It is now a recognised principle of philosophy, that no religious belief however crude, nor any historical tradition, however absurd, can be held by the majority of a people for any considerable time as true, without having in the beginning some foundation in fact.”… We may be sure that there never was a myth without a meaning; that mythology is not a bundle of ridiculous fancies invented for vulgar amusement; that there is not one of those stories, no matter how silly or absurd, which was not founded in fact, which did not once hold a significance.”

from: H.H. Bancroft, Native Races of the Pacific States, (1875). vol. iii. pp.16, 17.

Menehune Folklore

The basic Menehune story usually describes the Menehune as a dwarf-sized people who lived in the forests and valleys of the Hawaiian Islands. It was said that their favorite foods were bananas and fish.

They were also said to be superb craftspeople, especially as stonemasons. Legends say the Menehune built burial temples, fishponds, dams, roads, canoes and houses. They are also said to have lived in the Hawaiian islands before the arrival of the Tahitian settlers, who subsequently subjugated them.

From Wikipedia: Folklorist Katherine Luomala believes that the legends of the Menehune are a post-European contact mythology created by adaptation of the term manahune (which by the time of the settling of the Hawaiian Islands had acquired a meaning of “lowly people”) to European legends of brownies. Menehune are not mentioned in pre-contact mythology; the legendary “overnight” creation of the Alekoko fishpond, for example, finds its equivalent in the legend about the creation of a corresponding structure on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, which was supposedly indeed completed in a single day – not by menehune, but, as a show of power, by a local ali’i who demanded every one of his subjects to appear at the construction site and assist in building.

The stories about who the Menehune were are many, but Luomala was the primary collector of Polynesian folk tales. Her article, The Menehune of Polynesia and Other Mythical/Little People of Oceania, published by the Bishop Museum in 1951, is the most quoted scholarly folklore source about the Menehune people.

Throughout No ka are stories, legends, and chants related to the Menehune. They are referenced again here:

The Legend of Pi’s Watercourse and Kiki-a-’Ola

Katharine Luomala, The Menehune of Polynesia and Other Mythical/Little People of Oceania Bishop Museum, 1951.

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