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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Little People: Hawaii

The Menhune of Hawaii – Ancient Race or Fictional Fairytale?

In Hawaiian mythology, the Menehune are said to be an ancient race of people small in stature, who lived in Hawaii before settlers arrived from Polynesia. Many scholars attribute ancient structures found on the Hawaiian Islands to the Menehune.
However, others have argued that the legends of the Menehune are a post-European contact mythology and that no such race existed.
The mythology of the Menehune is as old as the beginnings of Polynesian history. When the first Polynesians arrived in Hawaii, they found dams, fish-ponds, roads, and even temples, all said to have been built by the Menehune who were superb craftspeople. Some of these structures still exist, and the highly-skilled craftsmanship is evident.  According to legend, each Menehune was a master of a certain craft and had one special function they accomplished with great precision and expertise. They would set out at dusk to build something in one night, and if this was not achieved, it would be abandoned.
Some scholars, such as folklorist Katharine Luomala, theorize that the Menehune were the first settlers of Hawaii, descendants of the Marquesas islanders who were believed to have first occupied the Hawaiian Islands from around 0 to 350 AD. When the Tahitian invasion occurred in about 1100 AD, the first settlers were subdued by the Tahitians, who referred to the inhabitants as ‘manahune’ (which means ‘lowly people’ or ‘low social status’ and not diminutive in stature). They fled to the mountains and later came to be called ‘Menehune’.  Proponents of this theory point to an 1820 census which listed 65 people as Menehune.
Luomala claims that the Menehune are not mentioned in pre-contact mythology and therefore the name does not refer to an ancient race of people. However, this argument holds little weight as most accounts of the past were passed down through word-of-mouth from one generation to the next.
If Luomala, and other scholars in her camp, is correct, and there was no ancient race of skilled craftspeople that predated the Polynesians, then there must be an alternative explanation for the ancient constructions of advanced design, which predated any known population in Hawaii. However, no alternative explanations exist and most history books still maintain that the Polynesians were the first inhabitants of Hawaii, some 1,500 years ago.

So let’s examine some of the ancient constructions that have been attributed to the Menehune in the mythology of the region.


The Menehune: An Ancient Race – Hawaiian Encyclopaedia
Legend of the Menehunes no small part of Hawaii – by Arthur Ribbel
**Menehune – Encyclopedia Mythica
Stories of the Menehunes – by Thos G. Thrum
Alekoko, Menehune Fishpond, Kauai – GoHawaii.com
The Menehune – Mythical Realm


by Hugh D. Mailly
The folklore of many nations around the world include stories of magical little people. The most famous of course, are the leprechauns of Ireland. In Hawaii, it is the mischievous Menehune who are said to haunt the deep forests or the mountains of Pu'ukapele ("Hills of Pele"). They come out mostly at night to play tricks on people, or to serve them if they feel that way inclined.
The mythology of the Menehune is as old as the beginnings of Polynesian history. Some say that the great god Maui himself, was one of the tiny creatures. When the first Polynesians arrived in Hawaii, they found dams, fish-ponds, and even Heiaus (temples), all presumably built by the Menehune who were already there, living in caves.

The creatures are said to be about two feet high, although some have been seen as small as six inches, capable of fitting in the palm of someone's hand. They are always naked, but the long straight hair that falls to their knees keeps them warm and discreet. Apparently no two of them are the same, and they can be so moody as to be malicious and dangerous one day, and simply harmless the next. But they are always tricky, and therefore should be avoided, unless a special favor is absolutely needed of them.

In the old times, some Hawaiians married Menehune girls, who were said to be quite fair, but needed to be shown how to make a fire and eat cooked food, because their own diet consisted only of starchy raw vegetables. The services of Menehune expert builders and craftsmen can be requested. This is especially so, if you can trace your family tree back to one of them. They then act like benevolent godparents. Many a major project, such as the preparation of a wedding feast, has been completed in a single night by the super strong little gods, while all humans slept.

Menehune are afraid of owls. On the island of Kauai, the Menehune sometimes sneak in among the people there and pull too many tricks. That is when the owl god of Paupueo (owl hill) summons all the owls of Kauai to chase the Menehune back into the forest.

The little ones are fond of dancing, and singing, and of sports, such as shooting arrows. Sometimes they use magic arrows, to pierce the heart of angry persons, and make them feel love instead. They also truly enjoy diving off cliffs into the surf. If you hear splashes in the night at Kaanapali, it is possibly a Menehune diving off Black Rock! But you would have to move impossibly quick to ever see one.

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