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Mo‘ōlelo Chapter 2: Niʻihau

Updated: Feb 28

Pele, along with her favorite sister Hiʻiakaikapoliopele, sailed across the Pacific Ocean from her island home of Kahiki (Tahiti) in the canoe of her brother. After such a long journey they came across the islet of Nīhoa. They landed and surveyed the small isle. Pele took her ‘ō‘ō named Pāhoa and dug into Nīhoa but quickly hit water. This would not be an adequate fit for a home thus they boarded back on their canoe and continued forward.

Their next stop was another small islet – Lehua. Pele took Pāhoa again, dug into the earth and again struck water. Though it was small and unfit as a new home, Pele was moved to crown Lehua with a wreath of kaunaʻoa, a yellow vine that would stretch along its beaches. Hiʻiaka would also contribute a chaplet of lehua blossoms which she took from her own neck.

Just off the shores of Lehua lies the Island of Niʻihau. It was here that Pele decided to venture. After crossing the salt marshes, she came to the dwelling of the queen, Kaoahi. Her guards cried out about a beautiful stranger that was making her way in, and Pele was brought before the queen. Pele’s beauty astonished Kaoahi as she had never before seen a woman whose back was as straight as a pali (cliff) and whose breasts were rounded like the moon. A great fondness grew between Kaoahi and Pele and before eating together, they took an oath of friendship.


The next morning, Kaoahi sent for her konohiki, the overseers of the land, who were ordered to instruct her people to bring presents for the queen’s great friend. Each person of Niʻihau brought wondrous gifts to Pele without a word of complaining. Every day for ten days, Pele joined in festivities such as hula, surfing, and other games. Everyone on the island was eager to speak with the beautiful stranger, and Pele saw all that was in their minds.


One day, the beautiful stranger had disappeared. Kaoahi ordered the search for her, but no amount of looking could reveal her location. Kahuna were gathered to divine where Pele had gone. “Oh Queen!” they spoke, “The night tells us that Pele is not a human being like you. She is an akua. She has many bodies.” These words aroused great wonder on Niʻihau as to how Pele had come to their island and where she had gone to next.


Join us next month for Chapter 3 and to find out where Pele journeys to next.

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