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The Bunyip

The Bunyip

In the years before history-the Alcheringa-before the river Murray was made and only a depression existed, a Bunyip visited the place. He came just at nightfall, and he sat on the bank opposite the camp. He was the color of the gumtree that afforded him shelter and something to lean against.

Behind the Bunyip was a swamp, and a duck hunter was coming up the path with several ducks in his hand, walking back to his camp. The Bunyip saw the hunter and hid himself, pressing close against the tree trunk and working himself around it as the hunter approached. But the hunter detected the movement and leapt backward, yelling in fear as the Bunyip lunged for him. The beast missed him by a hair, and the hunter scrambled down into the depression and up the bank on the other side.

By that time, the people heard the hunter’s yell and were watching for him to appear. Amongst the most active and anxious was the young woman to whom he was soon to be married. She ran forward to meet him and took the ducks from him to relieve him of that slight burden, speaking soothing words to him. But when he had rapidly explained what he had seen, she laughed, believing he had been frightened by a shadow.

This caused a fatal delay. The pursuing Bunyip heaved himself up the bank, seized the girl, and raced away with her to the swamp as darkness fell over the camp. The hunters pursued, but was forced to give up the chase, for no human being could withstand a Bunyip at night. However, when day dawned, the young man once again gathered up his spears, and went over to the swamp. He searched for the track of the Bunyip, and he found its footprints. Then he caught a number of frogs and tied their legs together and fastened them to a stake that he drove into the ground on the track. All day he waited, and neither saw nor heard anything of the girl nor the Bunyip. But when he went there again the next day, the frogs were gone. The Bunyip, he thought, had eaten them. So, he got some more and tied them and fastened the rush cord to the stake.

Day after day he did this, but never once did he lay eyes on the Bunyip. His people tried to persuade him to accompany them, for they were about to move their camp, but he steadfastly refused to go. He said that one day the Bunyip would come out for his feed of frogs, and he would slip past into the lair, and rescue his young girl and bring her home. So, they went without him.

Then the day dawned when he saw his quarry. There was misty rain falling, and in it the Bunyip appeared leading the girl. He was coming for his meal, and because of the rain he thought it was night. The man was dreadfully afraid, but he stood his ground. When the Bunyip saw him, he roared. When the girl saw him, she held out her hands and she wept. The man simply stared into the beast’s eyes, and gradually it felt fear. He suddenly threw something at it, but the Bunyip was too quick. He threw a frog and it hit the man in the eye and blinded it. Nothing daunted, the man hurled a spear, and he blinded one of the Bunyip’s eyes.

Smarting with pain, the fearsome beast fled, and the man flung himself forward to clasp the girl. But she was under a spell and was obliged to run after her captor. A chase commenced. The Bunyip tore through the swamp, over the sandy patch where the prickly hakeas grew and onward until he reached a country where eucalypti and callitris grew, running past the mountain we call Mount Goombargona. A gumtree grew there, and up that the exhausted Bunyip climbed with his one eye.

At the foot of the tree, the bespelled girl hesitated. She was afraid that she could not climb well enough to scale so high a tree. Not far behind her came the panting and exhausted young man. It was night, and the unfortunate lover stopped within a few paces of the object of his affections, his one eye staring up at the Bunyip where it sat in the topmost branches of the eucalyptus tree. The Bunyip stared back at the young man with his one eye, and his magic entrapped the man, freezing him in place a few steps from his beloved, but unable to reach her.

For a long time, the three remained locked in a standoff. Then a great storm came and blew down the tree, casting the Bunyip to the ground but leaving its magic eye hanging alone in the sky.

The spell over the man and girl was broken with the death of the Bunyip. They hurried home to their people, and shortly thereafter were married. Their children were called the frog people, for ever after left the frogs to be food for the Bunyips so that those fearsome creatures may be appeased.

The eye left in the sky is the moon.

Citation: Peck, C.W. Australian Legends. Edited by S.E. Schlosser. This story is in the public domain and is part of the cited work.