Posted by: Loren Coleman on April 2nd, 2010
Menehune from The Field Guide of Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates. Image © Loren Coleman, Patrick Huyghe, Harry Trumbore, 1999; 2006.
In an article in the Maui Time Weekly published yesterday, April 1st, 2010, writer Anuhea Yagi appeared to be trying to explain away Hawaii’s little people, the Menehune:
Residents and visitors alike can readily conjure the image of happy menehune, the mythical little people famed for their nighttime craftsmanship skills (notably, Kauai’s Alekoko Fishpond, which legend tells was constructed overnight).
Loren Coleman, cryptozoologist and co-author of The Field Guide of Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates (1996) says his book includes his “investigations of the 1940s’ Waimea sightings of Menehune by school superintendent George London and about 45 children from two middle elementary level classrooms.” The children are purported to have “told of seeing the Menehune playing around the large trees on the lawn of the parish property, which stands directly across the street from Waimea High School today.”
The late, celebrated folklorist, Dr. Katharine Luomala proposed her perspective of these Sandwich Isle sprites in a 1951 article for the Bishop Museum titled The Menehune of Polynesia and Other Mythical Little People of Oceania. Turns out there is no oral tradition of menehune pre-contact. Edward Joesting, in his book Kaua’i: The Separate Kingdom, writes, “[i]t seems likely [that] Menehune was the name given by the Tahitians to the early settlers of Hawai’i… There is a logical process in the evolution of the name… Manahune, a slight dialectical variation of Menehune… became a name for a commoner and a term of derision.”
So when trying to explain that a person was of a lower stature, early explorers and missionaries mistook menehune as being akin to hobgoblins of Western lore, like Scotland and Northern England’s “Brownie,” also with nocturnal tendencies. Not so much lost in translation as left in translation, the natives seem to have found the confusion amusing and encouraged the miscommunication—birthing a whole new branch of lore and possibly the first modern Hawaiian hoax.
I wonder if this explanation is some kind of twisted April Fool’s joke?
(The Field Guide of Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates was published in 1999 with the name The Field Guide of Yeti, Bigfoot, and Other Mystery Primates Worldwide, not 1996, as noted above; the revised edition, using the name given above, came out in 2006.)
Certainly, the humor I played along with from the Portland Daily Sun yesterday (still not online), even though it’s appearance was a total surprise to me, was published transparently.
After all, the Portland writer was said to be “Harry N. Henderson” and the professor was named “I. Tread Lightly.” But their use of “Yarncooler,” as a play on “Woolheater” was, actually, quite clever and took a bit of research on the part of the author of the Maine piece, who had to read Cryptomundo to coin that name.
But what are we to make of this Hawaiian article about the Menehune?
It is difficult to take anything written on April 1st too seriously, even skeptical discussions.