Namaka was a noted man of the time of Kalaniopuu. He was born on Kauai, but journeyed forth to find some one whom he would like to call his lord. He was skilled in managing land (Kalai-aina), an orator (Kakaolelo), and could recite genealogies (Kaauhau). He excelled in spear-throwing (lonomakaihe), boxing or breaking the back of his opponent (lua), leaping or flying (lele) and astronomy (kilo). All this he had learned on Kauai.
Sailing from Kauai he landed on Oahu. In Nuuanu Valley he met Pakuanui, a very skilful man, a fine orator and boxer. He was the father of Ka-ele-o-waipio, a noted man of the time of Kamehameha, the maker of a chant for the missionaries at Kailua.
Toward the upper end of Nuuanu Valley, in a place Ka-hau-komo, where spreading hau1 trees cluster on both sides of the road, Namaka and Pakuanui had a contest. They prepared themselves for boxing and wrestling, and then faced each other to show their skill and agility.
This man from Kauai appeared like a rainbow bending over the hau-trees, arched in the red rain, or in the mist cloud over the Pali, as he circled around Pakuanui. He was like the ragged clouds of Lanihuli, or the wind rushing along the top of the Pali. His hands were like the rain striking the leaves of the bushes of Malailua. He was so swift and strong that he could catch Pakuanui in any part of his body.
The man of Oahu could not hold Namaka. That Kauai man was as slippery as an eel, and as hard to hold as certain kinds of smooth, slimy fish, always escaping the hands of Pakuanui. But he could strike any place. The hill of the forehead he struck, the ridge of the nose also. There was no place he could not touch. He rushed like a whirlwind around the man. However, he did not try to kill Pakuanui. He wished only to display his skill.
Pakuanui was very much ashamed and angry because he could not do anything with Namaka, and planned to kill him when they should reach the Pali (precipice of Nuuanu Valley), to which they were going after the boxing contest.
When they came to Kapili at the top of the Pali, a very narrow place, Pakuanui said to Namaka, “You may go before me.”
Namaka passed by on the outside and Pakuanui gave him a kick, knocking him over the Pali, expecting him to be dashed to pieces on the rocks at the foot of the precipice.
But Namaka flew away from the edge of the Pali. The people who were watching said: “He went off. He flew off from the Pali like an Io bird, leaping into the air of Lanihuli, spreading out his arms like wings. When the strong wind twisted and whirled, Namaka was lifted like a kite by the wind, and hung among the kukui branches below a little waterfall which is on the western side of the precipice where a rivulet starts on its way to the ocean.” Then he leaped to the ground and went away to Maui. At Pohakuloa, on Maui, Namaka leaped down some precipices, showing his strength and skill.
When Namaka came to Hawaii, Kalaniopuu was king. He liked him very much and hoped to have him as his lord.
Note: The older natives sometimes recall this wonderful flight of the man from Kauai who was skilful in leaping and flying from the edge of precipices.
However, another man from Kauai was a favorite with the king. He knew Namaka, and was afraid that he might be supplanted when the king should learn about Namaka’s wonderful powers, so he gave no welcome to Namaka, but turned him away.
Namaka went to Waimea and found Hinai, the high chief of that place, a near relative to Kalaniopuu. He told Hinai what he could do, and was made a favorite of the high chief.
He taught Hinai how to be very skilful in all his arts, and especially in leaping from precipices. He hoped that Hinai’s skill would be noised abroad, and the king would hear and wish to have the teacher come to live with him.
Hinai became very proficient, and even wonderful, in standing on the edge of high precipices and leaping down unhurt. These places have been pointed out to the young people by their parents.
When the favorite of Kalaniopuu heard that there was a very skilful man from Kauai stopping with the high chief of Waimea, he told the king that an enemy from Kauai was in Waimea.
The king listened to this man and then he charged Namaka with trying to make his relative Hinai so skilful in leaping down high places that he could always escape any attempt to injure him.
The favorite said: “This man, Namaka, can fly over mountains and streams and precipices and plains and not be killed. He is a rebel against your kingdom.”
Kalaniopuu commanded some men to go and kill this stranger from Kauai, telling them to begin war upon Hinai if he opposed their attempt to take the stranger.
Namaka had prepared himself for escape by digging in the ground and making a pit under his house, with a tunnel and an opening some distance away.
The warriors from Kalaniopuu surrounded the house, thinking he was inside. They consulted about the best method of killing him, and decided to burn him up. They set fire to the house and destroyed it and went away, believing this stranger had been burned to death.
Namaka easily escaped from Hawaii and crossed over to Maui, where he remained some time, but he found no one whom he wished to take as his lord. Then he went to Oahu, and at last returned to his home on Kauai.
There prophesying about the chiefs of Hawaii, whom he had considered superior to those on Maui and Oahu, but not equal to the royal family of Kauai, he spoke thus: “There is no ruling chief in Hawaii who can step his foot on the tabu sand of Kahamaluihi [Kauai]. There is no war canoe or divine chief who can come to Kauai unless a treaty has been made between the two ruling chiefs.”
The natives call this a prophecy of the skilled chief who could fly from Nuuanu Pali, and think it was fulfilled because Kamehameha never conquered Kauai, but secured it by concession from its king.
Note: History repeats itself the world over. Recently the bird-men visited Hawaii and gave exhibitions of flying in aëroplanes. According to old Hawaiian traditions, however, there were bird-men in Hawaii before the white man came, as the foregoing translation from one of the old legends illustrates.