is the story of the great god Kü and his coming to the island
of Hawai'i. There was much commotion in the skies with the celebration
of Kü's arrival. Sharp flashes of lightning and loud cracks
and rumblings of thunder filled the air. The people knew that something
unusual was happening, but when he walked into their village, they
did not recognize Kü as a god.
lived among the people as a planter. With powerful hands, he moved
huge piles of soil effortlessly, and with his 'ö'ö, his
long digging stick, he alone did the work of twenty. Alongside the
other men who worked this plot of land, Kü planted, weeded,
and moved the earth, and his cheerful nature was pleasing to everyone
strength compared with the other men was enormous. "E, Kü!
Come now and take a rest!" the men shouted to him when they
grew tired. Kü would answer, "'Ë, I will in a moment!"
The men teased Kü, trying to get him to stop working so they
wouldn't seem lazy, but he just kept working. They knew there was
something extraordinary about Kü, but the men never imagined
he was a god.
muscular body was a deep, rich brown, attracting the attention of
many young women in his ahupua'a, the land division where he lived.
Sometimes a woman caught sight of him from the hale kuku, the house
where cloth, called kapa, was made by beating the inner bark of
the paper mulberry tree. Using her mallet against a wooden anvil,
she signaled to the others of Kü's presence with a special,
secret rhythm: "Thump, tap-tap, thump, tap-tap
he comes!" They stole discreet glances at him and sighed, "Kü
is so strong and handsome!" But they did not know he was a
day, while walking through the forest valley, Kü happened upon
a young woman who was collecting kukui nuts from a candlenut tree.
The soot from the burnt nuts would be used to print patterns on
the beaten kapa. She was so busy planning her designs that she did
not notice Kü. She sang a little mele, a song her tütü
had taught her as a child. With graceful motions, she gathered the
nuts, and her sweet voice rose and mingled with the leaves and fragrant
flowers around her. Kü was enraptured.
noticed a dried branch lying across the path and stepped on it to
attract her attention. Startled, the young woman looked up, and
recognizing Kü she smiled warmly. "Aloha, Kü",
she said. They talked of the beautiful day, the puffy white clouds
in the sky, and the cooling breezes. But as their mouths spoke these
words, their eyes and hearts sang of love. Honeycreepers chirped
in the surrounding trees and a rainbow spread over them.
jealousy greeted the news that Kü and the young woman were
going to live as man and wife. "If only I had been the one
to pick the kukui nuts!" said one. But, after seeing the couple
together, the other women in the village couldn't help but share
their happiness. "The heavens must be pleased with this union!"
they remarked with pleasure. The couple vowed to build a life together
and love one another no matter what might come between them. One
day, this promise would be tested.
the first few years, Kü's wife admired her husband more and
more, marveling at his robust and unceasing energy. Shaking her
head and smiling, she told him, "Kü, you have the strength
of many men, perhaps even that of a god!" Kü just nodded
and said, "And you, my dear wife, you are a goddess to me."
Their love for one another grew and grew.
and his wife had two children, a girl and a boy. The children loved
and respected their parents and küpuna, their grandparents.
Learning by observation and imitation, the children's days were
filled with lessons about living a good life. "They are such
happy children," said one neighbor, "and seem to always
enjoy helping their parents and grandparents!"
many years of peace, there came a day when the rains stopped falling.
People looked to the dry, cloudless sky with confusion and anxiety.
In spite of all their hard work in the fields, the plants started
to wither and die. "There must have been some neglect of the
gods, some prayers forgotten with the business of digging and planting,
some terrible insult unknowingly made!" Their plaintive cries
rose up into the sunny sky, but no rain came.
priest from the neighboring village, a powerful kahuna, was called
upon to try to appease the anger of the gods. He chanted special
prayers and made the proper offerings. But still no rain came. He
shook his head and muttered, "It must have been some terrible
insult. Maybe things will be better when the rainy season comes
But they couldn't wait until then. The people would starve!
and his wife watched their own children becoming weak and listless,
but what could be done? As all the people looked up at the sky,
Kü was gazing down, deep in thought. His face showed the enormous
conflict within him. He knew of a way that he could help, but was
filled with a profound sadness at what would be lost.
pulled his wife away from the rest of the people. He said, "My
wife, I love you and our children with all my heart. There is something
that I can do to remedy this situation, but I must go far away."
looked into his loving eyes, so full of kindness, with a heart heavier
than she had ever known before. She turned to look at their children,
so tired and listless, and the other people in their extended family,
whose shoulders slumped with hopelessness. She saw the barren fields
all around them. With sorrow, she finally spoke. "Kü,
I have vowed to love you no matter what happens. I will always love
you, and now I must let you go."
collected the children and they followed Kü through the forest
to an open field. The air grew heavy, and the surrounding trees
were motionless; not the slightest wind blew. Even the birds looked
on with silent expectation.
stopped and his family watched him standing there, tall and erect,
his feet planted firmly on the land. Gradually he began to sink
down into the ground as though the earth were swallowing him up.
Soon, all that remained was the top of Kü's head, and his wife
wet the soil around him with her tears. The family kept a vigil
by the spot where he had buried himself, sitting through the long,
sad night, watching and waiting.
the growing light of early morning, they noticed a slight shifting
of the soil where Kü was buried in the earth. A tiny green
shoot suddenly sprouted from the spot where Kü's head had been.
The family watched with wonder as the plant grew swiftly up and
up, branching out as though reaching for every star. Thousands of
shining green leaves unfurled, and soon this magnificent tree was
covered with hundreds of 'ulu, the nutritious breadfruit, swinging
gracefully from strong branches.
farmer was walking mournfully through a nearby field, when he suddenly
noticed the breadfruit tree in the distance. He let out a cry and
ran shouting, "Everyone! Look! Look to the field! Come and
see the giant tree where none was before!" The people jumped
up with excitement and ran to the tree.
the people arrived, Kü's wife was sitting under the 'ulu tree
with her children standing over her. They formed a great circle
around the family. Kü's wife then heard her husband's voice
inside her head, and she closed her eyes, listening. He told her,
my body is the trunk of this tree, and my arms are
the branches. My hands are the leaves and my head is the fruit.
The heart inside each fruit holds the memory of my words. Roast
the fruit well, remove the skin, and then you and our children shall
so she did.
excitement, people from the village reached for the 'ulu. But suddenly,
the entire tree was sucked swiftly back into the ground with a "swoosh".
Only when their outstretched hands were lowered did the tree grow
back to its full size. A murmur was heard among the crowd, but all
became quiet when they saw that Kü spoke to his wife once again.
heard him say, "Carefully dig up the new shoots around my trunk
and share them with our 'ohana and our extended family and friends."
so she did.
people planted the sprouts all around their district. These grew
just as fast as the first tree had grown, up and up, filling the
sky with glistening leaves and plump, ripe fruit. Offshoots from
these trees were shared with other friends and family, as well as
those in the neighboring ahupua'a, or land division. The breadfruit
trees flourished and soon spread across the land, and everyone had
'ulu to eat.
people thought with awe of the strong, generous man who had lived
among them. They now knew that Kü was a god and they would
always give thanks to him. They would never again forget to chant
the proper prayers, or make the appropriate offerings to all the
gods and ancestors. They would remember to show how grateful they
were to share in the riches of the earth.
so this was the gift of Kü.