Nā Kūkikūki  ||  The Story of Kea’omelemele 

In the story of Kea’omelemele, told by Moses Manu in 1885, Kalau’okōlea, the younger sister of Poliʻahu played a tune on a puʻa (gourd whistle) while Kulukuluokahiki was staying at the house of Poliʻahu on Mauna Kea. The night-time trilling enchants and delights Kulukuluokahiki and his party, and culminates in love-making. Kulukuluokahiki with Poliʻahu, and his men with the sisters Lilinoe and Kalauokōlea. In the chill of the frosty borderlands of Poliʻahu, the tune of the puʻa/hōkiokio warms the bosom and foreshadows the shared warmth to come.

But what is also remarkable to me is the mention in the mele of no less than four kinds of singing land snails, indicating how important these are in Hawaiian cultural foundations:

Moe ana ʻoe la hoʻolono iki mai
E piʻi kāua i ka hua lamalama
I ka lau ʻākōlea i ke kapa kāhuli
Kāhuli aku, kāhuli mai
Kāhuli lei ʻula lei ʻākōlea
Kolekolea, kolekolea
Pūpū kani oe maiau kēlā
Pololei leo leʻa kapa hau o uka
Mehana i kuʻu poli
Hiʻolani kēlā kolekolea

Lie there, and listen a while
as we two climb by kukui torchlight
Among the fronds of ʻākōlea ferns, the garment of snails
Land snails transforming, changing back and forth
Changing from a red lei into a lei of ʻākōlea ferns
Kolekolea land snail, singing in a whistling voice
Such a skillful, exquisite singing snail
Pololei snail singing joyfully at the edge of the upland snows
Warming my bosom
as I lie at ease amidst that chorus of snails singing.

Additional note:  kolekolea is the singing of the land shell, also considered another name for the kahuli.


Pololei is another snail name, often followed by the epithet kani kuamauna.  Kuamauna, which is a zone close to the summit of a mountain, suggests that the pololei is a high elevation snail, of the high montane or subalpine region, in this case, just below snow line on Mauna Kea!

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