Man-Eating Spirits of Ni‘ihau

January 31, 2022

Man-Eating Spirits of Ni‘ihau

In ancient Hawai‘i, there were legends of man-eating spirits roaming across the islands. One story talks about five men from Kauai:, Ekahi, Elua, Ekolu, Eha, and Elima, who traveled all the way to Ni’ihau in order to find fish so they could feed their villages during times of struggle. Ni’ihau was known for being an abundant fishing spot so they fished along the shoreline all day, catching fish of all sizes that they could share with their village. When they were pau (finished), they went onto the shore to shower, clean the fish and sleep before they had to gather more fish the next day. 

When they woke, only four men were there. Elima was nowhere to be found. They assumed that he went off early to catch more fish, so they continued on with their day and gathered more and more fish for their village. As the day ended, they prepared for bed and searched more for Elima but they couldn’t find him anywhere. They went to sleep and the next day they woke up and another fisherman had gone missing! Eha had disappeared into the night and it was that moment the men knew they had to leave the evil spirits of Ni’ihau. One of the men insisted on leaving but another insisted that they stay because it is their duty to provide.  They continued fishing and fell asleep until they were woken by a flying man-eating creature who had grabbed at Ekolu. 

With only two men left, they knew that if they stayed, they were doomed. But if went back to Kauai, their villagers would suffer and starve. They decided not to fish that day, and instead they built a log house and placed two wooden images of men they had carved. They waited in the house and the spirits watched at the entrance, waiting for them to come out. The spirits grew impatient and went into the house only to find that they had been tricked and the two fishermen destroyed them with fire. Afterwards, they safely went back to Kauai with plenty of supplies and they knew they had done what was right. 

To this day, the island of Ni’ihau is considered the forbidden island…and now you know why!