Thursday Myths & Legends 101: The Menehune

The Menehune people of Hawai’i are one of my favorite legends out there, tracing back to that episode of Full House where the family is on vacation and Michelle keeps seeing a little Menehune girl… do you remember? Ah, well, it was a long time ago…

The Menehune are the Hawaiian version of the brownie—in most legends, they’re dwarfish in size, and master craftsmen, very gifted with tools and known to build houses, roads, and temples.  The picture above is a ditch and tunnel that have been attributed to the tiny people.

This small race is known to live in the deep valleys and forests of the islands, far from human civilization and human eyes, thus not much is known about them, but they are a shy and mischievous race, and some say that they were the first inhabitants of Hawai’i, before the Polynesians settled there.

Interestingly, though, the legends of the Menehune started to circulate only after European contact with the islands—it is supposed  that the word is actually a mispronunciation of the Tahitian word ‘manahune’ which means “commoners,” as Tahitian settlers in the early 1800s oppressed the lower classes, who then fled into the mountains to escape—an 1820 census of Kauaʻi lists 65 people as Menehune.  Folklorist Katherine Luomala believes that the legend of the little people of Hawai’i comes from a combination of this mispronunciation and the European influence of brownie stories.

All I can say is that when I went to Hawai’i with my family when I was a kid, I kept my eyes peeled…

About Lisa Asanuma

Lisa is a professional freelance writer and editor, along with a bookbinder and knitting obsessee. Lisa has a passion for YA literature (inside her passion for literature in general) and is currently working on her first novel. View all posts by Lisa Asanuma

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