Kamapua'a - The Hog God

The legend behind Kamapua'a, the half man, half hog god.

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• General: History • General: Legends / Mythology

Matt Anderson's Take
Guide Series: Hawaiian Mythology
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Have you heard the name Kamapua'a or the Hog God as he is also known? If you've already read Don't Bring Pork Across Pali then the name probably sounds familiar since he had a starring role in that legend as well. This half man, half hog god, shape-shifting creature is quite popular in ancient Hawaiian mythology and the legend of Kamapua'a goes far beyond his soured relationship with Pele - The Volcano Goddess.

The interesting thing about Kamapua'a is that he wasn't born as the monster he later turned into. Starting on the island of Oahu, his mother was Hina who was young and married to Olopana, an aging but influential chief. Hina ended having an affair with Kahikiula who was Olopana's younger brother. That affair resulted in the birth of Kamapua'a, who Olopana refused to recognize as his own son. Olopana told Hina that Kahikiula could claim the baby and then went on to name the child Kamapua'a or "hog child".

Kamapua'a grew up to be smart, strong, good looking, and had shape shifting abilities. Knowing his father wanted nothing to do with him Kamapua'a built up a deep hatred of his father and anger eventually filled him. As his hatred and power grew, he eventually started striking back at his father and his father's land. Even going as far as to wear the skin and head of a wild hog while doing so. His father eventually captured and stopped him but Kamapua'a escaped his death sentence.


Eventually, Pele and Kamapua'a meet and Pele was not pleased with Kamapua'a as she knew of his dark side. After a little fight the two end up falling in love and getting married. Of course, even back then living in Hawaii wasn't all rainbows and shave ice (see Hawaii Living: Rainbows, Beaches, & Shave Ice) and things fell apart between the two. Over time, Pele saw Kamapua'a for the animal that he really was and things went downhill fast.


An epic battle broke out between the two with Pele opening up the earth to let smoke, steam, and lava out while Kamapua'a fought back by using his powers to pull the oceans up. He forced the water into Kilauea Volcano where Pele lived and Pele then unleashed a wall of lava. As the lava came after Kamapua'a he changed his body into a type of grass to divert the flow of the lava.


It was all too much for Kamapua'a to handle in grass form and it began to burn him. With nowhere to go, Kamapua'a changed himself into a fish and swam away. So what was the fish he changed himself into? The Humuhumu-nukunuku-apua'a - Reef Triggerfish of course! Now that he turned himself into a Humuhumu fish, he had a skin that was thick enough to escape through the now boiling ocean waters.

If you ever see a Humuhumu-nukunuku-apua'a - Reef Triggerfish while snorkeling, listen to the sound they make as they munch away at rocks and coral. Hear that grunting sound? Legend says that the grunting sound the humuhumunukunukuapua'a makes is like the sound of a small hog because that fish is Kamapua'a.
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