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December 1997


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The legend of the "Kiha" (Shooting Breath)
Contributed by Brenda Turville (with thanks!)


Many, many years ago, there lived upon these islands, the islands of the Kanaka Maoli, the dreaded and fierce "Kiha." The Kiha were huge reptiles, (nothing like todays geckos, or Mo'o). They were known to communicate with the humans. Some were good, but others were man-eaters! Why, it is said that one Kiha could eat a single hale and all who were in it, in just one bite! You could hear them coming because of the tremendous noise that they make when they breathe. The Kiha would sleep during the day, and then during the night, they would come and prey upon the villages for their dinner. In Moloka'i, there once lived a terrible Kiha that everyone feared. He had eaten plenty of their people and no one was safe at night. The people hunted and hunted during the day to try to find this Kiha, because the only way that they could destroy him would be to kill him while he was sleeping. Finally, one day the people found him buried in a hillside sleeping. They got all the things that they could find that would burn and placed them upon the the mountain and lit it on fire and killed the mighty Kiha! To this day, the Kanaka believe that plenty Kiha still exist within these islands. Moloka'i has 12 that have remained to guard the island. Kaua'i has two. They say to be careful of climbing the mounds in the woods. If you go to a pond, throw a ti leaf in first. If it sinks, the Kiha is in the pond. If it floats, you can swim. Dark caves are also favorite places of the Kiha. When people end up missing in the woods and never return, one can almost be sure that they met their fate by a hungry Kiha!

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