Puʻumano (Shark Hill) is in the ahupuaʻa of Kainalu on the south-western side of the Island of Molokai. There is a shallow ravine leading up the slope to the summit – tradition suggests this was caused when Nanaue was dragged by Unauna.
Let’s look back …
During the time of ʻUmi, there was a beautiful girl from Waipiʻo named Kalei. She was an expert swimmer, a good diver and noted for the neatness and grace with which she would ‘lelekawa’ (jump from the rocks into deep water without any splashing of water.)
Kalei was very fond of shell-fish, and frequently went to the coast for her favorite food. She generally went in the company of other women, but if the sea was a little rough, and her usual companion was afraid out, she very often went alone.
In those days, the Waipiʻo River emptied over a low fall into a basin partly open to the sea. (The forces of nature have since filled the pool with rocks.) Back then, it was a deep pool and a favorite bathing place.
The shark-god, Kamohoaliʻi, also used to visit this pool.
Kamohoaliʻi was the King-shark of Hawaiʻi and Maui. It was the belief of the ancient Hawaiians that several of these shark-gods could assume any shape they chose, even the human form, when occasion demanded.
Kamohoaliʻi had noted the charms of the beautiful Kalei, and took a liking to her. Knowing he couldn’t court her in his shark form, he assumed the form of a very handsome man, and waited for the girl to show up at the beach.
It was a rough day and Kalei came alone; caught in a wave (raised by the god himself,) the handsome stranger came to Kalei’s rescue. The acquaintance was established and Kalei met the stranger from time to time – finally becoming his wife.
Some little time before she expected to become a mother, her husband, who all this time would only come home at night, told her his true nature, and informing her that he would have to leave her, gave orders in regard to the bringing up of the future child.
He particularly cautioned the mother never to let him be fed on animal flesh of any kind, as he would be born with a dual nature, and with a body that he could change at will.
In time, Kalei delivered a healthy boy named Nanaue; he was apparently the same as any other child, but he had, besides the normal mouth of a human being, a shark’s mouth on his back between the shoulder blades.
Kalei had told her family of the kind of being her husband was, and they all agreed to keep the matter of the shark mouth on the child’s back a secret.
The old grandfather, far from heeding the warning given by Kamohoaliʻi in the matter of animal diet, as soon as the boy was old enough to come under the tabu in regard to the eating of males, and had to take his meals at the hale mua (men’s eating house,) took special pains to feed him on dog meat or pork.
When he became a man, Nanaue’s appetite for animal diet, indulged in childhood, had grown so strong, that the ordinary allowance of a human being would not suffice for him.
The old grandfather had died in the meantime, so that he was dependent on the food supplied by his stepfather and uncles, to feed his shark-like appetite. This gave rise to the common native nickname of a ‘manohae’ (ravenous shark) for a very gluttonous man, especially in the matter of meat.
People were curious as to why Nanaue always kept a kihei (a loose garment of tapa thrown over one shoulder and tied in a knot) on his shoulders.
He also didn’t participate in the games and pastimes of the young people (for fear that the wind or some active movement might displace the kapa mantle, and the shark-mouth be exposed to view.)
About this time children, and eventually grown-ups, began to mysteriously disappear.
Nanaue had one good quality that seemed to redeem his apparent unsociability; he was almost always to be seen working in his mother’s taro or potato patch when not fishing or bathing. People going to the beach would pass by, and it was Nanaue’s habit to ask where they were going.
If they answered ‘to bathe in the sea’” or for ‘fishing,’ he would answer, ‘take care or you may disappear head and tail.’ Whenever he so confronted anyone, it would not be long before some member of the party so addressed would be bitten by a shark. If it should be a man or woman going to the beach alone, that person would never be seen again.
The shark-man would immediately follow, and watching for a favorable opportunity, jump into the sea. Having previously marked the whereabouts of the person he was after, it was an easy thing for him to approach quite close and changing into a shark, rush on the unsuspecting person and drag him or her down into the deep, where he would devour his victim.
This was the danger to humanity which his king-father foresaw when he cautioned the mother of the unborn child about feeding him on animal flesh, as thereby an appetite would be evoked which they had no means of satisfying, and a human being would furnish the most handy meal of the kind that he would desire.
Eventually, while he was in human form, folks managed to remove his kihei and see the shark mouth on his back. The news of the shark-mouth and his characteristic shark-like actions were quickly reported to the King.
The King was told of the disappearance of so many people in the vicinity of the pools frequented by Nanaue; and of his pretended warnings to people going to the sea, which were immediately followed by a shark bite or by their being eaten bodily, with every one’s surmise and belief that Nanaue was the cause of all those disappearances.
ʻUmi asked the priests and shark kahunas to make offerings and invocations to Kamohoaliʻi that his spirit might take possession of one of his ‘hakas’ (medium devoted to his cult,) and so express to humanity his desires in regard to his bad son, who had presumed to eat human beings, a practice well known to be contrary to Kamohoaliʻi’s desires.
The shark-god manifested himself through a ‘haka’ and expressed his grief at the action of his wayward son. He told them that the grandfather was to blame for feeding him on animal flesh contrary to his orders.
Then the shark-god, promised they would be forever free from any persecutions on account of their unnatural son, and Nanaue left the island of Hawaii, crossed over to Maui and, later on to Molokai.
It was not very long before he was at his old practice of observing and accosting people, giving them his peculiar warning, then following them into the sea in his human shape, then seizing one of them as a shark and pulling the unfortunate one to the bottom, where he would devour his victim.
This went on for some time, until the frightened and harassed people in desperation, went to consult a shark kahuna, as the ravages of the man-eating shark had put a practical tabu on all kinds of fishing. It was not safe to be anywhere near the sea, even in the shallowest water.
Following the instructions of the kahuna, the people overpowered Nanaue and started a fire to burn him (it was well known that only by being totally consumed by fire that a man-shark can be thoroughly destroyed, and prevented from taking possession of the body of some harmless fish shark, who would then be incited to do all the pernicious acts of a shark-man.)
The people also called to their aid the demi-god Unauna, who lived in the mountains of upper Kainalu. It was then a case of Akua vs. Akua.
Nanaue was finally conquered and hauled up on the hill slopes of Kainalu to be burnt. The shallow ravine left by the passage of his immense body over the light yielding soil of the Kainalu hill slope, can be seen to this day.
The place was ever afterwards called Puʻumano (Shark Hill,) and is so known to this day.
Unauna ordered the people to cut and bring for the purpose of splitting into knives, bamboos from the sacred grove of Kainalu. The shark flesh was then cut into strips, partly dried and then burnt; but the whole bamboo grove had to be used up before the big shark was all cut up.
The God Mohoaliʻi, (another form of the same God Kamohoaliʻi) father of Unauna, was so angered by the destruction of the grove, that he took away all the edge and sharpness from the bamboos of this grove forever.
To this day they are different from the bamboos of any other place or grove on the islands in this particular, that a piece of them cannot cut any more than any piece of common wood. (This summary comes completely from The Legend of the Shark-Man Nanaue, by Mrs Emma M Nakuina.)