Animal Tales
Kaua'i and Ni'ihau


All cultures in the Hawaiian Islands attribute animals with supernatural powers.

The Hawaiians viewed animals as ancestral guardian figures. Animals could change into human form and like the Greek and Roman legends intermingle with humans. In the Hawaiian universe, many of the animal tales had to do with the creatures of the sea.

Other ethnic groups brought in their own views but because these islands lacked many of the Asiatic ,European and American animals, their animal tales slowly atrophied. In its place were primarily the Hawaiian viewpoints.

The only mammals here when they arrived were the Monk Seal, and the fruit bat.

Most common of these animal tales have to do with sharks, large fish, crustaceans, eels, and the countless smaller fish of both the land and the sea. On land the Hawaiian emphasized the three mammals brought with them; the dog, the pig and the rat:

When a rat crosses Puhi Road from left to right, the animal gets bigger and turns into a ghost and disappears. (?, n.d.).

A large white dog appears on the road in front of a person who is driving somewhere. The dog grows in size until it reaches the size of a large horse. this happens in front of the individual. The dog does not attack, but sits and watches. in some stories the dog snarls angrily, bares its teeth but does not attack. the message is a forwarning of impending danger to you, turn around and go back.

Similar stories predate the car as stories are found associated with people on horseback and even in prehistoric times when travelers were walking along a pathway.(Collected at Poipu, Koloa, Pila 1967).

While hunting in the forest, the hunters saw a big black boar in front of them. The hunter's gun becomes jammed. The frustrated hunter continuously tries to clear his rifle but it just will not fire. The pig reappears and again the guns jammed. The hunters immediately recognized that the pig was not a normal pig but was Kamapua'a, the Hawaiian demigod who lives in the rainforests of these islands. All the hunters retreated recognizing that the pig-god is protecting its kin. (Jim Palmeira). Rat
When a rat crosses Puhi Road in Lihu'e, from left to right, the animal gets bigger and turns into a ghost and disappears. [This is the same motif as the ghost-dog but altered by a predominantly Filipino plantation population.]

A man went to catch frogs at Anini. While frogging, he saw a beautiful bird. As he watched the bird changed into a small pig. Now excited, he quickly tried to spear the pig, but missed. The pig grew bigger and bigger and then changed into a huge white owl.  Hunters and Foragers seeking food in the forest often tell of encountering animals that change their shape and disappear. This story has a Hawaiian base in the motif of changing shapes and the use of two traditional ancestral animals of the pig and the owl.
Recorded by K. Williams Fall.75 Class .


Two boys went to Wailua River to catch frogs. They came across a big white frog. The boys were told not to spear it. They tried anyway. The spear hit the frog, the frog screamed like a woman and the boys now frightened, ran away. They came back to the same site where they left all their tools and bag of caught frogs. The sack of frogs were now only filled with stones. Recorded by K. Williams. Fall.75 class. Site of story was at the Wailua River.

A person who loved to fish went home after fishing. He walked through a pasture during a moonlight night. The person could hear the sound of approaching horses. He stood still as the sound got louder and eventually passed him and continued on but, he saw no horses go by, only the sound. Recorded by Ernest Dela Cruz Fall.76 class.

Three brothers were walking home around 8:00 pm. They heard horses coming so they stepped to the side of the road. They heard the horses but none could be seen. Recorded by Jim Palmeira Fall.78 class

While hunting in the Moloa'a to Anahola mountain area, the hunter found an old bottle in which a very large centipede exited. Excited the hunters drew away. One of the hunters said that this was an omen. The area must be a heiau [a Hawaiian temple]. If the centipede walked away from you it meant things were OK, if the centipede walked toward you, then things would go bad. Recorded by Jim Palmeira Fall .78 class.