The Punahou Spring

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North Shore Eco Tours / Myths & Legends / The Punahou Spring

Filed Under: Myths & Legends by Noah March 4, 2011, 8:40 pm

There was a dry time on O’ahu. No rain fell, streams dried, and many springs ceased to flow. It was a hungry time, for gardens too were dry.

In Manoa Valley at the foot of Rocky Hill lived an old couple. This dry time was very hard for these old folks. Mukaka, the husband, must walk far up the valley to get ti roots and ferns for food. Kealoha, his wife, must walk each day to Kamo’ili’ili where a spring still flowed. There she must fill her water gourds and carry them up the long rough trail back to her home.

One day the way seemed longer and harder than ever. Kealoha rested on a rock. “I can’t go on!” she thought. “I can’t carry the water all that way.” But then she thought, “I must! We must have water.” She rose and lifted her carrying pole. Wind swept about her, filling her eyes with dust. It almost blew her off her feet, yet she struggled on.

When she reached home she found Mukaka there before her preparing food. But Kealoha was too tired to eat. She lay upon her mats and cried with weariness. At last she slept and dreamed. In her dream a man stood beside her mats. “Why do you cry?” he asked her.

“Because I am so weary,” she replied. “Each day I walk to Kamo’ili’ili and fill my water gourds. The trail is hot, dusty and long. I am too tired!”

“You need not go again,” answered the man. “Close to your home, under the hala tree, there is a spring. There, fill your gourds.” The man was gone.

WHEN MORNING CAME, Kealoha told her dream, but her husband hardly listened. “An empty dream,” he said, “that came to you because of thirst.” He started for the upland.

She watched him, thinking, “He is bent and feeble. Why does he not listen to my words, pull up the hala, and open our own spring?” But when she went to look at the tree, she doubted. Under it the ground was dry and hard. Surely there was no water there. It was an empty dream!

That night Mukaka dreamed. A man stood by his mats and spoke to him. “There is a spring,” he said, “under the hala which grows beside your home. You must pull up that tree. Go catch red fish, wrap it in ti leaves, heat the imu and cook your fish. Make offering and pray for strength to uproot the tree. Then you will find the spring.”

Mukaka sat up in the early dawn. “The same dream!” he thought. “It came to Kealoha, now to me. The god of the spring has come to help us in our need. I must obey him.”

In the cool of the morning Mukaka and a friend went to Waikiki for fish. The fish came quickly to their hooks, and some of them were red. “The god is with us,” said Mukaka and hurried home to heat the imu. When the food was cooked, he made offering and prayed.

After they had eaten he said to his friend, “My wife and I each had a dream. Two nights ago Kealoha dreamed, and last night the same dream came to me. A god stood by my mats and said, ‘A spring is here. Pull up that hala tree which grows beside your home, and water will flow.’ O my friend, I have offered red fish to that god and prayed for strength. We both are strong with food. Now help me pull.”

The two men grasped the hala tree. Their muscles strained, and sweat poured down their bodies. They stopped for breath then pulled again, but still the tree stood firm. The friend looked at the dry earth. “No water here!” he said. “You dreamed of water because of your great thirst.”

“The dream was true!” Mukaka answered. “Twice the god stood by our mats. He spoke to Kealoha and to me. His words were true.” The old man prayed again. “Let us try once more,” he said. “This time we shall succeed.”

Once more they struggled with the tree. “It moves!” they shouted and pulled again with more strength than before. The tree came from the ground, and they saw water moistening the earth — a little water. Mukaka ran for his digging stick and cleared away earth and stones. A tiny stream gushed out.

FOR A MOMENT the three stared in wonder. Then Kealoha shouted, “Ka puna hou! The new spring!”

Now there was water for all that neighborhood. No more long walks to the Kamo’ili’ili spring! Water flowed steadily. Men dug and let the water soak the ground. They built walls and planted taro. Through these taro patches the spring water flowed, and fish were brought to flourish there. Fish and taro grew, and so the spring gave food as well as water. The people thanked the gods that now their life was good.

Long afterward, a school was built beside that spring. It bears the name that Kealoha gave in her glad cry, and its seal is a hala tree. “This school shall be a spring of wisdom,” said its founders. “As the hala tree stands firm through wind or storm, so shall the children of this school stand strong and brave through joy and sorrow. As the hala has many uses, so shall these children be useful to Hawai’i.”


“The Punahou Spring” is from “Tales of the Menehune,” compiled by Mary Kawena Puku’i, retold by Caroline Curtis and illustrated by Robin Burningham. Published by Kamehameha Schools Press, © 1960 and 1985 by Kamehameha Schools. Reprinted by permission

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