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Kāneana Cave: Home of a shark god

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Kamohoaliʻi was a kupua who could change from shark to man

Kāneana, often referred to as Mākua Cave, lies at the makai end of the large ridge that separates Mākua Valley from ʻŌhikilolo Valley. The original entrance to the cave, destroyed in 1950 by road construction, was narrower and taller than it is today (Kelly and Quintal 1977).

Kāneana is summarized as follows:

Once upon a time there was a shark god known as Kamohoali‘i, who was king of all sharks. Kamohoali‘i could change into a dignified and majestic man. He wooed a woman by the name of Kalei, who did not know he was actually the king of sharks, and married her. When it came time for the couple’s child to be born Kamohoali‘i warned Kalei to guard the child’s body from the sight of man, and never allow it to eat the flesh of any animal. Kamohoali‘i then disappeared. Kalei bore a man-child, and named it Nanaue. Kalei was very surprised to discover that the child had an opening in its back. She covered the opening with kapa and often wondered about it.

One day Nanaue plunged into the water and opened the mouth on his back to catch any passing prey. Kalei kept this secret to herself. The boy eventually grew to manhood and began eating with the men in the men’s house. Nanaue stayed to himself and his dual nature developed. When the people of his village were deep-sea bathing or fishing, they would suddenly be visited by a shark that bit and tore at the limbs and dragged them down into deep water. Then one day, a man working beside Nanaue in a taro patch inadvertently tore the kapa from Nanaue’s back. A shout went up: “See the shark mouth! A shark man!” Nanaue escaped to the sea and wandered from place to place and island to island. The kahuna were asked to help, but it was some time later that Nanaue was actually captured and killed.

At one time he lived near Kāneana. He would drag his victims into the cave through a subterranean channel at high tide. He would place his victim on a certain slimy stone to await his leisure and appetite (Honolulu Star Bulletin, September 9, 1939, cited in Sterling and Summers 1978).