On the plateau lying between Ewa and Waialua, on the island of Oahu, and about a mile off, and mauka of the Kaukonahua bridge, is the historical place called Kukaniloko. This was the ancient birthplace of the Oahu kings and rulers. It was incumbent on all women of the royal line to retire to this place when about to give birth to a child, on pain of forfeiting the rank, privileges, and prerogatives of her expected offspring, should that event happen in a less sacred place.
The stones were still standing some years ago, and perhaps are yet undisturbed, where the royal accouchements took place. In ancient times this locality was taboo ground, for here the high priest of the island had his headquarters. Himself descended from the chief families, and being, in many instances, an uncle or younger brother of the reigning king, or connected by marriage with those of the royal line, and being also at the head of a numerous, well organized, and powerful priesthood, his influence was hardly second to that of the king, and in some matters his authority was paramount.
A few miles mauka of Kukaniloko, toward the Waimea Mountains, is Helemano, where the last of the cannibal chiefs from the South Seas finally settled when driven from the plains of Mokuleia and Waialua by the inhabitants of those districts; for the people had been exasperated by the frequent requisitions on the kamaainas (original inhabitants) by the stranger chiefs to furnish material for their cannibal feasts.
To the east of Helemano, and about the same distance from Kukaniloko, is Oahunui (Greater Oahu), another historical place. This was the residence of the kings of the island. Tradition has it that previous to the advent of the cannibal strangers the place was known by another name.
When the Lo Aikanaka, as the last of the man-eating chiefs are called, were constrained to take up their residence in upper Helemano, a district just outside of the boundaries of those reserved for the royal and priestly residences, a young man called Oahunui was king. An elder sister named Kilikiliula, who had been as a mother to him, was supposed to share equally with him the royal power and prerogative. This sister was married to a chief named Lehuanui, of the priestly line, but one not otherwise directly connected with royalty, and was the mother of three children; the two eldest being boys and the youngest a girl. They all lived together in the royal enclosure, but in separate houses, according to ancient custom.
Now, the Lo Aikanaka, on establishing themselves in upper Helemano, had at first behaved very well. They had been circumspect and prudent in their intercourse with the royal retainers, and had visited the young King to render their homage with every appearance of humility.
Oahunui was quite captivated by the plausible, suave manners of the ingratiating southern chief and those of his immediate retainers, and he invited them to a feast.
This civility was reciprocated, and the King dined with the strangers. Here it was strongly suspected that the dish of honor placed before the King was human flesh, served under the guise of pork.
The King found the dish very much to his liking, and intimated to the Lo Aikanaka chief that his aipuu-puu (chief cook or steward) understood the preparation and cooking of pork better than the royal cook did.
The Lo Aikanaka took the hint, and the young King became a very frequent guest at the Southerner’s board—or rather, mat table. Some excuse or other would be given to invite the royal guest, such as a challenge to the King to a game of konane (a game like checkers); or a contest of skill in the different athletic and warlike sports would be arranged, and Oahunui would be asked to be the judge, or simply invited to view them. As a matter of course, it would be expected that the King would remain after the sports and partake of food when on friendly visits of this nature. Thus with one excuse or another he spent a great deal of his time with his new subjects and friends.
To supply the particular dainty craved by the royal visitor, the Lo Aikanaka had to send out warriors to the passes leading to Waianae from Lihue and Kalena, and also to the lonely pathway leading up to Kalakini, on the Waimea side, there to lie in ambush for any lone traveller, or belated person after la-i, aaho, or ferns. Such a one would fall an easy prey to the Lo Aikanaka stalwarts, skilful in the art of the lua (to kill by breaking the bones).
This went on for some time, until the unaccountable disappearance of so many people began to be connected with the frequent entertainments by the southern chief. Oahunui’s subjects began to hint that their young King had acquired the taste for human flesh at these feasts, and that it was to gratify his unnatural appetite for the horrid dish that he paid his frequent visits to those who were his inferiors, contrary to all royal precedent.
The people’s disapproval of the intimacy of Oahunui with his new friends was expressed more and more openly, and the murmurs of discontent grew loud and deep. His chiefs and high priest became alarmed, and begged him to discontinue his visits, or they would not be answerable for the consequences. The King was thereby forced to heed their admonitions and promised to keep away from Lo’s, and did so for quite a while.
Now, all the male members of the royal family ate their meals with the King when he was at home. This included, among others, Lehuanui, his sister’s husband, and their two sons—healthy, chubby little lads of about eight and six years of age. One day after breakfast, as the roar of the surf at Waialua could be distinctly heard, the King remarked that the fish of Ukoa pond at Waialua must be pressing on to the makaha (floodgates) and he would like some aholehole.
This observation really meant a command to his brother-in-law to go and get the fish, as he was the highest chief present except his two royal nephews, too small to assume such duties.
