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Tales of the Menehune

By Mary Kawena Pukui

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Book Id: WPLBN0002096995
Format Type: PDF eBook:
File Size: 17.44 MB
Reproduction Date: 8/2/2011

Title: Tales of the Menehune  
Author: Mary Kawena Pukui
Language: English
Subject: Non Fiction, Education, Hawaiian Education
Collections: Folklore, Authors Community, Sociology, Literature, Naval Science, Most Popular Books in China, Law, Government, Education
Publication Date:
Publisher: Kamehameha Schools Press
Member Page: Hale Kuamo╩╗o Hawaiian Language Center


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Kawena Pukui, B. M. (1985). Tales of the Menehune. Retrieved from

These legends have been selected with the thought that, in length and content, they are suitable to be told or read to young children as well as to be read by older ones. Some are very old legends, common to many Pacific islands, and others are of recent origin. The menehune were the little people of Hawaiian tales. As they lived in the mountain forests and only came to the lowland at night, they were not often seen. Yet the Hawaiians could describe them. They were two or three feet tall, the stories said, thickset and hairy. Some of them were never heard to talk while others talked with deep, gruff voices. The Hawaiians said their talk sounded like the low growl of a dog, and their laughter could be heard far away. The mu, a banana-eating people, were a tribe of the menehune. These little people worked at night. They worked together and in great numbers. In a single night they could accomplish mighty deeds such as building a road or heiau or walling in a fish pond. Once they even took a spring from its rocky bed and carried it, bundled in ti leaves, down to the lowland so that villagers might have its water for their taro patches. At cock-crow all work must stop for that was menehune law, and a job must be finished in a single night. Men still point to certain walls left unfinished when morning came too quickly.

Laka stood among the great trees of the koa forest. "This is such a tree as my grandmother told me of," he thought. "It is straight and has grown strong fighting the mountain winds. Such a tree will make a strong canoe, one that can fight ocean waves." Then Laka prayed and went to work with his stone tool. All day he worked. At last the great tree fell, and Laka went home, tired but satisfied. "Tomorrow I shall trim off the branches," he thought. "I shall cut the log to the right length for a canoe. Then I must shape it, but I have no skill in shaping a canoe." When tomorrow came he could not find the log. "I should have marked the place," he thought. "Was it here or over there?" He wandered through the forest, but could not find the tree that he had cut. He cut down another and this time looked carefully to make sure of finding his log the next day. But the next day there was no log! It seemed to Laka that he found the tree. The place was right, and there stood a tree just like the one he'd cut the day before. He rubbed his eyes. Was someone raising the tree that he cut down? He would try once more. So once again he cut down a tree, marked the place carefully, and went home to sleep. The next day he returned at dawn. There stood the tree he had cut down! Someone had put it back in place, and not one mark of his stone tool was left upon its trunk. Laka stood looking, thinking, then returned to the village to talk with his grandmother.


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