Friday, January 9, 2009

Lonely Guy the Great

The Fun Fact I delivered to my hula class last night was about Kamehameha the Great, who united the Hawaiian Islands in the late 18th century and early 19th century. He was the first in a line of monarchs who reigned over the islands until 1893, when Queen Lili'uokalani was overthrown.

There was a lot about this king's story that really amazed me. First of all, his name. He had a reputation as a fierce warrior who spilled rivers of blood in his quest to rule the entire island group. So you would think his name would denote all sorts of righteous qualities, such as bravery, leadership or even skill on a surfboard (the sport of kings -- Hawaiian kings, that is).

No. Kamehameha translates as Lonely Guy. So this fearsome monarch was Lonely Guy the Great!

Of course, as soon as I shared that Fun Fact, one of my hula sisters broke into song: "Hey there Lonely Guy," sung to the tune of that 1970 hit, "Hey There Lonely Girl."

There were more amazing things to come. Turns out, Kamehameha's life story shares events that also occurred in the lives of Jesus, King Arthur and Mark Twain!

According to legend, a comet was supposed to light up the night sky when the future unifier of the islands was born. Sure enough, when little Lonely Guy was born in 1758, Halley's Comet soared over the island of Hawai'i. (Mark Twain was born under similar circumstances 77 years later when Halley's Comet returned.)

I'm guessing his was the only birth among the ali'i (royalty) that night, so the people figured he was the long-awaited unifier. The king who ruled Hawai'i Island at the time wasn't exactly charmed by this story of the little baby who would grow up to be a great ruler, so he ordered that the baby be killed. Sound familiar yet? Baby Kamehameha was taken into hiding for about the first five years of his life.

Here's where the King Arthur part comes in. As you may recall, King Arthur proved his exalted destiny by pulling the sword Excalibur from a stone. Kamehameha banished any doubt about his destiny by hoisting the 5,000-pound Naha stone. The immense chunk of lava had sat undisturbed for eons. Only the person who would one day unite the island would ever be able to move it. Kamehameha was said to have performed this amazing feat when he was only 14.

By 1795 he had gained control over all the islands but Kaua'i and Ni'ihau. This he had accomplished through bloody warfare. But by 1810 he had apparently mellowed enough to try his hand at diplomacy. The last two islands decided then not to fight him but to join him.

Having accomplished his destiny, Kamehameha retired from the royal court in Honolulu to his home island of Hawai'i in 1812. He died in 1819 and was succeeded by his son, Liholiho, who took his father's name, becoming Kamehameha II, or Lonely Guy No. 2.

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