Villains like the Debil Debil have long populated
the worlds of children. Everyone who has lived in Australia has
heard of the Bunyip. It is one of the respectable flesh-curdling
horrors of which Australia can boast. Australia never had fauns
in the eucalyptus forests, nor naids in the running creeks. Debil
debil and Bunyip are synonymous terms with aboriginals, although
Debil debil in the abstract represents much more definite source
of danger and has a far wider scope of action than most mythological
Australian aboriginal stories describe the bunyip
as an evil spirit which dwells in creeks, swamps, and billabongs.
The bunyip's loud bellowing cry terrifies the aborigines.
They avoid water sources where they believe a bunyip
might live. Some stories suggest the bunyip emerges at night
principally to prey on women and children as well as animals. Many
white settlers also claimed encounters with the bunyip. While descriptions
of the bunyip vary, most portray a creature with a hairy horse-like
head and large body. Aboriginal stories about the bunyip
may reflect oral traditions of the diprotodon, a rhinosceros-sized
herbivore. Diprotodon was the largest marsupial ever to have existed.
Diprotodon is believed to have become extinct between
fifteen and twenty thousand years ago. Memories of encounters between
the aborigines and diprotodon might have been passed down through
the centuries. Modern encounters with the bunyip require a different
explanation. One is that the diprotodon still exists. Another is
that a large unknown animal is responsible for the sightings. A
prosaic explanation is that sightings of Bunyips
represent encounters with stray seals in inland waterholes and rivers.
Another is that Bunyips are actually brigands or bums hiding in
the outback. The Bunyip features prominently in children's literature
in Australia. The word "bunyip" has also taken on the meaning of
"imposter" in Australian English.
Long before the white man came the natives believed
in the existence of some dark creature of monstrous size that lived
in the swamps, lagoons and billabongs of their tribal lands.
Their descriptions of it varied, but they were all
in agreement in describing its shining, baleful eyes and its bellowing
voice. It had a huge body, either covered with fur or feathers,
and where its legs should have been there were flippers that threshed
the water when it was angry.
It devoured human beings, coming upon them in silence
and when least expected.
The natives I questioned about the bunyip always added,
with some satisfaction, that it favoured women. In a drawing of
the bunyip made by a Murray River native in 1848, the creature is
depicted as having a body resembling that of a hippopotamus and
a head like that of a horse.
However, another drawing made by a Victorian native
showed it with the head and neck of an emu. Govenor La Trobe also
made a drawing of a bunyip. He believed there were two kinds of
bunyip - a southern and northern type. His drawing of the southern
bunyip was sent to Tasmania, but has been lost. Source: Bunyips
Never Whistle by Alan Marshall, Argus Magazine 14 December 1951
about the Bunyip
1.Try writing a portrait that incorporates a Bunyip
or another mythological creature such as the 'Over Bird'. It lives
in North Queensland and lays a square egg. Every time it drops one,
it gives a mournful cry, 'Over'. Then there is the 'Oozlum Bird',
a strange creature that flies around in ever-diminishing circles,
until it diappears up it's rear end with a puff of smoke and a loud
cry of 'Ozzlem'!
2. Create a fresh postage stamp of this mythical creature
that terrorized Australians and send it here to Soul Food to post
in a gallery that celebrates the Bunyip.
3. Find out about other mythological terrors that
have haunted the hearts of children and the human psyche and write
4. Write about your greatest fears and try facing
some of them on the page.
1. The Wendigo and the