Monday, 2 April 2012

What does a Bunyip look like?

The folk over at The Bunyip Movie are busy creating the monster of the title, and have come up with the concept above - which to our way of thinking smacks a little of the repulsive reptilians of Alien fame!

So we thought it was worth pondering on the blog: what do Bunyips look like? 

Escaped convict William Buckley, in his 1852 biography of 30 years living with the Wathaurong people, recounts "in... Lake Moodewarri [now Lake Modewarre] as well as in most of the others a...very extraordinary amphibious animal, which the natives call Bunyip. I could never see any part, except the back, which appeared to be covered with feathers of a dusky grey colour. It seemed to be about the size of a full grown calf... I could never learn from any of the natives that they had seen either the head or tail."

Naturalist George French Angas collected a description of a bunyip as a "water spirit" from the Moorundi people of the Murray River before 1847, stating it was "much dreaded by them… It inhabits the Murray; but…they have some difficulty describing it. Its most usual form…is said to be that of an enormous starfish."Robert Brough Smyth's Aborigines of Victoria of 1878 devoted 10 pages to the bunyip, but concluded "in truth little is known among the blacks respecting its form, covering or habits; they appear to have been in such dread of it as to have been unable to take note of its characteristics."

In many 19th-century newspaper accounts the bunyip was variously attributed a dog-like face, dark fur, a horse-like tail, flippers, and walrus-like tusks or horns or a duck-like bill.

Many modern-day researchers now believe the descriptions may have referred to seals or walruses, or even a 'cultural memory of megafauna such as the diprotodon.

Quite a few artists have had a crack at the water-dwelling beastie said to terrorise early colonial Australians and prey on Aborigines - based occasionally on witness testimony and more often springing from their own imagination.

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