Noho Akua

Jan. 16th, 2013 09:20 am
charybdis: (Default)
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Title: Noho Akua
Summary: They say her mother's last words to her are, You will never be queen. This is true. (No, it's not.) Historical RPF, Princess Ka'iulani. Most of this is made up, but the historical events are real. Translations are in the title text, if not given in the fic. 900 words, G.

They say her mother's last words to her are, You will never be queen.

This is true.

(No, it's not.)


Ka'iulani's father, Archibald Cleghorn, was born in Scotland. He outlives her mother. He will outlive her.


Princess Ruth Ke'elikolani is a huge woman in every way that matters — huge voice, huge presence, huge appetites, huge heart. She takes a new lover every month, it seems like, and laughs her huge laugh of delight when another hula ma'i is created for her.

Princess Ruth does not belong in a church, but she goes anyway, every Sunday, because her faith is as huge and as beautiful as everything else about her.

Cleghorn's contemporaries treat Princess Ke'elikolani like a curiosity, like an animal. Ka'iulani's father is not a cruel man, but he was born thousands of miles away, and he has no roots in the land here; he may not be cruel, but a man does not have to be particularly evil to equate different with wrong.

Mama Nui, Ka'iulani calls her, and it is an expression of respect, an aspiration.

Ruth is the first to tell her, Ua mau ke ea o ka 'aina i ka pono.

Ka'iulani breathes it in, and believes.


When she was barely old enough to read, she found an old, handwritten dictionary in the back of the chapel nursery, and she saw the word ha'ole translated simply to foreigner.

It took months of formal education, before she understood what 'foreigner' — a neutral, formal, expository word — actually meant.


They want a savage, a barbarian, but she refuses to give them the satisfaction. She wears the clothes she was born to wear, attends church services as she always has, speaks their tongue — not just English, but the polished speech befitting a statesman — and three other languages besides. She writes beautifully.


She never quite shook that first association. Ha 'ole — No breath, no life, no soul. They never gave her reason to.


They say she died of a broken heart.

This is true.

(No, it's not.)


One year away from home turns into two, three, four. She stops playing at being royalty without knowing how or when she learned to use her charisma as a shield and her native beauty as a weapon. She has a German count wrapped around her finger before she knows what she's done — it gives her no little satisfaction, though, to realize that she has power over these people.

Her body aches for Hawai'i. Her legs want to surf, her shoulders to paddle, her skin for the warmth of real sunlight. All the food in Europe is boiled and peppered and covered in milky sauce — she misses poi, the oceanic crunch of limu, and the blood-tender taste of fresh ahi.

She doesn't put down roots in this cold, hard country. She acquires her father's accent and her allies' diction, but her roots know that her true kingdom is a hundred thousand miles across the sea.

Your land longs for you, Koa writes her, once, joyful and expectant, awaiting her return.

It's harder to read kaona in English, the language too precise to allow layers of meaning in every turn of phrase, but Koa tries. Every last one of his letters goes into her case, not so much because she loves him, but because he is innocent, and she wants to remember that.


When word arrives of Lili'uokalani, of the merchants' guns in front of the Palace, Ka'iulani's first reaction is outrage.

'House arrest.' What a vicious lie.

She issues a statement to the British press, and only barely manages to restrain herself. Have I done anything wrong that this wrong should be done to me and my people?

The word 'oligarchy' sits like tar at the back of her mouth.


She brings a petition signed in ink and dirt and the blood of her people to the house of her overthrowers, stands before the vulpine American Congress and demands a restoration of her sovereignty.

She must believe that her throne is her God-given right! sneers Lorrin Thurston.

But what Ka'iulani believes in is her God-granted responsibility — ua mau ke ea o ka 'aina i ka pono — that she must do everything in her power to protect her people, no matter the cost.


She lives just long enough to see her language outlawed.

Ha 'ole, she thinks bitterly. We should never have forgotten the meaning.


They say she died of a broken heart, and this is a lie.

It had nothing to do with her heart. She ruled her country from the land up, from the surf inwards, through the ha, the life force. A divine spirit cannot continue without her sacred ground. Without a tongue to utter prayers in her name. Without breath to animate her soul. without blood and fire and without sacrifice.

Her kingdom passed away. What else could she do?


Scotland is very cold and England is no better. These are her father's people, and their blood is the same as hers.

This is what she learns in Scotland: she is not Scottish.


'A'ole loa e noho ali'i ana, says Likelike, speaking a prophecy.

Eleven-year-old Ka'iulani bows her head over her mother's deathbed and says nothing. She dreams a true dream — of her people rising up with her, of the land swelling beneath her bare feet, of the certainty of her country surrounding her.

Likelike is wrong.

(No, she's not.)


So that's it. If I have been offensive or made a mistake, please let me know about it! I want to do better! It's been a while since I actually used Hawaiian, and I know I'm a little rusty on the finer points.

There are a ton of great resources about the issue of Hawaiian sovereignty -- google it.

Language Notes:
I've written the Hawaiian language with straight quotes standing in for 'okina and without kahako (macron). I know the 'okina and kahako are real letters in the Hawaiian alphabet. Officially, I want to point out that Hawaiian language newspapers were printed without either 'okina or kahako; but really, I was afraid of breaking the coding for this fic.

As with any language, there are concepts in Hawaiian that do not translate to English. I've provided basic translations where I can, but for more information, you should go to:

Even if you aren't that interested in in-depth translations, you should check out this definition of ma'i (2.), and this entry about Hawai'i's state motto (Ua mau ke ea o ka 'aina i ka pono).

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