For many generations now, the menehune have been an integral part of Hawaii's mythology. Most of the myths originated on the island of Kauai . Actually, some anthropologists believe the mythology is based on an original race of small-statured people who once inhabited the islands.
Here's the basic myth:
Once, no one on the islands questioned the existence of the little people. They were prodigious toilers who worked from sunset till dawn completing every project they started in a single night. (Jobs that weren't finished by dawn went uncompleted, but their construction never broke down.) As they worked, played and made music, the menehune reflected human characteristics. They even made human-like mistakes, although they were said to posses superhuman powers.
The menehune were happy little people, but their scary appearance caused children to hurry home at dusk rather than chance a run-in with them. They had large, bulging eyes; low, protruding brows, thick noses and gutteral voices. They stood about two feet tall with reddish complexions and bushy hair. They were rarely seen (and no female menehune was ever seen), but the din they created as they worked was heard often.
They were known for their play as much as their work. They rolled down hills throwing stones, rode wooden sleds down grassy slopes, threw darts, spun tops, boxed, wrestled, ran foot races, and played hide-the-pebble and and tug of war.
Intermarriage with humans is said to have caused the exodus of the menehune, as commanded by their king. Lumahai Beach on Kauai was their point of departure on a magic floating island. Some, of course, refused to leave the islands they loved and hid in the mountains.
Some of us who now live in Hawaii believe menehune still lurk in misty, wooded uplands, in caves or amid the craggy shore rocks.
Keep your eye out and your ears open while you're here and abroad at night.
Posted by Jim Winpenny
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Entry Filed under: Hawaiiana
January 28th, 2009