It was a while ago.  It happened on the Big Island.  And, as usual, on the Big Island of Hawaii…it starts with a beautiful woman.  There are LOTS of gorgeous women on the Big Island.  Her name was Kalei and she lived in the Waipio Valley.  Every night, Kalei would get a little bit seductive-though she probably didn’t know it. She walked to the clean waters at the mouth of the Waipio Valley to bathe in the sea.

Enter Kamohoali, the King of the Sharks.  He was doing his “King of the Sharks-thing”, just below the surface of the water where Kalei was bathing. She disrobed in the moonlight (she had a banging body, I’m imagining) and waded into the warm waters of the valley where they met the refreshing ocean.

Of course, Kamohaoli was like “wow”.  So, he decided that the next night he would use his shape-shifting, King of the Sharks power to take on his human form and hit the land as a great chief and go looking for this beautiful woman.

Vintage Postcard Image of Hawaiian woman bathing


Here’s where the legend “skips” a little bit…as far as I know…

Soon, Kalei becomes pregnant with Kamahaoli’s child.  However, Kamohaoli’s time on the land was coming to an end.  He needed to go back and be the Shark King.  Dead beat dad?  I don’t know…maybe there was pressing Shark Kingdom business to attend to.  I’ll look into this part a little more.  Anyway, he never told Kalei who or what his true identity was.

Kamahaoli instructed Kalei to have the baby, which was going to be a boy, without him.  He told her to raise him well and never to allow the boy to eat the flesh of any animal.  Kalei must have been all “what?…say what” on Kamohaoli, but she did what he said.

When the child was born it was an extremely dark and windy night.  Kalei was shocked and saddened to see a sort of deformity on the baby’s back that resembled an open fish mouth.  Instead of bringing the deformity to light, she wrapped the baby in a soft blanket of tapa cloth.  She cried as she rocked her beautiful (aside from the gaping fish mouth on the baby’s back) to sleep.  She named the baby Nanaue.

It was difficult to prevent the boy from eating the flesh of any animal because way back then, women and men were not permitted to eat with each other.  Rather, women were not permitted to eat with the men.  Kalei did her best, though.  However, when the boy became a man, his grandfather (Kalei’s father, I’m assuming and not Shark King’s dad) brought him to eat with the men.  At that point, Nanaue ate meat for the first time.  He developed a large appetite that was difficult to appease.  The gaping fish mouth on his back grew rows of razor sharp, shark teeth.

From that day on, when Kalei took Nanaue to bathe in the streams, the boy would take on the form of a young shark.  He would swim around in the waters playing…and eating the smaller creatures.  (I’m pretty sure Kalei was pretty freaked out by all of this.)

Kamohaoli could take on the shape of any ocean creature and of a man.

Then the Tides Turned on Nanaue

As Nanaue became a man, he also grew into a large shark when he entered the ocean waters.  He would attack and tear other members of the village from limb to limb.  He was a hungry, large shark.  Eventually, though, the other villagers became suspicious.  Why wasn’t Nanaue ever attacked, injured or eaten when he went into the water?  Did he have special powers?

When he was found out, and the villagers discovered the large fish mouth with all the teeth on Nanaue’s back, he escaped into the ocean.  The villagers were after him but they were no match for the adult shark once he got to the ocean.

From the Waipio Valley, never seeing his mother or his village again, Nanaue swam to the Hana side of the Island of Maui.  There, he married a chieftess.  He did his best to hide his shark form, but his desire for human flesh proved to be too much. He kidnapped a young girl, ran to the ocean, took on shark form and ate her.  Some of the villagers saw all of it.  They tried to kill Nanaue with their spears but they were unable to.

After that, Nanaue took his shark/human of terror campaign to the Island of Molokai where the same exact thing happened.  By this time, however, there was a scary rumor going around the Hawaiian Islands to be wary of a large shark that could take on human form.  The villagers were watching Nanaue on Molokai and they were able to snare him with nets when he was overcome withe desire for human flesh.  They beat him with large clubs until his blood turned the ocean red.  He became weaker.  The people were chanting.  Weaker still.  The people drug Nanaue to the shores and cut him into small pieces before the pieces of his body were put into a large oven and incinerated into nothing.

Nanaue, son of the King of Sharks, was dead. 

Learn more about Hawaii’s Legends.