Punia and Kaialeale, the Shark King
As a youngster I lived on Ohua. I remember many of the legends and stories of the Hawaiian people. The stories are of the tricksters and the heroes and the silly. Many of the stories are cautionary, some are embedded with navigation information, and some are creation stories. The following tale is of Punia, one of the tricksters, as I remember it.
After his father had been killed by Kaialeale, the shark king,and the other sharks who guarded the lobsters in the cave, Punia thought on how to get lobster. He was tired of only eating poi and yams. There was no one to fish for him and he really wanted some of the succulent lobster. But how to get by Kaialeale? One day as Punia absently tossed little pebbles into the sea while gazing at the cove he had an idea.
Punia stood up and loudly announced he was going dive in and take two lobsters. He picked up a large stone and threw into the water away from the cove. As expected Kaialeale and his followers swiftly swam to the splash expecting a meal of soft tender hawaiian boy. With the sharks going to the splash, Panui dove into the other side and went to the lobster cave, taking two lobsters.
When he was safely on shore Punia yelled to Kaialeale, “I have taken two lobsters, see?” He held up the lobsters so that Kaialeale could see. “The shark with the funny tail told me how”
This infuriated Kaialeale who promptly killed the funny tailed shark.
The next day Pania again announced loudly that he was there to take two more lobsters. Again he threw a stone into the water and as Kaialeale and the other sharks swam\ to it, he dove in and took two lobsters. This time safely on shore, he yelled to Kaialeale, “I have taken two more lobster, oh shark king, the shark with the fat belly told me how!?” Again, Kaialeale was angry and he killed the fat bellied shark.
This went on and on until only the Shark King was left. Now Punia had to think how to kill Kaialeale. Kalialeale was the biggest meanest shark of them all. So Punia thought and thought and thought. Finally he had an idea. He went to gather kapa (fabric), opihi shell, two short and two long sticks of hua (bush), and coconut fiber.
Punia went to the shore and called out to Kaialeale, I have tricked you into killing your friends. I feel sorrowful. To show my sorrow I will walk into your mouth if you would just come closer and open it. Kaialeale did so and Punia walked into the Shark Kings mouth.
As he entered the shark’s mouth he put the two long stick into Kaialeale’s mouth so that the Shark King could not close it. He then put the Kapa at the back of the throat to keep the water out. Punia made his way into the belly. There he rubbed the short Hua sticks together until he made a fire. This made Kaialeale feel very badly. Punia then used the Opihi shell and scrapped some meat from the shark’s belly and cooked it. This made Kaialeale feel even worse.
“Kaialeale, your belly must feel very badly indeed, If you swim to where the fisherman go, oil from the kukui nut will make your belly feel better.” Punia said to the Shark King.
So Kaialeale swam closer to shore where the fisherman were. Upon seeing the Shark King so close, the fisherman beat Kaialeale to death with their clubs.
Later that night, when the fishermen had gone home, and things were quiet, Punia cut a hole in the Kapa cloth at the back of the shark’s throat and crawled out. From that day on, when his mother wanted lobster, Punia could dive to the lobster cave, in peace, and get her some.