Tell Me a Story by Amy Friedman and Meredith Johnson

THE OWL'S GIFT (a Hawaiian legend)

Long ago, in ancient times on the islands of Hawaii, there lived a king known as Kakuhihewa who made his home on Oahu.

King Kakuhihewa divided his many islands among his favorite chiefs, and each of these men and women gave their own names to the places they ruled. It was these names that lasted for hundreds and hundreds of years.

King Kakuhihewa also built many sacred temples known as (BEGIN ITAL) heiau (END ITAL). He and his chiefs ruled the land under a harsh system known as (BEGIN ITAL) kapu (END ITAL). Commoners had no say about who was in power or about the laws of the land. Those who broke the king's laws were often tortured and then put to death in the place known as Leahi or Diamond Head.

Many people suffered.

Now one day a farmer called Kapoi, who lived in Honolulu, went into the forest to gather thatch to mend his roof. As he was returning home toward evening, he came upon a nest with seven eggs. The nest belonged to an owl, or a (BEGIN ITAL) pueo (END ITAL), but seeing the eggs Kapoi could think of nothing but how delicious they would taste. He was hungry after his long day's work, and so he gathered the eggs in his shirt and carried them home.

At home Kapoi wrapped the eggs in the large leaves of one of the (BEGIN ITAL) ti (END ITAL) plants he had collected that day. Then he built a fire to cook the eggs, and sat to wait until the coals were hot enough.

As he was waiting, an owl perched upon his fence, her eyes searching. When she spotted the ti leaf, she began to screech with grief. "Kapoi, you have stolen my eggs! I am sure they are wrapped inside those leaves. Give them back!"

Kapoi was so hungry that he did not want to give up his eggs, so he quickly turned and asked, "How many eggs did you have?"

"Seven," the owl replied.

"Ah," said Kapoi, and bowed his head, for now he knew these eggs did indeed belong to the owl. "These must be yours, but I am very hungry, and I hoped to eat these for my supper. Perhaps I could keep one or two."

"Kapoi," the owl repeated, "give me all my eggs. I know you are a good man. Surely you do not wish to hurt a poor owl who has lost all her eggs. That would be cruel."

Now Kapoi had a soft heart. As he thought about the eggs, he understood how sad the owl must feel at her loss, and he could not bear to break her heart. "Come then," he said, "take your eggs." And he unwrapped the leaves.

The owl quickly gathered her eggs in her talons.

As she turned to fly away, she looked back at Kapoi. "Thank you, Kapoi. And now you will build a (BEGIN ITAL) heiau (END ITAL) and call this temple by the name of Manua. It will be in honor of the owl, and we shall forever look after you."

Then the owl gave Kapoi his instructions. He listened closely.

And so Kapoi built a temple near Moanalua on Oahu, and just as the owl had told him, he selected a specific day for the dedication of his temple. He placed his sacrifices upon the altar as instructed.

Soon word of Kapoi's temple reached the king, who was furious when he heard the news. One of his laws was that no one but the king or his elected chiefs could build and dedicate a temple. And so the king ordered his servants to seize Kapoi.

"Lead him to my temple at Waikiki, and there I shall pronounce his punishment."

That day, as the servants led Kapoi to Waikiki, all the owls of the land -- from Lanai, Maui, Molokai, Kauai and Hawaii -- gathered in the sky. There they rendezvoused to discuss their plan.

The next day, at dawn, just as the king prepared to announce Kapoi's punishment, he felt a wind coming from above, and when he looked up, he saw the blue sky darken as thousands of owls flew overhead.

"This man must die!" the king cried, and the king's servants and soldiers grabbed Kapoi. They were ready to torture him, but just then the owls dived out of the sky toward them. Before the men knew what was happening, the owls attacked, pecking at the soldiers with their beaks, scratching the servants with long, sharp talons.

"Help!" the men cried, for they could not shield themselves from this attack; if they dodged one owl, another flew forward, and then another and another. The king looked on in disbelief as his men, one by one, fell to the ground or ran for cover.

"Stop, let him go," the king finally cried.

Kapoi was set free, and the king looked in awe at this simple man. "Your god is powerful," he said. "You have many guardians, and so no one shall ever harm you. You are free to go home."

As word spread of Kapoi's rescue, the people cheered the owls, and ever since that day, the Hawaiian people have recognized the (BEGIN ITAL) pueo's (END ITAL) power. It is known as the guardian spirit that looks after those who are kind.

"Tell Me a Story 2: Animal Magic," the second CD in the audiobook series, is now available. For more information, please visit

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