Folklorist Katharine Luomala (i) noted in 1951  that before the end of WWII there was little attempt to use the Menehune for commercial purposes. That ended, apparently, in the late 1940s and early 50s, when “the energetic Menehune (were) lured to the main business streets and put to work as salesmen.” This trend has continued to the present, whether by first time visitors, Hawaiian school children, kama’aina businessmen–or Hawaii State government. Creative interpretations of these “little people” are used for many purposes, in art, dance, story, video games, signage–it even occupies the dreams of otherwise clear-headed people. The Menehune is the archetypical fairy story–Hawaiian style.

The images below represent a sample of the many interpretations of the Menehune. Some are based on theories about Menehune origins, others have been offered by individuals who want to share their Menehune experiences and stories; most are interpretations from stories old and new, some whimsical–others based on ‘sightings’ both ancient and new.

Unfortunately, the authorship and stories behind some of these images was lost when the original site was taken down, and I no longer have access to my content. I’m slowly rebuilding the site database, with apologies to the authors. If the source and/or background of the images without attribution is known by anyone reading this, please contact me in the comments below, and I will gratefully update the image references.

“IrminsulArt” a Flickr contributor,  posted her series titled “Menehune: the Wee folk of Hawaii”, notes: "Basically they were the "faeries" of the Hawaiian Islands, to whom are attributed great luck and blessings, and even greater misfortune if you rub them the wrong way. This one takes a liking to hiding in the coil of an unfolding island fern.” image008 images20
© IRMINSUL ART 2008 All rights reserved.
“This is from a series of illustrations I am currently doing called “MENEHUNE: THE WEE FOLK OF HAWAII“. Basically they were the “faeries” of the Hawaiian Islands, to whom are attributed great luck and blessings, and even greater misfortune if you rub them the wrong way. This one takes a liking to hiding in the coil of an unfolding island fern.”


 TheoJunior ( posted this
image, which he titled “Menehune”, and this note: “Menehune are the little people of ancient Hawaii who sought shelter in the mountains and the forests from later and larger Polynesians. Their last refuge was on Necker Island, treeless but birdful, where they built stone structures that pointed skyward. One day, they changed to birdmen and flew off toward Rapa Nui.”
 menehune_pic15  images12 images22
In Hawai’i the mythology of the Menehune is as old as the beginnings of Polynesian history. When the first Polynesians arrived in Hawai’i they found dams, fish-ponds, and even heiau, all presumably built by the Menehune who were already there, living in the forests and caves.They reputedly built the largest aquaculture reservoir, the Alekoko Fishpond located near Nawiliwili Harbour outside Lihue, Kauai. Built nearly 1,000 years ago, it has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973.

Pono Loa, a beta video game in which a magical world of Hawaiian myth, “where shark gods rule the sea, bone breakers stalk the jungles, and island magic keeps exotic monsters at bay,” includes these characters, called Menehune, of course.

 images21 images18  Menehune at Aulani
 At Aulani, a Hawaiian-themed Disney-owned resort on Oahu, an interactive family game where guests search out the ‘Menehune’ figures scattered throughout the grounds and common areas. According to the Aulani website, the legend of the real, ancient Menehune suggests that some of them found refuge on Necker Island, northwest of Kaua`i, and that their life on the island is suggested by mysterious images found in the ancient stone structures there. The Aulani Imagineering team, working with subject matter experts and reviewing the collection at the Bishop Museum of history and culture on O`ahu, took cues from the Necker Island images in designing the Menehune who will populate Aulani.
 Scientists have found skeletons of a hobbit-like species of human that grew no larger than a three-year-old modern child. The tiny humans, who had skulls about the size of grapefruits, lived with pygmy elephants and Komodo dragons on a remote island in Indonesia 18,000 years ago. Some speculate that H. Floresiensis somehow made their way to the Hawaiian Islands thousands of years ago, and are the ancestors of the Menehune people of Hawaii.  See:
“Hobbit-Like Human Ancestor Found in Asia”, National Geographic October 2004
 menehune by butterfrog
Menehune by butterfrog“One of the “monsters that appears in the Razor Coast Source Book/Adventure. These guys are kind of tropical “pixies”.”Razor Coast is a Caribe-Polynesian flavored… RPG campaign envisioned and designed by Nicolas Logue and a team of designers, including Lou Agres, Adam Daigle, Tim Hitchcock, and John Ling.”

(i) Luomala, Katharine. The Menehune of Polynesia and other Mythical Little People of Oceania. Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 203. (1951) Honolulu Hawaii.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sidnee May 10, 2014 at 5:08 PM

The following comments were posted on the original No ka Menehune website, and reposted here:

Ray Holmes July 31, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Suggest you track down a book called Tales of a Dark Rainbow recorded by Whitechurch I believe, an oral history of a Molokai menehune woman . It was written around late 18 hundreds or 1900.

The people were last reported in an 1886 census of Hawaii –65.

They were a deeply spiritual people far ahead of western culture in their philosophical and culturial practice of oneness with all things.

