Photo: Mural of Naula and Lehua at MHS
Mural of Naula and Lehua at Molokaʻi High School. - Photos: Mikiala Pescaia

Naula and his mother lived in Kalaupapa. His mother was famous for making beautiful ʻiwaʻiwa fern lei. Kalaupapa was the only place where the fern grew, so everyone knew that if you were wearing lei ʻiwaʻiwa, you had received it as a special makana from someone in Kalaupapa.

One year, Naula was chosen to represent Kalaupapa in the foot race at Makahiki. Naula and his friends decided to take a daytrip to Kīpū ahead of time to scout a campsite and the racecourse and plan accordingly for the two anahulu (20 days) -long festivities.

It was exciting to see the preparations underway. They found their spot, eyed up the challenging racecourse, and then headed over to Mimo gulch, where the ceremonial and exhibition pā hula were, as well as the boxing and wrestling rings and the infirmary.

Photo: ‘Iwa‘iwa fern
‘Iwa‘iwa fern.

When they got to Mimo, the ʻōlapa (dancers) were dressing the pā hula. Naula thought it foolish, as his friends huddled in the bushes watching the lovely young women. Naula’s mind was more concerned with planning his meals and packing enough gear for his stay. Deep in thought, he glanced down and met the gaze of the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. She looked up at him. Their eyes locked, she smiled, and Naula lost all thought.

When Naula returned home he asked his mother to make one of her special lei ʻiwaʻiwa for him to give to a friend when he returned to Kīpū for Makahiki.

His mother smiled saying, “We’ll see. I’m really busy getting things ready for your trip.”

Hopeful, Naula helped his mother prepare for Makahiki. He cooked and packed ʻuala, put the fish out to dry, and packed his pūʻolo with an extra malo and his moena for sleeping.

The day he left, his mother stuffed bundles of paʻakai into his pūʻolo to give his ʻohana as gifts. Naula did not see a lei among his ukana, but he didn’t want to ask and make his mother feel bad, so he said goodbye and began the climb to Kīpū.

When he arrived, he met up with his friends and the lei was soon forgotten as they socialized and enjoyed the festivities. Makahiki brought the best of the best of Molokaʻi together. It wasn’t just the athletes and ʻōlapa – all of the various hālau ʻike (schools of knowledge) were there – astronomers, healers, carvers, genealogists presenting their hōʻike to the crowd, honoring their akua, aliʻi and ʻāina.

When the time came for Naula’s footrace, he ran as he had never run before and easily won the competition. After he finished, his ʻohana crowded around to congratulate him, and he remembered his mother’s makana. As he handed out the gifts, he spied the beautiful girl walking towards him.

Naula’s heart pounded even harder than while racing! She grew more beautiful as she approached and he fumbled to find something, anything, he could gift her – when his hand touched an extra bundle in his pūʻolo. A sweet smile spread across his face, as Naula pulled out a carefully packed lei ʻiwaʻiwa from his mother.

Naula approached the girl with arms extended holding up the special lei. Her eyes grew wide. “For me?” He nodded and placed the lei on her lowered head. “Aloha, I’m Naula.” The girl smiled and introduced herself as Lehua. “Congratulations! I’m sorry I can’t stay longer, I’m still under kapu and I have to go.”

Naula asked to meet again and Lehua agreed, urging him to seek her parents’ approval first, which he did. For the rest of the Makahiki celebration, every morning Naula and Lehua would meet and spend their days talking and laughing and learning about one another. And in the evening, before it was dark, Naula escorted Lehua safely back to her parents.

Lehua never took off the lei Naula had given her. She loved her lei ʻiwaʻiwa even as it began to dry and shrivel. It didn’t matter. Their blooming love was adornment enough.

The festivities ended and the day came to say farewell, Lehua escorted Naula to the cliffs of Pāneʻeneʻe. A gust of wind snatched the lei from Lehua’s head, and it swiftly tumbled across the plain! She turned to chase it, but Naula stopped her.

“Meet me here next Makahiki and I will bring you another lei ʻiwaʻiwa,” he said. “If I am still the one you desire, I would love for you to please join me in Kalaupapa as my wife. Give me a chance to plant crops, build a hale, and furnish it with the finest things so I can take care of you the way you deserve.”

“I would love that,” said Lehua, her eyes bright with happy tears.

One year later, Naula climbed the cliff carefully carrying a fresh lei ʻiwaʻiwa. Reaching the top he saw his beautiful Lehua standing there waiting for him – and to his surprise, ʻiwaʻiwa ferns surrounded her growing everywhere!

The spores from Lehua’s dried lei the year before had been scattered by the makani and all across Kīpū, ʻiwaʻiwa fern had sprung up like the new love between Naula and Lehua.

That is how the area of Nāʻiwa got its name. And, of course, Naula and Lehua lived happily ever after.