Kamapua'a

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This pre-missionary wooden statue of Kamapua'a was found in a cave in up-country Maui. It is on display at the Bailey House Museum.

In Hawaiian mythology, Kamapuaʻa ("hog child")[1] is a hog-man fertility superhuman associated with Lono, the god of agriculture. The son of Hina and Kahikiula, the chief of Oahu, Kamapuaʻa was particularly connected with the island of Maui.[2]

A kupua (trickster), Kamapuaʻa is best known for his romantic pursuit of the fire goddess Pele, with whom he shared a turbulent relationship. Despite Pele's power, Kamapuaʻa's persistence allows him to turn her lava rock into fertile soil.

He is linked with the humuhumunukunukuapuaa, also known as the reef triggerfish and presently the state fish of Hawaiʻi.[3]

Professor Lilikalā Kameʻeleihiwa describes him as “defiant of all authority, bold and untamed, he recalls the pig nature that is dormant in most people….Treacherous and tender, he thirsts after the good things in life--adventure, love, and sensual pleasure….”[4]

Early life[edit]

Kamapua’a was born to human parents, Kahikiula and Hina, on Oahu. He is recorded as having one brother, Kahikihonuakele.[5] There are also many stories involving his grandmother, whom he seems to be very close to. There is not a lot of information on his childhood.

Adult life[edit]

He is said to be very attractive as an adult and had many romantic exploits. He also is recorded as having many run ins with other chiefs and other influential people, so was often at odds with and engaged in warfare with them. The most known battles are with Olopana and Pele, the volcano goddess.

Mythology[edit]

In Maui the kukui is a symbol of enlightenment, protection and peace. It was said that Kamapua'a could transform into a kukui tree.[6] One of the legends told of Kamapua'a: one day, a man beat his wife to death and buried her beneath Kamapua'a while he was in tree form. Because he saw that the woman had been a good person, he raised her to new life, but damned her husband to death.[citation needed] One well known myth involves Olopana and some birds. Being the Trickster that he was, Kamapua’a one day stole some birds from Olopana, who was enraged at the theft. Olopana sent his warriors after Kamapua’a, who, along with his own followers, fought back, until it became clear they could not win. Kamapua’a took his followers and fled until they came up against a waterfall where they were seemingly cornered. It was at this point that Kamapua’a shifted into a hog which his followers used to climb to the next level of the falls and to freedom.

Kamapua’a and Pele[edit]

There are contradictory stories depicting the relationship between Kamapua’a and Pele. In some versions they are described as enemies (Hawaiian Romance), in others they are depicted as lovers or husband and wife (Hawaiian folk tales). Yet another version says that Kamapua’a tried to woo Pele unsuccessfully and when she rejected him with insults, a battle resulted in which Kamapua’a poured water over the volcano and Pele drove Kamapua’a into the ocean to escape her fire.[7]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Beckwith, p. 201.
  2. ^ Beckwith, p. 201.
  3. ^ Alameida, p. 20.
  4. ^ Mindess, Harvey. "Humor in Hawaii: Past and Present". 
  5. ^ "Scene of the Demigod Kamapuaa’s Escape from Olopana". The Hawaiin Spectator. 
  6. ^ Mower, Nancy Alpert (2001). "Kamapuaʻa: A Hawaiian Trickster". In Jeanne Campbell Reesman. Trickster Lives: Culture and Myth in American Fiction. University of Georgia Press. p. 16. ISBN 978-0-8203-2277-3. 
  7. ^ Swanson, Donald A. "Hawaiian oral tradition describes 400 years of volcanic activity at Kīlauea". Volcanoes and Human History. 

References[edit]

  • Kame'eleihiwa, Lilikala (1996) A Legendary Tradition of Kamapua'a, The Hawaiian Pig-God, Bishop Museum Press, ISBN 0-930897-60-9
  • Alameida, Roy (1997) Stories of Old Hawaii, Bess Press, ISBN 978-1-57306-026-4.
  • Beckwith, Martha Warren (1970) Hawaiian Mythology, University of Hawaii Press, ISBN 978-0-8248-0514-2.
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