Mini Menehune: Having a Drink with Hawaiian Leprechauns


The time I went to dinner only to be bombarded with a folk tale: In 2004 I was on a trip to Atlanta Georgia for a work conference. The supervisor of the cohort from work booked our stay in the famous Atlanta Marriott Marquis. The Marquis is famous for its 470 foot center atrium seen in a number of movies. Normally we were accustomed to staying in more modest dwellings when on a work excursion. Directly across the street at the Hilton was a world famous Tiki Bar, Trader Vics. As a kid Trader Vics was something you saw in the movies or on TV a fancy Polynesian restaurant with lively tropical drinks. It wasn’t hard to convince the cohort to dine here on the second night of the trip and it wasn’t shocking when our bill was over $1000 for the table. I bring up this extravagance as it was a pivotal moment in a facet of my hunting: the weird, the forgotten, the unexplained, and the obscure. We all wore our nicest outfits as we sat at a huge table in this famous Polynesian restaurant; a drink on the menu caught my attention, Menehune Juice! Menehune Juice is described as “A secret blend of island rums and nectars. One Sip and you may see a Menehune…” Menehune, the drawing next to the description showed a drink in an ornate glass with a small person perched at the top. I ordered it not knowing what to expect but I knew that on occasion I enjoyed rum drinks. The server brought out our drinks to oohs and ahhs at the presentation of our cocktails. Mine served in a tumbler glass was garnished with an edible flower and a piece of fruit and a plastic troll like doll of a brown bare breasted woman with white eyebrows, her black hair pulled up into a top knot, an orange necklace and a simple white loin cloth finishing her ensemble. I was a bit taken back for a second as I was now the owner of a bare breasted toy. To my surprise my colleague across from me, on my enthusiastic reading of the drink description, had ordered the same cocktail, yet her drink had a small loin clothed bare chested man with a similar orange necklace, white mustache and a black hait puffed out on the sides and a wave atop. We laughed at our new souvenirs. The server said “why are you laughing, that is the Menehune, you order their drink and they come home with you.” Needless to say I ordered a second drink and brought home a little man for my little woman as my colleagues did the same, in total I think six pairs of Menehune flew home to Pennsylvania with us all having fun adventures. It was an inside joke for years amongst the cohort. At home as I sat looking at my tiny little Polynesian style dolls I fired up my computer and started my research. Seventeen odd years later I know more than I did then but I still don’t know that much, for I had entered the world of the little people. The little people go by many names and have played roles in many cultures all over the world. Trends that appear in legends are their invisibility or ability to hide quickly from the eyes of an unsuspecting human. They often only work at night under the darkness and away from the eyes of humans. Their work ethic is considered to be top notch, incredible craftsmen. Their mischievous nature if offended or they feel you need to be taught a lesson. Most importantly their need to have an offering. Offerings are ancient in origin, I travelled to Pompeii in Italy while in high school. My Magister (teacher) took us to the “House of the Vetti” where a famous Lararium or alter to the Lares, household spirits, a staple in many roman homes, is on display. This altar was a crucial part of the household keeping the spirits content was a priority. American’s stereotypically jump to Leprechaun’s, the little bearded men dressed in green especially around St. Patrick’s Day. While researching Irish folklore, the leprechauns go many directions and don’t have a solid origin. The word leprechaun roughly meaning a small body may even have roots in Lupercalia a roman fertility festival which has ties to the month of February. Irish scholars argue that they originally wore red and a variety of clothing symbolism of button numbers, shoe buckles, and a cocked hat varies by origins. Clothing also varied by the region they called home, possibly regional pride. They are generally described as being male, bearded and three feet tall. The one characteristic all scholars appear to agree with in my research is that they are crafty and mischievous; many tales highlight that they enjoy playing jokes on their unwilling victims. Another facet of the research lies in the offering one must leave to keep them content, often something from your pantry or a libation you have in stock. A glass of whiskey or ale, butter, or other delicacy. Brownies, house spirits from Scotland are said to be very helpful around the house, performing household chores and even chores around the farm. However they are temperamental and will play pranks on lazy people. A Brownie also demands an offering, usually a bowl of milk or cream near the hearth. Described as once large human sized beings they have become small in stature over time. They get their name from the color of their skin, and are described as being covered in hair, ugly, and often in the nude. Similar to the House Elves in Harry Potter, an offer of clothing they will never return. Apparently offering to baptize them has a similar effect. The aforementioned Menehune hails from the islands of Hawaii, noted for their small stature and meticulous craftsmanship, often large works completed overnight in one setting. Only children and connected families can see them otherwise they are invisible. An offering of bananas or fish is well received. The indigenous people of North America mythologies include the Puckwudgie, a group of little people that are not a pleasant variety. The Puckwudgie are known to kidnap, murder, and are best left alone if encountered. The Aztec had the Chaneque a similar sinister little person that prayed on children. The Pennsylvania Dutch tell tales of the “es Bucklich Mennli” the little hunchback man, who is blamed when things around the house or farm didn’t go well. To accommodate bowls of milk where left in observance. While this is just a sampling of the cultures and variety of Little people around the world feel free to email us and share tales, insights, or even your experiences with the Little People. I have a feeling we will be revisiting the topic again, in the meantime I’ll leave out offerings to appease the spirits or little people.