The Gift of Kū – Moʻolelo Monday

Aloha mai kākou! Happy Monday! I’ve decided to begin my first Moʻolelo Monday post with one of the first stories I’ve learned when I first began learning about Hawaiian language and culture – the story of the ʻulu (breadfruit). Plus, my kids at Mayor Wright just learned about this story the last time I was there 🙂

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Kū is one of the four main Hawaiian akua (god) – the others being Kāne, Kanaloa, and Lono. When Kū arrived to the island of Hawaiʻi (Big Island), there was a great commotion in the skies – bright lightning and booming thunder – to signify the arrival of someone powerful. However, akua are able to shift into different forms, and Kū took upon the form of a kanaka (man). The people were unable to recognize him as a god.

Kū lived among the people as a mahiʻai (farmer). While residing there, he met a young woman, and the two fell in love. They decided to become man and wife, and they soon had a family of their own.

Many years had passed, and a terrible famine soon arrived in Hawaiʻi. All the people soon became ill, weak, and hopeless. Kū and his wife saw how the famine affected their own children, and they wondered what could be done to save them.

After much thought, Kū took his wife aside and told her that he could help reverse the famine. However, in order to do so, he must go somewhere far away. His wife looked into her husband’s eyes, heart full of sorrow and eyes full of tears. She did not want her husband to leave. Her eyes then looked to her children and her extended family, and she saw tiredness, listlessness, and hopelessness within each of their eyes. She looked outside their hale (house) and saw the barren fields surrounding them. Returning her gaze to Kū, her voice trembled with sorrow as she accepted the fate of losing her husband.

Soon, the day came for Kū to go away. Before he went, he told his family that where he is standing, a tree will grow. That tree would be for them alone. However, if others ask for the fruit, they can give as long as permission is given. And as his family watched on, Kū stood on his head and soon began to sink into the ground.

In a blink of an eye, Kū was underneath the earth. The wife, overcome with tears, sat where her husband once stood. She visited the place every day, and as she mourned, her tears watered the ground. Many days passed until one day, a full kumu ʻulu (breadfruit tree) stood where Kū once stood! Kū’s family was thrilled, and they were able to eat to their hearts’ desire.

The news of the kumu ʻulu began to spread throughout the land, and soon people came to ask for food. For those who asked for permission, the sprouts of the tree were given so that more breadfruit trees could grow throughout the land. However, for those who tried to steal the fruit off the original kumu ʻulu, the tree would immediately disappear underground!

Because of this gift, the people now knew Kū was an akua, and they would give thanks to him for his generosity through oli (chants) and offerings.

And so, this is how the breadfruit tree came to be.

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I hope you enjoyed this story! I can’t wait to continue reading and sharing more moʻolelo with you all 🙂

Me ke aloha,
Mauri

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