Honolulu Lite

Charles Memminger

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Giant discovery of tiny
humans may lead
to menehune

It's appropriate on this Halloween Day that we consider the recent discovery of a tiny species of human that lived on an Indonesian island along with rats the size of dogs, lizards the size of alligators and elephants the size of ponies.

Some suspect that Flores island was a repository for God's early attempts at making animals. (God: There. I've made rat. Hey, that doesn't look right. If I make the rat that big, how big am I going to have to make a cat? And the elephant, I'm not pleased with him, either. Note to Gene Fabrication Department: Make elephant bigger. As big as the hamster we made last week. And when you're done with that, make the hamster smaller. The size of a pony. Dern ... this is harder than I thought it was going to be.)

But it's true -- the part about the tiny humans and weird animals, not the part about God. Scientists just discovered the remains of 3-foot-high humans, which they've nicknamed "Hobbits," because, you know, when you make a discovery that completely changes human history, it's always good to belittle the discovery by naming it after a silly made-up creature from a book.

The little people lived around 18,000 years ago, and no one knows why they died out. It could be that they simply evolved downward over thousands of years until they disappeared. On the other hand, when you're that tiny and you live on a little island with rats the size of dogs and lizards the size of alligators, culinary accidents do happen.

But the cool thing about this discovery is it makes it possible that stories of little people around the world aren't just myths, but true history. There really could have been leprechauns dancing around Ireland with bowls of magically delicious Lucky Charms cereal. And Hawaii really might have been populated by menehune, the legendary shy yet industrious forest-dwellers.

Legend has it that Kauai was simply teeming with menehune who built walls and fish ponds, many of which still stand today. It is possible that menehune are descendants of the Flores little people who sailed to Hawaii in double-hulled canoes the size of golf carts.

You can just imagine when they first landed on, say, Molokai and remarked, "Wow, what a BIG island." Then they landed on Oahu and said, "Now THIS is a big island." And when they finally landed on the Big Island, they were just speechless. It's a small world after all, unless you are only 3 feet tall.

The menehune apparently didn't bring any of the exotic Flores animals with them. So we were lucky there. When you've got cockroaches the size of a slipper, you don't need any dog-size rats.

They probably lived happy lives, building walls and ditches because, you know, you can never have too many of those. According to legend, they liked dancing, singing and archery. In that order. Which explains why many menehune celebrations ended in bloodshed.

The menehune were probably stomped out, literally, when the Polynesians arrived. (Hey, who are those big guys?) The Flores island discovery should now lead to a hunt for menehune remains on Kauai. How hard can it be? If you find a bow or arrow the size of a tire iron, you're on the right track.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Charles Memminger, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail cmemminger@starbulletin.com



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