The Brown Fairy Book HTML version

The Bunyip
Long, long ago, far, far away on the other side of the world, some young men left the
camp where they lived to get some food for their wives and children. The sun was hot,
but they liked heat, and as they went they ran races and tried who could hurl his spear the
farthest, or was cleverest in throwing a strange weapon called a boomerang, which
always returns to the thrower. They did not get on very fast at this rate, but presently they
reached a flat place that in time of flood was full of water, but was now, in the height of
summer, only a set of pools, each surrounded with a fringe of plants, with bulrushes
standing in the inside of all. In that country the people are fond of the roots of bulrushes,
which they think as good as onions, and one of the young men said that they had better
collect some of the roots and carry them back to the camp. It did not take them long to
weave the tops of the willows into a basket, and they were just going to wade into the
water and pull up the bulrush roots when a youth suddenly called out: 'After all, why
should we waste our time in doing work that is only fit for women and children? Let
them come and get the roots for themselves; but we will fish for eels and anything else
we can get.'
This delighted the rest of the party, and they all began to arrange their fishing lines, made
from the bark of the yellow mimosa, and to search for bait for their hooks. Most of them
used worms, but one, who had put a piece of raw meat for dinner into his skin wallet, cut
off a little bit and baited his line with it, unseen by his companions.
For a long time they cast patiently, without receiving a single bite; the sun had grown low
in the sky, and it seemed as if they would have to go home empty-handed, not even with
a basket of roots to show; when the youth, who had baited his hook with raw meat,
suddenly saw his line disappear under the water. Something, a very heavy fish he
supposed, was pulling so hard that he could hardly keep his feet, and for a few minutes it
seemed either as if he must let go or be dragged into the pool. He cried to his friends to
help him, and at last, trembling with fright at what they were going to see, they managed
between them to land on the bank a creature that was neither a calf nor a seal, but
something of both, with a long, broad tail. They looked at each other with horror, cold
shivers running down their spines; for though they had never beheld it, there was not a
man amongst them who did not know what it was-- the cub of the awful Bunyip!
All of a sudden the silence was broken by a low wail, answered by another from the other
side of the pool, as the mother rose up from her den and came towards them, rage
flashing from her horrible yellow eyes. 'Let it go! let it go!' whispered the young men to
each other; but the captor declared that he had caught it, and was going to keep it. 'He had
promised his sweetheart,' he said, 'that he would bring back enough meat for her father's
house to feast on for three days, and though they could not eat the little Bunyip, her
brothers and sisters should have it to play with.' So, flinging his spear at the mother to
keep her back, he threw the little Bunyip on to his shoulders, and set out for the camp,
never heeding the poor mother's cries of distress.