New Zealand mythical Monsters
No haunted wood, nor wild enchanted mere?
asked Alexander Bathgate, a nineteenth century Scottish immigrant to New Zealand, in his poem Faerie.
Our woods are dark, our lakelets’ waters clear,
he goes on,
As those of any land where fairies dwell.
In every verdant vale our streamlets tell
Their simple story to the list’ning ear,
Our craggy mountains steep are full of fear –
Yet lack they glamour of the fairy tale,
Nor gnome nor goblin do they e’er recall,
Though Nature speaks, e’en in the wind’s sad wail
Who shall give meaning to Her voices all?
The poet’s art, – as yet without avail, –
Must weave the story of both great and small.*
I must admit, as a fellow British immigrant to New Zealand obsessed with myth and fantasy, I sometimes feel like this. I long for the magical creatures of Europe – from the Fair Folk of the forests to the nymphs of the pools – to become interwoven with the beautiful landscape of New Zealand. Peter Jackson’s films went some way towards appeasing this desire, but they’re no substitute for a rich folklore that’s been passed down and embroidered for thousands of years.
Of course, to think like this is to show a high level of ignorance. New Zealand does have a rich folklore that’s been passed down for maybe not thousands, but at least hundreds of years. Maori folklore contains many magical creatures, not just the taniwha – the one that everyone knows about. It has spirits and demons; ogres and wild men. It even has its own version of fairies – and not the cute kind.
Here, I have compiled a list of magical New Zealand creatures. It is by no means comprehensive. Indeed, to my knowledge, no such comprehensive list exists, at least not on the Internet, and I simply don’t have the time to embark upon a serious academic study. Nevertheless, I hope you find it interesting. I’d like to think that Alexander Bathgate would have done at any rate, and perhaps, one day, I myself will write a fantasy story inspired by New Zealand folklore.
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