Opening Chant

Ka Huakaʻi o Hiʻiaka – The Journey of Hiʻiaka

A hula kiʻi

Performed at the Palace Theater in Hilo, Hawaiʻi
31 October 2012
Photography by Kaori Mitani

“Onaona i ka hala me ka lehua . . . . . . . .”

With a chant describing the fragrance of a magical dwelling in the forest, our story begins . . .

“He hale lehua no ia na ka noe . . . . . . . .”


“Aloha e, aloha e . . . . . . “

    Long, long ago, when the gods and goddesses still walked daily among mortal-kind. . . . .


     Hi`iaka, youngest and favorite sister of Pele was sent on an errand, to fetch Liho`au, Pele’s dream-lover. It would be a long and dangerous journey, touching many islands, and both the physical world and the spirit world. But our story today is only concerned with that part of the journey on ka Moku o Keawe, and how Hi`iaka made the ancient trail which encircles our island safe for travelers.

The Kiʻi, Pāʻūopalai

Hi`iaka, being a prayerful and pious person, had spiritual sight, and knew the journey would be long and dangerous. So she asked for a companion.

Pa`uopalapalai (“Fern Skirt”), a loyal retainer to the Pele family who had been in the service of the Gods so long that she, herself, had become like a spirit, was chosen to accompany Hi`iaka.

Upon leaving Kīlauea, the two women meet Wahine `Oma`o (“Green Woman”). Wahine `Oma`o , a woman

Meeting Hiʻiaka

of great piety, is on her way to make offerings to Pele.

Hi`iaka and Pa`uopalai wait for Wahine `Oma`o to take her offering to Pele. Then, the three together go on their way.



As they travel through Puna ma Kai, they meet the beautiful princess, Papulehu.

Papulehu greets them enthusiastically, and gifts them with beautiful lei she and her women have made. Garlands of the beautiful red lehua and fragrant maile for which Puna is famous are draped around the necks of the travelers.

Papulehu has great hopes that these three beautiful women will stay with her and be her very best friends, so she orders a pa`ina with

With Papulehu

much feasting and hula dancing. When Papulehu asks Hi`iaka what she, as the honored guest would like to eat, Hi`iaka indicates that lu`au – young taro leaves boiled – will suffice.

At the feast

Papulehu, though beautiful, is somewhat neglectful of those things important to the Gods – cleanliness and prayers are not her strong points! So she is very surprised when, despite having traveled all day, Hi`iaka insists on prayers to her guardians and ancestors before anyone eats. And she is even MORE surprised when all of the food set before Hi`iaka is consumed without having been touched by anyone present!

Hiʻiaka's Journey

All to soon, Hi`iaka must continue her journey. Papulehu joins the adventurers. Along the way, the girl spots some of her father’s fishermen, bringing in their catch. She becomes hungry and decides to ask the fishermen for some. The fishermen want to make an inappropriate bargain.

Hi`iaka tricks them, and the women end up gaining the fish, and keeping their honor. Looking back, they laugh to see the frisky

Hiʻiakaʻs Journey

fishermen embracing rocks instead of the women!

But caution soon settles over the small party as they near the forest of Pana`ewa.

Hiʻiaka's Journey

The women encounter the evil dragon, Pana`ewa, for which the forest is named. There is a huge battle, and

Hi`iaka calls on all of her ancestors and guardian spirits. Pa`uopalae and Wahine `Oma`o help as best they can.

Hiʻiaka's Journey

But poor Papulehu. She has neglected her prayers, and so she has no spiritual sight. She cannot distinguish between the safe rocks and trees, and Pana`ewa’s demons pretending to be rocks and trees.

Frightened, she runs to an old dead tree stump for refuge – only to learn it is Pana`ewa himself!

The dragon enjoys his tasty snack.

The battle rages on, and Hi`iaka is almost exhausted, but her family and guardian spirits come to her aid. Pana`ewa is vanquished.

Hiʻiaka's Journey

Hi`iaka and her remaining companions continue on.

Arriving at Waipi`o, the women find two shapeless lumps of flesh, moaning and sobbing. It is two men. Mo`olau, an evil dragon, has sucked the bones out of these men, and left them quivering on the roadside. Hi`iaka, being a renowned healer, peels the stalks of ti plants and uses the clean white stems to replace the men’s bones, leaving them good as new.

Hiʻiaka's Journey

As soon as she has healed the men, Mo`olau, a horrible dragon-demon, besets the women, and with him, his army of Mahiki, the whirlwind demons of Hamākua. Hi`iaka fights bravely with her magic pa`u – a skirt with the power of lightening – and destroys them all, shattering them into tiny grasshoppers and dustdevils.

Hiʻiaka's Journey

Returning to Hilo, the women are stopped at the Wailuku river by a pair of mo`o sisters, Piliamo`o and Nohoamo`o. These dragon-women had tricked the people of Hilo into thinking that they were gods, and demanded gifts of food to cross the dangerous river. Those who did not pay, were shaken from the sisters’ rickety bridge and tossed into the river to be shattered on the rocks and drowned.

Hiʻiaka's Journey

Hi`iaka, with her spiritual sight, sees the trickery, and calls out the mo`o women for what they are. Her companions and the people of Hilo quail in fear.

Again, Hiʻiaka attacks. . .

And the mo`o women flee!

At last, Hawai`i is safe for travelers.

Hiʻiaka's Journey


Behind the Scenes

Hiʻiaka's Journey
Backstage in the dressing room of the Hilo Palace Theater.


Hiʻiaka's Journey
Wahine `Oma`o, aka Puakea Sun, is assisted by the diligent Pa`uopalae, aka Kanoe Cummings, in putting on her fresh green lā`ī wig.


Final touches! Makaukau? Makaukau!
Final touches!
Makaukau?      Makaukau!


Hiʻiaka's Journey
Left to right: Kate, Papulehu, Leilehua, Puakea, and Kanoe


Hiʻiaka's Journey
Pre-curtain pule.

And the show begins. . .

Opening Chant