Famous Australian Fairy Tales

Instructor: Emily Teater

Emily currently is a substitute teacher, and has taught a variety of K-12 courses. She has a master's degree in Mythological Studies.

Australian fairy tales reflect the Aboriginal culture they came from, and were preserved by famous folklorists, including Andrew Lang. In this lesson, you will be introduced to only a handful of these famous fairy tales.

A Brief History of Australian Fairy Tales

Australia's fairy tales and folklore are reflections of the rich Aboriginal culture from which they came. The Aborigines called these tales The Dreaming, and these stories preserved their laws, customs, and spiritual beliefs. Many of these tales were creation stories, explaining the inherent spirit in all living things the Aborigines firmly believed in. However, these stories also discussed topics such as the Aborigines' encounters with the Europeans.

While the Aborigines still share Dream tales and their culture is still alive, some of these fairy tales have been preserved in writing. Among the earliest collectors of these tales was K. Langloh Parker, who earned the trust of the Narran Tribe, and was permitted to scribe their stories. Andrew Lang, the folklorist known for his Rainbow Fairy Books, also added some Australian tales to his collection. It is primarily from Lang's collections that we know of the Australian fairy tales mentioned in this lesson.

''Bahloo the Moon and the Daens''

Bahloo, the moon, has three snakes as pets, which he calls his dogs. These are the death adder, the tiger snake, and the black snake. Bahloo likes to let his dogs play and run around at night. One night, Bahloo sees the Daens, or men preparing to cross a river. He comes to these men and asks them if they would be so kind as to carry his dogs across the river. The Daens are apprehensive as they fear his dogs, and they voice these concerns to Bahloo, saying they are afraid the snakes will bite them. Bahloo assures them that even if they did bite, he would make the humans come back to life, so there is nothing to fear. He throws a piece of wood into the water and they watch it float back to the surface. Bahloo tells them that like the wood, they would die at first from the bite, but then they would rise up once more. He then throws a rock into the river and it sinks. If the men refuse to help, they will be like these rocks, for when they die, they will remain dead. The Daens are still fearful and refuse.

Angered at their response, Bahloo carries his dogs across the river himself. He then tells the Daens that for not helping, they have refused immortality and shall remain dead after their deaths. Since then, humans have feared and hated snakes, and they have done everything they could to kill Bahloo's beloved pets. But alas, even though they have killed many snakes, there are still many more of Bahloo's pets roaming the earth.

''The Galah, and Oolah the Lizard''

Oolah, the lizard, becomes bored one day and goes out to play with his boomerangs. These boomerangs are small and made for play, not for hunting, so they always come back to their owner. Galah, which is a type of cockatoo, sees Oolah playing and wants to watch. She thinks Oolah is rather impressive at his game. Becoming a bit of a showoff, Oolah throws the boomerang with a little twist. As it comes back, it hits Galah on the head, knocking all her feathers off and giving her head a nasty gash.

Oolah becomes frightened and runs away, but Galah follows him and snatches him up. She throws him into a thorn bush, putting several holes and prickles in his skin. She then rubs the blood from her wound onto the holes in his skin. Since then, the Galah has a bald patch under its crest where Oolah hit it with his boomerang. And the lizards that live near the Galahs all have reddish skin and spines that resemble thorns.

A Galah with its crest raised.

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