The Tahitians finally drove most of them out of Hawaii . On Kauai most all of the heahu (temples)were built by them.
He who wins writes the history . Consequently the Tahitians pictured them as cute mythical creatures rather then the advanced culture they were.

Sidnee Wheelwright August 1, 2011 at 11:01 am

Hello Ray,
I will certainly track down this book and read it. I’ve been looking for oral histories from people who call themselves menehune. Thanks also for your comments. I will be updating and adding to this wiki site very soon.
Sidnee Wheelwright January 29, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Ray – I haven’t been able to find the book you mentioned: Tales of a Dark Rainbow, recorded by Whitechurch. Could you give me more information?
Ryan Wheelwright February 3, 2012 at 1:03 pm

I wonder if this is it?

Tales from the Night Rainbow
In 2005, Pasifika Foundation Hawai’i provided the funding for the publication of Tales from the Night Rainbow: Mo’olelo o na Po Makole.

This small but important book recounts the oral history of the Kai’akea family of the Mo’o Clan of Moloka’i, which traces its roots back to an estimated 800 B.C. These stories are recorded as told by Kaili’ohe Kame’ekua of Kamalo, Molokai (1816–1931).

The tales were collected by Koko Willis and Pali Jae Lee and first published in 1986 as a compilation of remembrances for the children of the ‘Ohana Kame’ekua, as the family elders wanted the children to know who they were and the history of their family.

In 1990 a larger, more expanded version was published and made available to a wider audience. Further small printings were made in 1994 and 2001, but the book’s appeal and significance made it very difficult to keep in stock.

Pasifika Foundation Hawai’i felt that the message of this little book was an important one to be kept in circulation, and provided the funding for a large printing of the sixth edition. It can be ordered from a number of vendors, including Native Books/Na Mea Hawaii:

Order from Native Books

Some excerpts from Tales From the Night Rainbow:

From page 17:
“Most Hawaiian histories have been written from the pathways taken by foreigners who wrote Hawaiian history as they saw and believed things to be. It was not a Hawaiian view, or from a Hawaiian pathway. These stories I tell you are taken from my family, on Moloka’i. They are the stories as told by Kai-akea to my teacher and beloved mother Ka’a kau Makaweliweli and she in turn taught those of us who were part of her halau (school) in Kapualei.

“The ancient ones were the people who were maoli (native) to Hawaii. Seven or eight years ago the Tahitians came to our islands, and since then the stories of our origins and lifer have been dominated by their outlook. In many ways the Tahitians were a people similar to us, but in other ways we were as light is to the dark. The early ones lived with an attitude about life that gave them what we would call great mana (power) over their surroundings, but it is really the power of love and kinship working through the feelings of the objects we live among.”

From page 18-19:
“It was the belief of our family line that we had been here from the beginning. People had gone out from our land to the East and to the West, and populated other lands. We had chants that told of such migrations from our islands.

“We taught by stories and parables. One of the earliest and most important to us was:

“Each child born has at birth, a Bowl of perfect Light. If he tends his Light it will grow in strength and he can do all things – swim with the shark, fly with the birds, know and understand all things. If, however, he becomes envious or jealous, he drops a stone into his Bowl of Light and some of the Light goes out. Light and the stone cannot hold the same space. If he continues to put stones in the Bowl of Light, the Light will go out and he will become a stone. A stone does not grow, nor does it move. If at any time he tires of being a stone, all he needs to do is turn the bowl upside down and the stones will fall away and the Light will grow once more.”

The stories or parables were teachings and reminders. The maoli had stories of vines, trees, seeds, fish, earth, sea and sky: the things that were common to the people and that they understood. When a child began to speak, the family began to teach him about the world of which he was a part.”
Sidnee Wheelwright February 3, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Thanks Ryan! I’ve been looking for something like this… Now I have more information, maybe I can find the text to add to my library, and this site.
Sidnee March 11, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Ryan and Ray, I found Tales from the Night Rainbow, by Pali Lee and Koko Willis, published in 1986. It is now part of my collection of books about the menehune. According to the authors, “This book is written in first person. The stories are being shared with us by our big grandma, Kaili’ohe Kame’ekua of Kamalo, Moloka’i. 1816-1931.” I am looking forward to reading this book and will report on it in a future post.
sarabjeet July 20, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I’m trying to add an image. Can somebody help me?
Sidnee Wheelwright July 21, 2012 at 12:55 am

Sarabjeet – If you can email it to me, I will post it for you. I will need to size it to fit the format, not as easy as it should be for a wiki site (sorry about that). Please include a description you would like use for your drawing, and a url link, if you want to link your drawing to a website you are a member of like Picasa, or another image posting site (not required). Mail to:


Sidnee May 10, 2014 at 5:16 PM

Sarabjeet: Your menehune image is now posted in the Image Gallery, with attribution. Sorry for the delay. When the original website was damaged last year, much of the content was lost. Most has now been recovered, and is being reposted to the new website.


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