The menehunearea race of small people who once inhabited the Hawaiian Islands, often associated with, or described as, fairies. According to lore, they were there long before the Hawaiian settlers arrived.
The menehune are said to be about two feet in height with bushy hair. They do not cook but live on wild plants. The places where they live are believed to be haunted.
The menehune are depicted as strong and diligent workers who prefer to avoid people during the day and conduct their work and business at night. They are renowned for their engineering and are credited with building walls, stone and wood temples (heiau), fish ponds, irrigation ditches and other projects. They prefer to finish a job in a single night and sometimes will abandon work on something not completed in that time span.
Of all the supernatural traditions in Hawaii, the menehune are the most commercialized. They are frequently portrayed in a humorous way as childlike figures wearing the ancient helmets of the island chiefs.
When the menehune approve of a project, they will help the construction work at night. When they disapprove, they disrupt the work with equipment breakdowns and other mysterious happenings. They like offerings of food such as cookies.
The menehune, like Brownies and other types of household spirits, also help out around the house. They may be heard chanting and skittering about at night.
- Beckwith, Martha. Hawaiian Mythology. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1970. First published 1940.
- Grant, Glen. Obake Files: Ghostly Encounters in Supernatural Hawaii. Honolulu: Mutual Publishing, 1996.
- Wichman, Frederick B. Kauai Tales. Honolulu: Bamboo Ridge Press, 1985.