The Patupairehe (or patupaiarehe, also known as turehu and pakepakehaare) were white-skinned fairies found in Maori mythology.
Patupairehe have the general appearance of humans, except for being exceedingly pale and red or fair hair. Although they had some human attributes, patupaiarehe were regarded not as people but as supernatural beings (he iwi atua). They only go out at nite and remain hidden in their caves during the day.
Unlike Maori, they were never tattooed. Mohi Turei of Ngati Porou described their skin as white, albino or the colour of red ochre. Their eye colour varied from light blue to black. There is still debate about their height. The Tuhoe tribe records that they were small, but others say they were similar in size to humans. Whanganui stories claim them to be giants, more than 2 metres tall.
Patupaiarehe were generally found deep in the forests, or on mist-covered hilltops. In these isolated places they settled and built their homes, sometimes described as large fortified villages. In some stories their houses and pa were built from swirling mist. In others, they were made from kareao (supplejack vine). At times their presence was revealed in the ghostly piping of flutes and the sound of fairy songs heard in the misty forest heights
In the North Island they were said to live mainly in the Waikato–Waipa basin, the Cape Colville–Te Aroha range, the hills about Rotorua, the peaks of the Pirongia Mountain, the Urewera ranges and Wairoa districts, and the Waitakere ranges in the Auckland region. South Island traditions had them living mainly in the hills around Lyttelton Harbour, Akaroa and the Takitimu range, and in the hills between the Arahura River and Lake Brunner..
Fearing the light, they were active mainly in the twilight hours and at night, or when the mist was heavy enough to shield them. They wore flax garments (pakerangi), dyed red, but also rough mats (pora or pureke). They were also known for playing koauau and putorino (flutes).
Patupairehe were hunters and gatherers, surviving on raw forest foods and sometimes fishing from the shores of the sea or a lake. Their canoes were made of korari (flax stalks). Cooked food was offensive or foul to them. In different traditions, albino birds and eels, red flax and red eels were considered their property, and trouble befell Maori who took any of these.
Patupairehe frequently take human lovers, with the men of the species being skilled at arousing human women with their flute. The patupairehe are known to fear the sun, fire, ash, and the color red.
Patupaiarehe society was kinship-based, similar to Maori society. In 1894 Hoani Nahe, an elder of the Ngati Maru people, recalled three sub-tribes of patupaiarehe: Ngati Kura, Ngati Korakorako, and Ngati Turehu. Tahurangi, Whanawhana, and Nukupori were important chiefs. They were generally a closed group who shunned intruders, and were unfriendly to those who ventured into their midst. They were seldom seen, and an air of mystery and secrecy still surrounds them. In most traditions, those who encountered patupaiarehe were able to understand their language. But in one account they were unintelligible.
Once, a long time ago, a man came across the remains of a fish left on the beach. He found it odd that someone would abandon their catch, so he hid and waited for the fishermen to return. At midnight the patupairehe showed up and cast their magical fish nets. The man, who had fairly pale skin for a human, joined them unnoticed as they worked. Once they brought in the nets, they proceeded to string the fish they caught. The man struggled and so the patupairehe showed him how to do it. As dawn approached, the patupairehe realized that the man, was well, a man. They argued amongst themselves as to what to do. Before they knew it, the sun was rising and they fled.