The Legend of Keanahaki and the Fish

January 13, 2020

The Legend of Keanahaki and the Fish

Fishing is an integral part of the Native Hawaiian culture. There are many legends and stories that speak of the ways Hawaiians used to fish, the knowledge they had about the ocean, and the morals they shared regarding fishing. Many stories speak about the punishment of stingy behavior or those who refused to share their catch with their family. One legend tells of one such woman. 

Keawe and his wife, Keanahaki, were a couple who lived happily in the Moanalua Valley on O‘ahu. Each day, he would go to the mountains to gather plants, cut wood and do chores for the family. When he got home, he would head to the sea to fish. One day, Keanahaki told Keawe that she would fish while he was in the mountains. He agreed and the next day they set out on their separate journeys. However, on her way she began feeling off. She began to chant, telling her right eye to fly to the sea and bring certain fish, then to her left eye to fly in another direction and catch other fish. She then realized she had the ability to discover the fish with her ‘flying’ eyes and have them return to her with an abundance of fish. At first, she divided the fish portions for her husband, children, and herself. But then, she began devouring all of the fish herself. When she returned with only one fish, she told her husband this was all she caught. 

Dissatisfied with Keanahaki, Keawe began to wonder why she had such bad luck. He then learned from a friend that his wife had unusual powers. As she stood by the shore, her eyes flew out to sea and caught the fish. One day, Keawe pretended to go to the mountains and followed Keanahaki to the shore. Again, Keanahaki chanted for her right and left eyes to fly over the sea. Keawe couldn’t believe it. When she called to her eyes to return, he caught them as they flew back with the fish. He wrapped each eye in some leaves of the ipu‘awa‘awa, gathered the fish and went home, while his wife stood on the shore calling for her eyes and wondering why they did not return. Keanahaki slowly found her way home and saw that her six children were in the house. She asked them if their father had returned. “Did he bring anything with him?” They replied, “Yes, a bunch of fish.” She began to look around for her eyes and for Keawe. When she found them, she returned them to her sockets and learned her lesson. From then on, Keanahaki would go to the shore and come back home with plentiful amounts of fish to feed to her family. 

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