Hawaiian Weekly Calls Menehune: “First Hoax”

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.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

5 Responses to “Hawaiian Weekly Calls Menehune: “First Hoax””

  1. terrenceaym responds:

    Sociologists and anthropologists often try to dismiss evidence that doesn’t fit into their own pet theories. Unfortunately, that undermines the scientific process and the entire philosophy of the scientific method.

    An excellent background article about the Menehune can be found here.

  2. shumway10973 responds:

    Besides, what else could have motivated the author to write this piece? Did they see something and the article is an attempt to rationalize their world? Are they such a skeptic that even the physical evidence of little people in the Pacific region has them grasping for some foundation? This could very well be just an April 1 joke. Although I really don’t play too much on that day. I’ve seen people get bit by their own jokes. I play jokes on every other day instead.

  3. alanborky responds:

    Loren, if that was an April Fool’s piece, then it was the lamest EVER!

    It strikes me, at a time when Flores ‘man’ has caused all the ancient to present day accounts of ‘little people’ to be transformed from ‘mere fairy tales’ to series contenders for ‘possibly based on reality’, Anuhea Yagi seems in an awful rush to discredit the menehune.

    It almost smacks of the surprisingly common anxiety I’ve encountered in many would-be ‘disprovers’ of telepathy, ghosts, etc., who in unguarded moments often admit they find the very idea of such things deeply unnerving and, in some cases, even confessing to having ‘imagined’ such experiences themselves.

  4. Dr Kaco responds:

    Sounds like haters to me Loren. Chin up dude! 😉

  5. Cloud responds:

    given that i know anuhea yagi on that “deep personal” level, i can tell you that her weekly article can essentially be about anything she want to write about, fiction or non-fiction. we had a brief conversation about this particular article a few weeks back . she told me this was just an april fools day joke, to stir up some feedback in the local community. anuhea yagi is one of the most open minded people i’ve ever met, i know with out asking her that she didn’t mean to offend loren or anyone else in the crypto field. on top of that she is part hawaiian and deeply spiritual about the culture and myths, even trying to preserve them in her own light. add in the fact that she is the associate editor for the whole mauitime paper and has deadlines to meet everyday, and other people’s work to re-write.. she works all day, and most nights too. if she saw this post, she would probably first apologize profusely to anyone that was offended, then interject with all the “facts” she knows about menehune. then modestly state the article was probably “pure shit” or “rushed because of other deadlines.” if you did read our weekly paper with any regularity you would come to find out that anuhea yagi has a twisted dark sense of humor, which does not always translate well into the written word for the masses. i can say that openly and honestly because i know her so well. she often writes hidden metaphors about her personal subjective reality into her work, that no one would ever notice unless she explained them. it’s subtle and great reading material. she’s a 25 year old epic cancer survivor, it’s kinda a chuck palahniuk / philip k dick style of writing.

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