The Battle of the Wailuku River
Hina, the mother of Maui, lived in a cave behind the falls of the Wailuku River on Hawai'i. There she and her women made kapa, chanting as they worked. Now Hina had an enemy, a giant lizard, or mo'o, whose name was Kuna Mo'o. He liked to trouble Hina. He rolled rocks and logs into the river above the falls, thinking their crash would hurt or frighten the women.
Instead he heard Hina's laughing call, "Aloha, O Kuna Mo'o! Your rocks and your logs make a fine drum to keep time to our chanting."
The great mo'o snapped his jaws in anger. "Their chanting shall end!" he promised as he climbed the mountain.
It was night when he returned, pushing a huge rock. All was quiet in the cave. The women slept and would not hear the noise that he must make. He rolled the great rock into the river below the falls to make a dam. The water could not flow past the rock. Kuna Mo'o watched it grow deeper and deeper until it began to flow back into the cave "They will all drown!" he chuckled. "They will drown as they sleep."
Then he heard a sharp cry, "Awake, Hina! Awake! The water rises in our cave."
A moment later he heard the voice of Hina, strong and clear, calling to her mighty son:
"O Maui, fisher of islands,
O Maui, slower of sun,
It is Hina who calls,
Hina, your mother,
Shut in the cave in the night,
Made prisoner here by the mo'o,
While water pours into our cave.
Come quickly, O Maui my son.
Come in your swift canoe.
Come with your mighty war club
And save us from this Kuna Mo'o."
The mo'o chuckled again. "She calls for her son," he muttered, "But Maui is far away. He cannot hear her call."
Maui did hear, faintly, as in a dream. He sprang from sleep. Had someone called? He looked about the night sky and saw a small, bright, fleecy cloud above Hawai'i. "My mother's cloud!" he thought. "Hina is in trouble and calls for help." He leaped down the side of Mount Haleakala with mighty strides. He sprang into his canoe and dug his paddle in the sea.
He reached Hilo. One look at the river told him what had happened. No water flowed. The river had been dammed, and Hina and her women were in danger.
Up the river Maui hurried. He reached the rock which stopped the water's flow. There was no time to move it. With his club Maui struck the bank and made a water-way around the rock.
Once more the river flowed toward the ocean, and Maui heard his mother and her women chanting his praise. But he did not stop to listen, for he heard also the sound of the mo'o above. The great lizard was fleeing to a hiding place. Maui followed. When he found the mo'o, he struck until the earth trembled. Kuna Mo'o rushed out, seeking another place to hide. Still Maui followed. Again and again the earth trembled with the blows of his mighty club.
The mo'o hid in a deep pool where Maui could not reach him. The hero poured red-hot lava into the pool and hurled in hot rocks. The water boiled, and Kuna Mo'o fled again, this time down stream. Above the falls he turned to fight. He sprang at Maui, snapping his jaws. Maui dodged and struck, and the mo'o tumbled over the falls.
As Maui leaped down the cliff he heard the women chanting prayers -- prayers for his victory. He found Kuna Mo'o weak, but still snapping his ugly jaws. Again and again Maui struck until his enemy was dead.
The giant lizard still lies where he fell, a great rock in the Wailuku River. He is beaten by stones and logs and flooded by water just as he tried to beat Hina and drown her in the flood.
As for the deep pool above, though Maui no longer pours in red-hot lava, the waters of the "boiling pots" still bubble and boil as if remembering his mighty battle with Kuna Mo'o.
"The Battle of the Wailuku River" is from "Tales of the Menehune (Revised Edition)," compiled by Mary Kawena Puku'i, retold by Caroline Curtis and illustrated by Robin Burningham. Published by Kamehameha Schools Press, ©1960 and 1985 by Kamehameha Schools.
"Hawaiian Folklore" is presented Mondays through the Star-Bulletin's Newspaper in Education program.