Mo‘ōlelo Chapter 9: The Route Through Pana‘ewa

Hi‘iaka and her companions advanced down the less desirable, but more direct route despite the dangers that befell other travelers. Wahine’ōma’o caught site of an ominous figure seemingly motionless on the road ahead of them. She thought it to be that of a kukui nut tree. Hi‘iaka, being immune to the deceiving art of magic, saw the being for what it truly was – a scout slimed with grey excrement giving it a resemblance of a moldering tree-stump sent out by Pana‘ewa, a horrid mo‘o who terrorized and brought death to all that traversed this area. Hi‘iaka rushed forward and the foul thing disappeared into the dense forest.

That night, while the others slept, Hi‘iaka remained awake and watchful. The only sound in the night came from a solitary bird that peered obtrusively at Hi‘iaka. Recognizing the bird as another spy, Hi‘iaka feigned falling asleep to see what would further transpire.

Pana‘ewa Forest – Photo by Hawai‘i Magazine

The scouts of Pana‘ewa, Ke’anini and lhikalo, made their way to their master’s lair. There they woke the drowsy monster in the middle of the night with the information that four human women had entered her domain. She licked her lips at the prospect of the feast making its way towards her.

The next morning, Hi‘iaka kept her own courage and inspired her companions with the same feeling by the calm confidence displayed in her singing. They traveled along until they heard the goading of Pana‘ewa speaking to the group as if they were a meal to be devoured. Hi‘iaka bravely answered the taunts of Pana‘ewa by chanting a prediction of her victory and an appeal to the gods. Intrigued by the conviction of Hi‘iaka, Pana‘ewa began her attack.

A horde of fearsome mo‘o set ablaze like demons and slithered towards Hi‘iaka and her companions. While attention was on the tooth and claw of the advancing mo‘o, each bush, moss covered stone, and nearly any object surrounding the companions would need to be watched as they too could very well be a disguised assailant of Pana‘ewa ready to spit venom or tear at flesh.

As Hi‘iaka took to battle, she dodged attacks while she shrugged off blows to her body as though her enemies were hitting solid rock. The quickness of her motions and strikes were so fast that some will say she wielded a flaming ax and hurled burning sulfur. Pāʻūopalaʻe used her magical pāʻū (skirt) as a hem of destruction while Wahine’ōma’o displayed the courage of an amazon. All three escaped serious injury. Papulehu, however, fell into the hands of the enemy and into the maw of Pana‘ewa.

Hiʻiaka and the Moʻo – Jacqueline Moore Chun

Hi‘iaka transitioned between warring in the battle and sliding into meditative states which caused a contradictory of reports being given to Pana‘ewa by her bird-spies. Frustrated, Pana‘ewa quickly saw it necessary to take the field of battle at the head of her forces to investigate. She slid onto the field first taking the form of an ‘ōhi‘a lehua tree. No sooner had she taken this form then a network of vines embraced its trunk anchoring Pana‘ewa to the spot. Recognizing this had been the doing of Hi‘iaka, Pana‘ewa quickly changed form into the unwarlike guise of a kukui nut tree.

Pana‘ewa the Mo‘o – Gail Griffin

Pāʻūopalaʻe watched over Hi‘iaka, still in her meditative trance, throughout the night. At the first light of dawn, the eerie quiet of the forest had been broken. It began as a slight rustle and quickly increased as an enraged menagerie of wild creatures advanced towards the three surviving women. Surely, this army of ravenous beasts would be the end to Hi‘iaka and her companions. Hi‘iaka woke from her trance and quickly took to her companions, assuring them this would not be their end.

Clouds formed above the forest and thunder echoed across the land. While in her trance, Hi‘iaka pled to the gods for help, and she being in their favor, came to her aid amassed marching and flying onto the battlefield. Columns of seething fire rose from the ground reaching the heavens above, lightning bolts scorched enemies and the ground, and torrents of water swept the grotesque creatures of Pana‘ewa into the ocean. Pana‘ewa, still a kukui nut tree, had vines entangle her form and the ground beneath her turned into a marsh breaking up the very foundation she had been rooted in. Like her army, she was swept out to sea.

The victory for Hi‘iaka was complete. Hawai‘i for once, and for all time, was rid of the maneating mo’o and her minions in the beautiful forestland that still bears the name Pana‘ewa.

Join us next month as Hi‘iaka and her companions continue their journey.