Legends of Kamapuaa the “Hog Child”

By Katie Young Yamanaka

A dramatic depiction of Kamapuaa. Photo: Kate Gardiner.

The demigod Kamapua‘a is known in Hawaiian mythology as the “hog child.”

His story, like many others in Hawaiian legend, involves Pele, the goddess of fire, whom he pursued romantically and with whom he had a volatile relationship.

From Lava Rock to Fertile Soil

Lush forests growing over old lava fields. Photo: daveynin.

And though Pele’s fiery power was difficult to beat, Kamapua‘a was successful in turning her lava rock into fertile soil. Was it possible that Pele met her match in this demigod?

There are some stories that differ in their depiction of the relationship between Pele and Kamapua‘a. Some say they were romantic, others say they may have been enemies. One story details how Kamapua‘a tried to impress Pele and her sisters by looking like a handsome man. Pele was not impressed and insults him, calling him a pig. A fight between the two ensued, with Pele throwing fire at Kamapua‘a, but he struck back and ultimately wins.

The demigod divides the districts of the Big Island and leaves Pele to live on the areas overrun with lava, including Kona and Ka‘u. He takes the Windward areas with the most rain, including Hāmākua, Hilo and Kohala.

Kamapuaa as the Humuhumunukunukuapuaa

Humuhumunukunukuapuaa (Reef trigger fish). Photo: Bernard Spragg.

He keeps watch over his domain but ultimately decides to live his life in the ocean. Able to transform from his earthly shape into other forms, Kamapua‘a becomes a fish, the humuhumunukunukuapua‘a (reef trigger fish), which is also the state fish of Hawai‘i.

One legend maintains that Kamapua‘a actually fathered a child with Pele, Opelunuikauha‘alilo, but he never returns to land — instead continuing to protect the fertile mountains and abundance of the forest, from the sea.

Wild & Untamed

Wild boar. Photo: Internet Archive.

It has been said that Kamapua‘a was brazen and defiant of authority — an untamed man who had a thirst for all the “good things” life had to offer, especially adventure, love and sex. He did not shy away from his pig-like nature and may in fact be representative of the animalistic nature in all humans that typically lies dormant.

Kamapua‘a was born to human parents, Kahikiula and Hina, on the island of O‘ahu under scandalous circumstances. His mother, Hina, was married to a much older chief, Olopana, but secretly lusted after his handsome younger brother, Kahikiula. The two had a love affair, which produced Kamapua‘a.

Chief Olopana refused to say that the baby was his, however, and gave him the name “hog child.”

See also:
Pele, Goddess of Fire and Volcanoes

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