for water, but put a small hole in the water jar so that she would be delayed and Puna would have time to escape.

Puna went back to his cave and instead of announcing his presence with a loud shout, as the dragon goddess had instructed him to do, he approached quietly, as Hinole had suggested, and thus he saw Kihawahine in her true form, covered in scales with a long tail and huge claws.

Puna was trembling and breathing hard, and his wife found him and cursed him, calling him evil and threatening to eat his eyes. Puna stayed quiet, fearing for his life, but soon the anger passed over her and she was calm again.

Soon, Puna decided to try Hinole's plan. One day he began to breathe hard, as if he was sick, and when Kihawahine asked him what was wrong, he explained that he needed the special ice water of Poliahu on Mauna Kea, the snow-covered mountain of Hawaii.

He knew that Kihawahine considered herself strong and independent, so he finished by saying: "I cannot ask you to go, this is a long and difficult journey, not fit for a woman." As he expected, the dragon goddess agreed to get the water for him.

She took the water jar, at the bottom of which Puna had made a small hole, and left the cave. Her husband rose as soon as she was out of sight. He found a canoe and crossed to Maui. Then he found another boat going to Hawaii and at last landed at Kau.

He went up and stood on the edge of the pit of the fire goddess Pele. Those who were living in the crater saw him and knew that he was Haumea's husband. He quickly went down into the crater and stayed with them. He told them all about his journey and they took pity on him.

In the meantime, Kihawahine went to Poliahu, but could not fill the water jar. She poured the water in and filled the jar, but when the jar was lifted it became light. She looked back and saw the water leaking out of the jar, and she knew she had been tricked.

Angry, she called all the dragons of Molokai, Lanai, Maui, Kahoolawe and Hawaii, and they flew to the pit of Pele and stood on the edge of the crater. She called all the people below, telling them to give her her husband. They refused to give Puna up, calling her a mischief-maker and telling her to find her own husband, rather than taking that which did not belong to her.

The dragons threw their drooling saliva into the pit, almost destroying the small fire they had down there, but the fire rose up with great strength, burning the dragons and killing some of them on the spot. They tried to hide in between the rocks, which opened up as earthquakes shook the crater, but fire followed the earthquakes and the fleeing dragons.

Kihawahine managed to escape and leaped down the precipice into the fishpond Lokoaka (the shadow lake), named after the shadow, or aka, of the dragon. Here she was imprisoned for some time, until she went back to Molokai. On Molokai, she tracked down Hinole, meaning to kill him for helping Puna to escape, but Hinole saw the trouble coming so he leaped into the sea, becoming a fish in the ocean.

Kihawahine dived under the waves after him and tried to find him in the coral caves, but could not catch him. He became the Hinalea, a fish still dearly loved by the fishermen of the islands.

The dragon goddess continued seeking, swimming swiftly from place to place. Ounauna saw her passing back and forth and offered advice. He told her to make a basket from the vine, inalua, and lower it into the ocean. After a while, she could dive down and find Hinole in it. Kihawahine followed these instructions, but each time she dived down, Hinole was swimming beside the basket, but was not in it.

When she went back to Ounauna, she was angry and threatened to kill him, but he said: "I forgot to tell you that you must get some sea eggs and crabs, pound and mix them together and put them inside the basket." (This is the way the Hinalea is caught to this day.)

Sure enough, the trap worked, but as she was about to kill Hinole, he persuaded her to set him free, on the condition that he retain his fish form forever. Kihawahine then went to Maui where she dwelt in a deep pool near Lahaina.

After Puna had escaped the dragons, he returned to Oahu and saw his first wife, Haumea, and they were very happy together living in the mountains above Kalihi-uka.

One day Haumea went out fishing for crabs, and Puna walked until he came to a banana plantation. There he ate, lay down to rest and fell fast asleep. The plantation belonged to the new chief of Oahu, Kou, and when his watchmen found Puna they tied his hands behind his back and brought him to their chief, who killed him and hung the body in the branches of a breadfruit tree.

When Haumea returned and heard of the death of her husband, she ran down to Wai-kahalulu and found Puna hanging on the branches. She was so upset that she commanded the breadfruit tree to open, stepped inside the tree and bade it close about her.

The fat of the body of Puna fell down to the ground through the branches, and it was eaten by the dogs below the tree. One of these dogs belonged to the chief Kou, and it is said that the dog came back to his house, played with the chief, then leaped, caught him by the throat and killed him.