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ISLAND HISTORY: The story of King Kaumuali‘i’s spear bearer

Kaua‘i’s teller of Hawaiian tales, Eric Knudsen (1872-1957), possessed a long, black, kauila-wood spear that was given to him by his father, Valdemar Knudsen (1819-1898).

Eric said that his father had been given the spear by an old man who long ago had been a member of the royal bodyguards of King Kaumuali‘i (1780?-1824).

What follows is an abbreviated version of a true story Eric would tell about the spear and that man.

Eric said the old man lay dying one evening in his grass house at Poki‘i village, located just outside of Kekaha, when he sent for his friend, Valdemar Knudsen, whose residence was at nearby Waiawa.

When Valdemar Knudsen entered and was seated, the old man, lying on a mat, began to speak.

“I am old and about to die, but when I was young and strong, I was one of King Kaumuali‘i’s guards and spear bearers.

“One day, while I was working in a taro patch, the captain of the king’s guards came by and told me to come with him to Kaumuali‘i’s residence by the fort in Waimea.

“I reported immediately along with 10 other young men chosen for selection. The judges looked us over and examined us, and I alone was chosen as the fittest and the best.

“I was then taken before Kaumuali‘i’s priests and was purified and anointed as a guard, and I was given this spear.”

Then the old man drew out from under his mat a long, black, finely crafted spear made of kauila wood.

“I carried this in front of the king, and any commoner who allowed his shadow to cross the path of the king, I jabbed with the point of this spear.

“I was a big man and a splendid fighter, but now I am old, and tonight I die. My king died long ago. Please take my spear and keep it for me, and I will die in peace.”

Valdemar took the spear and shook the old royal bodyguard’s hand and said “aloha.”

The old man replied faintly, “aloha,” turned his head away, and died.
Source: The Garden Island

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