In 1933, Kaua‘i politician A. Q. Marcallino (1881-1959) shared a tale with newspaper columnist Robert Macconel that he’d been told by an aged Hawaiian woman some 20 years earlier in Waimea Valley, Kaua‘i.
“This is the legend of why the coconut has never killed any kama‘aina,” said Marcallino.
Long ago, a young Polynesian man set out from Tahiti to roam the Pacific in his canoe.
After long weeks of travel, he beached his boat upon a tropical isle and, meandering about, he came across a mountain pool and splashed in.
There then came into view a maiden clothed in white garments, followed by her train of attending women.
“Do you not know the sacred tabu, for this pool is strictly forbidden, save for the princess only,” she cried angrily.
The man replied that he was a malihini and knew no better, and soon his winning ways so charmed the princess that she consented to join him.
For several months the couple swam daily at the pool, until one of the maids in waiting informed the high chief, who became enraged.
The tabu laws called for beheading, and he ordered the young man put to death.
The princess pleaded in vain, but to no avail, and on the night before the execution, both met.
“On my execution,” the young man told her, “you must obtain my head and you must take it to our pool and there on its banks dig a hole and plant it.
“A tree seedling will spring forth which will grow to a great height, and it will bear fruits called coconuts.
“Then gather your servants together, take a supply of these coconuts and set out for a new island.
“And as long as coconut trees bear they will never cause the death of you or your people, for they will always be a reminder of my devotion.”
(Since the time Marcallino told his tale, one person has been killed in Hawai‘i by a falling coconut — very sadly, a 2-year-old girl on O‘ahu in 1973.)
Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share the island’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: https://bit.ly/2IfbxL9 and here https://bit.ly/2STw9gi Hank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org