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Literally, ‘hog-child’. A popular figure in Hawaiian mythology. With his enormous snout he dug the earth and ‘raised a great mound, a hill for the gods, a hill with a precipice in front’. Possibly this legend refers to a stronghold belonging to a powerful family of the pig god's descendants.

Despite numerous attempts on the life of infant Kamapua'a, he grew up into an energetic and powerful deity. He would uproot with his snout the crops of his enemies, defeat them in battle, savagely wielding a club in his human hands, and carry off as booty all their valuables. A welcome ally in the interminable wars of Hawaii, Kamapua'a married the two daughters of a leading chief and rendered him loyal service on the battlefield, capturing the ‘feather capes and helmets’ of many rival chiefs.

Once, as a handsome man, Kamapua'a attempted to woo the fire goddess Pele. She refused him with insults, calling him ‘pig and the son of a pig’. Soon they were hurling abuse at each other, and as their divine supporters arrived the quarrel changed into a fight. Pele's relations poured flames on the pig god, while his friends threatened to extinguish the volcanic fires with fog and rain. ‘Hogs ran all over the place. The pit filled with water. … And Pele yielded, and Kamapua'a had his way with her.’

The amorous and warlike aspects of the pig god alternate in his cycle of legends. Occasionally they can be seen to explain natural phenomena. At a certain place he once saw two pretty women and pursued them. They were goddesses and disappeared into the earth. When the enormous snout dug for them, two springs of water burst forth, thereafter known as ‘the springs of Kamapua'a’.

Subjects: Religion.

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