Lehuanui, Kilikiliula’s husband, accordingly went to Waialua with a few of his own family retainers and a number of those belonging to the King. They found the fish packed thick at the makaha, and were soon busily engaged in scooping out, cleaning, and salting them. It was quite late at night when Lehuanui, fatigued with the labors of the day, lay down to rest. He had been asleep but a short time when he seemed to see his two sons standing by his head. The eldest spoke to him: “Why do you sleep, my father? While you are down here we are being eaten by your brother-in-law, the King. We were cooked and eaten up, and our skulls are now hanging in a net from a branch of the lehua-tree you are called after, and the rest of our bones are tied in a bundle and buried under the tree by the big root running to the setting sun.”
Then they seemed to fade away, and Lehuanui started up, shivering with fear. He hardly knew whether he had been dreaming or had actually seen an apparition of his little sons. He had no doubt they were dead, and as he remembered all the talk and innuendoes about the King’s supposed reasons for visiting the strangers and the enforced cessation of those visits at the urgent request of the high priest and the chiefs, he came to the conclusion that the King had expressed a desire for fish in his presence only to send him out of the way. He reasoned that no doubt the King had noticed the chubby forms and rounded limbs of the little lads, and being debarred a chance of partaking surreptitiously of human flesh, had compelled his servants to kill, cook, and serve up his own nephews. In satisfying his depraved appetite, he had also got rid of two who might become formidable rivals; for it was quite within the possibilities that the priests and chiefs in the near future, should he be suspected of a desire for a further indulgence in cannibal diet, might depose him, and proclaim either one of the young nephews his successor.
The father was so troubled that he aroused his immediate body servant, and the two left Waialua for home shortly after midnight. They arrived at the royal enclosure at dawn, and went first to the lehua-tree spoken of by the apparition of the child, and on looking up amid the branches, sure enough there dangled two little skulls in a large-meshed fishing-net. Lehuanui then stooped down and scraped away the leaves and loose dirt from the root indicated, and out rolled a bundle of tapa, which on being opened was found to contain the bones of two children. The father reached up for the net containing the skulls, and putting the bundle of tapa in it, tied the net around his neck. The servant stood by, a silent and grieved spectator of a scene whose meaning he fully understood.
The father procured a stone adze and went to the King’s sleeping-house, the servant still following. Here every one but an old woman tending the kukui-nut candle was asleep. Oahunui was stretched out on a pile of soft mats covered with his paiula, the royal red kapa of old. The cruel wretch had eaten to excess of the hateful dish he craved, and having accompanied it with copious draughts of awa juice, was in a heavy, drunken sleep.
Lehuanui stood over him, adze in hand, and called, “O King, where are my children?” The stupefied King only stirred uneasily, and would not, or could not, awake. Lehuanui called him three times, and the sight of the drunken brute, gorged with his flesh and blood, so enraged the father that he struck at Oahunui’s neck with his stone adze, and severed the head from the body at one blow.
The father and husband then strode to his own sleeping-house, where his wife lay asleep with their youngest child in her arms. He aroused her and asked for his boys. The mother could only weep, without answering. He upbraided her for her devotion to her brother, and for having tamely surrendered her children to satisfy the appetite of the inhuman monster. He reminded her that she had equal power with her brother, and that the latter was very unpopular, and had she chosen to resist his demands and called on the retainers to defend her children, the King would have been killed and her children saved.
He then informed her that, as she had given up his children to be killed for her brother, he had killed him in retaliation, and, saying, “You have preferred your brother to me and mine, so you will see no more of me and mine,” he tore the sleeping child from her arms and turned to leave the house.
The poor wife and mother followed, and, flinging herself on her husband, attempted to detain him by clinging to his knees; but the father, crazed by his loss and the thought of her greater affection for a cruel, inhuman brother than for her own children, struck at her with all his might, exclaiming, “Well, then, follow your brother,” and rushed away, followed by all his retainers.
Kilikiliula fell on the side of the stream opposite to where the lehua-tree stood, and is said to have turned to stone. The stone is pointed out to this day, balanced on the hillside of the ravine formed by the stream, and is one of the objects for the Hawaiian sightseer.
The headless body of Oahunui lay where he was killed, abandoned by every one. The story runs that in process of time it also turned to stone, as a witness to the anger of the gods and their detestation of his horrible crime. All the servants who had in any way been concerned, in obedience to royal mandate, in killing and cooking the young princes were, at the death of Kilikiliula, likewise turned to stone, just as they were, in the various positions of crouching, kneeling, or sitting. All the rest of the royal retainers, with the lesser chiefs and guards, fled in fear and disgust from the place, and thus the once sacred royal home of the Oahuan chiefs was abandoned and deserted.
The great god Kane’s curse, it is believed, still hangs over the desolate spot, in proof of which it is asserted that, although all this happened hundreds of years ago, no one has ever lived there since.