Imiloa, Hilo Attractions | Legend of Makali‘i
  1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content

Kekaomakali‘i (The Bailer of Makali‘i)

The Story of How Makali‘i Got His Name

Our legend begins on the western side of the Island of Hawaii in Kona. In this leeward village lived a frugal and malevolent chief, or ali'i. This ali'i desired to bring destruction and strife to his land, and the people and animals who resided on it. To do this he took all the food in the land; the fruits, the stems, and even the roots leaving nothing at all to eat or grow.

The ali'i collected everything in a carrying net and violently swung that net into the heavens. The net of food got caught and hung stuck on the cluster of stars. His land, his people and his animals became hungry and thirsty; their stomachs rumbling with hunger. One of the villagers cried: "All the food is hanging in the stars above us. The ali'i will not return it to us. How do we stop this suffering?"

But no one could answer. Not long afterward, the squeaky voice of a tiny rat was heard. "I will get our food back!" The tiny rat climbed the tallest of the mountains and jumped onto a rainbow that was arching over the land. He climbed higher and higher into the heavens. He made it all the way to the stars tangled in the carrying net. He began to nibble at the bottom of the net.

Soon, the ropes no longer held and the food inside the bag fell, like rain, all over the land. Some was eaten, the rest replanted. The rat fell as well, and landed on a rock in Kalae, the southern-most tip of the island. It is there he lives. You can find the rock he landed on, with imprints of the rat’s feet.

As for the stars caught in the net, they were named after the chief, Makali'i. The rising of Makali'i was a sign of the change of the season to winter.