The Legend of Kamapua'a
Hola, Aloha & Gùng Héi Faat Chōi!
In the spirit of welcoming the Year of the Boar (it begins today!), here is an abridged, wildly incomplete retelling of the Legend of Kamapua'a, the famed Hog Man of Ancient Hawai’i. Think of it as a pupu. An amuse bouche to stir your appetite for Hawaiian myths and lore.
Are you here to find amazing pork recipes in celebration of the coming year? Scroll down. They’re down there, just scroll.
Kamapua'a, the aforementioned world-famous Hog Man of Ancient Hawai’i, was born sometime before 1200 B.C.E. to Hina, whose mother and father came to Hawai’i from Kahiki.
His father was Kahiki'ula, who happened to be the much younger and handsomer brother of Olopana, a chief on O’ahu and Hina’s husband! #drama
Hawaiian names can be challenging for English speakers, so here’s a short list of our main characters:
Kamapua’a - our protagonist
Hina - his mom
Kahiki’ula - his biological father… mebbe? Read on!
Olopana - Kahiki’ula’s brother, Hina’s husband, and Kamapua’a’s uncle and step-father… or is he???
Some accounts recall that Hina actually took both brothers as husbands which was not unheard of in pre-contact Hawai’i. Whatever the truth is, Olopana wasn't stoked about the situation.
In the version of this story where Hina is married to only Olopana, it’s actually unclear who Kamapua’a’s real father is. Olopana assumes the child is his brother’s, but Hina denies this. Olopana names the baby "Kamapua'a" (meaning "hog child") in a cruel gesture of disavowment and promptly assumes the role of wicked stepfather. As a matter of course, Kamapua'a turns out to be super-duper handsome and athletic, out-competing his half-brothers in sport and winning countless fans throughout the district. This only further embitters Olopana who at some point banishes the young man lest he be sent to death if he does not comply.
In other versions of this story, Kamapua'a is born literally half human, half hog, and is wholly rejected by Hina herself. Here, Kamapua’a’s grandmother is the only member of their entire ‘ohana to accept him as he is. Grandma’s are the best. She raises him somewhere out in the wilderness.
Either way, it should surprise no one that Kamapua'a turns out to be wildly irreverent, falls easy prey to trouble and troublemakers, and becomes a sort of a pirate/bandit/Peter Pan meets Tyler Durden meets Furiosa type of guy. He makes his home in the wilderness where other rebellious characters come to live with him and assist in wreaking havoc on Olopana's lands.
In one raid, Kamapua’a is caught by Olopana's men four times in a row, each time being freed by his grandmother via a powerful chant. Eventually, Kamapua'a slaughters all of his captors save for one who he uses as bait to lure Olapana into a trap. The plan works and Kamapua'a again kills everyone who plays the enemy, including his step-father, but then spares the life of that same guy who he used before as bait! #style
Following several adventures (and misadventures) on Kaua'i, then in Kahiki, and at presumably other places too, Kamapua'a and his band of misfits (including his sister, Makahanaloa, who is a goddess of fog, rain, and lovemaking) travel to the island of Hawai'i where they learn about an enchanting, mysterious family who live in Puna district, home of the volcano Kīlauea. They are also told that a woman of particular beauty and supernatural power is among these people, and so Kamapua'a sets out to meet her and make her his wife. This woman is of course the goddess Pele.
One passionate account tells of an epic battle that ensues between Kamapua'a and Pele. He attempts to win her favor at the crater of Halema'uma'u but she rejects him, calls him "a pig and the son of a pig," and the two devolve into hurling insults at one another.
Pele's brothers rush to her side and resolve to smother Kamapua'a by summoning their gods of fire and lava. In turn, Kamapua'a is aided by his sister, Makahanaloa, who fills the crater with water and extinguishes the fires. Makahanaloa preserves the fire sticks, however, for as the goddess of lovemaking she understands that if Pele is destroyed entirely so too will be her brother’s heart.
Pele surrenders. She and Kamapua’a not only draw terms of peace, they bear a son, Opelunuikauha’aliho, who goes on to establish a long family line of both ali'i and commoners.
In time, Kamapua’a retires in the ocean, far away from Pele, and starts a new family. Only in his absence does Pele seem to fully realize her love for Kamapua’a, and so she sings to the sea, in vain, hoping for his return.
David Kalakaua (author, champion of Hawaiian culture, and King of Hawai’i 1883–1891) tells a very different ending to this story in his book The Legends & Myths of Hawaii that is well worth reading. Much of what is presented in this retelling is based on both Kalakaua’s book and Martha Beckwith’s Hawaiian Mythology, which draws from Kamakau, Fornander, Emerson, and Westervelt.
I hope you enjoyed this retelling of the Legend of Kamapua’a. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Does your family or hālau tell a different version of the Legend of Kamapua’a? Do you notice a thought or detail presented (or omitted) here that ought to be revisited? Hola Aloha Supper Club is eager to learn, to amend our understanding of the cultures we are inspired by, and to grow. We aim to be inclusive, mindful, and above all: Pono. Please share your suggestions in the comments below and/or contact us at email@example.com
You may find the following recipes to be imprecise, which is deliberate. Hola Aloha Supper Club encourages you to explore, test, and find what works best in your kitchen. Have questions about a recipe? Just ask! Post on www.facebook.com/holaalohasupperclub or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org
No, I'm not your Abuelita. I cannot match her culinary magic. I'm just a guy who loves slow-cooked pork that later gets shredded and crisped and served with corn tortillas.
Lots of lard
1 pork shoulder, preferably bone in
3 large onions, any color, quartered
6 to 9 jalapeños, whole
3 bulbs of garlic, peeled
1 handful bay leaves
In a perfect scenario you will have enough lard to submerge 3/4 your pork shoulder in a braising vessel. If not, use a flavorful chicken stock to make up the difference. If using bouillon (my favorite is Better Than Bouillon) double however much of it that you are supposed to use with however much liquid you need, according to the label.
Put the other things in the vessel, cover and braise overnight at 200°F. Budget far more time than you will need, starting with 6 hours (but it will likely take 8).
When its flesh surrenders to the slightest prod of a fork, let the shoulder come down to room temp before removing it from its bath and chilling it in the refrigerator.
Strain the braising liquid. Allow the fat to separate and harden. Behold, this is your lard for next time (or for the best refried beans you'll ever make)
When the pork is cool enough to handle, or even chilled all the way through, cut into chunks. It may shred in the process of carving and that's great. Dress with drippings.
To crisp, you can either spread your carnitas on a baking sheet and then broil, or fry them on a griddle or in a heavy pan.
Let us know in the comments below how your carnitas turn out!
Aside from not being your Abuelita, I'm also not your Uncle. Further, I'm barely Kanaka (25%) so if someone tells you to do this differently, please listen to them, try them out and make up your own mind of how to fix Kalua Pig.
1 pork shoulder, preferably bone in
Ti leaves to wrap the shoulder
Banana leaves to wrap the shoulder again and to line your roasting vessel
Ample Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt
Legit liquid smoke, like Kiawe Liquid Smoke
Thick slices of green ulu, or taro, or potato