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“The Shark Man, Nanaue”

There was once a young woman of  Hawaiʻi named Kalei. She lived many years ago in Waipi’o Valley on the island of Hawai’i. Kalei was very fond of ʻopihi and often went down to the sea to collect her favorite food to a place called Ku-i-ʻopihi. She usually went to collect ʻopihi with other women but when the sea was rough and her friends were afraid to venture forth to the wild and dangerous beach, Kalei would go alone. She was a brave and an adventurous girl…

In those days, the Waipiʻo River emptied over a low fall into a basin partly open to the sea; this place was used as a bathing place for all the people who lived in the valley—now it is filled with rocks from some earthquake which has happened since then…

Kamohoaliʻi, Peleʻs older brother, the king of sharks, used to visit this place quite often to play in the fresh waters of the Kahawai o Waipiʻo the river of Waipiʻo. Now, Kamohoaliʻi had noticed  the beautiful Kalei, she was well formed, a strong swimmer, an expert diver, and noted for the neatness and grace with which she would lelekawa (jump from the rocks into the deep water) without any splashing of the water. Kamohoaliʻi longed to meet the beautiful Kalei and took the form of a very handsome man and walked on the beach one rather rough morning hoping to see Kalei…

The weather was threatening and the waves were high. The wildness of the elements and the waves raised by Kamohoaliʻi himself were enough to warrant help for Kalei, who had come down to the sea to look for ʻopihi and had been swept into the waves. Kamohaliʻi disguised as a young man came to her rescue. It was through this encounter that Kalei met Kamohaliʻi and they became friends. They met from time to time and within a season she became his wife…

Although, they were married, Kamohoaliʻi would only come home at night and before she knew it, she was with child. Because of this child, he was forced to tell her of his true nature and told her he would have to leave and gave her instructions in the raising of her child. He particularly cautioned her never to feed the child any animal flesh of any kind as he would be born with a dual nature, and with a body he could change at will.

Soon, Kalei delivered a fine, healthy boy. He was the same as any other child, but he had, besides the normal mouth of a human being, a sharkʻs mouth on his back between the shoulder blades. Kaleie told her family about her son and they all agreed that this should remain a secret as the fears of the people and the high chiefs might be excited and the baby might be killed…

Now, Nanaue as the boy was called, was well loved by his grandfather, his kupunakāne. As soon as Nanaue was old enough to come under the Kapu in regard to eating, he was to come to the mua house and take his meals there with the men of the family. (At the age of 3 or 4, a male child was placed in the muas and his eating made kapu (hoʻai kapu ʻia) never again would he eat with his mother or any other woman; he was under kapu and was consecrated to the gods. Kamakau;People of Old)

Nanaueʻs grandfather made it a point to feed the boy on dog meat and pork, hoping his son would grow up to be a strong man and a famous warrior. Great possibilities lay before a powerful warrior in those days, so the old man fed the boy with meat whenever it was available, and the boy grew strong, big and handsome as a young lama tree…

Now, there was another pool with a small waterfall near the house of Kalei, and the boy often went into it while his mother watched on the banks. Whenever he got into the water, he would take the form of a shark and would chase and eat the small fish in the pool. As he grew old enough to understand, his mother took special pains to impress upon him the necessity of concealing his shark nature from other people.

This pool was also a favorite bathing place of the people, but Nanaue would never go in with others, but always alone, and when his mother was able, she used to go with him, and sit on the banks, holding the kapa scarf, which he always wore to hide the shark mouth on his back…

When Nanaue became a man, his appetite for an animal diet had grown so strong that a human beingʻs ordinary allowance was no longer enough for him. After his grandfather died, the boy depended on the food supplied by his stepfather and uncles and they often teased him about his shark like appetite and called him “manōhae” which means ravenous shark. This was a term given to gluttonous men, esp. those who craved meat…

People in the valley often wondered why Nanaue always wore his Kihei as all the other young men went bare back. And why did he stand apart while others bathed or played at games. Nanaue seemed to have one good quality that people noticed. He was often seen working in his motherʻs kalo and ʻuala patches. People going to the sea would see him working. Nanaue would often call to them and ask them where they were going. If they answered, “to bathe in the sea” or “fishing”, he would warn them, “take care or you may disappear, head and tail.” …

Not long after, those he spoke to or some other member of their party would be bitten by a shark… If the person he spoke to was going alone, that person would never be seen again. The shark man would follow his chosen victim into the sea and swim close by, then he would turn into a shark and rush at and drag the unsuspecting person into the deep; thus he was able to satisfy his desire for meat….

One day, ʻUmi , the king of Hawaii called everyone living in Waipiʻo to kōʻele work in his mala, his farm, all must work except the very young and the very old. Everyone went on the first day except Nanaue, he kept working at his motherʻs garden; this was reported to the king and he was summoned, Nanaue came still wearing his kapa kīhei…

“Why arenʻt you doing kōʻele work with everyone else?”

“I didnʻt know it was required?” answered Nanaue boldly, but the next day he was there and he proved himself to be a good worker but still he kept on his Kihei…

The other young men thought this to be odd and decided to tear off his covering… and there they saw the shark mouth exposed, Nanaue was so angry, he turned his back and bit several of them…

The news of Nanaueʻs shark mouth was quickly reported to the King along with the facts of the disappearances of people in the area who swam close to the pool… everyone believed it was Nanaueʻs doing. The king ordered a large fire to be lit, so that Nanaue could be burnt alive, the only way to destroy a supernatural shark man…

When Nanaue saw what their plans were for him, he called on Kamohoaliʻi, to help him, then as if endowed with superhuman strength, he burst out of the ropes that bound him, broke through the throng of Umiʻs warriors and ran toward the pool that emptied into the sea. When he got to the edge of the rocks bordering the pool and jumped into the water and turned into a large shark, he lay at the surface for awhile to catch his breath and then as quick as a flash he was gone. He left the island of Hawaii and crossed over to Maui landing at Kipahulu where he regained his human shape and many of his ancestors are still living there today.

 

This is more of a tale than a legend, because it is implausible in today’s world, but the truth of the story doesn’t really matter as much as the themes in it, for example the strong tie between this man and the shark. Although in this case, he is actually (physically) part shark, today this could be similar to a member of a family with a shark ‘aumakua, or guardian. Many Hawaiian people traditionally associate themselves and their family groups/chains to an animal and share a profound respect for said animal.

How did you come across this folklore: “through research, these are favorite legends from my collection because I collect and shares mo`olelo/stories from the Hawaiian islands, this version has been adapted from “Hawaiian Folktales,” collected by Thomas G. Thrum from Mrs. E. M. Nakuina.”

Other information: “These are well known folk tales/legends passed down from generations and written in the Hawaiian newspapers and several collections.”

 

 

 

 

 

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