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435
MYTHS.

The Bun-yip.

The earliest settlers in Victoria heard from time to time, and from natives far removed from each other, accounts of a creature dreadful in aspect and voracious in its appetite for human beings, which did much hurt to black people who strayed from their miams.[1] This being was generally represented as resembling no known animal. It had a head and ears, and a huge body covered with fur or feathers. It always came suddenly upon the blacks when it meant to destroy them; but its groanings and bellowings were heard at certain times by all the people of a tribe when they encamped near a lagoon, or by deep water-holes, or by the sea-shore. The noises it made always terrified them very much. It was destructive. In the Life and Adventures of William Buckley,[2] the narrator states that "in this lake [Modewarre], as well as in most of the others inland, and in the deep-water rivers, is a very extraordinary amphibious animal, which the natives call Bun-yip, of which I could never see any part except the back, which appeared to be covered with feathers of a dusky-grey color. It seemed to be about the size of a full-grown calf, and sometimes larger. The creatures only appear when the weather is very calm and the water smooth. I could never learn from any of the natives that they had seen either the head or tail, so that I could not form a correct idea of their size, or what they were like. . . . . Here [on the Barwon River] the Bun-yips, the extraordinary animals I have already mentioned, were often seen by the natives, who had a great dread of them, believing them to have some supernatural power over human beings, so as to occasion death, sickness, disease, and such like misfortunes. . . . . They told me a story of a woman having been killed by one of them, stating that it happened in this way:—A particular family one day was surprised at the great quantity of eels they caught; for as fast as the husband could carry them back to their hut, the woman pulled them out of the lagoon. This, they said, was a cunning

  1. As the Aboriginal tribes throughout Australia have their tales of the much-dreaded "Bun-yip"—au hypothetical monster that dwells in the swamps and rivers—so the New Zealanders have their legends and songs about the terrible "Tanniwha," and the slaying of three of these monsters by brave warriors of the olden time, the ancestors of the chiefs of Roturua. These traditions are handed down by the natives with extraordinary minuteness of detail, and bear a close resemblance in many points to our own legend of St. George and the Dragon. According to the native story, the "Tanniwha" devoured men, women, and children wholesale. It lived in caverns, or at the bottom of rivers and lakes, was shaped like an enormous lizard of the size of a whale, and had sharp teeth and a flaming tongue. It took three hundred and forty brave men to despatch one of these "Tanniwhas;" at length, after a severe conflict, they destroyed him, and he stretched himself out "like a dying grub," and expired. On cutting him open they found "his belly full of bodies of men, women, and children, together with garments of all sorts, and weapons of war innumerable."—Polynesia, by G. F. Angas, F.L.S., p. 76.

    The reader will remember that in England the peasants not long since believed in the stories of the Laidley Worm of Spindleston Heugh, and the Lambton Worm. Those were the Bun-yips and Tanniwhas of our ancestors.

  2. Life and Adventures of William Buckley; thirty-two years a Wanderer amongst the Aborigines of the then unexplored country round Port Phillip, now the Province of Victoria, by John Morgan, Tasmania, 1852.