Patupaiarehe came up in conversation the other day – people who inhabit the mist in New Zealand – because a friend’s baby girl said one of her favourite things about the caves at Whatipu was ‘the creature’, which, on questioning turned out to be a smiling, tall, white man with two things (feathers? – it was a hand gesture) in his hair – red hair. This creature had ‘drawings’ on his face (like tattoos?), and I know they’re not supposed to be tattooed, but still, Baz never saw anyone in the cave… and the area is one which the patupaiarehe are said to inhabit…

I’ve always liked Patupaiarehe… according to what I’ve been told, they live on hilltops or in bushy areas… they like the dark and the mist and they’re often associated with certain features of the landscape. They do interact a lot with humans, they fish, hunt, are shy and have magic, but don’t like cooked food or ochre… Paul used to get warned off going down to the beach in the mist, because the patupaiarehe might take him… and his mother, actually lots of people, still won’t get caught in the Waipoua forest near nightfall…

According to very old writings (which the language itselfs dates to a certain colonial attitude…), “They have reddish skin, hair with a golden tinge called uru-kehu, eyes black or blue. Pipi, wife of Ira the son of Uenuku, is famed as an urukehu (Elsdon Best, J.P.S., 27 (1918) 18). Albinos are considered the offspring of Maori women with fairy lovers. The Patupaiarehe may be seen in the early morning. They are full-sized, dress in white, are not tattooed, and nurse children in their arms (Taylor, Ika a Maui ed. 2 (1870) 153–154). [NOTE: the full reference, on p. 154, should be read; there are several details of importance which are not in the transcript. Ed.] They are a very numerous people, merry, cheerful, singing like crickets [cicadas]. They work at night and cease working when the sun rises. Their skin is light like that of a European. They do not bend down the reeds when they walk. Their canoe is a stem of flax [? a mokihi]. From them Kahukura learns to make netting for fish nets (Grey, Polynesian Mythology ed. 2 (1885) 178–183). They are a peaceful folk and have guardianship of the sacred places (wahi tapu). They use wooden and bone flutes called putorino and koauau. Their path is in the drifting clouds and the low-lying banks of cloud (Cowan, J.P.S., 30 (1921) 96–102, 142–151).” (p226, Journal of the Polynesian Society 51(3)1942)

“The Maoris themselves recognised various shades of skin colour. Several legends are extant concerning a red-haired, fair-skinned, pre-Maori race known as Turehu or Patupaiarehe. One of these Patupaiarehe tribes was known as the Pakepakeha, and according to one theory this is the origin of the word Pakeha which is applied to the fair skinned European as distinguished from the darker skinned [-p.39] Maori. To this day, it is a popular belief that where a fairer skin and reddish hair exists in full blooded Maori, they are inherited from a Patupaiarehe ancestor. A fair skin is known as Kiritea. There is also a ruddier shade known as Maurea.” (pp38-39, MAORI SOMATOLOGY. RACIAL AVERAGES. BY TE RANGI HIROA (P. H. BUCK), (1922) The Journal of the Polynesian Society 31(121), pp37-44)

“Maori legends of Patupaiarehe, the fairies, have also been quoted in support of the theory of an earlier, non-Maori population. How little justification there is for such suggestions is indicated by similar tales of fairies on Goodenough. These fairies, like the Maori ones, live in the forests. “A native dreads being overtaken in the woods by darkness lest he should encounter a spirit, and his fire is often as much for protection against them as for warmth. Often they live on the tops of the mountains. Generally they are male, and there are many stories of their marrying native women; the people of Kukuya even claim to be descended from them.” (P. 152.)” (p126, (1922) 31(123) Review. The Northern D’Entrecasteaux (D. Jenness), p 125-129)

The three main themes of stories about Patupaiarehe are wanting human lovers, discovering things, and protecting sacred sites…

eg.  the stories about how Kahu-kura saw ‘the fairies’… which come in various forms, some retold by settlers new to the country – and strongly influenced by European conceptions of ‘fairies’ …


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