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In Māori mythology, patupaiarehe are pale-skinned, fair or red-haired spirit beings that live in deep forests and mountaintops in New Zealand, and are sometimes hostile to humans.[1] Ethereal flute music and singing sometimes reveals their presence. They are known as iwi-atua, or supernatural people. They are usually described as having the same stature as ordinary people. They can draw mist to themselves, but tend to be nocturnal or active on misty or foggy days, as direct sunlight can be fatal to them. They prefer raw food and have an aversion to steam.[2].

Patupaiarehe, also referred to as Tūrehu, Ngāti Hotu and Urukehu (red heads), were said to live in large guarded communities.[3] They tended to occur in certain localities, especially hilly or mountainous regions. In the North Island, these included Mt Pirongia in the Waikato, the Coromandel Range from Mt Moehau to Mt Te Aroha, the Rotorua hills, the Urewera Ranges, and the Waitakere Ranges near present-day Auckland. In the South Island, they inhabited the hills of Banks Peninsula, the Takitimu Range, and the hills between Lake Brunner and the Arahura River.[4][5] Another little-known term for these fairy-like folk was pakehakeha, which has been suggested as a possible origin of the word Pākehā, used to refer to Europeans.[6]

In traditional Māori stories[edit]

Īhenga and the patupaiarehe[edit]

An early Māori explorer of the Rotorua region, Īhenga, had many encounters with the patupaiarehe who lived at Mt Ngongotahā. When he first ventured into their , the patupaiarehe were very inquisitive and wanted to keep him, particularly a beautiful woman patupaiarehe who wanted Īhenga for a husband. Īhenga drank water proffered in a calabash, then, sensing a trap, fled the mountain in hot pursuit, only escaping the patupaiarehe by smearing foul-smelling shark oil on his skin.[7].


A patupaiarehe woman is credited as bringing the knowledge of weaving to the Māori.[8] Hine-rehia hailed from Moehau and fell in love with a Māori man who she met while gathering shellfish on a misty low tide in the Waitematā harbour. She lived with him at Mōtuihe and they had several children together. Hine-rehia wove only at night; frustrated by this, the women of the village asked the tōhunga to trick her into weaving past dawn so that they could learn the skill. They succeeded, but when Hine-rehia realised she had been tricked she flew back to Moehau within a cloud, distraught at leaving her husband and children.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Grey, George (1849). A story of patupaiarehe [fairy-like people] on Moehau. New Zealand: Manuscript number: GNZMMS 7.
  2. ^ Cowan, James (1925). Fairy Folk Tales of the Maori. New Zealand: Whitcombe and Tombs.
  3. ^ "Patupaiarehe and ponaturi", Te Ara website
  4. ^ "Patupaiarehe, tūrehu and other inhabitants", Te Ara
  5. ^ Cowan, James (1925). Fairy Folk Tales of the Maori. New Zealand: Whitcombe and Tombs.
  6. ^ "ORIGINS OF THE WORDS PAKEHA AND MAORI", Sidney J. Baker, Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol 54-4 1945
  7. ^ Cowan, James (1925). Fairy Folk Tales of the Maori. New Zealand: Whitcombe and Tombs.
  8. ^ Bacon, Ron (2005). How weaving came. Auckland: Waiatarua Publishing.
  9. ^ Hindmarsh, Gerard. "Flax - the enduring fibre." New Zealand Geographic Magazine. Retrieved 6 October 2019

External links[edit]