A Hawaiian legend about Lono Moku, the Woman in the Moon.
Once upon a time, in Hawaii, there lived an overworked wife named Hina. Her children, which had filled her with such hope, had left. Her son traveled in his canoe from island to island robbing people. Her daughter, whom she had thought would give her comfort and help in her old age, had run off into the forest to live with the wild people.
Her husband did nothing but lay about, gamble and yell at her for her laziness. Hina felt unloved and unappreciated.
Despite this, Hina was a hard worker. Every day, she would strip the inner bark from the paper mulberry tree and beat it with her mallet to make kapa which she fashioned into clothes. Her kapa was the family’s only income.
Bam, bam, bam would go her mallet all day long, smushing the bark fibers and creating kapa cloth.
“This is an ugly malo,” her husband complained, “this loincloth you made for me has no decorations on it.” He picked up a malo stamped with bold colored triangles and diagonals. “This is what I shall wear.” He tossed the plain malo onto the red Hawaiian dirt.
“Auwe! That malo was a special order and took me days to make.” Bam, bam, bam chanted her mallet. “I will have to work until I die.”
Every afternoon, Hina would lay her mallet down, stretch her back, and then begin her other chores. She repaired the fishing net, patched the thatch on the hut and filled the calabash gourd with water. Then she would take her net to the beach and catch some fish for dinner. At home she had to clean and cook it.
“Fish again?” complained her husband. “I am ashamed to call you my wahine. A good woman would catch some shrimp and offer her man variety.”
Hina moved slower and slower every day. The burden of work sapped her strength.
“Oh how I wish I could just leave. Walk into the forest and sit beside a stream all day long and do nothing.”
Hina made the wish every day and, although she didn’t know it, the gods heard her. To them, every pound of her mallet sounded like, Help, Help, Help.
One day, Hina was standing on the beach, preparing to cast her net, when a rainbow cloud appeared. As she watched, it unrolled itself into a rainbow. The end of the rainbow landed, sparkling with dew and magic, at her feet.
Hina heard a beautiful female voice, “Here is a path of escape. I do not know what you will find if you take it, but I have granted your wish.”
Without a second thought, Hina began to climb the rainbow. The rainbow felt slippery beneath her feet, but by scrunching her toes and going slowly, she could climb it. The higher she went the closer to the sun she came. She lifted the net above her head to try and make shade, but the heat beat on her. She felt her skin dry and crackle, like pig skin on the fire. She wiped the sweat from her brow, but a few drops fell on the path and, before she could catch herself, Hina slid down the rainbow.
Hina lay in a heap at the bottom. She crawled to the ocean to cool her parched skin. All day she lay on the beach recovering from her walk up the rainbow. She watched the hot sun set and felt her hopes sink into the ocean along with it.
“What are you doing woman?” shouted her husband. “It is dark and you lounge on the beach like the lazy wahine you are. Get into the house and make me some dinner.”
Hina ignored him. The moon, a luminous perfect circle, rose above the horizon.
Her husband, frustrated by her disobedience, kicked sand on her and stomped back to their hut.
Hina watched the moon climb, climb, climb, higher, higher and higher into the sky.
She heard the birds settling in for the night with the rustling of leaves and squawks of their chicks. She felt the cool evening breeze sooth her sunburned cheeks. The ocean whispered, hush, hush, hush, as the waves caressed the shore.
The moon shone bright against the dark sky. A rainbow ring circled it.
“The moon,” whispered Hina. “I want to go to the moon and rest.” As she said the last word the rainbow uncoiled itself and the end landed in the sand at her feet.
“One moment,” Hina whispered, filled with energy.
She ran to her hut, emptied the calabash gourd and filled it with her favorite possessions–a favorite shell, her daughter’s doll, her son’s carved turtle.
She pulled off her plain páu skirt and pulled a beautiful one from her pile. Hina had dyed it vibrant yellow using the roots of the olena and noni. She had carved a plumeria flower on a bamboo stick and stamped the cloth with purple flowers made with dye from sea urchin ink. In the center of each flower she had sewn a puka shell. The páu was scented with sandalwood bark. She had made it for the richest woman in the village. As she wrapped it around herself, she stood tall and knew that she deserved to feel beautiful and valued.
“Where are you going in that skirt?” Her husband stood up from the corner where he lay. “I don’t remember you asking my permission to go visiting.”
Without sparing him a glance, Hina picked up her calabash gourd and raced to the beach.
She began to climb the rainbow towards the moon. She heard her husband shouting but leaned forward and climbed faster. Her husband jumped up and grabbed her foot. He pulled. Hina fell, but she grasped the edges of the rainbow and hung on. He yanked, twisted and squeezed her foot in his cruel grip.
She felt herself slipping, down, down, down to the beach and her husband. She screamed in the silent night and used her free foot to kick him in the nose. He let go and fell back. Gasping, Hina pulled herself upright. Her foot was mangled and she winced with each step. Hina ignored the pain and crept up the rainbow.
The breeze cooled the sweat on her brow and the glow of the moon beckoned her, urging her to keep climbing.
At last, Hina reached the moon. She set down her gord and looked down at Earth. It was beautiful up here, far away from her husband and her unending work.
She settled herself into a crater, her lame foot raised to ease the pain, and the moon dust making a soft cushion. The moonglow enveloped her, like a feathered ‘ahu’ula, the cape reserved for royalty. She sighed with peace. No more would her mallet beat out its sad chant. The silence of the night is proof that she is resting.
She is up there still. The Hawaiian’s gave her a new name, “Lono Moku” or “Lame Lono.” On the next full moon, look up and you can see her, the Woman in the Moon–calabash at her side, resting.
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