Tag Archives: Menehune

The Menehune Men – Hawaiian Folklore

Main Piece:

Subject: In Oahu there’s the Pali Road- or the Pali lookout- and I don’t know the specifics. But when King Kamehameha was unifying all the islands of Hawaii, one of the battles took place on this Pali lookout. So it’s known for this gruesome rich history. Along that road- I’m not sure what the relation is- but there’s folklore of “menehune” which are little tiki men. It’s been popularized and like… put everywhere… so they’re kind of ridiculous when you see photos of them. But… it’s like the lore of little menehune. If you’re driving to Pali lookout and you’re taking the drive on Pali Road… If you have red meat in the car, you have to throw it out of the car as an offering to the menehune or else your car is going to break down. And there was never any follow up to what the menehune would do to you but it was terrifying as a kid if we had red meat.

Interviewer: Who told you that?

Subject: My dad. So the menehune men, you always have to look out for on Pali Road or they’d stop your car.

Context: The subject is a Sophomore at studying Law, History, and Culture at USC. She is of Japanese and Ashkenazi descent, and a third generation resident of Hawaii.  She is a very close friend of mine, and is currently quarantined at her home in Irvine due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The following conversation happened over a facetime call when I asked her to tell me some traditional folklore connected to her heritage. 

Interpretation: I have seen how commercialized and popularized the tiki man has become, so it was interesting to hear the culture significance of the symbol. Upon more research, I found that Menehune men reside in the depths of the forest in Hawaii. They are said to be excellent builders, and Hawaiian myth suggests that they were responsible for building the Alekeko Fishpond in one night more than a thousand years ago. This legend was also interesting to me because it had the modern element of the car breaking down in. It makes sense this particular legend was so scary to the subject, because there is something specifically terrifying about beings hidden in a forests, lurking and waiting.

Menehune

Context: This legend was performed in an apartment to an audience of 3 people.

Background: The informant is from Hawaii, where this is a common legend.

“Menehune are mischievous little creatures who will go around and steal objects. If something goes missing in Hawaii, we’ll blame it on the Menehune. “

This legend probably is a convenient excuse for those who easily lose things.

Hawaiian Folk Belief/Legend Menehune

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background:

My mother’s mother’s mother and even from before her are from Hawaii but some England roots are interjected into the bloodline as well. My mother’s father’s father’s father hails half from Hawaii and the other half from China and Portugal. But what is funny about most Hawaiians, is that they are not only Hawaiian. They are also Caucasian, Portuguese, Chinese, Filipino, Samoan, Japanese, Korean, e.t.c…….Plantation workers were brought in to work the sugar and pineapple fields and they brought their culture with them.

Piece:

From when I was a little girl, we were taught about Menehune. They are little talented craftsmen,  Hawaiian people who help build things to bless others when no one is looking. When the good deed was done and the giver wasn’t pointed out or identified, we would hear our grandparents suggest that the Menehune did it. 🙂

Piece Background Information:

Informant already mentioned within their piece that she learned of the Menehune through her grandparents when she was a young kid.

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Context of Performance:

Via email.

Thoughts on Piece: 
The Menehune seem to be another variation of other magical creatures in the folklore of other cultures such as Ireland’s leprechauns. There are many different origin stories behind the Menehune, but at the end of the day, the Menehune seem to be used or invoked as a solution to unknown phenomena. This is very interesting and explains why tales of the Menehune are still alive today though they date back so far- parents, grandparents, etc. pass it on to their children.