ULU: Breadfruit

Woman Picking Breadfruit, John Melville Kelly (1878-1962


‘Ulu is associated with many Hawaiian myths and legends.Legend traces its origin to a time of famine when Ku, the god of building and war, buried himself in the earth near his home. He later turned into an `ulu tree so that his wife and children would not starve. Ku had told his wife that a fruit shaped like a man’s head would spring from his body. “My body will be the trunk and branches; my hands will be the leaves; the heart, core, inside the fruit will be my tongue. Roast the fruit, soak it, beat off the skin, eat some yourself, and feed the children.” (Krauss 5). ‘Ulu is considered kinolau (body form) of Ku, but is not used sacrificially and it is not kapu (forbidden) to women (Abbott 35).
Several other legends come from the Hawaiian Islands. In one, the graceful tree represents Haumea, one of the goddesses worshipped by women. In another, a story from the Lahaina district, the mischievous son of the ruling chief of Maui was banished to the island of Lana’i for pulling up breadfruit trees around Lahaina. While on Lana’i, the youth, whose name was Kaulula’au, was attacked by man-eating spirits. He outfoxed them by hiding in an ‘ulu tree, using ‘ulu gum to blind them, and was finally allowed to go home to Lahaina (Abott 36). 

Breadfruit Boy, Hawaii by John Kelly


Breadfruit trees were commonly found in the landscape around villages and worksites and were also cultivated in large well-tended orchards. It was believed by the Polynesian culture that if a breadfruit tree was planted when a child was born, the child would have enough to eat his whole life. In Marquesas, each chid was given a breadfruit tree at birth because it was believed that 1 or 2 trees would support a person for life. In Tahiti, the `ulu was a gift of a loving father to his family during famine times. The father grew an `ulu tree to feed his hungry family (Quensell).
There is a saying in Hawaii: "Look for the oozing breadfruit": Do what Ku's wife did. Marry someone who always makes sure you have food (Schweitzer).


Plant & Their Uses / Conclusion