5 Ancient Creatures of Australia and New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand and known for having some of the weirdest, scariest creatures on the planet. From deadly ocean creatures, to poisonous snakes and spiders, to massive carnivorous reptiles, to pine-cones big enough to kill you, these countries don’t mess around in the flora and fauna department. So naturally, their mythological creatures are weird and wonderful(ly terrifying) too!

I found at least twenty mythological beasts from New Zealand alone, so really it’s not fair to clump the two countries together, but I have one more stop to hit before Halloween! Maybe I’ll have to make this feature a regular thing so we can do some more in-depth exploration of local monsters.

Anyway, here are the scariest creatures I found…

#5 New Zealand’s Fairies

I’m cheating here and giving you a four-in-one deal. These creatures all fit together in the generic “fairy” category, and they’re very cool!

TE-TINI-O-HAKUTURI

A band of bow legged sprites that live in the forest for the sole purpose of seeking retribution for anything taken or desecrated without a proper offering to the forest spirits. They often take the form of insects or birds, and they are watching you.

PATUPAIAREHE

These fairies are usually human sized, with fair skin and bright red hair. They live in forested and mountainous regions. Interestingly, stories of these creatures seem to have been around since before white Europeans colonized NZ. Albino Maori children sometimes have pale skin and orange-ish coloured hair, and were once thought to be fathered by one of the patupaiarehe. These fair folk are extremely sensitive to sunlight, and are usually only found at night or on grey, misty days. They are said to lure humans with their ethereal fluting into the forest from which you may never return.

PAKEPAKEHA

These fairies, also fair skinned with red hair, are much smaller in stature. The gnome-like creatures are usually spotted riding down the river on a piece of wood or bark, and may be heard singing. White colonists of New Zealand came to be called Pakeha by the Maori people.

PONA-TURI

Grouping the pona-turi with the fairies is perhaps unfair. These pale skinned creatures are more like sea-goblins with long thin fingers and sharp claws, and a vampiric aversion to sunlight. At night, they pull themselves out of the waves and onto the shore to commit all kinds of mischief.

#4 Poua-Kai

The poua-kai are huge man-eating birds depicted with black and white wings with red crests. The creatures let out a terrifying cry, plunge out of the sky, pluck unsuspecting people right off the ground, and carry them away to their nests to imminent death by beak and talon. The scariest thing about the poua-kai is that this myth is based on a very real creature, the Haast’s Eagle which fed mainly on the flightless moa before they were hunted to extinction by humans. Moa’s being significantly larger than most people, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine the Haast’s Eagle moving on to human prey once its main food source was eliminated.

#3 Taniwha

What’s scarier than underwater dragons? Shape-shifting dragons that can disguise themselves as aquatic creatures before snatching unsuspecting bathers or fishermen, dragging them below the surface to be raped and/or devoured! There are many, many stories of the Taniwha. Sometimes they act as guardians, protecting an area or a person. But they are always to be feared and never to be trusted.

#2 Ape Men

Another combo deal for you!

YOWIE

The Yowie is the Australian version of the Sasquatch myth, a large upright ape-like creature sometimes spotted wandering around the woods. Unlike most Australian fauna, these guys don’t seem to be particularly malevolent. They just like to keep to themselves in forested areas and occasionally pose for poorly focused photographs.

MOEHAU/MAERO

The moehau or maero are a New Zealand variation on the bipedal gorilla of the forest myth. These creatures are more aggressive than the Australian ones, though. They are thought to be about the same size as a human man, with long shaggy hair covering their bodies and ape-like faces. They carry carry stone clubs, have long knife-like claws, and an appetite for human flesh. In the late 1800s a woman and a prospector were slain, the woman’s neck was broken and the man had been partially eaten. The attack was blamed on moehau.

#1 Yara-ma-yha-who

Don’t let the cutesie, yodeling name fool you. The Yara-ma-yha-who is a terrifying creature. Australia’s own home-grown vampire which comes from Aboriginal mythology and is likely older than the European versions. While it doesn’t quite have the same sex appeal as modern vampire stories, the Yara-ma-yha-who is guaranteed to terrify. This creature is a squat, red frog-like demon with a huge mouth and no teeth.

How does it drink blood, you ask? Well…

The Yara-ma-yha-who waits in a fig tree for an unsuspecting traveler. Then it drops out of the branches and wraps it’s arms and legs around its victim, like a four legged octopus. As if that’s not bad enough, each of the creature’s hands and feet have a blood-sucking mouth on them. This thing sucks its victim dry with it’s leech-like appendages.

After gorging itself on the blood of a human victim, the Yara-ma-yha-who will take a nap, wake up and vomit the contents of its stomach up on the ground, crawl back into the tree, and wait for another victim.

Sometimes it will leave the victim alive, which is good news! Unless of course, you are attacked again. If your blood is sampled too many times, you may become one of the Yara-ma-yha-who, yourself.

Conclusion

And you thought giant spiders and salt-water crocodiles were bad! Have you ever visited Australia or New Zealand? Better yet, are you from there? Did I miss any of your favourite cryptids or mythological monsters? Let me know in the comments!

If you enjoyed this piece, come check out some of the other Fantastic Beasts from around the world: Canada, Serbia, the British Isles, Korea, Persia, Scandinavia, India, and Africa.

Thanks for reading!

11 thoughts on “5 Ancient Creatures of Australia and New Zealand

    1. I resorted to a lot of copy and paste for this one 😂 and overuse of the word “creature.”

  1. I’m loving the combination of multi-cultural folklore and Hallowe’en spookiness. I feel like I’m learning new things and being creeped out at the same time!

    1. Yes! That was the goal. Who doesn’t love learning stuff and getting creeped out? I’m so glad you’re enjoying the series!

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