“Gather around,” my makua (teacher) would say, “I have a good one”. My little eyes beamed, it was storytime. Storytime was when makua would tell my classmates and me Hawaiian legends and tales. We all quickly huddled together, criss-cross applesauce, murmuring to each other with anticipation. She paused for a moment, a small smirk tugged at her mouth, and then she began to tell us the story of Naupaka and her lover Kaui.
Long ago there lived a Hawaiian Princess named Naupaka who lived in the mountains. One day, she went down to the shore and caught the eye of a fisherman, Kaui. They were absolutely and unabashedly taken by one another. Their love blossomed, beautiful and delicate like the flower that Naupaka wore above her ear. To their dismay, as many tragic love stories go, their love and union was kapu, forbidden. A person of royal blood could not be with a commoner, but they desperately wanted to be together so they pleaded with anyone who could help.
Naupaka and Kaui first went to their kupuna, an elder, who could not support their union, and advised that they plead their case to the kahuna, priest. Eager for support, they hoped that the kahuna would give them a more favorable answer. Together they traveled up to the mountains and asked for his blessing. Again, their union was forbidden, but the kahuna said they could pray to the gods for guidance. With hearts full of love and hope, Naupaka and Kaui prayed to the gods, asking for approval. Suddenly, the sky thundered as rain and lightning fell upon them. This was a swift and resounding “no”.
Naupaka and Kaui’s eyes filled with tears and they began to weep. Their love could never be. Naupaka was instructed to stay in the mountains and Kaui was told to return to the sea. They shared one last embrace, but before they parted, never to see each other again, Naupaka took the flower from her ear and tore it in half. The once whole flower, symbolizing their complete love, was now missing its other half.
Kaui returned to the sea with half of Naupaka’s flower and Naupaka stayed in the mountains with hers. From that night forward the flowers only bloomed in halves. Naupaka kuahiwi grew in the mountains while naupaka kahakai grew by the sea. It is said that when the naupaka kuahiwi and naupaka kahakai flowers are brought together, Naupaka and Kaui are reunited and so is true love.
My six-year-old heart was broken. I wished that Naupaka and Kaui could have been together. From that day on I was reminded of the legend when I saw naupaka flowers. Island by Koa Nani has incorporated this story into its jewelry. The naupaka sets represent the half flowers, incomplete until paired with their other half. When put together, they create one complete and perfect flower, reuniting true love.