MALUAE AND THE UNDER-WORLD
His is a story from Manoa Valley,
back of Honolulu. In the upper
end of the valley, at the foot
of the highest mountains on the
island Oahu, lived Maluae. He
was a farmer, and had chosen
this land because rain fell
abundantly on the mountains,
and the streams brought down
fine soil from the decaying
forests and disintegrating
rocks, fertilizing his plants.
Here he cultivated bananas and
taro and sweet potatoes. His
bananas grew rapidly by the sides of the brooks, and yielded large
bunches of fruit from their
tree-like stems; his taro filled
small walled-in pools, growing
in the water like water-lilies,
until the roots were matured,
when the plants were pulled up
and the roots boiled and prepared
for food; his sweet potatoes--
a vegetable known among the
ancient New Zealanders as
ku-maru, and supposed to have
come from Hawaii-were planted
on the drier uplands.
Thus he had plenty of food
continually growing, and ripening
from time to time. Whenever he
gathered any of his food products
he brought a part to his family
temple and placed it on an altar
before the gods Kane and Kanaloa,
then he took the rest to his
home for his family to eat.
He had a boy whom he dearly
loved, whose name was Kaa-lii
(rolling chief). This boy was
a careless, rollicking child.
One day the boy was tired and hungry.
He passed by the temple of the
gods and saw bananas, ripe and sweet,
on the little platform before the gods.
He took these bananas and ate them all.
The gods looked down on the altar
expecting to find food, but it was
all gone and there was nothing for
them. They were very angry, and
ran out after the boy. They caught
him eating the bananas, and killed
him. The body they left lying under
the trees, and taking out his ghost
threw it into the Under-world.
The father toiled hour after hour
cultivating his food plants, and
when wearied returned to his home.
On the way he met the two gods.
They told him how his boy had
robbed them of their sacrifices
and how they had punished him.
They said, "We have sent his
ghost body to the lowest
regions of the Under-world."
The father was very sorrowful
and heavyhearted as he went on
his way to his desolate home.
He searched for the body of his boy,
and at last found it. He saw
too that the story of the
gods was true, for partly
eaten bananas filled the mouth,
which was set in death.
He wrapped the body very
carefully in kapa cloth made
from the bark of trees. He carried
it into his rest-house and laid
it on the sleeping-mat. After
a time he lay down beside the body,
refusing all food, and planning
to die with his boy. He thought
if he could escape from his own
body he would be able to go down
where the ghost of his boy had
been sent. If he could find
that ghost he hoped to take it
to the other part of the
Under-world, where they
could be happy together.
He placed no offerings on the
altar of the gods. No prayers
were chanted. The afternoon and
evening passed slowly. The gods
waited for their worshipper,
but he came not. They looked
down on the altar of sacrifice,
but there was nothing for them.
The night passed and the
following day. The father lay
by the side of his son, neither
eating nor drinking, and longing
only for death. The house was
Then the gods talked together,
and Kane said: "Maluae eats no
food, he prepares no awa to drink,
and there is no water by him.
He is near the door of the
Under-world. If he should die,
we would be to blame."
Kanaloa said: "He has been a
good man, but now we do not
hear any prayers. We are losing
[1. Trees used for kapa were the
hau, olona, akala, maaloa, mamaki,
pouli, and wauke.] our worshipper.
We in quick anger killed his son.
Was this the right reward? He
has called us morning and evening
in his worship. He has provided
fish and fruits and vegetables
for our altars. He has always
prepared awa from the juice
of the yellow awa root for us
to drink. We have not paid
him well for his care."
Then they decided to go and
give life to the father, and
permit him to take his ghost body
and go down into Po, the dark land,
to bring back the ghost of the boy.
So they went to Maluae and told him
they were sorry for what they had done.
The father was very weak from hunger,
and longing for death, and
could scarcely listen to them.
When Kane said, "Have you love
for your child?" the father whispered:
"Yes. My love is without end."
"Can you go down into the dark land
and get that spirit and put it
back in the body which lies here?"
"No," the father said, "no, I
can only die and go to live with
him and make him happier by taking
him to a better place."
Then the gods said, "We will give
you the power to go after your boy
and we will help you to escape the
dangers of the land of ghosts."
Then the father, stirred by hope,
rose up and took food and drink.
Soon he was strong enough to go
on his journey.
The gods gave him a ghost body
and also prepared a hollow stick
like bamboo, in which they put
food, battle-weapons, and a
piece of burning lava for fire.
Not far from Honolulu is a
beautiful modern estate with
fine roads, lakes, running brooks,
and interesting valleys extending
back into the mountain range.
This is called by the very ancient
name Moanalua (two lakes). Near
the seacoast of this estate was
one of the most noted ghost
localities of the islands.
The ghosts after wandering over
the island Oahu would come to
this place to find a way into
their real home,
the Under-world or Po.
Here was a ghostly breadfruit-tree
named Lei-walo, possibly meaning
"the eight wreaths" or " the eighth wreath"
--the last wreath of leaves from
the land of the living which
would meet the eyes of the dying.
The ghosts would leap or fly or
climb into the branches of this tree,
trying to find a rotten branch
upon which they could sit until
it broke and threw them into the
dark sea below.
Maluae climbed up the breadfruit-tree.
He found a branch where ghosts
were sitting waiting for it to fall.
His weight was so much greater
than theirs that the branch broke
at once, and down they all fell
into the land of Po.
He needed merely to taste
the food in his hollow cane to
have new life and strength.
This he had done when he climbed
the tree; thus he had been able
to push past the fabled guardians
of the pathway of the ghosts
in the Upper-world. As he
entered the Under-world he
again tasted the food of the
gods and he felt himself
growing stronger and stronger.
He took a magic war-club and a
spear out of the cane given by
the gods. Ghostly warriors tried
to hinder his entrance into the
different districts of the dark land.
The spirits of dead chiefs
challenged him when he passed
their homes. Battle after
battle was fought. His magic
club struck the warriors down,
and his spear tossed them aside.
Sometimes he was warmly greeted
and aided by ghosts of kindly spirit.
Thus he went from place to place,
searching for his boy, finding
him at last, as the Hawaiians
quaintly expressed it,
"down in the papa-ku"
(the established foundation of Po),
choking and suffocating from the
bananas of ghost-land which he was
compelled to continually force
into his mouth.
The father caught the spirit
of the boy and started back
toward the Upper-world, but
the ghosts surrounded him. They
tried to catch him and take the
spirit away from him. Again the
father partook of the food of
the gods. Once more he wielded
his war-club, but the hosts of
enemies were too great.
Multitudes arose or, all sides,
crushing him by their
At last he raised his magic
hollow cane and took the last
portion of food. Then he poured
out the portion of burning lava
which the gods had placed inside.
It fell upon the dry floor of the
Under-world. The flames dashed
into the trees and the shrubs
of ghost-land. Fire-holes opened
and streams of lava burst out.
Backward fled the multitudes of spirits.
The father thrust the spirit of the
boy quickly into the empty magic
cane and rushed swiftly up to his
home-land. He brought the spirit
to the body lying in the rest-house
and forced it to find again
its living home.
Afterward the father and the
boy took food to the altars
of the gods, and chanted the
accustomed prayers heartily and
loyally all the rest of their lives.
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