Who are the Menehune?
The Menehune myths are best known in Hawaii and throughout Polynesia, where they are called the Manahune or Manaune. Katherine Luomala writes “that there is an ancient Hawaiian tradition and narratives that until a great flood destroyed it, there was a vast Pacific continent which included all of what is now Polynesia and Fiji. The flood covered the lowlands of the continent and left exposed the highlands which became islands; then the ocean filled the lowlands permanently.”
The Menehune are considered to be the original inhabitants of the Hawaiian islands, who work only at night and are invisible during the day. They lived primarily in Kailua, Pauoa, Puowaina, Kaimuki and Waolani. Also, if their work is not completed by dawn it will be abandoned. The Menehune live in highland forests, forests, remote valleys and on mountain sides and only come down at night. They are described as two or three feet tall, thick and hairy; in addition, they are unpleasant to look at though they are not angry or mean. Their laughter carries far but their language is described as growls.
The Menehune at Mount Shasta
In Mount Shasta, the Menehune are responsible for the mysterious lights that go around the mountain in the evening and early morning. The three groups that survived the prehistoric flood were the Menehune, the Mu and the Wa. The Menehune, destroyed the other two groups or made them flee. The Wintu Native American tribe that lives around Mt. Shasta believed that there was an invisible race of people living on the mountain. These may be the Menehune. According to the Wintu, their laughter can be heard up to a mile away. The Menehune of Mount Shasta do not have agriculture but rather live off the land and store food for winter in the lava tubes. People who are unkind to the Menehune are punished, while those that show kindness are rewarded. Those Menehune who are disobedient to others are sometimes turned to stone.
In their descriptions, the Manahunes did not work with stone, but were laborers and considered the lowest serving class of society. Manahunes are tiny people from Tahiti, Tuamotus, and Rarotonga. They are considered natives as aborigines of less than pygmy size who built earthworks, stonework and natural features of the landscape in their islands. However, the Manahune, unlike the Menehune, are visible to humans.
The Manahune of the central Polynesian Islands have been documented by Captain James Cook (1728-1779), J.R. Forster and crew members. Read more about their voyages here at “Cook and Omai.” This book describes some of their encounters with the little peoples.
Interestingly, the Menehune are related to the Mu, who are hairy and have beards. According to Puku’i, the Mu were a primarily banana-eating people and were a tribe of the Menehune. According to John M. Lydgate (1913; 1920; 1924) the Mu were settled prior to the Menehune, and are considered a much older race. The Mu are the original inhabitants of the islands who sought refuge in the mountains. They are brown skinned and the same height of the Menehune. Whereas The Menehune people lacked fire, clothes, and arts the Mu originally lived at Wainiha on Kawuai and were considered very clever.
“Although no relationship is seen between them and the Menehune, and the Mu are given advanced traits like farming and the use of fire, they are described as a mythical people from beautiful Kuaihelanie on the deep, blue sea of Kane” (Luomala).
The Yaktavians at Mount Shasta
There is also another group of Little People that reportedly live on Mt. Shasta. The Yaktavians, also called the Secret Commonwealth, create bells, which announce floods or other doom. The bells are also used to repel visitors and are invisible. Their cities, Iletheleme and Yaktavia, were constructed using the vibration of the bells to carve huge hollows underneath Mt. Shasta. There is very little information besides this reference regarding the Secret Commonwealth at Mount Shasta.
Read the original context for this information from California Folklore Quarterly (1945).