"Translation makes Hawaiian treasure accessible" (Book Review of "The Wind Gourd of La'amaomao"). Tino Ramirez. Sunday Honolulu Advertiser and Star Bulletin, Jan. 20, 1991.
ACCORDlNG to translator Esther Mookini's introduction, the story of Ku-a-Nu'uanu, his son Pa.ka'a and grandson Ku-a-Paka'a, and their relationship with the alii Keawenui-a-'Umi was highly regarded by Hawaiians. Dating back to the 16th century, and in part a history of Kamehameha's family eight generations he fore his birth, it promoted the values of "generosity, loyalty, filial piety and justice" and circulated in the islands by word of mouth for 200 years, developing into many versions.
Over the last century several versions, in Hawaiian and English, have been published under many tities and in different forms, from newspaper serial to young adult's book, to page. long summary. Because. its plot and chants are complete, Mookini and Sarah Nakoa have translated the version published by Moses Nakuina in the 1900s. Contemporary readers will find much to enjoy and learn in their work.
Well-educated, a legislator, journalist and Christian activist, Nakuina published Hawaiian folk tales and wrote on Hawaiian culture. His wife, Emma M. Beckley, wrote and told stories, was a commissioner of water rights and an authority on Hawaiian culture who was the first curator of Hawaii National Museum. Knowing the story's importance as a record of Hawaiian values, customs and natural history, Nakuina took great care in putting together his version.
While keeping the loosely organized, sponlaneous feel of oral literature, Nakuina structured the story's plot and motifs in ways familiar to a reader of modern novels. The characters are consistent in their motivations, wisdom and folly, and in the case of Ku-a-Nu'uanu and his descendants through the La'amaomao lineage, important and admirable traits span the generations.
The kahu iwikuamoo, or "backbone attendant" of Hawaii's ruling chief, Keawenui-a-'Umi, Ku-a-Nu'uanu left Waipio Valley to go sightseeing on the other islands. Hiding his status as alii, he settled on Kauai as a commoner and married La'amaomao, a refined woman from a family of priests. Upset with their daughter's marriage to a vagrant, La'amaomao's parents complained, and after Ku-a-Nu'uanu was called back to his master's court, they ostracized her and her newborn son, Paka'a.
Raised by his mother and an uncle, Paka'a was an obselvant, curious boy who learned the proper ways of doing all kinds of work. Guessing correctly that his uncle was not his father, Paka'a resolved to find Ku-a-Nu'uanu when the time was right. When Kauai's ruling chief planned to tour the Islands, Paka'a decided to go along as an attendant. Before he left, La'amaomao gave Paka'a a gourd belonging to her grand. mother.
In the gourd were the grandmother's bones, and all the winds of the Hawaiian islands. By learning the winds' names, and their songs, chants and prayers, Paka'a gained control of them, a power which he and his son used wisely in the future.
Paka'a eventually found his way to Waipio and took his father's place in Keawe-a-'Umi's court as head atten. dant, overseer, treasurer, astrologer and soothsayer. Paying attention to the needs of alii and commoners alike, he brought peace and harmony to Hawaii. He was loved by all except Keawe-a'Umi's chief navigators.
Spreading lies about Paka'a's abilities and boasting of their own, the navigators turned the alii against his attendant. Paka'a then sailed to Molokai, leaving management of Hawaii to Keawe-a-'Umi's new favorites. When enough time passed for Paka'a's good work to be undone, the alii set out to find him.
Keawe-a-'Umi's search, his captivity on Molokai by Paka'a and his son Ku-a-Paka'a, Paka'a's revenge and the restoration of proper relationships make up the rest of "The Wind Gourd of La'amaomao." In these episodes the r.0wers of the gourd are used, and we earn the mosl about Hawaiian culture and natural history.
In coaxing Keawe-a-'Umi to land his canoes on Molokai, Ku-a-Paka'a recited 'several name chants and the wind chants of La'amaomao, and chants made up on the spot. Several dozen winds are named, and observant islanders will take pleasure in recognizing many of them and in realizing how intimate Hawaiians were with their environment. Nakuina also makes it clear that the power of controlling the wind is a metaphor for controlling language, and men.
As one of Keawe-a-'umi's chiefs said. "My land is famous as a windy land, but its wind doesn't blow men around. only rubbish. Molokai's. wind is this puffing little boy who blows men from their houses." This power is what the navigators (and Keawe-a-'umi) lack, and Paka'a is given again "the right to put in order the Island of Hawaii."
This rich and very readable translation should become a classic in Hawaiian/English literature. Although Hawaiian society was highly stratified and a person's social standing at hirth governed his or her life, this story of alii teaches several universal values. Patience, hard work, loyalty to family and duty are ail valuable, and intelligence, the power which strings together the other virtues, is most valuable of all.