Menehune: The “Little People” of Hawaii

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Legendary creatures called menehune (pronounced meh-neh-HOO-neh) weave a charming spell throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Believed to be dwarf-like, the expert masons are said to have conjured enormous rock structures overnight.“ Menehune King” a sculpture by KaMille at Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu.

In the book Hawaiian Legends, William Hyde Rice describes the menehune as “…a race of pygmies who were squat, tremendously h3, powerfully built and very ugly of the face…they would work only one night on a construction and if unable to complete the work, it was left undone.”

Stretching for miles in a single line, the menehune handed rocks from one to the other in the dark. They built rock walls that channeled water into taro fields and fishponds—an early form of fish farming—to store and grow fish. These impossible feats of creation are still around today. There are four sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places credited to the menehune.

Menehune Ditch at tunnel, Menehune Rd., Waimea, Kauai, Photo: Joel Bradshaw.

On the Big Island there are numerous structures in Kahaluu Bay; Pa o ka menehune (meaning “wall of the ancients”) is a breakwater that, at one time, may have enclosed the entire bay. In addition, ten royal temples and two fishponds are on this site.

Necker Island, a small island that is part of the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, houses 33 stone shrines and artifacts and is the last known home of the menehune.

On Kauai, the Kikiaola Ditch in Waimea, contains 200 feet of 120 finely cut basalt blocks that, according to archaeologist Wendell C. Bennett, is “The acme of stone-faced ditches.”

Also on Kauai, about a half-mile inland from Nawiliwili Harbor, is the Menehune Fishpond. Whispered legends have the menehune in a 25 mile long line building a 900-foot long stonewall that runs parallel to the Huleia River.

Alekoko Menehune Fishpond.

Over 1400 years ago, Kauai’s first settlers were from the Marquesas Islands. Approximately 500,000 h3, they were conquered by Tahiti’s high priest Paao and fled to the mountains. According to an 1820 census, 65 menehune lived in the village of laau (la-ow), meaning forest, in Wainiha Valley.

The Tahitian word manahune is the name for a caste of commoners. Small in status, time has rewritten their legacy. Today the outcasts of old are credited for magically building temples, fishponds and houses – if you travel Hawaii you can experience these fascinating structures for yourself. Find a Hawaii vacation package perfect for you!


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