Menehune : the Truth Behind Legends of Hawaii’s Little People

The Menehune are supposedly mythical people, about two feet tall who inhabited, and indeed may still live in the forests of the Hawaiian Islands.
The Menehune were real people whose story has been corrupted over the centuries. Any tour guide in Hawaii will tell you that the Menehune were small, leprechaun-like people, about two feet tall that lived deep in the forests and were very shy. They worked in large numbers, and were master craftsmen, building great canoes, stone temples (heiau), irrigation channels, and fishponds. Each project was conducted over the course of a single night. A very secretive people, it is said that they could render themselves invisible.

Origin of the Name Menehune

This above description is more fairy tale than legend. The Menehune were more probably the real flesh and blood Manahune, the first Hawaiian people who arrived in the islands from the Marquesas (near Tahiti) about 2000 years ago.
It was actually a name imposed on them by later arrivals, from Tahiti proper, or more specifically the island of Ra’iatea around the year 1200. Manahune is a Hawaiian word, meaning small power (Mana means power, and hune means small.) The Tahitians were more war-like that the Manahune, who are said to have been a peaceful and highly spiritual people, capable of levitating large stones with mind power. Due to their passive nature, they were easily dominated by the Tahitians. The name Manahune was a derogatory term given to these gentle people who showed little physical resistance.

A Lost Continent?

The Manahune called themselves the Mu, and the Hawaiian Islands were also called Mu. This term has been often over-used by New Age participants who fantasize about a great continent in the Pacific Ocean that sank to the sea floor thousands of years ago. In reality, at the end of the last ice age, approximately 12,500 years ago, the sea level globally rose by almost 400 feet. Previous to this occurrence, the islands of Maui, Moloka’i, and Lana’i would have been one land mass; not a continent, but still large.
The Mo’olele (Flying Lizard) is a traditional Hawaiian double hull sailing canoe, or Wa’a Kaulua in Hawaiian. This canoe was built on Maui in 1975.
The Mu people were very adept in the fields of astronomy, agriculture, and stone masonry, to name a few. As such, the Tahitians exploited these gifts, forcing the Mu to build monumental stone structures, fish ponds, and agricultural irrigation systems within a very narrow time frame. To fail to achieve the set goal within that time meant death.

The Mu Flee Northward

Under the oppressive Tahitian regime, those of the Mu who could flee did so, in outrigger and double hull canoes in a northerly direction. The last main island in the Hawaiian chain, Kaua’i, was their last refuge. This helps to explain why many of the legends about the Manahune take place on Kaua’i. Over time, the remaining Mu people were absorbed into the general Hawaiian population. Some stories suggest that the last of them, able to reach the tiny island of Mokumanamana ( Island of Sacred Power) which is 430miles or 690 km northwest of Honolulu, lived out their lives on this 46 acres of barren stone. Or maybe they sailed on to another land.

Do Chefs in Honolulu Dine at Restaurants that Serve Traditional Hawaiian Cuisine?

Do Honolulu chefs dine at restaurants that serve traditional Hawaiian cuisine? Discover honolulu chefs’ favorite dining spots to savor authentic Hawaiian flavors. These culinary experts seek out establishments that showcase the rich heritage and unique island ingredients of Hawaiian cuisine. From poi and kalua pig to poke and lomi lomi salmon, these chefs know the best places to indulge in traditional dishes that highlight the local flavors of the Aloha State.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here