In Hawaiian mythology, the Menehune are said to be a people, sometimes described as dwarfs in size, who live in the deep forests and hidden valleys of the Hawaiian Islands, far from the eyes of normal humans. Their favorite food is the maia ( banana), and they also like fish.
The Menehune were said to be superb craftspeople. Legends say that the Menehune built temples ( heiau), fishponds, roads, canoes, and houses. Some of these structures that Hawaiian folklore attributed to the Menehune still exist. They are said to have lived in Hawaii before settlers arrived from Polynesia many centuries ago.
In Beckwith's Hawaiian Mythology, there are references to several other forest dwelling races: the Nawao, who were large-sized wild hunters descended from Lua-nuu, the mu people, and the wa people.
Some early scholars theorized that there was a first settlement of Hawaii, by settlers from the Marquesas Islands, and a second, from Tahiti. The Tahitian settlers oppressed the "commoners", the manahune in the Tahitian language, who fled to the mountains and were called Menahune. Proponents of this theory point to an 1820 census of Kauai by Kaumualii, the ruling Alii Aimoku of the island, which listed 65 people as menehune.
Folklorist Katharine Luomala believes that the legends of the Menehune are a post-European contact mythology created by adaptation of the term manahune (which by the time of the colonizing of the Hawaiian Islands by Europeans had acquired a meaning of "lowly people" or "low social status" and not diminutive in stature) to European legends of brownies. '"It is claimed that "Menehune'' are not mentioned in pre-contact mythology, although this is unproven since it was clearly an oral mythology; the legendary "overnight" creation of the Alekoko fishpond, for example, finds its equivalent in the legend about the creation of a corresponding structure on Oahu, which was supposedly indeed completed in a single day — not by menehune but, as a show of power, by a local alii who demanded every one of his subjects to appear at the construction site and assist in building.
No physical evidence for the existence of a historical people that fits the description of the Menehune has been discovered.
Usage examples of "menehune".
True to their code, the Menehunes turned them into twin pillars of stone, at the spot where they stood, on the mountainside above the pool.