The Menehune

Although he has spent the majority of his life living on the continental United States, my informant considers himself to be Hawaiian culturally and still holds on to the Hawaiian speech and traditions that he learned as a child. When asked about any tales or legends he may have heard about when growing up, the first thing he mentioned was the legend of the Menehune. According to my informant, the Menehune are “Hawaiian Leprechauns.” While the Menehune likely do not come from the Irish tales of Leprechauns, they are similar in that they are “little people who are hard to find.” The Menehune, while small and human-like are often treated as a different species entirely. According to the legend, the Menehune are a group of “dwarves who live in the forest away from people.” When asked about how he knew about them, my informant revealed that his parents told him about the Menehune when he found a small dam in a river as a child. According to him, the Menehune are often held accountable for the creation of small dams placed in rivers and creeks that the Hawaiian natives could explain otherwise. This is because they are thought to be “really good craftsmen.” As such, the Menehune were the explanation for any man-made looking constructions found in the deep forests of Hawaii far away from any tribal civilization. As far as temperament goes, my informant told me that the Menehune “aren’t nice and if you see one you are supposed to leave them alone” and that “they are a sign of bad luck.” Other than that, as far as my informant is aware, “there isn’t really that much to them. They kind of just build things and live in the forest.”

This tale is interesting as it seems to tread the line between a unique Hawaiian belief and a very Hawaiian version of the Irish Leprechaun. However, regardless of its origin and its relation to the Irish tales, it is interesting nonetheless to compare these two faeries. The Menehune for example, is considered a sign of bad luck which is the opposite of the Leprechaun. Also, unlike the Leprechaun, the Menehune isn’t considered to be very magical. Rather, they are more similar to small people. However, both the Menehune and the Leprechaun are expert craftsmen and are known to be very good at building whatever it is they build (buildings for the Menehune and shoes for the Leprechaun). All of this leads me to believe that while the Menehune and the Leprechaun are similar faeries, they should not be thought of as different versions of each other. This is not because of what they do, but rather because of how they are viewed by their respective cultures. Because the Hawaiians view and treat the Menehune in such an opposite was as the Irish treat the Leprechauns, I believe that despite my informant’s suggestion that “the Menehune are basically Hawaiian Leprechauns” they are a unique faerie to their culture.