Megan Shute for Only In Your State on the legend of the Hawaiian Menehune. Join us in comfort and luxury to experience the raw beauty and culture of the Big Island. Kailani Tours has over ten years experience with the best guides offering a front row seat on the best the island has to offer.
Hawaiian legend has it that the Menehune are a small dwarf-like species, similar to pixies or trolls, that hide deep in Hawaii’s forests and valleys.
While these creatures are generally assumed to be mythical, a census from the 1820s officially counted 65 Menehune living in Wainiha Valley, on the island of Kauai. Some scholars use this information to back their theory that the Menehune were the first settlers of Hawaii from the Marquesas Islands, followed by settlers from Tahiti. The story goes that the Tahitians suppressed the “commoners” – the manahune in the Tahitian language – who then fled to the mountains.
These mystical and shy forest-dwellers measure in at approximately two feet tall – though some are allegedly only six inches tall, and can easily fit in the palm of your hand.
According to local legend, these small creatures are extremely industrious master builders who are able to use their massive strength to accomplish great feats of construction and engineering – in a matter of hours.
The Menehune worked at night so ancient Hawaiians would not discover them; their work would be abandoned if they were caught. Legend has it that the Menehune were capable of completing major projects in a single night, and they are credited with the construction of the Alekoko Fishpond, as well as the Menehune Ditch, an aqua duct on the Waimea River that funnels water for irrigation.
Many have theorized that the Menehune were made up by the ali’I to explain the construction of temples, fishponds, and other structures so that credit would not be given to those who actually completed these construction projects – the maka’ainana, or common people.
It is said that the Menehune enjoy singing, dancing, and cliff jumping; rumor has it that if you hear splashes in the middle of the night, it is possibly a Menehune diving into the Pacific. The Menehune also enjoy archery, and have been known to use magical arrows in order to pierce the heart of an angry individual to ignite feelings of love rather than anger.