Introduction to The Wind Gourd of La‘amaomao

Dennis Kawaharada / 1992

The Wind Gourd of La‘amaomao is a translation of Moolelo Hawaii o Pakaa a me Ku-a-Pakaa, na Kahu Iwikuamoo o Keawenuiaumi, ke Alii o Hawaii, a o na Moopuna hoi a Laamaomao (“The Hawaiian Story of Pakaa and Ku-a-Pakaa, the Personal Attendants of Keawenuiaumi, the Chief of Hawaii, and the Descendants of Laamaomao”),  a traditional legend collected from various sources, edited, and expanded by Moses Kuaea Nakuina, and published in 1902. In his preface, addressed to “those who truly love the Ali‘i and the Lahui [Hawaiian Nation],” Nakuina says he felt great mana (power) in the book and explains its value: “First, it is written in the authentic Hawaiian language as it was heard in the past. Second, some songs, improvised chants, and sacred chants have been forgotten, and others will soon be forgotten; we will never remember them if books such as this one are not published. Third, the book contains the names of the winds of all the Hawaiian Islands, known as the Territory of Hawaii today. Fourth, and most importantly, the book expresses the sincere love for the Ali‘i the kanaka of Hawai‘i felt in the past and still feel today.” Nine years after the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy in 1893 by Americans, Nakuina was calling on his Hawaiian readers to remember their true leaders, nation, and culture: “Here are Paka‘a and Kuapaka‘a searching for all of you; recognize them if they peep in at your doors, and call out and welcome them into your homes.”

Set mainly on Hawai‘i, Kaua‘i, and Moloka‘i, the story concerns the close relationship between the ali‘i and his kahu iwikuamo‘o, or personal attendant, and their responsibilities to each other and the people they ruled. The story portrays the ideal attendant as one who was caring and just toward both his ali‘i and the maka‘ainana, or commoners. Ancestry was essential in establishing status and access to privileges and special powers (such as control over the winds); but also important was the ability to carry out efficiently and fairly the duties of leadership.

Judging from its extensive development and the number of versions recorded in Hawaiian after Hawaiians adopted the haole writing system in the 19th century, the story seems to have been highly regarded both for its artistry and for promoting such values as honesty, generosity, loyalty, filial piety, and justice (which included vengeance). The first known publication of the legend in Hawaiian is a rendition by S.K. Kuapuu simply entitled He Wahi Moolelo, which appeared serially in the Hawaiian newspaper Ka Hae Hawaii from April 17–June 19, 1861. A version by S.M. Kamakau entitled He Moolelo no Pakaa (“The Story of Pakaa”) appeared serially in the Hawaiian newspapers Ke Au Okoa and Ka Nupepa Kuokoa from 1869-1871. Another Hawaiian text of the Paka‘a story appears in Fornander’s Hawaiian Antiquities and Folk-lore (Vol. 4, 72-135). This rendition, accompanied by an English translation, does not contain all of the incidents and chants that appear in Nakuina’s, but the two stories are similar and some of the chants are identical. Nakuina seems to have used all three of these earlier Hawaiian texts as sources for his expanded version.

English renditions of the story include a long version in William Hyde Rice’s collection Hawaiian Legends (1923); a short version in Thomas G. Thrum’s collection More Hawaiian Folktales (1923); a short, young adult’s version in Cora Wells Thorpe’s In the Path of the Trade Winds (1924); a short children’s version in Mary Kawena Pukui and Caroline Curtis’ collection The Water of Kane (1951); and most recently, a book-length young adult’s version by Marcia Brown entitled The Backbone of the King (1966), which is based on a translation of Nakuina’s text by Dorothy Kahananui. Of the English versions, Rice’s most closely resembles Nakuina’s in its completeness of plot, although Rice summarizes or omits the chants, which are important elements in the artistry and plot of the story. According to the introduction to his collection, Rice heard the story from “a man from Hawai‘i named Wiu,” but Nakuina’s story may have been the original source. This present text, unlike earlier English versions, is a complete translation rather than a simplification or summary.

The wind gourd referred to in the title of this legend was believed to contain all the winds of Hawai‘i, which could be called forth by chanting their names. According to Handy and Handy, the gourd is an embodiment of Lono, the Hawaiian god of agriculture and fertility: “Lono is the gourd; the cosmic gourd is the heavens whence come winds, clouds, and rain” (220). In the Paka‘a legend, the gourd, along with the marvelous wind chants naming dozens of local winds, is passed down from La‘amaomao, the Hawaiian wind goddess (lit. “distant sacredness”), to her granddaughter La‘amaomao; to her granddaughter’s son Paka‘a; to Paka‘a’s son, Ku-a-Paka‘a. In “The Triple Marriage of Laa-Mai-Kahiki” (Kalakaua, The Legends and Myths of Hawaii), La‘amaomao is described as a god rather than a goddess. He accompanies Moikeha to Hawai‘i from Kahiki and settles at Hale-o-Lono on the island of Moloka‘i, where he was worshiped as an ‘aumakua, or deity, of the winds. The female gender of the wind deity in the Paka‘a story seems to be a Hawaiian development as the wind deity in other Polynesian traditions is male (Ra‘a—Society Islands, Raka—Cook Islands, Raka-maomao—New Zealand).

In Mangaia, in the Cook Islands, a gourd representing the heavenly dome was also used in traditional times to control the winds: “…the high priest possessed a magic calabash, a miniature universe, which had holes bored in a circle at equal distances around its middle, representing the openings on the horizon through which the thirty-two winds of the compass were supposed to blow. When a voyage was contemplated to a distant island the priest was induced to stop up all the holes in the calabash except the one at the particular point of the compass from which the prospective travelers desired the wind to blow for the speedy consummation of the voyage” (Makemson 147). Lewis quotes Gill about the importance of knowledge of the winds: “‘In olden times, great stress was laid on this knowledge for the purpose of fishing, and especially for their long sea voyages from group to group. At the edge of the horizon are a series of holes … through which Raka, the god of winds, and his children, love to blow…’” (75).

In the Bishop Museum collection is a gourd named the wind gourd of La‘amaomao. Its inscription reads: “The wind gourd of Laamaomao that was in the keeping of Hauna, personal attendant of Lonoikamakahiki I [Keawenuia‘umi’s youngest son]. It was passed on to Pakaa, a personal attendant of Keawenuiaumi. It was placed in the royal burial cave of Hoaiku on the sacred cliffs of Keoua, at Kaawaloa, island of Hawaii, and received by King Kalakaua I on January 1, 1883, from Kaapana, caretaker of Hoaiku.” The gourd was donated to the museum by Princess Kalaniana‘ole in 1923.