The Legend of Punahou

Once there was a great chief, Kaha'akea, who lived with his wife in the Ka'ala Mountains. They were very happy together and overjoyed when they learned that the chief's wife was to give birth to twins. But the labor was long and hard, and Kaka'akea's wife died that night.

She left behind two beautiful newborn babies, a boy named Kauawa'ahila (which means the Wa'ahila rain) and a girl called Kauaki'owao (the mountain mist). As they grew into beautiful children, chief Kaha'akea's bond with his twins became strong and tender. But although their physical needs were well taken care of, Kaha'akea felt that the twins needed a stepmother to provide care for them. So while the twins were still very young, he remarried a woman called Hawea.

When Hawea moved into the children's home, she brought with her a son from her previous marriage who was deformed and ugly. Whenever the family went out together, everyone remarked on how beautiful the twins were, while their eyes either passed over the ugly child, or glanced at him in disgust.

Hawea became jealous and resentful. In her husband's presence, she pretended to be kind toward the twins. The children grew up joyfully despite their stepmother's false love, but as time passed, Hawea's resentment turned to hatred, and her bitterness swallowed her up.

One day, Kaha'akea announced that he had to travel to the Big Island for a long period of time, but he felt safe in the knowledge that his wife Hawea would look after his children with loving care.

But as soon as Kaha'akea departed, Hawea's true colors showed. At first, she merely expressed her contempt for the twins, who were about ten years old at that time. But before long, her abuse of them became more severe. They were denied food, water and clothing and were made to suffer much humiliation. They were sent to work in the taro fields all day, and at night they had to sleep on the hard floor of the house, while Hawea and her son enjoyed all the fruits of their labor.

When the twins' mother had died, her relatives had prayed, fasted and performed rituals in order to fortify her in the afterlife so that she might look over her children. Now, in their hour of need, their mother's spirit helped and protected them as much as she could, but the persecution by their stepmother continued.

Eventually they were so tired and hungry that they could endure no more, and so one night the twins escaped to the mountains. They hid above the Nu'uanu Pali on a mountain peak called Konahuanui.

But Hawea was cunning and determined to track them down, and soon she found the children and dragged them home. They escaped again and ran away to the head of Manoa Valley. This was a better place to hide, and Hawea spent much time searching for them. Eventually, she began to notice that rainbows constantly appeared at the head of Manoa Valley, as they always do in the presence of rain and mist. She remembered the children's names and instantly knew where to look. Again, the children were discovered, and again they escaped.

This time, the young twins made their way to Kukao'o Hill where they found a well-hidden cave. Near the cave they found a sweet potato patch and edible greens and they tended these, eating them with grasshoppers for sustenance. The children were still young, but they were smart and resourceful. They cooked the greens using the puholoholo method of rolling them around in a covered gourd with hot stones in order to steam them.

At that time, men and women had to dine separately, and so the brave young Kauawa'ahila dug a deep double imu (oven), so they could cook their food separately. He also built a wall to divide the cave into two separate areas.

Their peace was not to last long, however, for as their new crops began to ripen, Hawea managed to find them again, driving them from their hideaway and taking all the crops for herself.

This time, the children found a home in the rocky hills just behind Punahou. There were two caves close to one another and they settled into these, hoping that their days of fleeing their cruel stepmother were at an end. Untiringly resourceful, they cleared the land, began to harvest fruits, flowers and shoots and caught grasshoppers and occasionally a wild duck to eat.

Everything seemed to be going well – the only thing they lacked was a body of water. Kauaki'owao longed to have a bath and asked her brother to look for water. Kauawa'ahila knew of a large pond fed by the rain called Kanawai, but it was too far east of their hiding place, and it would be dangerous for the siblings to trek there.

However, while out searching he met the Kakea water god who was a maternal ancestor of his and who appeared as a lizard. Since this god controlled the water sources of the Makiki and Manoa Valleys, Kauawa'ahila asked him if he could help in opening a watercourse from the pond to a place near the caves in which he and his sister resided.

The god agreed to help and even divided the water supply of Wailele spring so that it would run into Kauawa'ahila's watercourse in order to give it a continuous supply of water. To create the watercourse, the water god opened an underground passage from the Kanawai pond and Kauawa'ahila dove in and swam through the passage until the water burst up through the ground. Then he excavated a pond in time for his sister to swim in it when she awoke from her afternoon nap.

Kauaki'owao loved her bathing pond, but that was not all the new watercourse was used for. Her brother grew taro and the area's fertility became evident. People were attracted to the land and settled nearby. More taro patches sprung up and the area developed into a little village called Ka Punahou, taking its name from the twins' spring.

It was at this time that chief Kaha'akea returned from his trip. When he heard how his wife had treated the twins and how they had suffered, he was furious and heartbroken. He killed Hawea and then himself. To this day, the presence of the twins' spirits (rain and mist) can be seen in each of the areas where they took refuge; Ka'ala, Konahuanui and the upper Manoa Valley.