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Small Wonders:
The Miniature Menahune of Hawaii

When the first modern Hawaiians reached the islands in the third century AD they found evidence that others had been there before them. They called these people Menehunes, and attributed the dams and small viaducts, such as the Menehune Ditch (which carries water for irrigation from the Waimea River) to their great strength and prowess as master builders.

Menehune are usually described as playful and even mischievous. They have distended bellies. They are hairy, muscular and two or three feet tall, with bushy eyebrows over large eyes.

They have short noses. Their diet was said to have consist of puddings made of squash, sweet potatoes, and taro leaves. They sleep in caves by day and work all night, and love racing and wrestling sports. When they speak it is the sound of a low hum so as not to attract attention to themselves.

Menehune are usually described as playful and even mischievous. They have distended bellies. They are hairy, muscular and two or three feet tall, with bushy eyebrows over large eyes. They have short noses. Their diet was said to have consist of puddings made of squash, sweet potatoes, and taro leaves. They sleep in caves by day and work all night, and love racing and wrestling sports. When they speak it is the sound of a low hum so as not to attract attention to themselves.

One site in Hawaii often credit to the skills of the Menehune is the Alekoko Fishpond in Nawiliwili. The 1600 year old dammed holding pen is said to have been constructed by the Menehune at the request of Chief Ali’I, and was built in a single night. Menehune would only work at night and only if they were not watched. Menehune are thought to be notoriously shy creatures and would abandon a construction project in the middle if they heard so much as a dog barking. This seems to have been the case at the Alekoko pond, as one of the retaining walls was finished at a later date using different stone.

The Menehune used lava rock because it is very strong. They are said to have been carried to the fishpond from Kalaheo, employing a sort of bucket brigade of thousands of Menehune passing the stones by hand.

According to legend, the Menehune inherited the islands after their war with the Nawao, who are said to have been full sized wild men who inhabited the islands before them. When modern Hawaiians arrived at the islands they began to interbreed with the Menehune. Soon though, the newcomers began to enslave and even kill the smaller islanders and force them into the hard labor projects of quarrying stone and building. The Menehune began to retreat into the mountains and forests to escape their oppressors. Over time they developed a lifestyle in which they could survive in their environment without being detected.

Some historians believe the Menehune to be more than just a quaint island legend. They say that there did, and perhaps still does exist a race of small Pigmy-like people who did and may still inhabit the furthest reaches of Hawaii’s forested mountains and ancient volcanoes. As proof they have cited the small burial chambers and undersized graves found in remote caves throughout the islands.

Still others claim that the Menehune might actually be some species of undiscovered Hawaiian primate. One thing is for sure though: Whether they are fact or fantasy, people or primates, the Menehune have left an indelible mark on the legends and the landscape of the Hawaii islands.

Small Encounter with the Wee Folk

Some of my friends and I were at the beach relaxing like at 11:00 and it was really dark and the trees and bushes behind us were shaking a bit then stopped for about 30 sec. Then later it shook even louder and there was no wind. We ran as fast as we could in the car. When we started the car we saw little wild people running really fast across the road about 30-ft in front of us. We got the heck out of there and sped down the road. Is there such thing as Menahunes?  –Arnold S.

Menehunes Snuff Out the Hippies’ Lights

I just read your Menehune story. In college I took a Hawaiian Lit. Class. The professor was also half Hawaiian herself and had many personal stories to tell. She told us of one back during the Vietnam or Korean War. Two draft dodgers or hippies had gone to her hometown, mostly sleeping on the beach, etc. They had heard stories of these little people and decided they wanted to search them out. The townspeople were reluctant to support their search but were also curious. The two at about dusk started to trek out into a small dense jungle/forest that was in a valley that was rumored to be home to the Menehune. The townspeople were able to watch the light of their flashlights progress through the trees since the town was high up on the hill/mountain.

The professor continued to tell us that as they got deeper, more lights started to appear around them, seemingly to circle them. The circle started to enclose around the travelers, but before the other lights actually got to them, the two lone lights went dark and the others sputtered out.

She also said that the two hippies were never found or seen after that.  –Beth Garofalo

Menehune Fishpond photo by Collin Grady

Weird Hawaii

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