Mānoa Heritage Center



Naupaka Moʻolelo

As told by Nona Beamer

There is a shiny green plant that grows near the beaches of Hawaiʻi called the naupaka. It has small delicate white half flowers. It was named naupaka for a Hawaiian princess who lived many, many years ago, at a time when the naupaka blossoms were whole.

Her people loved Naupaka. She was always smiling and she had sweet words for all the people of the village

One day, they noticed that Naupaka was very sad. “Aue! Oh dear, why is Naupaka sad?” they asked each other.

Word reached the king and the queen. They found Naupaka at the mountain pool. The face reflected in the water was a very sad face. “Oh dear daughter, why are you so sad?” her mother asked. 

Naupaka shook her head. “I am deeply in love, in love with a handsome young man named Kauʻi.”

“Is he of noble birth?” her mother asked.

“No, my mother, he is not.”

The social order of that day did not allow members of the royal family to marry commoners. Her father said, “We must consult the kupuna, the wise elders of the village. They will tell us what to do.”

Alas, the kupuna did not give their decision. They said, “Naupaka and Kauʻi must journey far, they must journey to the heiau. There the kahuna will tell them.”

Naupaka and Kauʻi journeyed for many days until finally, they reached the great heiau at top of the mountain. There they waited at the level wall and called out to the kahuna within. “We have arrived here outside your temple. Please answer us and come to speak to us.”

The old kahuna arrived and listened to Naupaka and Kauʻi. He shook his head sadly. “The Hawaiian gods must decide.” Suddenly the sky darkened and the wind rose. There was a torrent of rain, a loud clap of thunder, and flashes of lightning. Naupaka and Kauʻi embraced sadly. The gods had given them the sign. They were not to marry.

Naupaka tore the blossom from her hair. She broke it in two and placed half of the blossom in Kauʻi’s palm. “We will separate,” she said. “I will remain here in the mountains and you will journey back to the seashore. And, my beloved, never again will we meet.”

The naupaka blossoms growing nearby heard the loversʻ sadness and they dropped their heads.

To this very day, the naupaka blossoms of the mountains and the seashore all bloom in perfect halves. The Hawaiians believe that someday Naupaka and Kauʻi will be reunited in the Hawaiian pantheon and the flowers will again bloom as whole, perfect blossoms!