The Maero: Bigfoot in New Zealand Folklore
The Maero is a creature found in the mythology of the Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand. This mythological creature may be described as a type of wildman, like the Yeti of the Himalayas, or the Sasquatch of Native American folklore. Like these more well-known creatures, the Maero are described as large, hairy, human-like creatures. Unlike the Yeti and the Sasquatch, however, there are no alleged sightings of this creature, though they do feature in certain tales told by the Māori.
The Maero are said to resemble the average human beings in many respects. These creatures, however, are larger and stronger than the average person. Additionally, they do not wear clothes, but are covered in long, shaggy, black hair instead, which forms a natural covering over their bodies. Despite the fact that they do not have clothes, they somehow managed to wield stone clubs, which demonstrates their ability to use tools.
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Paulus Vischer (c. 1498-1531): Wild Man, c. 1521/22, bronze. Skulpturensammlung (inv. no. 8403, acquired in 1929), Bode-Museum, Berlin. ( Public Domain )
Apart from stone clubs, Māori also claim that the Maero used their sharp, knife-like fingernails, which grow from their long, spindly fingers, as weapons. With the aid of such deadly weapons, the Maero would kill and eat their prey, including any human beings who, unfortunately, happen to cross their path. It is also often claimed that the Maero are cannibalistic in nature.
The Maero is said to have sharp, knife-like fingernails, similar to this representation of a Chinese Wildman called a Xing-Xing. ( Frontiers of Zoology )
Never-Ending Conflict with the Māori
According to Māori tradition, the sworn enemy of the Maero are the Māoris themselves, whom they were almost always at war with. As a result of this never-ending conflict, the Maero were driven further and further into the harshest and most inhospitable forests on the island of New Zealand. It is in these forests that the Maero continue to live, albeit in small numbers. Such tales may perhaps be a symbolic representation of the conflict between order and chaos, civilization and wilderness, in which the former succeeds in pushing the latter ever deeper into the wilderness.
In spite of the tales that the Māori were always at war with the Maero, there are some stories in which members of the two groups crossbred, resulting in offspring who are larger in size and strength than the average Māori. Some Māori families, such as the Kaihai family of Waikato and the Haupapa family of Rotorua, claim to be descendants of these hybrid creatures. Indeed, the members of these families are physically large, though not as large as their ancestors, who are said to have reached heights of between 2.4 to 3.4 meters (7.78-11.15 ft.)
Māori whānau from Rotorua in the 1880s. ( Public Domain ) Some Māori families claim to be descendants of the Maero.
Are Moehau also Maero?
Whilst there have not been reported sightings of the Maero, there are those of another like creature known as the Moehau. The Maero and the Moehau share many similarities, and some Māoris have even suggested that the two may be one and the same. The Moehau were allegedly sighted by gold miners during the 1870s and 1880s. Another sighting of the creature was reported by an Australian tourist in 1969. Sightings of the supposed Moehau were also reported in 1972 and 1983. One explanation for this creature is that it is an escaped gorilla, which, as a result of exaggerated reports, turned into a monstrous creature.
The Great Hairy Moehau. ( Sasquatch Chronicles )
Māori Tales of the Maero
There are several Māori tales that tell of encounters between the Maero and the Māori. One of these, for instance, is that of Purukupenga, a Māori hero who slays a Maero. Using a mere (a short, broad-bladed traditional Māori weapon), Purukupenga strikes the Maero repeatedly, until its skull, claws, and bones are broken.
In other tales, however, the Maero succeed in capturing, killing, and eating solitary travelers. This is the case of such travelers as Wairapa, and Tikitiki-o-Rehua. Still, the most bizarre tale regarding the Maero (though it could have been a Moehau as well) is that of Tukoio. Like Purukupenga, Tukoio succeeds in killing one of these creatures.