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Illustration by Bronwyn Bancroft taken from "Stradbroke Dreamtime" (1993) by Oodgeroo Noonuccal/used without permissionA bunyip is a legendary spirit or creature of the Australian Aborigine. Bunyips haunt rivers, swamps, creeks and billabongs. Their main goal in life is to cause nocturnal terror by eating people or animals in their vicinity. They are renowned for their terrifying bellowing cries in the night and have been known to frighten Aborigines to the point where they would not approach any water source where a bunyip might be waiting to devour them.

There are many reports by white settlers who have witnessed bunyips, so cryptozoologists may still be searching for these creatures. They may have some difficulty in locating their prey, though, since Aboriginal tribes do not all give the same visual description of the creature. Some say the bunyip looks like a huge snake with a beard and a mane; others say it looks like a huge furry half-human beast with a long neck and a head like a bird. However, most Australians now consider the existence of the bunyip to be mythical. Some scientists believe the bunyip was a real animal, the diprotodon, extinct for some 20,000 years, which terrified the earliest settlers of Australia.

According to Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Kath Walker) in Stradbroke Dreamtime, the bunyip is an evil or punishing spirit from the Aboriginal Dreamtime. Today the bunyip mainly appears in Australian literature for children and makes an occasional appearance in television commercials.

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further reading


Noonuccal, Oodgeroo, Stradbroke dreamtime (Pymble, N.S.W. : Angus & Robertson, 1972). 


 "Ethereal or Earthly? Friend or Foe?: Bunyips in Australian Children's Literature" from The State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia

Bunyips, The Australian Sprite by Davy Russell

Last updated 27-Oct-2015

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