Patupaiarehe, Fairies of Maori Mythology

The Fairies are currently on vacation, visiting their cousins in New Zealand. So here’s a sneak peek at the fairies of Maori mythology…


(Also pakepakeha, turehu.)

Fairy-like creatures in Maori mythology.


Dwelling in the forests or on misty mountaintops, the Patupaiarehe were described as pale-skinned beings with reddish or golden hair. The Tuhoe tribe described them as small in stature, while they assumed giant-like proportions in Whanganui stories. In other accounts, they were a similar size to humans. One reason for the varying descriptions of height may be that patupaiarehe could generally be heard but not seen by ordinary Maoris. Usually only tohunga, or shamans, could see and communicate with them.

Like the Maori people, patupaiarehe lived in close-knit communities. In some accounts they built their homes or settlements, known as pa, out of mist. In others they built them from vines, or kareao. Though they engaged in some of the same activities as humanshunting, fishing, making lovethey were considered to be iwi atua, supernatural beings belonging to the spirit world, set apart from the world of mortals. As such they were regarded as tapu, taboo or sacred. Therefore, certain restrictions were associated with them. Unlike mortal Maori, they were never tattooed and they consumed only raw food. It was said that cooked food was offensive to them, and cooking fires and ash were used to ward them away. Another method of repelling patupaiarehe was to smear kōkōwai, a mixture of iron oxide and shark oil, on the walls of a home.

Patupaiarehe were most active at night or on misty days and were afraid of sunlight and fire. They were skilled musicians; when a male patupaiarehe played his flute to woo a mortal Maori woman, it was said she was powerless to resist. Albino and urukehu or red-haired offspring were believed to be the result of such unions.

Patupaiarehe were also skilled in the arts of magic and fishing and credited with imparting this sacred knowledge to the Maori people.