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The Story of Nou



The stone form of the Menehune (left) standing guard over Nou's grave, to this day.

At Limahuli Gardens the story is told of another stone in the Hā‘ena landscape. This story concerns a young man named Nou:

"Long ago, a young boy named Nou wanted to hurl a firebrand from the top of Makana mountain during the ‘oahi ceremony. He pestered the older fire throwers to let him come with them, but they said he was too young to participate in such an important ceremony. One day a great chief came to Hā‘ena hoping to catch a firebrand which would prove his affection for a woman who doubted his love.


Makana as seen from Limahuli Gardens. Nou is in the dip just to the left of the peak. Photo by Dawn Niederhauser.

"On the day of the ceremony Nou decided to secretly follow the fire throwers up the steep trail. His legs were short and he struggled to keep up. Finally, as night fell, he was forced to stop and rest. From the darkness he heard a voice calling to him, "help, help." An old menehune was trapped under a fallen rock. Nou helped to push the rock away which saved the menehune's life. For if the menehune had been trapped until daybreak and touched by a ray of sun, he would have been turned to stone. Out of gratitude, the menehune promised to help Nou throw his firebrand the farthest that night.

"When Nou reached the top of the mountain, the fire throwers were furious with him for climbing the mountain and breaking the kapu. The appropriate punishment was death, but Nou challenged them to let him throw just one firebrand. If it didn't fly farthest of all, then they could kill him. When it was Nou's turn, he threw with all his might, but the burning log fell straight down the cliff. At the moment when Nou's life appeared to be over, the firebrand suddenly soared into the sky. A chilling wind from the mountains had blown over the fire throwers and captured the firebrand, causing it to dance in the sky all the way to the farthest canoe where it fell into the chief's hand.

"This incredible throw made Nou very happy and famous. The chief was so grateful he gave Nou many riches. Everyone loved Nou. Everyone, that is, except for the older fire throwers. They had been made to look weak and foolish, and they hated Nou! This hate consumed them, and they finally decided to kill Nou. They invited him to participate in the next ‘oahi ceremony and killed him on the climb up the mountain.


The menehune, center.

"That night, when the ceremony was over, they slept on the mountain and returned to Nou's body at dawn. They planned to throw him off the cliff so that it would appear that Nou had accidentally fallen to his death. Blocking their way, however, was the menehune. He was facing the rising sun and mostly turned to stone, but he used his final breath to shout curses at the fire throwers. 'May your bones ache and your footsteps be painful forever.' Immediately the curse took effect and that group of fire throwers were never again able to climb Makan to throw their fiery branches."

"As for the loyal menehune, you can see him standing there still. He guards Nou's grave just as he did so long ago, reminding us of the young boy named Nou who was once the greatest fire thrower of Makana mountain."


Below Makana, near the hula heiau, is another storied place. On the next page, read the story of Kili‘oe.



Caves |  Pōhaku-a-Kāne |  Story of Nou |  Kili‘oe |  Piliwale Sisters |  Language |  Sources & Links
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