The Legend of the Naupaka Flower

If you are ever on Maui and happen upon a flower that looks like it is only half a flower. You might not believe your eyes. However, seeing is believing and what you have found is the Naupaka (Now-Pak-ah).

Legend tells a number of stories about this uniquely blooming flower. The one I am going to share with you is but one of them.

The Princess Naupaka was beautiful. She was also very kind and loving. For those reasons, the people all loved her very, very much. Her sister, the Goddess Pele (Pay-lay) was often very jealous of her sister, Naupaka because of how much she was loved.

Now Pele was loved too. She brought fire to the people, and with fire, they could cook their food, they could light their way at night, and keep warm when it got cold. The people loved Pele for all she did for them, but they also feared her because when she got mad. She could get very angry. She could make the mountains rain down fire killing the plants, animals, and anyone who got in her way.

It just so happened that one day, the Princess Naupaka was sitting on a rock at the edge of the ocean. There was a rush of silver fish in the water, and she saw that they were swimming away from a throwing net. A young man was standing in the water, fishing with the net for his mother and father. He was very handsome, and Naupaka could see that he was a hard worker. She spoke to him, and he smiled and told her that his name was Kaui (Kah-why-ee), and she fell instantly in love with him.

The Princess Naupaka’s heart was filled with joy, but she became very sad. Kaui was a commoner and she knew the two would never be allowed to marry. Princess Naupaka thought of everything she could, and in desperation, she went to her sister, the Goddess Pele. She begged and pleaded with her sibling to allow this marriage. Pele was touched and curious as to who this young man was and what power he might have to have made her sister fall so madly and totally in love with him. She concluded that she must first meet him and after doing so she would consider Naupaka’s request.

Naupaka sent word to her beloved Kaui and told him to meet her at his fishing spot down by the sea at first light. True to his word, Kaui was there when Pele arrived. She looked him over not once but twice and thought to herself, “I now know why Naupaka has fallen in love for Kaui is indeed very, very handsome. But why should she be the only one to enjoy his company and his pleasure!” she asked herself. So being Pele, she disregarded her sister’s feelings and instead told Kaui of her intentions. She said “Kaui, I find you very pleasing. Come live with me.”

Kaui was indeed handsome, but he was also a good man, a faithful man. He told her, “I cannot, Goddess Pele.”

Pele could not believe her ears and began to smoldered a little bit. She asked, “How is it that you can say no to Pele?”

Kaui looked up at her with his big brown eyes and said, “Because I met your sister, Naupaka first, and I love her.”

Now, this infuriated Pele who was use to having her way. She became so angry that she chased the young fisherman into the sea and because her lava was fast, it over took him there and killed him. If she could not have Kaui, then no one could… not even Naupaka.

When the princess Naupaka heard what had happened, she became grief stricken and fled to a temple in the mountains. There she stayed grieving for her lost love and as she wept tears flowed from her eyes, and everywhere her tears touched the ground a Naupaka plant sprouted, but because her heart had been split in two, their bloom was but half a flower. Her tears were caught by the wind, and some landed near the beach where her lost love had perished. There more Naupaka plants sprang forth with the other half of the flowers blooming forth.

Pele soon began to realize her problem had not been with Kaui but rather with Naupaka whose beauty was so great that every man who saw her fell in love. Pele knew that it was Naupaka who must go. Naupaka believed herself to be safe from her sister having fled to the mountains since lava cannot flow uphill but she was wrong. Pele became so angry that she threw the lava up the mountain. The ohia trees caught fire, and poor Naupaka died in the fire.

To this day there are two species of Naupaka plants. One grows near the coast and is called Naupaka Makai (mac-eye) for shore. The other is the Naupaka Mauka (Mow-cah) for mountain.

The people say that someday they will grow back together, and when that day comes, the two lovers will be reunited.


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