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Menehune

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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