Menehune live in Hawaii but are not Hawaiians. They are a group of tiny, muscular, hairy people who live in the mountainous forest, sometimes in caves there. Some speculate that their legend derives from the original settlers of the Hawaiian islands, who sailed from the Marquesas and were defeated by the subsequent settlers from Tahiti.
Although the Menehune were a society complete with chiefs and women, most stories are tales of the workman feats of the extremely strong males. They build large projects such as dams, temples, and fishpond walls. The Menehune are rarely seen and come out en masse after dusk, when many, many of them together complete an expertly-crafted job in a single night. They must finish before the cock crows at dawn, or quit. Some stories have circulated about partial stone walls that were abandonned when morning came before work was done. What a fantasy to have little people efficiently do your hardest work and not get in your way!
The Menehune eat whole food, such as shrimp, poi, small fish, and bananas, preferring not to leave uneaten parts, like those leftover after a meal of large fish or pork. They talk in low, gruff sounds, or do not talk at all. For recreation, they dive off cliffs, or roll down hills. They also play mischievous tricks on the Hawaiians.
Weli and Maliu, the two Menehune men illustrated here, work at a construction site. They wear their typical attire: almost nothing. However, paper dolls require clothes, so a chief's outfit with helmet and cape was included, as well as other clothing similar to that of the old Hawaiians. Because Menehune are known primarily as workmen, the other garments are simple: mid-century Aloha shirts and shorts.
Kwei-lin Lum copyright 1999