A Cannibal Trio Invites You to Lunch

Ok, first off, when it comes to cannibals you don’t get much cooler than these 3 bad boys. Somehow they’ve managed to weave their way into tiki/Polynesian pop culture more than just about any other man-eater. Where they originally came from seems to be a mystery, but they’ve shown up in tiki bars across the globe and seem to be here to stay. Some even credit them with launching the “tiki era”.

Don the Beachcomber style Cannibals

Don's Style Carvings - Musée du Quai Branly

Don the beachcomber Cannibals

Actual Carving on the Back Bar at Don's - photo BigBroTiki

While there seems to be some debate over the actual origin of the carvings that launched the guys into tiki folklore… Were they from Bora Bora or Marquesan carvers that came to Tahiti to make souvenirs for the tourists there? If you are interested in learning more, I suggest you dive down the rabbit hole at Tiki Central and see what you think. I am only scratching the surface here.

Don the Beachcomber Menu

Don the Beachcomber Menu. Photo - Ebay

As for how they entered modern tiki culture, I think this might be another one we can credit Don the Beachcomber with. Donn had a set of these tikis that were know as his “pets tikis”. According to Tiki Central,“The original Don cannibals were his only pet Tikis, he had them in his back bar in Hollywood”. They seemed to spread from one of Don The Beachcomber’s menus to Steve Crane’s Luau, where he used them on matchbooks, menus etc. This also introduced a modified look to the trio’s eyes.

 Luau Beverly Hills Matchbook

Luau Beverly Hills Matchbook 

Tiki expert Sven Kirsten noted in Ukulele Magazine: “While Don had owned a trio of the so-called Tahitian Cannibal Tikis, he never made much use of them in his promotions. When the Thorntons opened the Mai Kai in December 1956, these tikis graced their ads, menus, and matchbooks to beckon the pleasure seekers. A new era of Polynesian pop had begun: The Tiki Era.” From here they spread through the tiki world to be featured on Mugs, shirts and menus from tiki bars all over. Many people think of the carvings as a “holy grail” of sorts – definitely something cool for your collection.

 Mai Kai Menu and shirt

Mai Kai Menu and Shirt circa 1959 - Photos BigBroTiki

So who are these 3 hungry fellows? I like to call them The Hunter, The Eater and Full Belly. (I believe Bosko called the Hunter, Catcher and Digester.) I have heard many other names and even suggestions that they go in other orders. But the explanation that makes the most sense to me follows the basic food hunting/eating process. However there are more theories that you might find more to your liking.

Doug Horne Mai Kai Print

Amazing Print by Doug Horne Features the Trio

The PinTiki pin of the 3 Cannibals was based on my first exposure to the trio, a matchbook from Steve Crane’s Luau in Beverly Hills. They were so primitive and cool. In my version, I put them into my proffered order and fixed the eyes to be more like the original carved style – while trying to keep the rough feel of the Luau artwork that originally inspired me.

 PinTiki Cannibal Trio Pin and matchbook

PinTiki Cannibal Trio Pin and Luau Matches 

You can get your own Cannibal Trio limited edition collector pin by clicking here. Get them while you can, they are a limited edition run. And if you have any more info you’d like to share about the cannibals please comment below.

PinTiki Cannibal Trio Pin 

Mahalo, Todd

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